Pro bodybuilder Branch Warren once said something to me that stuck: “It’s not about how many times you get knocked down. It’s about getting back up and fighting again.” He ought to know. While training for the ’07 Mr. Olympia, he tore his triceps in a freak accident at home.
Warren is no stranger to injuries, but he does seem to have a talent for overcoming adversity. After tearing his biceps while still an amateur, he came back and won his pro card at the Nationals the next year. A couple of years into his pro career he tore his triceps and the following year won back-to-back pro shows.
His latest injury—to the other triceps—won’t slow him down, either. I spoke with Branch just 12 weeks after his surgery, and the injured arm was actually a half inch bigger than the other one.
Another top pro who is a testament to triumph over trouble is Victor Martinez. In just the past three years he’s been through the death of his mother, a brief prison sentence, a partial pec tear, a horrible knee injury that knocked him out of competition for an entire year and, most recently, the death of his father. Somehow in the middle of all that he won the Arnold Classic—perhaps twice by the time you read this—and came within points of winning the Mr. Olympia.
The point is, life is full of surprises, and they aren’t always good. Or, as the saying goes, “Shit happens.” Sooner or later you may get injured or ill. You may lose your job, relationship or someone close to you. How we choose to react to the things in our lives that can and will go wrong makes all the difference. Do we lie down and give up, or do we get up and keep swinging? That’s a choice that every person has to make for himself or herself. Champions get knocked down by life, just like everyone else. They don’t stay down.