What I Learned After Injuring My Knee With a 135 Pound Barbell

I got my first injury at the gym on Saturday doing sumo dead-lifts with my trainer (video here). My form was good for regular dead-lifts, so we thought we'd progress into a more advanced lift. The bar was set at 135 pounds.

The first two sets went OK.

On the third set, rep three, I didn't push my hips back far enough. The bar didn't clear my left knee. Thankfully, it hit soft tissue - not my knee cap - which means I came away with a swollen knee, scraping, and a dash of blood for good measure. Not a big deal, but it hurt.

After ignoring my Mom's parental push to ice it, I went on with my day. By the time I got back to my house and sat on the couch, I reflected back to what went wrong, and what I could have learned from the experience to execute better lifts next time. Even though they're all lifting lessons, the more I thought about it...

The lessons are applicable to life, too.

When people learn lessons, they're often situation specific. Like wear a helmet when you ride your bike, don't throw things at your teacher, or girls have cooties (kidding, kidding). I find situation-specific lessons less helpful. They don't have the same impact. Plus, they often can't be applied to other areas of your life. That's why my lessons tend to be more holistic. Here we go:

1. Get in the right position

Have you ever wanted to do something, but you never thought it was possible? Maybe you were in the wrong position - physically and/or mentally. Lifting requires every muscle in your body to work in concert (something I mentioned in these life mantras). And that includes your mental state - or brain muscle. Your brain needs to be on board. Think about it. When was the last time you had to "get in the game?" Probably yesterday. For me, you're in the game every day. This means being in the right position to approach tasks is crucial. When you're there, lesson two is a direct result of lesson one.

2. Surprise yourself

What was the last thing you did that surprised you? For me, a couple of my reps on Saturday were touch-and-go, meaning one after the other, with no reset. I surprised myself by doing something that came naturally. I didn't plan to do it, nor did I really want to. It was pure in-the-moment inspiration. I'm going to try and figure out how to surprise myself more often. It manifests a feeling of accomplishment unlike anything else.

3. Push through the pain

It hurt. I thought it was just a bruise. Upon further inspection, I was bleeding. My trainer asked if I wanted a band aid. I waived it off like it was nothing. After my injury, I did two more sets of dead-lifts (being very careful to decelerate as I brought the weight back to the floor) and achieved a personal record for the 1,000m row right after. This, I think, is a testament to how my mindset has changed over the past three years. Usually, I'll get an injury or bleed and call it quits. Stop cold turkey. Now, minor injuries and fatigue are just a challenge. Unless my body is legitimately broken, I push through the pain to achieve success. For you, it could be continuing your workout, getting over a break-up, or having to buy green swiss chard because there is no rainbow swiss chard at the grocery store (ok, I digress). The painful moments you experience are one thing, but the perseverance to push forward is another. And that's what's remarkable - pushing through the pain, not experiencing it.

Out of all three of these lessons, I think the second one, surprising yourself, is the one I like to experience the most. What about you? Do any of these life lessons strike a chord? Let me know in the comments!