What Would Iron Man Do?

I am Iron Man.

I have to admit, I never felt like I could truly relate to the character of Tony Stark (Iron Man).

I feel a close connection with Captain America, and at times I’ve felt like a member of the X-men due to often feeling like the “only one” and being weird in my exercise and diet habits. Finding similarities with a brilliant billionaire playboy who gets kidnapped, builds an arc-reactor in his chest to survive, and then uses said technology to build a super power a full suit to save the world just never clicked with me.

Welp, after my first trip to the doctor in years, it turns out I have WAY more in common with Iron Man than I ever would have imagined.


The week of November 25th won’t be remembered as my favorite week ever:

Wednesday morning: I interview one of my heroes, Tim Ferriss, and publicly commit to rigorous training sessions three to four times per week of Capoeira before heading to Brazil for Carnival in February.

Thursday: I attend my first Capoeira class here in Nashville – I get through the handstands, cartwheels, and gingas, surviving the 90-minute class excited and energized…but quite sore in my lower back (something that has bothered me for years).  I ask the teacher to personally train me three times per week and he agrees.

Friday: I decide that now I have an actual home base, I should probably take care of myself. I go to a doctor to finally figure out why my lower back has been hurting me for so long. After a series of questions, some stretching and range of motion tests, I get x-rays taken. The following conversation takes place:

  • Doc: Hey, so here are your x-rays. Um, have you ever had a serious fall in the past? Like, 10 years ago or so?
  • Me: Hmmm, nothing that I can remember? I’ve had back problems for years, but I just kind of dealt with it.
  • Doc: Well, let’s take a look at your x-ray here (see photo above). Look at your L5 Vertebrae – it’s supposed to line up with the rest of them…it’s off by quite a bit.
  • Me: Wait, that’s supposed to line up with the rest of them? Ruh roh…

Over the course of the next hour, I’m told I may never deadlift or squat again, and for the time being I definitely need to avoid any lower back-strenuous activities…like capoeira.

I’m not going to lie…for a guy that runs a fitness website, lives for strength training, loves picking up heavy things, and enjoys finding new physical activities that put a tremendous amount of strain on my body, this felt like a sucker punch to the gut.

For once, I’m in a situation that can’t be fixed with just clean eating and strength training. I drove home in a serious funk, feeling like my life was just diverted down a completely different path.

Then the nerd gods intervened.

I walked in my apartment, threw my keys onto the counter, and plopped down on the couch completely depressed. I turned on my TV, and guess what movie had just started five minutes earlier and happened to be on the channel I had watched the night before?

Freaking Iron Man.

Stop the shrapnel

Tony Stark woke up in a terrorist prison cell with an arc reactor protruding from his chest.  It turns out, this arc reactor is the only thing keeping the shrapnel embedded in his body from piercing his heart.

Overnight, Tony had been transformed from healthy, wealthy, and wise to a sideshow freak at risk for instantaneous death every minute of every day. After the initial shock wears off, Tony doesn’t sit around and sulk. Hell no. He sucks it up, accepts the fact that he can’t go on living the same way, and starts making changes immediately. It turns out, this drastic and gruesome injury is crucial to Tony’s development as a character.

He needs this massive step back before he can take steps toward becoming a true superhero.

If you’ve had an injury or ailment, recent or chronic, you probably had an initial moment of negativity too. However, no matter how bad it may seem, you still woke up today…which is a pretty damn good start, right?

Instead of getting bummed out that my back is messed up, I’ve instead decided that I’m very lucky that I made the discovery now rather than ignoring the pain for another decade and causing even more serious damage down the road.

If you have a physical ailment, get it looked at. Whether it’s a knee problem, shoulder problem, or lower back problem, you need to find out if you have any “shrapnel pointed at your heart.” You can’t begin building your suit and becoming a superhero until you uncover the challenges you need to overcome.

Once you’ve received your diagnosis you have two options:

OPTION ONE: Complain and use the diagnosis as an excuse for inaction. “Sorry, I can’t exercise, I have a bad knee/back/genetics/whatever. Now, hand me the remote and that pint of ice cream. Damn my poor luck!” Unfortunately, life isn’t fair. Some people get to play life on Easy Mode, while others have to play on Legendary Difficulty. That’s just how it works.

I love this woman’s attitude, and this guy’s list of excuses:

OPTION TWO – Become Iron Man: Identify your shrapnel – get x-rays, a check-up, or whatever you need to identify the source of your ailment. Then, accept that you’ll need to make some changes moving forward if you’re going to rise and become Iron Man. You’re going to realize that through some tinkering you can build a stronger self.

Start building your own Iron Man suit today.

Build your suit

Once Tony accepted the fact that he would need a permanently implanted arc reactor to keep him alive, he set out to turn his weakness into a strength. It was this weakness and “accident” that allowed him to become Iron Man.

I’m in the process of building my suit now by strengthening everything around my ‘arc reactor.’ For the foreseeable future, I won’t be able to do any serious lower body strength workouts, which bums me out to no end. However, this discovery is going to really force me to think critically about how I can stay in shape without my preferred method of traditional strength training. I expect it will be lots of upper body gymnastics work, yoga, stretching, walks and hikes, and a crazy amount of core workouts to strengthen the stabilizer muscles in my back to keep my spine safe.

What kind of suit are you building, and how are you going to build it? Work with your doctor or physical therapist to find out what you’re capable of and how you can strengthen your weak points. Learn what you CAN do to rebuild yourself, then get working on it!

I strongly encourage you to forge a new path while thinking, “I’m going to level up my life today.” Like changing to a new class (from Warrior to Monk, for example) in a RPG, you might need to adjust your Level 50, but is a far better alternative than feeling sorry for yourself and using your weakness as an excuse to get lazy.

Now, once you’ve started laying out the blueprint for your Iron Man suit, it’s time for the montage.

Test drive it

iron man drawing As Mr. Stark planned out his prototype, he continually ran tests and experiments to see what he could and couldn’t do. He learned how much thruster power in his boots was too much, that if he flew too high his suit would ice over, and that if the arc reactor was removed from his chest…it would kill him.

I want you to think of each day like an experiment:

  • I can still do this exercise with these modifications and get the same benefits. BOOM.
  • Okay it hurts when I do this, therefore it’s either too soon or I shouldn’t do that.
  • I can do this, but I get sore afterwards. Let’s see if I can attempt the same exercise and hold it for longer next time.
  • I can do this new activity and there’s no pain. I’m going to keep doing this.

There will be bumps, bruises, soreness, and frustration in your future. That’s part of the game. Listen to your doctor, listen to your body, and work with yourself to find out what you’re capable of.

As you begin to test out and tinker with your new suit, remember this: in every super hero movie, there’s always a slick montage where the hero/heroine goes from awkward and frustrated to epic and awesome (in a matter of minutes). What they don’t show is the days/weeks/months/years required by the character to put that montage together.

In order for you to become a superhero, you need to go through your “awkward to awesome” phase too, and you need a LOT of footage to fill up that two minute montage. So be patient!

Start your montage today, one frame at a time.

Save the world

Iron Man Saves the World To borrow a line from my friend Mars, “The world needs you.

The world needed Tony Stark. He was broken, but he worked around his shortcomings to better himself and successfully defeat evil villains, saving the world from certain doom.

In doing my research for this article, I came across this awesome quote from one of the original writers:

“Here you have this character, who on the outside is invulnerable, I mean, just can’t be touched, but inside is a wounded figure. Stan [Lee] made it very much an in-your-face wound, you know, his heart was broken, you know, literally broken.”

Up until last week, I really felt invincible. Well, I’ve learned that unfortunately sometimes we can run into obstacles that might force us to take a different path to our goals.

HOWEVER, I’m okay with that, because I know that new and different strengths are now available to me, waiting to be unlocked. I’m going to save the world in a new way.

If you’re dealing with an injury or ailment, ask yourself: “What would Iron Man do?”

The world needs you to be healthy. I don’t care what path you take to get there, but I know that this planet will be better off if you take care of your body and dominate adversity.

Get started.

What kind of Iron Man suit are you building?



photo source: arc reactoriron man close-up, iron man test, iron man drawingiron man saves the world

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  • http://www.johnnyfit.com/ JohnnyFit

    Keep that core strong Steve, everything is going to be fine! You’ve already listed yoga as an activity going forward, so I think you’re on the right path 😉

  • HaliS

    Sorry about your injury but way to keep at it.

    I’m lucky enough to have no injuries that I know of (though I am actually going to the doctor on Thursday, just for a check up). I plan on using my current wellness to keep leveling up my life. Thanks for being such an inspiration, Steve. 🙂

  • brian d

    Nice stuff, Steve. I hope you are able to work through it.

    When I read about the sore back, the first person I thought of was Ben Bruno. He is a frequent contributor to T-Nation (which as a little bit of a different feel than NF), but he is super strong and has dealt with back issues for years.

    He’s got a lot of great ideas when it comes to alternative approaches to a strong, powerful lower body.


  • Rosslyn

    My story: I’ve had, for the second year in a row, debilitating respiratory infections that leave me bed-bound and afterwards more or less a wet noodle from not moving for so long, and without any energy. Yesterday I had a good bit of a cry-out over how frustrating it is to lack the energy to even do the dishes, let alone work out any more. I was doing so well over the summer, too: Went from physical therapy to actual workouts. Then this October I got sick again, and have been pretty pathetic since.

    This article really helped brighten my day. I can’t do much yet, but I have to keep working with what I have. I can’t go hike out in the cold air anymore, so I’ll do yoga, indoors. I have to adjust and adapt to what my situation calls for, and keep seeing Doctors until we can figure this thing out.

  • http://twitter.com/teresahummel teresahummel

    If you can’t do one thing – you find something else you can do. Simple as that. There is always an alternative. Now that you know what causes the pain, you’ll be able to work with your body to make yourself even stronger and you won’t get hurt in the process. It’s a win-win.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jen.cywinski Jen Cywinski

    Well, this post couldn’t have come at a better time. I fell down some stairs 3 years ago and boy did it come back with a vengeance last month. Between a slipped disc and sciatica I couldn’t feel more down. I started seeing a new chiropractor where I was doing 3x a week of rehab. I’m down to 2x a week and it is amazing that when I first went I could barely walk, I could not sit at all, and I was feeling claustrophobic in my own body. I’d been doing good turning my health around too! I’m not cleared to do any strength workouts, but I’m allowed to walk for exercise. It can be discouraging, but I keep telling myself that I’m going to get better this time, that I’m working towards a solution, not a quick fix. I’m really thankful that I found a place that sends me home with diagrams of stretches and everyone at the rehab is my support base.

  • Amy

    I am so sorry to hear about your injury, Steve. But I am also SO thankful for this post. I have had fibromyalgia for 13 years, and I’ve been serious about fighting it back for most of those. I feel like I’ve only made progress in the last two, however, by switching to a paleo-like diet and moving my cardio to something with more involved muscle movements (…it’s Dance Central). Like you say, I’ve built my suit and experimented over and over again, having to move slowly and carefully in a lot of circumstances. But now I’m at a point where I can work from home, where I’m losing weight, where I’m starting to gain back a little of the energy that I had. I am no longer completely disabled. The ball is rolling in the right direction.

    I was having a hard day today. Thanks for perking me up. Your website always seems to be good for that. Good luck with your work ahead, sir.

  • Elizabeth

    Bravo you! That is an excellent attitude and an excellent way to to keep moving forward. I’m a chiropractor and I see xrays like your every week. Strengthening core and some exercise modifications will allow you to still enjoy working out and staying fit!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jackie.l.meyer Jackie Meyer

    I really hope you’re going to see a good chiropractor then! You aren’t ‘broken’. You just have something to address. A good chiropractor will not only re-align those vertebrae, they will teach you the right physical therapy to keep it aligned so you won’t have to deal with it again. There’s really no substitute to getting your body in alignment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Amanda-Leigh-Reaves/640731527 Amanda Leigh Reaves

    This was inspireing. I recently gained another neck injury back and have little to no ROM in my neck. It has left me with pain and not able to work. I havn’t done anything in these past five days and I feel like I never will. This was just what I needed while reading this on the couch watching useless TV. I don’t know what is cauing this neck problem but now I want to know why!

  • http://www.facebook.com/asatar.bair Asatar Bair

    Hi Steve,
    Sorry to hear about your back. I admire your attitude and indomitable spirit. What seems like a mountain now will seem like a bump in the road in the future.
    take care,

  • http://www.facebook.com/asatar.bair Asatar Bair

    I second what Jackie says below about finding a good chiropractor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vinicius-Carvalhosa/100001249369908 Vinicius Carvalhosa

    I have lower back issues too, and I practice Capoeira here in Brazil. I don’t know the extension of your problem, but if you do the right things you can have Capoeira classes. Anyway, good to know you’re coming to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro has the best carnival! If you want some tips, know that you have a reader from here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/genielisa Lisa Reed Davidson

    Please go see a chiropractor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniellehere Danielle Jones

    I have had a good chiro since I was a kid, and he helps sure, but it is fitness that does it and regular massages to loosen the muscles around the injury.

    I indoor wall climb twice a week…its a growing practice for me. I approached the owner/operator of my gym Jason and told him about my lower back pain. My back is in full alignment, however I have ‘sway back’ which puts alot of pressure on my lowest vertebrae. The chiro showed me the xray and it is clearly degraded and narrower than it should be. The chiro told me to lose a few kilos and work on my core and Jason agreed fully. Apparently Jason broke his back outdoor climbing years ago, falling with his foot stuck above his head. He got right back on track through intense core training and again climbs with the best of them. His spine still looks messed up in xray but is immensely supported by pure muscle in his mid section. You are absolutely right about core training being critical and I highly recommend climbing as a workout option once you are strong enough. It is the only exercise in the world I never get bored with 🙂

  • nonLethal

    This rang so true with me. Had to drop out of the recent 6-week challenge due to hurting my back (among other things) and I have now been told that I’ll be lucky to last another 10 years without needing to get both of my knees replaced… yay me!
    But I am the frakkin Iron Man! Jarvis, I’ll be in my workshop. No calls!

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexanderivory Alexander Jason Ivory

    so what is the medical name for your condition?

  • tricky

    Aww, Steve! What a lousy Christmas gift… I’m so sorry to hear that you’re dealing with all of this. And yet, this post is incredible. You inspire me with that beautiful, indomitable spirit of yours. Bravo! We’re all going to be here for you, all the way!

  • kidtimelord

    Keep going Steve, you’re an inspiration 🙂

  • Bekah

    wow Steve, I’m sorry to hear about your injury, but love how you turned it into a positive. I have physical limitations that make some things in the fitness world, and the regular world too, entirely unattainable, and some days that really, really sucks, so I understand what you feel in that respect. I tend to let the everyday things I can’t change get under my skin and make excuses to not do what I need to, in order to make changes where I can…but that has to stop if I ever want a better life, mentally or physically. Thank you for one more dose of inspiration and I can’t wait to see how you transform this into an awesome experience!

  • Artinum

    This news makes me sad. 🙁
    Keep fighting, Steve!

  • Kawika

    Thanks for this inspiring post today, Steve. I really appreciate it, it was just what I needed to hear. I’ve been suffering from clinical depression and anxiety recently, and it really has been getting me down. This post has helped me to re-frame what I’m going through, and find ways to work around it, new ways to get to my ultimate goal of touching people for good and making a difference in the world. Best of luck to you with your back, and I would second the last comment about getting a chiropractor. I recently threw out my lower back and a chiropractor, along with moderate stretching and exercise, has done wonders.

  • http://profiles.google.com/weshardee wes hardee

    I can only imagine your frustration, but your reaction and resolve is inspiring. I’d recommend looking up Esther Gohkale. She had a similar experience to your own, and turned around and researched her way to healing. Her conclusions about lower back care feel right in line with the core principles of Nerd Fitness and Paleo. Good luck, Steve, and thanks for being such an incredible example for how to tackle our troubles.

  • Ryan H

    Wow thanks for writing this. Sorry about your back…
    I too hurt myself a couple months ago doing Capoeira.
    Mine isn’t as severe, but there wasn’t a previous injury. I got tendonitis in my bicept, and I can barely do anything without it hurting after. My arm is already weaker also. I’ll have to quit Capoeira like you have to reassess your workouts. I’m getting in to bicycling now. I’m going to try that and see what kind I want to do. I’m thinking road bikes right now, but I’ve only just started. I have to keep resting my arm for a very long time now, and then I know I’ll have to do therapy to strengthen it after the tendonitis heals, but this really encourages me. Thanks!

  • Lydieboo

    GREAT article Steve. It’s easy to say “Don’t get discouraged” but it’s tough to follow that advice in the face of adversity. Or in the puddle of adversity, depending on where you land. Even though you’ve built this amazing outlet for nerds who want to change their lives and have decided to help others make that change, don’t forget that we’re all here rooting for you and cheering you on as much as you are cheering us on. Whether you know our faces or not, we know yours, and seeing you overcome adversity will reach many more people than if you just had success all your life.

    Good luck, and thank you for NerdFitness!

  • Pam O

    I’m so sorry to hear this! I KNOW it’s frustrating, depressing, and feels down right ‘not fair’. I started running about a year and a half ago, and after a few starts and stops I felt I was ‘finally’ making progress with my running and strength training. I was to run a 5K a couple of weeks ago in honor of a Boy Scout (and my son’s very best friend) who recently lost his leg in an accident this summer. Then about 2 weeks before the race I was diagnosed with possible fractured sesamoids in my right foot (will be confirmed with an MRI this week as I am not healing as quickly as I might if it was just sesamoiditis). If they are fractured – no more running at all for me. I have been combing this site for alternate strength exercises to adjust my training in the mean time (can’t do lunges, calf raises, step ups, plyo work, etc. but CAN do squats if I’m careful, arm strengthening exercises and I am also focusing on core work). Yes, I had my pity party for a weekend, but then I think of my son’s friend and I see sooo much that he has accomplished and how much work he still has ahead of him. I can still do many activities (cycling maybe?), but it’s not my ‘first love’ of running. I know you will overcome and adapt, and be much stronger for it. Thank you so much for the inspiration you give here at Nerd Fitness.

  • Samuel

    Hey guy, i don’t well ever comment on any of these posts but i read all of the articles, anyway a couple of things, my dad had a slip disc in his back, an he had surgery on it and he is still in great condition and we both so taekwando, korean freestyle and i do some MMA, anyway, he still trains in his martial arts and trains me for my competitions, so good luck. Another thing unrelated to this article, if you guys wants some different excersises, that aren’t so mainstream but are really effective check out athlean x on youtube, you don’t need to buy the program because most of it is on youtube, anyway this guy jeff cavalliere is a physiotherapist and designs a lot of very safe but alternate workouts and he is really good at what he does, so especially if you have an injury, i would suggest having a look at his videos

  • JT

    Rock climbing, man!

  • kaxxina

    Another most excellent post. I *adore* Iron Man! Is there anyone better than Robert Downey Jr playing a superhero? 😀

    Anyway, I certainly commend you on sticking to it. That chiropractor idea sure seems like a good idea… Any plans on a WWIMD bracelet? 😀 Though I think I would prefer a What Would Tony Stark Do bracelet; he’s much more powerful than Iron Man (being that he formed Iron Man and has relationships outside of it… not literally POWERFUL, you comic geeks who might take offense 😉 )

  • David Pierce

    Damn. That’s a tough story to hear, Steve, and must be 100x tougher to live out. Stay healthy, be strong, and know that your rebellion is with you the whole way!

  • Lance

    Hi Steve,

    First off I want to tell you how much I love the site. I have been following your blog for over a year and have read every single article. This site gives me the motivation I need when Im not doing my best and has been a catalyst for making myself better in many ways.

    Secondly, I understand your situation. I played football in High school. One day after a hard practice I woke up and couldnt turn my body at all. I found out soon after that I have degenerative discs in my lower back which explained my long term back problems. The doctor told me I could never play any contact sports or lift weights at all or it would only get worse. That was devastating. However, I went to a chiropractor and physical therapist and after they worked with me to align my spine and strengthen my core I am back to being fully active and still lifting five years later. I just have to be more careful than most people. I just put it in my mind that I wouldnt let my back hinder me from what I love to do.

    I know you have the the strength and will to get through this, and I look forward to reading about your awesome adventures for a long time to come.

  • http://www.facebook.com/elizabethpresslerhenderson Elizabeth Pressler

    Steve, this post had me cheering you the whole way through!

    I have an arc reactor. At the age of 30, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (yes, type 1, as in formerly known as “juvenile”). I went from having pretty good health (I thought!) to suddenly not being able to make a hormone that is literally necessary to stay ALIVE. All the sudden, I was giving myself up to 8 injections a day and testing as many times. And, by the way, all the sudden it was actually kind of dangerous for me to exercise. It can make your blood sugar drop, an event than can be as simple as feeling weak and having a cup of juice to pep up, or as serious as passing out before you can treat yourself… You can even DIE that way.

    Know I know… I BECAME IRON MAN! I learned how to live with it, got a book entirely about exercising with type 1 diabetes to I could understand the science behind adjusting my insulin and/or carbs to keep from going low. I also got an insulin pump for better control and a continuous glucose monitor that would alert me if my blood sugar started falling (or climbing!) too fast. I BUILT MY SUIT!!! I AM IRON (WO)MAN! How cool is that? 🙂

    And so are you. I have ZERO doubt you’ll build an awesome suit that lets you accomplish things you never even THOUGHT of before this!!! Here’s a shot of an essential component of my “suit!” :p

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikeljyms Mike Sepulveda

    This is probably one of the most relate-able article you have for me. I previously did a lot of dragonboating and running until I had to have myself checked up for chronic lower back pain, and later diagnosed with a herniated disc. That first 3-4 months was a painful and difficult recovery period knowing you can no longer do what you can do. However, it gave me time to go back to swimming. Plus, with a little more extra effort in cycling and running, I was able to finish a short distance (mini) triathlon. The drive to level up is back. A sprint and an olmpic distance seems plausible now. If and when I do finish a full distance Ironman, I can actually be an Ironman. 😀

    All the best in you recovery. I look forward to your succeeding articles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/darmendariz1 David Armendariz

    That sucks. If you want to do a martial art that’s not to bad on your back you can always do kendo. You pretty much learn to become a jedi. As a person with asthma I know how much it sucks to be unable to do the activities you love when you’re unable to.

  • paurullan

    Go get them Steve!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nick.gentle.7 Nick Gentle

    That can be fixed. You need a proper physio rather than a chiropractor however. I know just the person, he fixes worse backs than yours every week. FB message me your email.

  • Beechnut13

    Before you count your squats and deadlifts for lost, I would highly recommend going to see a physical therapist – a good one.

    I fell 10 or so feet square on my arse at the Warrior Dash in July 2011, and had back problems ever since. I saw the orthopedic doctor, who had me do McKenzie extensions. At that time, my hip started to hurt. Then six months later, my hip got better, but I started having terrible back pain, where I could hardly move sometimes. I would get awful back spasms. The orthopedic couldn’t see me for over a month, so I went to see a chiropractor, and my right hip was sitting 4 mm higher than the other, and the muscles in my low back were all tightened up. After some adjustments, I was feeling a lot better, but I knew that my back was weak, and that this would happen again if I didn’t get some help with strength. Finally, I could see my orthopedic, and I told him what was going on. He told me that I probably had a bad hip, and with bad hips come bad low-backs, and I would have recurring pain for the rest of my life, and I may need hip replacement surgery down the road. The fall probably aggravated it. I couldn’t believe he was going to write off my back for the rest of my life like that, so I went to a physical therapist.

    After just a few weeks of exercise, my back was feeling a lot better! All the stabilizing muscles in my low-back were “mush” (his words, not mine), and my movement muscles were taking over.

    There are some things I should not do anymore, because of hypermobility in my low back – like touching my toes, for example – and so I have to be careful with yoga. But squats and core exercises were part of my regimen and are part of my workout thanks to you as well, and so I am hoping that my back pain never worsens again (it’s still there, but not bad).

    So… go see a physical therapist! Your discs may be out of alignment for other reasons. Medical doctors, orthopods, etc, are NOT good at that kind of thing. I’ve heard that from many other people as well, but I have NEVER had someone recommend a doctor or an orthopedic for low-back pain. Only PT or a chiropractor.

    And a good PT can do the same thing – but more safely – that a chiropractor does. But make sure it’s not a quack PT. I saw one who did some electric acupuncture thing, and it was a waste. A good PT will work with massage and exercise.

    Don’t give up, Iron Man!

    PS: My PT said that once my back was strengthened, there was NO reason I couldn’t do a real strength training workout – deadlifts and all.

  • BruteSquad

    Steve, I have been dealing with a bad knee. I was way overweight (as I mentioned in the past, I have come down 80 lbs) so to exercising to help the knee was difficult to the point of almost impossible. ALMOST. I still have issues with it, but I know how to proceed. 50 lbs from now I am sure it will be even better. After a year and a half, I have done my first jump during exercise in over 10 years. It was only a few inches off the ground. But to me it was like flying. I still have days where I have to adjust my workout. But get at it. Because the only acceptable excuse is “I was dead” Keep at it.

  • Lilly

    Thanks for this article Steve – I’m one of the people that would get a knee/lower back injury, and make excuses. I love your analogy, and now I will start thinking “What Would Iron Man Do?” instead of hitting a roadblock and giving up.

  • Joseph

    Hi Steve,

    When I read this article, I remembered a video I saw a few weeks ago. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9FSZJu448

    I know your condition is not as bad as the guy in the video. Just thought I’d share for some added inspiration.

  • Chris Crosby-Schmidt

    However, no matter how bad it may seem, you still woke up today…which is a pretty damn good start, right?

    There’s a story about Huston Smith, the 93-year-old author of “The Religions of Man” and many other books. Supposedly, since the age of 6, he has performed the same ritual every morning when he wakes up. He sits up, looks around, and says, “Good.”

    I hope you find your suit, Steve!

  • lckeeper1

    I have to say first that I’m not a medical doctor, but have seen x-rays similar to Steve’s and it is a condition known as a spondylolisthesis, or an anterior slippage of the vertebrae. I’d recommend a good stint of PT to correct it in the long-term, but Steve has the right idea with LOTS of core strengthening.

  • lckeeper1

    Steve, what a wonderful article. I worked in PT for a few years, and it was always apparent who would be very successful with their rehab. Those patients who saw it as an opportunity to come back better and stronger than before always thrived and had great outcomes. They were able to see their setback as only temporary and as a chance to improve themselves. You have a great outlook!

  • Miramonster

    I agree with the people who’ve commented below me. A good chiro (do some research on who to go to) will definitely be able to help you out a ton. I’m in chiro school and we see Spondylos like this pretty often. People do really well with rehab and conservative treatment.
    Best of luck!

  • http://www.12minuteathlete.com/ Krista Stryker

    Wow, so sorry to hear that Steve… I hope you figure out your Iron Man suit soon.

    Also, as a lot of other people did, I’d recommend seeing a chiropractor… for some reason, regular doctors don’t always know what to do with bones & muscles.

  • Jujuba_CBLA

    Wow! As I was driving back yesterday from a capoeira road trip, I was talking about you with my travel buddies. We watched your “Exercising Around the World” video in the car and talked about how we should do a “Capoeira Around the World” video. A little later, you popped up on my twitter feed talking about capoeira. Serendipity!

    Listen, all of the comments below hit the nail on the head: go see a good sports PT who will make sure you do proper core strengthening. I also work in PT, and there is no reason you can’t make it work. Your positive attitude is your best asset and will carry you through.

    Trust too, that you CAN do capoeira. Just modify and take it really slow. Let your teacher know that you have to be a little cautious, and they’ll be understanding. A good teacher isn’t going to have you backflipping in your first week anyway. Capoeira is a great way to get to know the Brasilian culture and fully immerse yourself when you’re in Brasil. Also, it’s a great way to know any culture as you travel around the world. Many friends of mine travel and meet capoeiristas all over that graciously take them in and show them around. (Check out my friend’s travel blog: http://www.theressomuchtosee.com/2012/09/capoeira-around-world.html !) Besides that, the axe (energy), you get is an amazing buzz that will help you keep your energy up. =]

    Anyway, I leave you with this:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4QrMsHx1-8 , an Iron Man Capoeirista and wish you the best of luck!

  • ertzeid

    Wow, this was a well-timed post. I just made an appointment yesterday to talk to my doctor about pain I get in my lower legs every time I exercise. My Internet-self-diagnosing has led me to scary ideas for what it could be, that if they’re right would require surgery with a two-month recovery time to take care of. I’ve been scared and bummed about the idea of missing out on that much training. Thanks for the reminder that everyone faces challenges and this is just another hurdle that, in the end, will make me stronger. Now if only Netflix Instant had the first Iron Man available…

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.aadam Anthony Aadam


  • Diana

    This post couldnt have come at a better time. I too have lower back issues due to a car accident. I have 2 herniated discs where the nucleus (the inside gel of the discs) is spilling out and hitting my nerve which causes alot of pain. I’ve been going to therapy for it and finally found out what it is last week with my mri. When they told me I became discouraged about exercising. I had been waiting to start exercising again until i was near the end of the therapy. My doc also told me that its not something that can be cured so I would mostly likely be needing to go to the chiropractor once a month for the rest of my life and that i need to avoid heavy lifting in order to avoid having more of it to spill out. If more does come out I’m going to end up needing surgery. So you can imagine how i felt when he told me that, I figured I wouldnt be able to do heavy lifting or join crossfit again, but you have inspired me to bounce back! I just started reading your blog last week and its been the best so far. very motivational! This totally cheered me up! I’ve never tried paleo before but not i’m more determined than ever to start my exercise regimine and go full on paleo. =)

  • TrabbsBoy

    That is such a cool attitude and I’m not worried a bit about you, though I’m sorry about the immediate disappointment. I have arthritis in my knees, which was what started me working out. This picture is very prominent on my inspriation wall giving me the same message every day: