When I began this journey I assumed I would be an overnight success. I mean just 10 years ago anything I wanted to do physically I could accomplish in just 3 months. It was awesome, 12 weeks and I could transform my body, master a difficult Kung fu technique, go from not running to running 5 miles as a warmup and finally from 0 to 3 sets of 15 pull ups.
Sometimes you reach a plateau. Reaching a plateau is not always due to under training or over training and rarely if ever is is due to the programming, most of the time it is mental. It could be fear, it could be laziness, it could be lack of time, perhaps life or work are in the way. Sometimes you just need to step up and get things done. If progress is important you need to assess what is your current impediment. Step up and own why and how and then you can address it. Most likely if you started with a program that has produced results and has decent progression its not the program, if you have only been doing the program for a few months and you’re already switching then its probably you and not your program. So let’s assume its not your program but something else. You need to step up and assess what is really going on.
A few considerations:
- Do you sleep 7 to 8 hours?
- Do you hit happy hour?
- Do you manage stress?
- Do you hit the gym everyday?
- Do you hit the gym once in a while?
- Do you wake up tired?
Ask yourself some questions like these. Step up and assess yourself. Don’t let you hold yourself back.
Its easy to be discouraged. We are amazing at internalizing and tearing ourselves down. There is definitely an element of the human psyche that is remarkable at self destruction. What we need to learn is how to turn setbacks into opportunities. Accept that we have hit a wall, a roadblock or whatever cliche you what to use as an excuse to quit or belittle yourself and move past it.
The truth is these setbacks are paths that we can learn not to take in the future. Thinking about how you got to where you are now rather than the fact that you are there. Simply analyzing and identifying where things went wrong is an invaluable mindset for making positive change.
Use your setbacks as lessons strive forward with confidence that you can do better this time around. you can do this because you have the knowledge to do so and the knowledge to avoid this specific pitfall.
Life’s progress is about learning from our failures as much if not more than from our successes.
Fight hard against the self deflation and strive for self motivation. Fight hard and rise above your setbacks.
Divinity of Purpose:
So to steal my title from the title of a Hatebreed song, Divinity of Purpose. There is a sense of contentment that you get from having purpose and I have found few activities that provide a sense purpose quite like strength training.
Taking that barbell and crushing weights according to your programming provides an incredible sense of accomplishment, a feeling of self worth and a sense simplicity to life.
When its just me and the barbell and that’s the only thing in the world for 20 to 60 minutes, I find a clarity that is rare in today’s world of information overload. It’s a period of time to disconnect from everything and reconnect with yourself, a chance to find yourself in reps and lbs. Working out with a plan is to have a purpose even if it is only for the duration of the training.
Seek Divinity of Purpose. Train with a goal, train with a plan and find yourself with a barbell.
There is a lot to be said for the ability to adapt to change or wing it. I don’t believe that wingin’ it belongs in the gym however. The gym is a time and place for structure and planning. It is a place to focus on maintaining your strengths and conquering your weakness. Having a plan when you get to the gym allows you to focus on just that, staying strong, getting stronger and conquering weakness. Structure in the gym is your foundation for adaptation outside of the gym.
In life you will be faced with many different situations everyday. You get plenty of chances to wing it in everyday life. Take for example all of the structured balance focused training you did in the gym. That training will certainly pay off when you trip on the curb and have catch yourself to prevent a fall. Think about all of the deadlifts, squats, cleans, pushups, 200M sprints and other exercises you complete, day in and day out, creating a structured foundation and committing to muscle memory. Now apply that to all of the situations you experience in a day in which that training is thoughtlessly applied, that 200M sprint to catch the bus at the end of the next block on your commute home. That bag of dog food you grab up from the floor and clean to your shoulder to carry or load in your car.
The structure of the gym applies to the uncertainty of daily living. Life will throw you enough curve balls, don’t let your workouts do the same. Prepare, work with a coach, a trainer, do a WOD, anything that is structured. Do whatever it takes to know what you will be doing before you get to the gym so when you get there all you have to concentrate on is doing it well or doing it better.
There is always someone out there talking about mental toughness. What are they really talking about? I think its a little foolish to come up with a one size fits all definition. So I’ll attempt to define it from a personally philosophical approach rather than a clear cut one size fits all definition.
We all have varying degrees of ability to stay focused, to power through and to get that extra rep or extra step. Let’s take for example the extra rep, perhaps if you are doing squats and you love doing squats that extra rep may be your go-to state of mind but if its burpees maybe that extra rep is the farthest thing from your mind. If you are a marathon runner, how many times did you have to push yourself; literally for an extra mile before you could actually go the distance? Mental toughness in the case of the burpee is taking that exercise you hate and getting that one extra rep anyway. Mental toughness for the marathon may be reminding yourself you have a goal and each step is one step closer to the goal. Perhaps, once you are in the gym you are an unstoppable beast but getting to the gym can be a challenge, sometimes saying no to happy hour with the crew after work can be the hardest part of getting to the gym. Saying no, sometimes is the most difficult part of your workout.
It’s not always about just going above and beyond, sometimes its about staying the course and knowing your limits. Its easy to get caught up in the momentum of a WOD and try to do more than you are prepared for that day, mental toughness can be scaling that day or going at 80% rather than a 100%.
In the end mental toughness can really boil down into being true to yourself and staying focused on your goals.
Be tough not foolish.
Pain is a tool. It measures what you’ve done and is scaled so that you understand when you’ve done enough or that you’ve done too much. It is your ultimate measure of progression or regression. Know your pain, as it is an invaluable tool. The right amount of pain cries, “SUCCESS!” Like the pain in the morning after a good workout, the dull ache that proclaims I’m not hurt, I’m sore but getting stronger. This pain helps to not only measure success but is a guide to what you can do next or more importantly what you shouldn’t do yet. Let it guide you but not own you. Know your pain. There is the screaming pain that alerts you that you’ve gone far enough and that anymore is too far and too dangerous. Then there is the nagging sometimes acute pain that indicates a flaw in the system, that kink in your neck or that pain in your wrist reminding you, you’ve overdone some movement or your posture is compromised. Finally there is the agonizing pain that indicates you’ve gone too far, you have finally done it and now you are injured.
Jen and I joined Crossfit in March and started fundamentals at Crossfit Habitat in the Strip District here in Pittsburgh. It has since been re-branded Crossfit Iron City: The Strip. Enough of that. So we begin fundamentals with a great coach and the movements are challenging, split jerk, snatch and clean; what the hell are these and the workouts themselves are seemingly impossible but somehow I muddle through each workout. Then after about a month they are everyday movements and the beginners WOD’s (workout of the day) are manageable.
Having been a kung fu student for over 10 years and an instructor for nearly 5 years with an 8 year break, I thought how out of shape could I really be I have a solid foundation from my twenties, well I am WAY out of shape. One month of Crossfit however and I was able to do more than I could imagine at the beginning.
I remember in the beginning that the challenge of the classes seemed a little overwhelming and we weren’t even sure we would continue after fundamentals but I was determined to not quit the fundamentals I need to at least prove to myself I can make it that far. That mentality soon seeped into everything, “I need to master this technique to prove to myself that I can do it. I need to finish this WOD to prove to myself that I can do it. I need one more rep to prove to myself that I can do it.” I think we get the picture here. It reminded me of my kung fu days when I busted my ass everyday for no other reason than to challenge myself. I was back, the me I remember from my twenties the guy that was ready for everything, was excited to be outside and off the couch and only had to prove anything to himself. I like that guy!
I now wake up that in the mornings before my alarm most days. I fall asleep again at night when I should, I am conscious of what I am going to eat, drink and do that day. All because I wonder how it will affect my workout tonight, tomorrow or the next day. I wake up with that not quite but slightly sore feeling that lets me I’m alive and I’m moving every day.
There is also a sense of community I get from Crossfit that I have been missing since I departed from kung fu. The people are encouraging, engaging, thoughtful and very motivated. That definitely pushes me to embrace more of those qualities in myself. Being primarily an introvert it was a little difficult at first but wht everyone so friendly and engaging its easier day by day. I remember it taking years in kung fu to simply be comfortable in a group setting but I remember it being a contagious feeling that pushes me to be less of an introvert and I can see that happening again with Crossfit and I like it, I need it.
I would also like to say that the coaches have been amazing, each with their own distinct personalities and methods of communication but all accurate and concise with key phrases and technique training and advice. Their knowledge pushes me to strive for more knowledge and experience of my own.
I am so glad to have Jen by my side as we climb into this new arena of our lives. It is exciting and challenging and rewarding and to have some to share that with is simply a blessing.
The beginning of this journey has been promising and exciting and I can’t wait for more.