Lessons with Skateboard Monkey
Written by Kirsten Ahrendt

Recently I was inspired and reinvigorated by some wonderful phone calls with many of our local Invictus members. One tribe member had some amazing reflections that felt like a crime to keep to myself. (FYI, you all are like little Buddhas – you have vast amounts of insight, wisdom and power within your personal experiences and I’m just here to reflect it back to you!) 

This member preferred not to be highlighted or “shouted-out” with a photo in this post, so we’ll refer to him by his given spirit animal name – Skateboard Monkey. I promise, I am not making this person up. But I did make up his nickname. 

Lesson 1: Exercises in Discipline

When quarantine hit and schedules and routines were interrupted, Skateboard Monkey realized he didn’t have a lot of equipment and that the Zoom sessions didn’t accommodate his schedule. So, on day 1 he decided to implement a simple habit – doing a 1:00 plank. Every. Damn. Day. At week 10 of quarantine (the time of our chat), Skateboard Monkey has done his plank every day. 70:00 minutes of planking. He’s begun adding side planks to the routine and holding continuously, so probably even longer than 70:00. 

The lesson here is not that planks get easier after 70 minutes, or that six-packs are cool. He notes that the 1-minute plank was an exercise in discipline. Fitting it in and keeping the string of successful days going was more about the mental aspect and staying disciplined daily. 

We’ve talked about this before – rely on momentum rather than motivation. Who gets psyched up for a 1-minute plank hold? It ain’t sexy and I (personally) am not motivated by it! But every day that Skateboard Monkey does “the thing that he set out to do” the snowball becomes bigger, the moment of inertia is more easily overcome, and he builds momentum. When this is over, Skateboard Monkey can look back and say “I successfully did X every day of the quarantine”. How freakin’ cool is that?

Skateboard Monkey utilized a ton of principles that we’ve been discussing recently – starting small, using momentum, and action dominos. It’s not too late for you to join too. As I mentioned – start small. A carrot a day, one thing you’re grateful for every morning, 5 deep breaths, 1:00 plank. Start smaller than you think, and discover the power of MOMENTUM and DAILY DISCIPLINE like Skateboard Monkey did. Ten weeks, 20 weeks, or 1 year from now. Where will your action dominos lead you? 

Lesson 2: Injuries take time and patience…or a quarantine!

Skateboard Monkey has been dealing with intermittent shoulder pain for a long time, to the point that he sometimes has to make modifications in the classes so that he doesn’t further aggravate it. He admits that he would fall into the injury-pain-dialogue-justification cycle (I just made that up). It goes like this:

Skateboard Monkey: Ooh! We have push-jerks in the programming today, I love jerks! My shoulder feels good today! I’m going to do those jerks because my shoulder must be better since it doesn’t hurt.

Skateboard Monkey: (on some other random day) Today we have bench press, ugh, my shoulder hurts, I’ll ask coach for a modification and do something else today.

Sound familiar?

Skateboard Monkey gets a “gold star” for listening to his body. But flunks in his commitment to patience and long term recovery. When we have nagging injuries and join paint, it leads to ‘good days’ ‘ and ‘bad days’. And unfortunately good days are not an excuse to jump back into movement patterns and exercises that don’t help your joint with long term recovery. 

Skateboard Monkey notes now that after 10-weeks of quarantine keeping him away from certain pressing movements, his intermittent shoulder pain is gone. This does not mean Skateboard Monkey’s shoulder is FIXED. The absence of pain does not necessarily equate to a healthy joint. BUT, it does mean that he’s given his shoulder enough time to ‘chill the F out’. Perhaps the chronic inflammation has gone away because he laid off of it for a long duration of time. Now he’s in a GREAT place to start smartly building back up use of the shoulder and building BULLETPROOF joints. 

I hope Skateboard Monkey goes to Mind-Muscle class and builds healthy, strong shoulder blades and shoulder joints with snow-angles, cat/cows, shoulder CARs and more! I’m gonna help him out with that. We’re excited!

If you recognize yourself in this dialogue (I did! Yup! Even coaches are dodo birds!) I encourage you to stop hesitating and listen (Thank you, Vanilla Ice!) to your body and your coach. 

Pain is a symptom and can mean many things – it also might not even be where the source of the problem is. Sometimes a shoulder hurts because our thoracic mobility sucks! Sometimes a knee hurts because our hip isn’t doing it’s job. Give your painful areas the time they need and get with your coach to figure out a proactive plan to train smart, with the equipment and protocols that are right for you. Oh ya, and don’t forget to take your daily dose of patience-pill!


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