How Shame Injures

By Coach E

I was off for most of the last couple of weeks, first on a family vacation to a cottage in Prince Edward County for 5 days, then for a couple days with just myself and Livia to my parents cottage to scope out the site for a bunkie we’re building.

If you have plans on visiting cottage country in Ontario anytime soon, bring lots of bug spray. The mosquitoes were plentiful and voracious.

As such, I’ve been out of the gym and my physical activity has consisted primarily of swimming (in 60°F or less waters – Oh Canada!), doing pullups at the playground while I’m with the kids and of course my Precision Movement routines to keep everything lubed and moving smoothly.

So I had a 2 week layoff from the gym and before I returned and when I got back, I started with Back Squats.

Warmup sets were feeling great then on my 165 pound warmup, I felt an intense and foreign cramping feeling in both quads, specifically the vastus medialis and lateralis heads. I racked it, chilled for a bit then tried another rep and got about 1/8th of the way down before racking it again.

I’ve never felt this before and while it wasn’t paralyzing, it definitely didn’t feel right. Or safe.

So I did something I might not have done 10 years ago and I called the exercise right there and moved on.

I thought about why I would’ve pushed through the pain in my younger years and the obvious explanations would be because I didn’t know any better or I would try to be macho.

But I think if I felt this 10 years ago, intuitively I did *know*, I just wouldn’t listen.

Then I began entertaining the idea that while on the surface these explanations may apply, but there was something else.

This year I’ve been doing much inner work to get at the root of my personal issues, and while this work will spawn many lifetimes, I’ve made some big discoveries.

One is of how I’ve got some conditioned ways of being and thinking that shame myself.

Shame is a poison, one that injures our true self because when we shame ourselves, we are seeing our core being as bad, wrong and unworthy.

We can adopt these patterns through consistent messages we get from family, friends and culture as we’re growing up, or specific and powerful incidents.

For most men, we’re taught to ignore our feelings, man up and push through, whether that’s on the playing field, in the gym or at work. If we don’t, we’re weak, soft and “girly-men”.

High level sports was a big part of my upbringing and training professional MMA fighters was the bulk of my early career, both environments places where shaming is prevalent, whether explicit or not.

Had I let this past programming control me, I could’ve said to myself, “Stop being a wuss. Finish what you started.”

But I didn’t and I think I’m better off. We’ll never know for sure, but that’s what my gut tells me.

So perhaps, because of the inner work I’ve been doing to heal injuries shame has inflicted upon my self and let go of these conditioned thoughts and behaviours, I also avoided an injury to my physical body.

If you’ve explored this topic before, perhaps this note resonates and if you haven’t, perhaps it’s opened your eyes to something to explore.

95% of what I talk about is focused on movement and health of the physical body, but never forget that all parts of us humans are connected and influence each of the others – physical, emotional, mental, environmental – we are wholistic beings and it’s important to not just remember that, but cultivate and improve each area independently to ensure one doesn’t hold the rest back.

Coach E

P.S. Happy Canada Day to my Canadian neighbours and July 4th to those south of the border and happy Bank Holiday to those in the Ukraine (that was actually this past Friday, which I learned talking to people from a mobile app dev shop there).

About the Author

Eric Wong (aka Coach E) is the founder of Precision Movement and has a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo. He's been a coach since 2005 and spent his early career training combat athletes including multiple UFC fighters and professional boxers. He now dedicates himself to helping active people eliminate pain and improve mobility. He lives in Toronto (Go Leafs Go!) with his wife and two kids and drinks black coffee at work and IPAs at play. Click here to learn more about Eric.