Ebbs & Flows of Training: Why It’s All Okay

For the last 5 or so months I really fell off my training game. Work picked up and was forcing me to stay later, and up until I moved recently, I was spending a long time commuting every day. All of these different aspects of my life (among others) were having a negative impact on my training. I was going to the gym fewer days a week than what I consider optimal, and I really had no consistent groove so I didn’t progress in my training at all. My numbers were staying the same, and I wasn’t following any particular program for a majority of those 5 months, which made skipping the gym even easier since I didn’t have anything to really follow.

Since, for the past few weeks or so, I’ve been back on my game and have had a much more consistent schedule, and I am on a new routine to help break plateaus to hit numbers I’ve only dreamt of.

But with this change came a lot of reflecting over the past few months, and for a while I had gotten very down on myself for the situation I was in, but more recently my perspective has shifted, and allowed me to see it in a whole new way.

When my training was off, I knew it. I knew it so much that it was actually causing a lot of stress. I had less time to go to the gym, and my days were so busy and long that when I did go, I often didn’t have the energy I really needed to have a worthwhile session. I would get mad at myself for not getting stronger and consistently breaking new PRs in the gym, and it would cause me to get down on myself.

But after looking back on it now, it is very clear to me that that period of time where my training was off was an incredibly important time to have, and I learned a great lesson from it.

We’re never going to be able to do all of the things that we want to, all of the time. Especially as it relates to the gym, there’s always going to be periods where we aren’t going as often as we should, which causes our progress to slow, if not halt. But what’s extremely important for us all to recognize is that this time is not wasted. We shouldn’t get upset or frustrated with ourselves when our routines get out of whack. This discomfort and uneasiness is a learning experience in itself. It teaches us patience, it forces us to slow down, relax, and take it easy.

Busy times force us to shift priorities and make sacrifices. But these busy times don’t often last our entire lives, and it is that recognition that allows us to make peace with your current state as it will pass in time and allow us to get back to our old routines where we will make more progress and be stronger because of our time away.

Going through periods of little training can refuel the fire to come back with loads of potential energy waiting to be converted – they shouldn’t cause stress, frustration, and sadness.

It is so important to appreciate the ebbs and flows of training because it forces us to soak in the present moment – to be okay with exactly who we are, where we are, and what we’re doing – not worrying about losing our strength or missing out on a training session.

The gym will always be there, progress is always waiting to be had and achieved. When life gets hectic and busy and makes seeing friends, family, and yourself more difficult, those things must be taken into consideration first and you should dedicate the time you do have to them. Without those people surrounding you and supporting you, whatever you do in the gym and in life will be that much harder because you will be on your own, with not a single helping hand to reach out to you.

So your progress is set back a little from a few months of busyness and under-training. But if it was always that easy to keep up with every aspect of your life inside and out of the gym, there would be no joy in the challenge, journey, and achievement of becoming the strongest, healthiest, and happiest person you can be. 

 

Training Like Olympians

The Olympics have been over for about a week, but they’re definitely not out of mind. After spending hours watching different athletes in different sports compete at the highest level, I started to think a little bit about how I could accelerate my progress and how I could advance my level of skill, specifically in powerlifting. And what I learned most was something I think we can all learn from and use to help us all progress and become stronger, healthier, and happier.

There’s a reason why Olympic athletes become Olympic athletes. And while genetic predisposition plays a large part in this, what also makes them Olympians is the amount of time that each competitor spends perfecting their craft and skill.

And while we may not have 3 hours a day to dedicate to lifting weights, running, or any physical activity, what we must make time to craft our skill, to perfect our movements so that we don’t become injured and therefor incapable of performing them in the first place. And a huge part of achieving this this is by the proper use of warmups and stretches.

On and off camera before an Olympic event, athletes are taking their time warming up, stretching, and getting themselves physically and mentally prepared to compete. This may last for an hour leading up to their event. But these routines allow them to run faster and lift more weight than anyone in the world.

Now we all aren’t going to be breaking any world records (or maybe we will), but we can train like Olympians. In order to stay healthy and compete at the highest level, Olympic athletes understand the importance of warming up and cooling down. When we only have maybe an hour a day to exercise, we often skip this step and jump right into exercise to save time and get straight to work.

But why would we do this if we know that the most elite athletes all around the world would never skip their warm up routine because it is so crucial to injury prevention and exercise preparedness?

If this step is crucial to any Olympic athlete who has been able to achieve amazing athletic feats, that must mean that it is even more important to the every day gym goer, since we are far less skilled and practiced as these athletes are. 

Olympians train nearly every day in some capacity. And every day they warm up and take care of their bodies so they don’t become injured. For those of us who don’t train every day of our lives, we are even more susceptible to injury because we don’t have the time to perfect our form and to practice tirelessly to perfection. Which is why the warm up is even more important to us regular athletes.

Most of us will never be the fastest runner in the world, or the heaviest lifter, but no matter how fast we can run or how much we can lift, taking the time to warm up and stretch like an Olympian will allow you to continue training and keep yourself injury free so that you will continue to grow stronger, instead of rushing into things, trying to go too hard, and then injuring yourself every 6 months and setting back your progress because you didn’t take your warm up seriously and with the mindset of a world class athlete.

Warm up like an Olympian, because they know the important role it has in keeping them healthy. And if you only have an hour to exercise, prioritize warming up and stretching before you touch a single weight because in the long term, a healthy and more mobile body will get you much farther (literally and metaphorically) than an injured and broken one. This will allow you to live a strong, healthy, and happy life for the longest you possibly can.

Heavy is a Relative Term

I see and hear too many people talk about and make fun of someone’s ability (or inability) to lift a certain amount of weight. However when determining heaviness, there is no set number of pounds when something is deemed “heavy”. It’s a term that is defined differently by each and every individual.

It’s important to remember that in the gym, light weight to you may be extremely heavy to others. We should remember this because when we work out with others, or even just look at them through the mirrors, any and all judgement regarding the weight that a particular person is lifting should be immediately done away with and shamed.

We shouldn’t judge others on this subjective concept because what seems like light to you doesn’t matter at all. Because you’re not the one lifting the weight, and the person who is actually moving the weight is probably struggling and working as hard as they can to grow stronger.

This is heavy to them in their current physical state, and that’s all that matters.

We are all trying to become healthier and stronger in our own ways, and it’s a lifelong journey. This also means that we all will be in different stages of this journey at any given time. So no matter how slow someone’s progress may be or how seemingly light the weight is, any progress is better than none at all if you’re working hard. So we must be mindful and respectful of each and everyone’s level of progress and weight that they are lifting.

Because they know that they are dedicated to becoming the strongest, healthiest, and happiest person they can be, and that dedication will allow them to lift even more weight in the future. And with attainable goal setting and dedicated, focused work, what’s heavy today will be light tomorrow.

[YouTube] Getting a Little Heavier | Week 5

New video on YouTube out now! Week 5 of the “Reset Button” workout plan. Starting to get a little heavier, working that nervous system to get back into low volume! (1-3 reps)

Check it out:

[The Path Mag] How to Meditate and Lift Weights at the Same Time

Another featured article on The Path Mag by yours truly! This is a part of their cognitive issue, and my article focuses on how lifting can have extremely meditative powers, if you follow some simple steps!

Check it out here or by clicking on the screen shot below!

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Empathetic Compassion and New Experiences

For those of you who don’t know, I love yoga and new experiences that force me to step outside of my comfort zone. So it’s only logical that I combine these two ideologies to try a new form of yoga.

Last week myself and a friend went to an Aerial Yoga class. If you’re not familiar with this type of yoga, imagine a fabric hammock that’s attached to a single point on the ceiling. So it looks like just a loop of silk but you can unroll it to be a fairly long tube.

The idea of Aerial Yoga (or at least what was communicated to us) was that the connection to the ground and the hammock creates a new challenge as well as deeper stretches with the help of gravity. And this most definitely was the case.

From aerial downward dogs to complete inversions without using your hands, you really got to stretch very deeply. But it did hurt. The hammock at times (depending on the position and execution) really dug into your skin. So I definitely recommend wearing tight clothes that cover most of your skin, and maybe even an extra layer.

As everyone started to get the basics down, we stared to get into more complex movements. And throughout the class, myself and the other members of the class found themselves giggling from the awkwardness and challenge of it all.

At first I thought this was annoying, and that myself and my own laughing was taking away from the whole “experience”, but midway through the class and after reflecting on it now, I really came to appreciate it.

It was very clear that there were some Aerial veterans in the room, and it was also VERY clear that most of us weren’t. And because most yoga styles are performed in silence, I felt bad for those going to the class who were there to really work. But as everyone continued to giggle quietly by themselves or with a friend, I looked around and could see the people who were clearly very experienced, and they themselves were smiling.

Sometimes for a very tough pose to set up and get into, the pros would just continue on themselves, locked deep in focus and minded their own business. Sometimes they would smile on and giggle. And it wasn’t a giggle that was making fun someone, it was a contagious giggle from others who were as well.

What I took away from this was not only that Aerial Yoga is hard and that I want to do it again, but that there is a great quality within us, the Mind & Matter community, that strives for new experiences. Being uncomfortable doesn’t scare us if we know it will lead to more strength, health, and happiness.

It also demonstrated an even greater quality within us, that everyone in this class had: empathetic compassion.

We should never laugh in the face of others for stepping outside of their comfort zone or attempting to become a stronger, healthier, and happier self. Recognizing that people are making the effort, no matter how much they are struggling, is something that should be commended, not made fun of or scoffed.

We have all been in uncomfortable and new situations, so we can all relate. We all have the ability to embrace empathetic compassion, and especially because this example relates to health and wellness, it is no laughing matter.

The strong character and will of people even stepping into that room to try something new right beside those who can float gracefully over the mat with ease demonstrates their own strength and confidence within themselves. No matter how hard or ugly it may look. They’re there, working just as hard, if not harder, than the more experienced acquaintance beside them.

So continue to try new things and to not be afraid of failure. Let that be the fire that ignites your drive and focus to achieve the highest form of what success means to you.

If you’re afraid of failure, that means you want to succeed. If you aren’t afraid of failure, it means that whatever you’re doing doesn’t mean enough to you that you could quit at any time and not give a damn that you DIDN’T succeed. 

And practice empathetic compassion for others that are in new situations or environments and who are ready and willing to learn from your own experiences. Laugh, embrace, and have fun together because we are all on our way to a stronger, healthier, and happier life, and we can’t do it alone.   

[The Path] Six Pack Secrets You Need to Know

Check out my guest post (by clicking on the image below) for The Path mag, “Six Pack Secrets You Need to Know” where I share some hard truths about getting that six pack, and what you really should be doing instead!

Click here for the post!

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You can check out my other guest post, “How to Get the Most Out of the Gym” in The Path HERE!