Recently I recovered from a pretty intense back injury.
I have accelerated degeneration in the discs of my upper back and lower spine areas. The injury prevented me from exercising for over two years. I consider myself a strong athlete and competitor in many sports. The news of my injury was hard to digest and felt terrible. When I incurred the injury, I was not only physically impaired but something happened to me mentally as well —my confidence went downhill.
I had a lot of recovery work to do.
After over two years of physical therapy and a lot of patience, I was able to slowly navigate my way back into the physical fitness scene. But I noticed something new, an unfamiliar tentativeness. I became so anxious about aggravating the injury that I wasn’t really committing to the workouts. I began to make excuses for myself (‘just take it easy ‘ or ‘ I’m so tired, I better be careful’ or ‘it’s ok not to do it today, you can try again tomorrow’). And then guess what happened? I knocked myself totally out of the game. I felt defeated and stopped trying.
This past summer, I climbed back on the horse. I had to explore new ways to work out. I had to commit to a softer exercise regimen. This was new. I could no longer run five miles, play beach volleyball three times a week, or take a kettle bell class. Instead I had to explore — find the challenge and threshold inside a slow yoga class, inside a boring swimming class or inside a repetitive spin class. It seemed to be working…kind of.
But still, I noticed something else — I wasn’t giving it my all. I was holding back. As if I didn’t want to really be there. I was fearful. That feeling of tentativeness was still lingering. Even though my back was functioning at 95%, mentally I was not giving myself permission to move into the zone. Therefore I was not maximizing my potential.
And that got me thinking about my job….
The parallel I am about to draw is between my fitness-life and my top capacity at work. Both appear different each year, quarter, month and day. And sometimes I catch myself holding back on the job. Obstacles, challenges and wins occur in my field all the time. The one thing that’s constant is me. The values are the same — I am in career that I love and am passionate about. I also need to care about myself physically, love my body and stay passionate about my health in order to make an impact.
Passion, love, impact.
Some questions that help me ‘come back’ when I have a block at work or when I am questioning my work habits or when I am not present 100% or when I feel like I am only half way there are: Am I thinking creatively? Am I speaking up in meetings? Am I supporting our mission to the best of my abilities? What more can I do? How am I serving youth thoughtfully? Where is my voice in the work we do — how can I be heard? Am I taking the right risks? How am I serving the cause and supporting the company? The questions go on. My mind races constantly. But these prompts get my wheels spinning.
Now when I am on the bike in my spin class, looking at the clock instead of focusing on my workout, I realize I am taking myself out of my own game – So I say to myself: “Julia! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??? Let’s fix this! The only way for you to heal and grow is to proceed with all you’ve got— don’t hold yourself back anymore, work it out, stick with it, plow through, push for excellence! Find your maximum potential!”
My body will never be the same as it once was: young, strong, and resilient.
However, I keep learning (always a student) that it takes hard work to reinvent myself and still maintain impact and integrity. I have to do something each day, challenge myself and stop holding back. I may have downfalls, but my recovery has to do with how fast I stand up after being knocked down.
For breakfast, I had a protein shake with a banana, chia seeds, hearts of palm seeds, flax seed, and almond butter blended with water. And a cup of coffee with low fat milk and Stevia. Cheeseburger anyone?
This post originally appeared on the Breakfast Club Blog on November 7, 2014.