How Handstand Push Ups Changed My Life

“Holy sh*t, I’m like Bruce Lee!” That’s exactly what I said to my coach after a year of hard work and grinding it out after I got my first set of three handstand pushups completed in the winter of 2017. That whole day, I was riding the crescendo of a wave of accomplishment and pride that comes with the completion of a difficult goal. Just a year previous to this, I was just going through the motions and nursing a service injury of my back and figured I’d just have to take ‘er easy till the Grim Reaper came for me in my old folks’ home.

So what made me change gears and take control of my body and mind? Well, not being able to walk for a few days, due to my back injury, was the wake up call I needed. Fear played a large role, I’m not going to lie. I feared that I would be playing with my son in a park or out at the mall and I would lock up and crumple to the ground while he gleefully finds all the sharpest objects around and starts running around with them with impunity.

I was riding the crescendo of a wave of accomplishment and pride.

It’s amazing how a little goal, when it’s seen through, can have a huge impact on your mindset and your overall outlook. So there I am, upside down, and pushing myself up just like Bruce Lee and when I drop down it was all high fives and fist pumps. Imagine getting that feeling every day, I thought. There was a shift at that moment. Up until then, I had accomplished goals on a much longer time frame, I generally make five-year plans that orientate my decision process. For example, my goals before I hit forty are:

  • Administer a school
  • Have 2 children
  • Finish an Ironman
  • Own land
  • Successfully run a small charitable organization
  • Become an expert personal trainer

I really encourage setting your goals out, it’s really important to improve clarity on the intent of what you’re doing. However, as in my case, if you’re not breaking those goals down into manageable steps, they can become nebulous and a source of frustration rather than inspiration. Crushing my small set of 3 HSPU at my Crossfit box was that realization for me.

I had been diligently working on a full rebuild of myself, physically, for nearly a year after I had crippling flare up of my back. What I hadn’t realized was that working on my physical game was actually hardening my mental resolve as well. Four days a week, coach LP would send me my workouts and I’d head down to the gym and grind them out. This wasn’t 6 Minute Abs stuff, it was methodical and well planned out to strengthen my midline which was the root of my back problems. Jocko Willink, former Navy Seal commander and overall badass gets this, “Getting better is a campaign.”

Here’s a sample WOD that I would do:

Warm up
2-3 minutes of light cardio; then
10 Deadbugs; 20s Hollow Hold; 10 Hollow Rocks; 20 Air Squats x 2 sets

WOD
A1) Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
3 x 10-12 reps, 30# DB, tempo 3111, rest 60s between legs, no rest to A2

A2) Ring Row
3 x 10-12 reps, tempo 3111, rest 2 mins

B) Hollow Rocks
50 For Time

C) Suitcase Carry
3 x 50m/side, 60# DB, keeping torso aligned, rest 60s between sides

D) Row
2km For Time

The proof that this methodical approach was working was that I wasn’t having back pain with nearly the same intensity or frequency as before. I started to enjoy life a little more each day. Eventually, I was challenged to accomplish some new goals with one of them being HSPUs. I can remember thinking, “Man, I’m a tall lanky dude, it’s gonna take forever to nail this one.” But I did, which led me to smash through my Fran time and then crush my 1 RM deadlift. This cascade of successes gave me a sense of confidence I had started to lose after my return from Afghanistan.

“Getting better is a campaign.”- Jocko Willink

I started to read a lot more, specifically, Tim Ferriss, Jordan Peterson and Robert Kiyosaki; I also started listening to Podcasts, thanks to my buddy Andy, who started his own, “The Rugby Coaches Corner” which led me to the Joe Rogan Experience and Jocko Willink to name a few. I mention them because it completely shifted my mindset. I became more aware of who I was and why I wasn’t feeling fulfilled.

It’s amazing what one little accomplishment, like doing HSPU like Bruce Lee, will do for your heart and soul. If you enter into the belly of the dragon of your wildest dreams, your best weapon is the belief you will overcome. Now, I write down my goals in a Self Journal and have them mapped out and written by year, month, week and day. I believe in myself with a whole new vigour. I’ve been able to go all in and it’s led me to where I am now, training our military and first-responder community hard, so they are harder to kill.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

#hspu #crossfit #veterantransition #injury

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