A video version of this post is at the bottom. Keep scrolling if you want to watch it.
Sooo you like to exercise and you wanna lift heavy things up and put them down, but your lower back pain is being a pain in the a** – literally. Well, this post is for you!
Surviving the gym with chronic back pain
I remember a few years back when the pain started to settle down, and I wanted to get back to exercising (like I used to) after years of living with chronic lower back pain and piriformis syndrome…
…So I’d sit on a bench and these thoughts would run through my head:
- If I don’t lift heavy today, I’m gonna lose all my strength. 7 years of lifting down the drain.
- Maybe I should just push myself and take a pill later.
- I want to squat and train my legs. It’s been like foreverrr. OMG what if I get a flare-up. I’ll have no-one but myself to blame.
- No, it’s just best to do bodyweight stuff. Ugh, this is sooo annoying. Can I just heal already?? I’m only 24
- How can I call myself a trainer I can’t even lift.
I had self-sabotaging and damaging thoughts running on autopilot for a whole hour until I was done. Regardless of what I did, I felt like I didn’t do enough. That my body was broken and that I was going backward.
I felt like everyone around me was judging me and though a lot of self-reflection, I realized how unhealthy that was. I was making a terrible mistake. Not respecting the healing phase.
So through weeks and weeks of journaling…I had to make a mental switch (and peace with the fact that It’s okay to scale back). I set new goals for myself that felt do-able.
And btw, you can grab this short workbook that’ll show you how to set goals that you can actually tackle and achieve quickly.
So here are some steps I took that supported my healing journey, while still working out (coz I can’t stop that. Being sedentary isn’t the answer either).
- I took my ego out of it and decided to scale back. And by scaling back I mean sticking to light weights for 6 months.
- I started using journaling to brainstorm all the damaging limiting beliefs and replaced them with more empowering ones The idea that I was losing strength and getting out of shape was false. The fact that I still looked the same in the mirror was proof of that. As long as I keep my body moving and staying healthy I was going to stay in shape.
- My new empowering belief was:
Every day, I feel stronger. Old exercises are getting easier because my strength is growing, and I am so motivated to keep going one day at a time. Some setbacks may happen, yet I am SO EXCITED to see how far I’ll come in a few weeks
And the moment I arrived at the gym I’d ask myself this: Why am I here? what’s the purpose of being at the gym right now.
I had to remind myself that it was about being healthy. It was about moving my body and keeping my muscles and joints strong and mobile.
I’m doing this for my health.
I changed everything. I eliminated a lot of unnecessary exercises that honestly weren’t helping. In fact, they always triggered pain…I was doing them because they looked cool.
I was the tough girl doing the cool impressive exercises and I loved that identity. It was hard to break up with it. But hey… I kept repeating the affirmation…
I’m doing this for my health.
PS: Check out the Back Pain Bootcamp. I share all my low impact routines there!
The mental switch
I applied mindfulness into my workouts. It was so empowering. I switched all my focus within. No one else existed. And once that switch was turned off (about what other people thought of me), I was able to focus on how my body was feeling with each exercise. So it felt okay, I kept going. If something felt off, I took a break and either stopped what I was doing or found a modification.
My body started responding positively to this change. I stopped having flare-ups or experiencing bad soreness after my workouts. And most importantly, I was consistent. So I kept going and building more strength.
I was progressing slowly but surely.
Quality vs quantity – less is more
Another change I made was shortening the list of the exercises. And. It was an important part of staying away from flare-ups. I focused on quality vs quantity.
So I kept my exercise list short (4-5 exercises), and focused on good quality repetitions. I did about 4 sets of each exercise. Believe me, I actually worked harder! When you’re more mindful and are doing the exercises slowly and with control, they become 10x harder. I saw positive changes in my body compared to when I used to do more, and just pushed through to finish the workout for the sake of finishing the workout.
So here’s what I invite you to do. Please sit with yourself and reflect on why is it sooo important for you to train and be fit?
And also write down all the thoughts that’ll come up when you ask yourself: what if I scaled back? what if I stopped doing plyometrics (because I know my hips hurt after) and just did lower impact exercises? what does that say about me?
Then go deeper and ask: What do I have to believe about myself to think this way? That’s your limiting belief right there. You uncovered it. And it’s time to create a more empowering one.
Then write some new goals!
Simply answering “I just love to workout and I can’t change the way I do things” is a very superficial statement and I encourage you to dive deeper and find the reason behind why you refuse to scale back or adjust things.
There is always an underlying belief behind what we do, and mine was that I was gonna lose all my strength and get out of shape, and that doesn’t reflect well on me as a coach.
Does this resonate?
Here’s a video version of this post!
I Love To Exercise But I Have Lower Back Pain Video