Your Own Worst Enemy

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I pulled into Rogue Strength and Performance around 8AM on a Friday morning, still digesting breakfast and buzzing from too many cups of caffeine. I walked through the door and introduced myself to a few of the coaches and clients that were either finishing up sessions or just getting started with the fun. I paused for a second taking in my surroundings. The place was exactly what you would look for in a gym; that is, if you’re looking for a garage gym complete with graffiti on the walls, chains and old bars stained with sweat, and a “results at all costs” attitude. This was surely not the place where you would find heated towels in the locker room. Admittedly, it was a far cry from the commercial gym I’m used to, but I loved it.

After a few brief conversations, I was on my own for what seemed like a normal workout. I foam rolled, stretched, and warmed-up following the guidelines laid out by my training program. Then, I powered through the prescribed workout. It was tough, but it didn’t leave my gasping for air on the ground or feeling unable to drive home. I found a spot on the turf and started to roll again, ready to shower and get on with the rest of my day. Surely, the fun was over.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Note: If a trainer ever invites you for an “assessment”, be prepared to be picked apart from head to toe and have all of your flaws completely exposed.

I came to Rogue based on the recommendation of my coach in the Scrawny to Brawny program, Craig Weller. Well, recommendation is probably the wrong word since Craig is also a coach at the gym as well. I had reached out to Craig as I had been having some knee pain throughout my workouts. I’d like to say the pain was a recent occurrence, but that would be a lie. The truth is that I’ve been having pain in my left knee for the better part of three to four years now, ever since I ran the Marine Corp Marathon in 2010. After shooting Craig a quick video of my squat form (which admittedly, I thought was pretty decent), he suggested I come in for an “assessment”.

“How bad could it possibly be?” I said to myself. After all, I’d put people through a variety of assessments myself ranging from the basics like squatting and lunging to the more complicated like the Functional Movement Screen. If there’s anyone that could pass the “test”, it should be the former “teacher”. Right?

As I’m rolling on the turf thinking I had escaped without any embarrassment or ridicule for my lack of flexibility across my entire body, I see Jonathan Pope walking over. I had been exchanging emails with Jonathan for a few weeks to arrange this visit and had met him on my way in. Jonathan isn’t an overly big guy, but he has the demeanor that seems to shout “Don’t mess with me”, “I’m actually quite nice”, and “I know my shit” at the same time. Jonathan lets me know that he has a few assessments he wants to take me through and some things he noticed during my workout.

Oh boy.

Over the next hour or so, Jonathan, Matthew, and another trainer took me through assessment after assessment and then, put together a circuit of the simplest exercises you’ve ever seen (like lying on your back with your feet on the wall just breathing). From an onlooker’s perspective, it probably looked like I was lounging on the turf after a hard workout. From my perspective, this was anything but rest.

After I was done with the corrective exercises they had prescribed, I was told to hop up and squat. Unbelievably, my knee pain was completely gone. Now, I’ve had my fair share of client success stories where a few rolls on the foam roller paired with the right assortment of exercises can collide to yield some great results, but even I was impressed from the work this crew pulled off in an hour. Not only did my knee feel better, my entire lower body felt different (I was told the exercises actually helped to shift my hips into the correct place).

How many times had I tried to correct my knee myself? I would have to guess somewhere north of 10-20 times. I’d invested in multiple gadgets and both stretching and strengthening programs all in the name of fixing myself. At one point, I had visited a physical therapist. He gave me a stretching and strengthening protocol, but even that was short-lived. After only a week or two, I canned the program and started working my own magic (which apparently wasn’t very good magic after all). During my morning with the folks at Rogue, I came to realize that I had been standing in my own way for the past 3-4 years. I was the reason I hadn’t had any success.

Think back to the last time you were in an argument with someone. Who was right? You were of course. You had an opinion, and as well-informed and correct as the other individual might have been, there was simply no convincing you to change. Why?

We’re stubborn.

In general, we like to solve problems ourselves, shy away from asking for help, and prefer to think that we’re right 101% of the time.

What kind of an effect does this have on our own success?

A pretty big one from my point of view. By limiting ourselves to only the ideas in our own heads, we set ourselves up for a narrow viewpoint on every individual issue that comes our way. Many times, it’s our puffed up view of our own intelligence that ultimately leads to failure. In short, we can be our own worst enemy.

The trainers at Rogue were smarter and more experienced than I was, but I hated to admit that. After all, I had the degree and the hours in the trenches right?

The pitfall of our own intelligence is an easy one to fall into. It’s easy to put far too much trust in ourselves as ultimate problem-solvers. Asking help from others, particularly in an area where you feel like an expert, requires self-awareness and humility. However, the process of asking for help is one that should be practiced regularly in multiple areas of our lives. When I composed a few thoughts on changing careers, one of the main elements I mentioned was “admitting you don’t know is part of the process”. It’s important to live out that element even once you’ve been “in the trenches” for awhile.

This whole process of “fixing” my knee taught me a few things that I will hold onto for as long as I can:

Question everything you know and ask for help more often than you think necessary. Collaborate frequently. View other individuals as a resource of knowledge rather than adversaries in a competition for intelligence. Don’t be afraid to admit that you were wrong and never put pride in front of results.

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