Last week, a day after returning from a trip half way around the world, I was pretty jetlagged. I managed to get through a full day of work and really was itching to work out as I did minimal exercise while I was on vacation. I made it to class at the box and the strength portion was power cleans. I was a few sets in when a friend gave me the best compliment I ever could want. He told me that my form was so good on cleans and that he was jealous of this. If this had been a year ago, my most coveted compliment would have been “wow you can clean so heavy!” Having someone validate without solicitation that my form looked awesome meant the world to me.
As I am now 4 months past knee surgery, one of my primary focuses has been on form. When I work out during my PT sessions, my form and mechanics on EVERYTHING I do is highly scrutinized by my trainer and physical therapist. Now this may sound like a complaint. It is quite the opposite. It’s the best gift they can give me. They are helping me to break so many bad habits I have that I never even realized.. When you start to pay attention to form on anything you do whether it’s something basic like an air squat to something more complex like a deadlift or power clean, it is very eye opening.
When you get caught up in the adrenaline and agony of working out, it is so easy (and common) to just want to get through it without even caring or noticing that proper form is being compromised. I used to be guilty of this. I would not know nor care what my form was as I was too busy watching the clock or counting reps or challenging myself to lift heavy.
Right now, I care far less about lifting heavy as I do lifting pretty. Having one on one time with my trainer at PT is just as much an education as it is a workout. I adequately get my ass kicked every time I go while still leaving there with so much more self awareness then when I started. With an injury, it forces me to tell my ego to simmer down. By doing so, it has opened me to being far more receptive to feedback. This is not to say that it is an easy process. It still can be difficult to hear all the things I do wrong and so yes, I have moments where I feel like GOD I am just sucking at being athletic.
Then I have moments like what I described where a fellow boxmate tells me how absolutely amazing and beautiful my form is. (Ok fine, in reality, he probably said something to the effect of “Missy, your form looks so good! I am impressed!”) Anyhow, the important thing is it reminds me that practice makes perfect. It reminds me that not all rewards or progress are instantaneous. It reminds me that to big changes are like a continuation of subtle changes. While I may not see them exactly as they happen, when they all come together, it is simply wonderful.
The other key takeaway from getting that beloved compliment was the timing of it. Keep in mind that I worked out about 26 hours after I landed back home in LA. I was tired. I am fairly sure my brain was still on a beach in Malaysia. I had not lifted weight in two weeks. I had every reason to have my form go to shit. But it didn’t. Much to my delight, my form was actually quite good. I could not think of a better testament to how effective focusing on form for the last few months truly has been. Good habits take repetition, patience and a positive attitude. I am to the moon that I am starting to see the light at the end of a tunnel. I am coming out on the right side of injury and I could not be happier.