A few weeks ago I yanked my back on a deadlift. (It had been building for a while.) Now fully recovered and feeling good, I’m still a little gun-shy, to be honest. Keeping the weight a little lighter, focusing hard on my form (which is a good thing), and not pushing too hard – at least not that station.

The training is a blend of circuit and HIIT (high intensity interval training), with a different mix every day. Last Friday, deadlift was back on the menu. As I rotated there, I eyed the already loaded bar and thought, I can do that. The first set was light, so I threw another plate on there. Second set was all good – lighter than my PR but heavier than I had gone since my blowout.

Just before set 3 I saw it – there was a 5 pound plate closest to the grip that I hadn’t included in my mental math. Just 5 pounds; not a big deal – right? Only apparently it was… my form went south for a second, I lost my focus – what the hell, man? I paused, took a breath and got myself squared away, no harm done. But it got me thinking…

Are You Mental?

“You can do it – you just don’t know you can, yet,” my partner told me a few years ago – just like her trainer told her. It’s a part of what we talk about at the Foundation. Believing in yourself, that you are worth it and deserve to feel good – without that positive outlook the journey can be a real struggle.

Yeah, yeah, power of positive thinking. Take it down a notch, Mr. Rogers.

Here’s the thing, though – science shows that positivity breeds better health and brain function. A sunny outlook on life is linked to lower rates of heart disease and high blood pressure, along with reduced stress. Exercise is also tied to positive outlooks, with increases in serotonin and endorphins being released as you work out.

Cool studies. Where are you heading with this?

I was doing fine until one little weight threw me off. How much weight is this, really? If you weighed in five pounds under what you expected – you would be ecstatic! Five pounds over, and it would be a swift kick to your positive attitude, right? Five pounds is a half gallon of milk, roughly. It’s within the range of normal daily weight fluctuation for adults. Heck, I’ve lost more water weight than that on a long, hot run! How can it affect so much?

Systems Check

Why do we let one little thing, that one last straw, knock us off track? The truth is, it’s everything else that leads to that point. The camel’s back is not broken by the last piece – it’s all the straw combined. We know this intellectually, but still we focus on that last bit. Maybe we blame the one extra weight because we have been fooling ourselves all along – “I’m managing fine”, “I’ve got this” – when in reality we are teetering on the edge. One little push, and down we go.

For me, it’s easier to blame that last shove than admit I was not really in control. One of the biggest steps I’ve taken has been realizing how much I glossed over. Recognizing my own shortcomings and owning them instead of rationalizing them away, frankly, isn’t a lot of fun. But it is essential to making a real change. That change has been physical, yes, but my mentality is different, too. I have actual goals now, things I am working to achieve for myself. I put in the work daily, and get held accountable.

I was doing a guided run today; the coach on the app called for a “systems check” – are you doing this, checking that, verifying the other. That kind of insight is critical in our daily life too. If we can see (and acknowledge) that we DON’T have everything managed, we can take steps before that last straw, that last 5 pounds, takes us down. Realize what we are doing to ourselves, and process the “why” of it. Think it through, talk with someone – whatever steps we need.

Then we can remember that it is not the weight of the world holding us down – it’s only five pounds – and we got this!