There I was after seven months of crossfit … lying flat on my back on the gym floor. I slowly eased into a sitting position, holding onto one of the rig posts for support. My right elbow was tingling and I could barely move my fingers, but the pain from my elbow was overshadowed by the sharp knife stabbing me in the back just above my right kidney. It wasn’t really a knife, but it felt like one.
One of the gym coaches tried to talk me into calling an ambulance. I told her no. I’m going to get up … eventually. I just can’t move at this moment. Once the pain subsides, I know I’ll be able to hobble over to the car and drive myself to the ER. I knew this was a somewhat serious injury, but if I’m hurt badly enough to take a ride in an ambulance, Dean will never let me come back to this gym.
How did I get myself into this predicament, you may ask? I signed up for my first crossfit competition and one of the movements were pull-ups. I really put the pressure on myself to get kipping pull-ups before the competition, so I was in the gym and on the pull-up bar almost every day. I took advice about kipping from anyone. I even watched YouTube videos and tried to mimic professional cross-fitters. It wasn’t working.
One day in the gym, one of my teammates said I should practice “hand release pull-ups”.
I need to pause this story here for a minute. Every time I tell someone what I’m about to tell you, they look at me in shock, their jaw drops, and then they start laughing. I’ll admit … I was dumb to listen to this advice, but I did. O’kay, brace yourselves for the stupidity ….
My teammate said I should kip, and when I’m at the top of the bar I should let go and then grab the bar again on my way down. “Great idea!” I said (not really, but I went for it). I did a few of these “hand release pull-ups” and I was doing great. I’ll have these babies down and be ready for the competition in no time!!
And then it happened …. I fell hard to the ground and landed in the ER with a fractured elbow and severely bruised back muscles. Thankfully, I didn’t break my back, but I bruised my soft tissue so badly I passed out three times from muscle spasms. I was bedridden for a week. I have no one to blame but myself because I sought advice from anyone who would give it, even if they didn’t know what they were talking about.
That was almost three years ago. I learned a painful but valuable lesson during that time: when we seek instruction and guidance in any area of our lives, we have to be careful who we ask. Following bad advice won’t always land you in the ER, but it could have more serious consequences that may not heal as quickly as a fractured elbow.
Have you ever looked up the definition of the word advice? I always look up the meaning of words and every single time I’m shocked to find the meaning has more depth than I originally thought. For example, the word advice means guidance or recommendations concerning future action, typically given by someone regarded as knowledgeable or authoritative. When I was trying to master my kipping pull-ups, I took advice from anyone who wanted to give it. I didn’t know what I was doing, so why not? What I should have done is seek out the advice of someone who was an expert in crossfit. This is where my coach, Joe, comes in.
Joe gives me advice in the form of guidance, training, correction, and programming. He knows crossfit, and not only does he know it, he can demonstrate the movements. He’s good at what he does, so I trust his advice. It only makes sense that I follow his plan to help me get fit.
Not only is wise instruction important in the gym so we don’t end up in the ER, but wise instruction is vital for effective living. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, the people fail, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” It is dangerous to ask for and follow advice from just anyone. But how do we know if the advice or instruction we get is sound? You look for the evidence. When the people you’re getting it from are an expert in their field, they live out the advice they give. They not only speak it, they do it. They don’t just know it, they show it.
Before I started crossfit, I went to a global gym to workout. One day, I was doing my bicep curls and I overheard a conversation taking place behind me. A man was talking to someone about how to workout, how much weight he should be lifting, and effective nutrition. I’ll admit, I was both nosey and curious. I had to see who this “coach” was because he sounded so confident in his knowledge. As I turned around to take a look, I caught a glimpse of a man perched on a weight bench, never lifting a weight, and eating snacks as the other man worked out. For someone willing to give so much advice and instruction about working out, he never put it in action.
We have to realize we are a product of whomever we listen to and get instruction from. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” When we seek out counsel and instruction from the wise, we become like them. We are a product of whomever we allow to pour into us.
Proverbs 27:17 is a verse I quote often in the gym and it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The Word of God is often referred to as a doubled edged sword. As we read it and get “advice” and instruction from it, it sharpens us as two iron blades sharpen each other. But it also says at the end of this verse “so one person sharpens another.” If the people in our lives do not sharpen us with encouragement, prayer, and exhortation, then they are just a blunt knife and ineffective in pushing us to become better at what we do.
I hired Joe as my coach because I didn’t want to fall off bars anymore (this is the part where we all laugh again). But seriously, I want to come to crossfit and give my best. In my gym life, he’s the iron that helps make me better. I have the same mindset when it comes to the people I seek out for living my best life in Christ. If they don’t live by example, they don’t get to share their advice.
Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” We need wise advice, instruction and guidance in this life. God puts people in our path to help make us better at living, but we have a responsibility to make sure the advice we get comes from people who are sharp in their knowledge. We have no one to blame but ourselves if we don’t.
As I leave you today, I want to share with you what I read by a professional coach. He said, “Surround yourself with someone who’s better than you, so they can be your example. Surround yourself with someone who’s equal in talent, so they can sharpen you. Surround yourself with someone you’re better than, so you can be their example and they can become like you.” Sometimes we’re a coach and sometimes we’re an athlete, but the common denominator between the two is the life we live and the advice we give. Let’s be the sharp knives in the block and make sure those who rub off on us only make us better people.