Challenging yourself: Figuring out the differences between valid reasons & excuses

Sometimes you face some upwards battles. (Photo courtesy of

I have challenged myself many times, in many different ways, mentally and physically, over the years. I love to overcome a good challenge. I love to prove to myself that I can do something. I love to prove to others, especially anyone who has ever doubted me, that I can do something. But sometimes when something happens that cracks your confidence, it’s easy to doubt yourself and feel like you can’t take on a challenge. With all that’s gone on with my back and trying to ease back into physical activity so I don’t get hurt, it’s easy to think I can’t do something or I shouldn’t do something. But at what point do I mentally push myself to try something without fear of re-injuring myself?

Over the last two months, I’ve been gradually increasing my activity at boxing class. My physical therapist said that she thought, based on my description of classes and what we do, that some warm up and active rest moves would need to be modified. After all, as I was recovering in October and trying to ease back into classes after just a short one month hiatus, I’d taken a few classes and gone on two short easy runs and decided to do in and out jump squats during an active rest and that did me in again. I never finished the class and left with an ice pack. That was October 14 and I couldn’t take a full class again until February 19. Do you see why I am nervous?

Here’s the thing, though. I have to be smart about recovering, but I have to challenge myself. I can’t be afraid and I have to try. I have to push a little bit. I’m definitely weaker after this injury and a one-minute plank, which I used to strangely enjoy doing, is really hard. It’s been easy to put my knees down a few times during one in class because I tell myself I have to take it easy or I’m still recovering. Last week, I kind of had an epiphany. Nothing was hurting while I did the plank—I was just tired because my core is weaker. That’s all it was that was making me put my knees down. I had to mentally tell myself that I didn’t need to put my knees down and that I could do it, that nothing bad was going to happen to my back.

Since that little epiphany, I’ve been pushing a little bit harder during each class. I guess you could say that I’m somewhat meditating my way through certain movements in class, so that I’m not backing down. I’m telling myself that I can do it and that it’s all in my head. I’ve actually said to myself, “Nothing hurts. You are doing this safely. You’ve done worse. You can do this. It’s almost over.”

Because I feel really strongly about not re-injuring myself, but I also feel like it’s time to add strength training work into my routine, I’ve started personal training with one of the amazing trainers at the boxing club. We had our first session this morning. She said to me right away, “I will protect your back and help you work through the fear of getting hurt again.” I guess my fear is still obvious even though for me, the first step I took to work through the fear was to schedule the session. I have a lot of work to do—both to work on this fear and to increase my strength—but it’s work I’m committed to doing. 

I’m learning that challenging myself is truly a game I play with myself and I’m guessing that you may do the same thing, but you might not realize it. All sorts of things may challenge you, not just exercise. If something challenges you and you tell yourself you want to do it but you can’t for XYZ reason, I suggest you really look deep at those reasons. Are they valid reasons or are they excuses? It would be easy for me to use my back injury as a valid reason, but at a certain point, like when I’m trying to do a one-minute plank nearly two months after returning to classes and I’m not feeling a twinge of pain, it becomes an excuse. I know it was an excuse and it was an excuse I could use for a while, but that wouldn’t be fair to me. I’m just cheating myself. It’s different if something is hurting or the move is dangerous given my history. I’m not ready to do any sort of jump squat because those could take me down for a while, so I want to get stronger first, but I can slowly try other movements and be smart about them.

If something is challenging you, no matter what it is, look at why. Look at why you won’t try it. Do you have valid reasons or are you making excuses? There is a difference, but surprise yourself—try to take on that challenge. I promise you that taking it on and trying will make you feel good and make you proud of yourself and I’ll be proud of you, too.

Connect with me here on Facebook and let me know if you take a chance and try something that’s been challenging you. And if you need some encouragement to challenge yourself, I’ll cheer you on!

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