Some of you may have seen one of my latest social media posts about overcoming a mental block I had when I was lifting. If you haven’t, here’s a short recap. Last week, I was in the middle of my sets of power cleans when I suddenly couldn’t lift the bar. I went from feeling the bar was easy to lift to barely being able to get it passed my knees. At first I thought: “What the heck, am I that tired already?” But I soon realized that this had nothing to do with my physical abilities – it was all mental.
In 2007, I hurt my back doing a power clean. I was back on the track a few weeks later after a few treatments from a massage therapist and chiropractor. A year later, a sudden onset of acute lower back pain forced me to leave the sport I love for a full three years.
Since my injury, I’ve been working hard, with the help of my coach to rebuild from the ground up. Each year, I’ve been able to reintroduce new exercises and to push the envelope a little more. This year, I’ve finally started doing power cleans from the “floor”. I put “floor” in quotation marks because I still place the bar on little boxes to reduce the stress on my lower back. On Monday, I had to do cleans for sets of 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Everything was going well – I was lifting more weight than the previous week, set after set. But suddenly, I froze – I couldn’t lift the bar off the ground. I was overcome with fear. The tape recorder went off. First came the panic tape: “OMG, what’s happening? My back. This is bad. The bar is too heavy. My body can’t handle this. I’m going to get hurt again. I can’t go through this again.” Then came the frustration tape: “WTH is wrong with me? I just lifted this weight a second ago. Stupid mental blocks. Why am I doubting myself? Come on, I’ve been working on this. Stop it.”
Tony, a strength and conditioning coach saw how distraught I was and asked me what was wrong. I told him: “this is how I originally hurt my back, so I am freaking out right now. I don’t want to hurt myself again”. He said “Karelle, you are not the same athlete you were in high school or even a couple of years ago. You are stronger now. So visualize your lift the way you want it to be and when you step on the platform stop thinking and just lift the damn thing!” That little “kick in the butt” was just what I needed to complete my workout.
I wanted to share this story with you because small moments like these can have a huge impact on us. Sometimes we stay in our comfort zone to protect ourselves from “what ifs”. But how can we progress if we don’t push ourselves and move out of our comfort zone? My dad always brings it back to something Will Smith said in the movie “After Earth” lol: “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Fear is a choice.” When I told my dad about my experience in the weight room, he said: “ You made a great choice”! I chose to let go of my fear. I chose to be better.
Sometimes, I am so focused on the end goal that I become impatient if I don’t see progress as fast as I would like. I forget to acknowledge all of the small victories along the way. I’m starting to understand the meaning of the saying: it’s about the journey, not the destination. I’m committed to soaking up every moment and getting up every morning happy to get the chance to do what I love! I will work hard, stay focused, have fun and the rest will come!