When it’s better NOT to think

Less than a week before the 2004 Ontario’s Strongest Man competition, a vicious attack of gout hit me.

My big toe swelled to painful proportions.  Tomato red and extremely sensitive, it throbbed, and the pain intensified with the lightest touch.

I could barely walk.

Yet in 5 days I was scheduled to suit up in the province’s premiere test of strength.

I was particularly doubtful about the Truck Pull.

In the Truck Pull, you’re harnessed to a transport tractor-trailer – typically 40,000 pounds or more – and tow this bad boy using only your bodyweight and whatever arm power you can muster by pulling on a rope secured near the finish line.

Proper technique is to lean your body into the harness and get low, where you can leverage your weight and use your legs.  But you’re essentially on your toes the entire time.  With the gout doing its worst to slow me down, I had little hope I’d even be able to do it.

But since there wasn’t any chance of my withdrawing, I wrapped my toes in athletic tape, hobbled out onto the tarmac, and signaled the volunteers to harness me up.  When the ref’s whistle blew, I blocked everything out and just went for it.  I ended up somewhere in the top 12 in a field of 24, and my foot wasn’t even a factor.

In 2005, I tore a rotator cuff muscle five weeks out from OSM.

This time I stared down an opponent called the Viking Press.  It’s an ATV mounted on a cubic steel frame with a pivot on one end, and handles at the other.  The idea is to grab the handles, which are at shoulder height, and press the estimated 275 pounds overhead to arms length, as many times as possible.

In warm up, I couldn’t budge the weight.

But when my name was finally called, I somehow managed 6 reps.

Again, I just didn’t give it a second thought.

I have no explanation other than NOT thinking about pain allowed my mind to pick up the slack where my body stalled.  And I’ve experienced this phenomenon many more times throughout my lifting career…a PR deadlift with a sore back, a top 3 finish in log press with a torn pec, a record number of high rep squats while suffering from a virus that hijacked my lungs, the list goes on…

We all know that people are capable of seemingly impossible feats under conditions of extreme stress.

And it’s a power that’s innate within each of us.

Why we don’t invoke it more often?

Let it serve us?

We face challenges every day that are either going to get the better of us, or push us closer to our goals.  We live happier, more fulfilled lives based on all the little (or large) victories we accrue.  All it takes to summon mind power to your aid is a decision to get out of your own way.  You can focus on what’s stopping you, and the reasons you might not be successful – or throw away your excuses and move ahead forcefully.

It’s do… or die.

(Which, in a sense, is true.  You either get the improvement you want, or you don’t.  And you have to live with either result.  The stakes ARE high.  You’re just not always looking at it that way.)

Thinking is useful.  But not when ACTION is called for.  In these moments, too much thinking creates paralysis.  It destroys initiative.  When the time comes, put thinking aside.

Dive in.

It won’t always work out.

But more often than not, you’ll discover the strength was in you all along.

Happy Diving,

Conor Kelly

P.S. Know what else you shouldn’t think about?  Requesting your complimentary personal training consultation.  Do it now by calling (416) 826-4844.  Find out how my 16-week program gets you strong, lean, and healthy.

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