In January I finally realized that my painful, stiff right shoulder was not getting better, even with all the massage, all the stretching…
I just finally woke up and realized that it had been months, and my shoulder was not getting better.
So I made an appointment with my doctor, who prescribed physical therapy. And for the first several weeks, all I did was a few stretching exercises. Three different moving stretches — “motion is lotion” is the mantra that my physical therapist, Cindy, said as she showed me how to move my arm to stretch my ridiculous stiff shoulder joint, after she worked her manipulation magic.
And I was dedicated. I did my stretching homework daily.
But when I went in to see my massage therapist (also named Cindy, confusingly enough), she was a bit taken aback that my physical therapist had not given me any strengthening exercises.
“Your shoulder needs stabilizing,” she said.
Well, that may be so, I thought, but I see Cindy (the massage therapist) every two weeks, and she had not managed to fix my shoulder, so I figured, let’s let Cindy (the physical therapist) do her job.
Lo and behold, the next time I saw Cindy (the physical therapist), my range of motion had increased significantly, and she did give me one strengthening exercise: to be done with a yellow TheraBand.
Now, if you’re not familiar with TheraBands, they’re sort of like enormous rubber bands, and they come in different colors, which signify different levels of resistance. And yellow is the wimpiest.
It wasn’t until my next physical therapy appointment, a few weeks after that, that she actually got me started on dumbbells.
She handed me these tiny, pink, one-pound weights.
I mean, they were ridiculous. They looked like doll weights. They felt like nothing.
They were pink. Not vivid, power pink, but light, powder pink — the color reserved for wimpy things we don’t take seriously. Babies, and kittens, and bunnies.
And doing one rep with that one-pound weight? I could feel it. At the end of my range of motion, it hurt.
So Cindy (my physical therapist) told me to rein it in, and not rotate my arm all the way, to stay just inside the pain threshold.
Now here’s what’s really interesting:
Within a day or two, I was able to rotate my arm much farther. And by the end of a week, I was swapping out those one-pound weights for two-pound weights! That’s 100% progress!
By week three, I’d climbed up to three-pound weights. That’s 200% progress!
So Cindy (the physical therapist) swapped me to a brand, new exercise, that’s harder to do, and I’m starting back down with the one-pound weights again.
Meanwhile, the number of exercises Cindy has me doing has stayed the same: three. Ridiculously achievable.
What I love about this approach is how easy it is to be successful. So guess what? I’m seeing (and feeling) consistent progress, both with range of motion and decrease in pain.
Oh, and I’m getting more buff in the process, too, which seriously does not suck!
This, by the way, is exactly the philosophy behind my Creative Sandbox Way™ Guidepost #4: Think tiny and daily.
If you give yourself a huge task — or even one that you think isn’t huge — say the equivalent of a three-pound weight — when you’re not ready for it, it’s like trying to do a rehab exercise when your body can really only handle a one-pound weight.
And let’s face it, a lot of the time we throw ourselves ten, twenty, 30-pound tasks, expecting ourselves to be superhuman, when we’ve never even worked those particular muscles!
So where is it time to pull out the one-pound weights?
Where do you need to give yourself permission to use some starter effort to get stronger at something you feel weak at?
For me, it’s definitely networking, and learning to sell my corporate workshops and trainings. Networking and selling are new skills for me.
Sales involves a whole plethora of skills, starting with connecting with the right people who are actually looking for what you have to offer. In order to book five workshops, it’s likely I will have to initiate 100 conversations, and for this native introvert, that is NOT an inherently strong muscle.
Time to pull out the one-pound weights!
I’m also breaking down the other components of networking and selling, to learn exactly what those skills are, what reps I need to do with one-pound weights.
Once you break an intimidating task down into its components, it becomes less overwhelming and easier to heft, one “one-pound weight” at a time.
Your turn! Where in your life do you have to pull out some “one-pound weights”?
Portlandia This American Life parody:
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