Everyone has those days in the gym where they show up the weight feels heavy and you just don’t want to be there anymore. What you do during these workouts is what determines how you move forward over the long term. I’m not telling you to toughen up because there are times where your body is actually trying to tell you something, and if you don’t listen you can cut your lifting career short. Without further ado let’s jump into this discussion.
- You Come to the Gym Exhausted- Everyone knows that they need to get sleep in order to recover from their workouts, but you can get all the sleep you want and still be exhausted during some workouts. It can be very frustrating to feel terrible when you think you should be feeling great, however, it’s possible that your body is trying to send you a message. A lot of people think that they need to train hard and heavy every day of the week because their favorite athlete/instagrammer does. There are a couple of things that a lot of people overlook in this category.
- Life Stress- For many of these athletes it is their job to perform at a high level in a sport, which allows them to focus on recovery and not dealing with regular life stressors. Many athletes don’t have to worry about work deadlines or super late nights with their babies etc. I’m not saying this is every professional athlete, but most of them are paid to train and perform. On the other hand you may be paid to do peoples taxes eight hours a day, and if it’s tax season your stress will be super high and your hours will be longer. Odds are your performance at the gym will decrease during this time and that’s fine.
- Chemical Enhancement- Once again I’m sure there are many athletes who compete drug free, but there are also many who do not. This is another serious factor that one cannot overlook in terms of recovery, but I don’t want to turn this post into a PED discussion so we’ll leave it at that.
- Frequency of High Frequency Training- Let’s be honest Instagram pretty much only shows your awesome feats of strength/performance, so when you see someone smash a 600 pound squat three videos in a row understand that they didn’t just happen upon that number. It is possible to take parts of your year to train at a high frequency, which can catapult your progress short term. However, most of these guys do not train eight days a week (yes I know there are only seven days a week) all year round because the body will struggle to recover. If they do train hard and heavy seven days a week 365 days a year and continue to make progress year after year then see point b.
- Mental Exhaustion/Staleness– You’ve been on the grind for six months now doing the same workouts and you’re just tired of it. You start to hate that stupid 3×10 on squats and those dumb lat pull-downs, it’s just boring. Results have stopped coming and you would rather watch football then train.
- You’re Just Bored Man!- This is known as mental staleness, which happens to everyone and is part of the reason I switched to strongman training for now. I got really tired of doing the same workouts week after week so I played around with a conjugate styled system, juggernaut and a bunch of other things just trying to find a fun program I could stick to. I still loved working out but I couldn’t get excited for my workouts anymore because they never changed. I started just going through the motions and had to force excitement for my AMRAP sets, so I decided to change things up based on what I enjoy doing. I love challenges and I love to do things that other people can’t do such as pull a truck, flip a heavy tire or toss kegs 16’ in the air, which made strongman make a lot of sense for me. I decided to sign up for a meet and wing it, which was a lot of fun and I’ve decided to do another contest because I like it so much. In other words sit down with a note pad and write down what you like and dislike about training. After you do this decide whether the things you dislike about training are necessary and if they aren’t then stop doing them. If you’re goal oriented then sign up for a competition and this will be enough to get you excited about training again.
- You Need a Break- There is a mythical idea in strength training known as a deload week, where one lifts light and focuses on recovery for a whole seven days. One side says that you absolutely need a deload week for your body and the other says that rest is for the weak. As usual both sides are right to a certain extent and it is largely based upon the frequency, volume and intensity of your training. If you’re in a high volume and lower intensity phase then you can probably train more often than someone in a low volume and high intensity phase (see overload and fatigue management). The heavier you train the more deload weeks you will need for you mind and body to recover adequately.
When it comes to working out many people only pay attention to their body composition and not how their body feels, which is obviously a mistake. Everything in the body is connected, your mental state is just as important as your physical state when it comes to training for strength. If your mind isn’t connected to your training then you won’t perform very well, and if your body feels weak then you probably won’t do very well either.
I will probably make a post about my experience with the body working as a whole rather than separate parts, but for now I just want to share my short tidbit on the topic. When you squat you aren’t just training your legs and when you bench you aren’t just training your chest. Our bodies are made up of bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and many systems that interact just to keep us alive. Liver failure will kill you if not addressed because it can’t flush toxins out of your body, which means your body now exists in a toxic state. If we operated like machines we could just replace the liver with a standardized liver and get back to full power immediately. However, we aren’t machines with interchangeable parts we are complex organisms and everything in our body works together to produce a movement as simple as walking. Instead of always forcing yourself to do more take a step back and analyze your current situation and get in tune with your body and mind. I realize that many people don’t believe in listening to the body because you are capable of pushing the boundaries of your body and mind on a daily basis. However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. Learn to listen to your body and mind because it’s constantly communicating with you and trying to lead you down the right path.
Okay that’s my hippie paragraph for the day guys, I hope you guys enjoyed reading it and if you have any questions don’t be shy, leave a comment or shoot me an email!