One of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve ever received… wasn’t even a piece of advice really.
It was back when I first went to a gymnastics coach and asked why I couldn’t do a muscle up.
He just simply replied, “You’re not strong enough”
Not in a rude way, or to seem superior, it was just blatant fact: I wasn’t, and he could show me how to build the strength I needed.
It was just matter of fact, why would he waste time pointing out all the things I was good at or trying to make up special reasons why it wasn’t my fault? His only concern was getting me to do the right things as fast as possible - any faffing around indulging me & my ego was a waste of both of our times.
Why This Matters
Seems obvious, so why am I even talking about it?
Even though I’m The Great Tom Morrison, I frequently receive hate from people online because of language I use (especially on Tiktok for some reason).
There are those who would say it’s CATASTROPHIC, to say things like “weak”, or “you should be able to do this”, or “you need to use a regression”. But is it not better that they know what they’re bad at so they know what to fix?
I’m not advocating that you just start telling people they’re rubbish at everything just because they’re not at an elite level, but often times the reason why someone can’t do something is because they’re simply not ready for it yet and THAT’S OKAY, that’s normal! You need to know your weaknesses in order to work on them.
The alternative is to let them carry on as if there wasn’t a weakness and almost certainly not make any progress.
You have to put in the work
I’m not going to win any motivational speaker awards for this but, you can’t Positive Thinking your way to better strength and stability. Feel happy about it, feel sad about it, I don’t care, as long as you’re putting the physical work in.
This is especially important with basic skills (another thing I get told off for saying) such as balancing on one leg. Unless you have a very valid reason for not being able to, such as disability, being able to balance on one leg IS a basic human skill, and one that is very important. To dismiss it or chalk it up to some vague excuse is not helpful. You’re leaving yourself open to falls, niggles, aches & pains that will all stem from this denial. However, accepting, “my balance is bad, and I will work to improve it no matter how basic I need to start off” is the first step in the right direction.
It’s a big bad world out there and there are certain exercises, sports or movements you simply shouldn’t be doing until you have built the proper prerequisites – and that’s OKAY!
Denial Produces Injuries
In terms of my own journey before I took my own mobility seriously, there was a 4 year period where I was massively messing myself up and causing countless unnecessary injuries because I just thought I knew better, and no one had told me plainly that I was not mobile or strong enough for what I was trying to do. Instead I pushed & was pushed forwards the same way anyone would have been.
When my back pain was at its worst:
· My hip flexibility was both terrible & different side to side
· My balance was stupidly bad on my right side compared to my left
· My adductors were crazy weak compared to my abductors
· My ankle mobility was non-existent & different each side
· My upper back moved about as well as a fridge
· My muscle awareness was awful, I couldn’t feel my hamstrings unless I had a weight
· I didn’t know how to breathe to properly relax myself
· I didn’t understand bracing & intra-abdominal pressure
· I didn’t know where my safest squat depth was before experiencing lumbar flexion
I was weak & tight but refused to accept it. Worst part is that ALL of those things could have been fixed before I got injured… I just didn’t care until I was in immense pain.
Nothing Beats Experience
One of my favourite sayings is:
“You don’t know what you don’t know”
Because you just bloody well don’t, and this is why it is so important to work with a coach of some sort, even just temporarily for a short period of time. The issues arise when you think that you do know everything because you made some progress - which is only perceived as progress by you, and maybe a few of your friends that also…. Don’t know what they don’t know.
To someone more experienced they could look at you and see your weaknesses like they’re shining, blaring warning lights as you do what you think is a perfect Deadlift.
My favourite coaches to learn from are generally 50+ years old and are basically sick of everyone’s excuses for anything. They call a spade a spade and an inflexible person that tries to CrossFit a silly sausage…. I may be censoring a bit there…
But the hardest part is to LISTEN to your coach, even when they’re telling you you’re weak. Understand that it’s not a personal attack or a comment on who you are as a person, it’s purely a fact about a certain exercise, movement or ability.
Find What You Suck At & Get Stubborn
If you find out you suck at something, are bad at something, missing something, lacking something, or not good enough at something you shouldn’t just sit and be sad about it. As disheartening as it can feel at the time it’s actually a good thing to discover, because now you know you can fix it or improve on it and that’s your first step to achieving what you want.
As I was discovering all the things I was lacking & was terrible at after my many injuries, I developed an “F*** YOU” mindset – tell me I can’t do something and I will work until I can. I practiced them daily (or as often as I could) until I could say I was good at them.
My daughter is in school at the moment and it’s just crazy to see how normal it is to teach children; grade them on what they’re good or not good at and tell them plainly what they need to improve… yet when you leave school and get a bit older, at some point it becomes “rude” to point that out about someone even if you’re a coach/teacher.
Things can slide, people can accidentally miss things, it’s shouldn’t be a faux pa to say to someone, “you should work on this important thing that you’re currently bad at”
Burying your head in the sand gets you nowhere.
Putting things off until later gets you nowhere
Staying within realms of what you can already do gets you nowhere.
If you can accept you have weakness somewhere and there’s thing you can change through practice, even on day 1 you are getting somewhere, no matter how slow progress feels.
I’d rather have a list of 5 things I’m terrible at than a list of 100 things I am already good at, I don’t seek for my ego to be stroked, I seek for realistic, actionable advice & accountability. I’ll build that list of 100 out of those lists of 5’s as I come across them.
My message to you today:
Find something you SUCK at, and absolutely nail it to the wall with sheer grit and determination.