My training for this month has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, I’ve done a lot: I competed at the Naturally Fit Games in Austin at the beginning of the month, setting an American record squat that has me currently ranked #1 on Michael Soong’s All-Time list of raw powerlifting for my weight class. I participated in my first Underground Strength Seminar at Elitefts, and probably learned as much in those two days as I did in the last two months of training. I still have more planned for the month: I’ll be at the Animal Barbell Club training session next weekend at Big Tex Gym, and will start my prep for Reebok Record Breakers in November.
All of those are great things, and I’m proud of them.
Here’s the thing: it’s too much. I simply don’t have the energy to maintain this pace; I feel like I’m setting myself up for failure. On top of everything else, I’ve taken on too many new clients, I’m teaching a class at the University of Texas, and I’m moving in with my girlfriend next month. For all the mental training I do, I’m still not able to unwind when I have so much on my plate, and my sleep and stress levels are suffering for it.
Don't sleep and get strong? Many people in the strength and fitness industry tend to seek out daily motivational videos and quotes to jump start their days and workouts. This is evident as you scroll through social media. A large percentage of the posts are related to "getting things done" and are calling for more action. The problem with these posts are that for many people that are heavily involved with training, they are calling for the wrong actions or in many cases too much of a particular action. I see the popularity of posts about not sleeping, 20 hour work days, 4 scoops of pre-workout, working until you can't stand up and the constant battle cry for MORE! I tried all of these things for years and they only led to an inevitable downward spiral. Your goals should dictate your actions. Maybe these messages are always so extreme because the truth is not as attractive. I bet a post that said, "Today, remember you are a human, not a machine or a beast. Make sure you meet your caloric needs to achieve the body weight you desire. Manage your life so you have time to sleep 8-9 hours per night. Only do enough work to get better and even if you don't feel extremely tired, know that this is a decades long game and today is only a small piece of that puzzle." would not get as many likes as the latest "IG battle cry." Your feelings do not dictate your actions, your goals do. If your goal is strength, you need the discipline to not fall into the trap of an emotional overload that leads to decisions that feel good at the time, but ultimately will become your strength training demise. #mbpowercenter #stoneofsteel #powerlifting #strongman #squat #bench #deadlift #fitness #crossfit #strengthandconditioning #strengthtraining
I’ve tried to convince myself that this is success: pushing yourself, day in and day out, hustling, grinding, making sacrifices -- but the truth is, for me, success doesn’t look like that. Success for me is having the time to enjoy my training, having some sort of fulfilling work (in my case, teaching), and keeping my overall stress level pretty low. And I’ve gotten away from that. I’ve become caught up in my own momentum, overpromised, overextended, and overstepped. And so now I need to walk that back a bit.
I’m not sure, exactly, what “walking it back” looks like right now. But I can figure that out.
Obviously, this is the first step. I need to identify what is important to me so that I know where to spend my time and energy, and where to cut back. That’s easier said than done; I think most people, myself included, have the mentality that more is better, and that equate giving up with failure. Sometimes, that’s true, but other times, giving up is really just a sacrifice to get what you really want.
Ask For Help
Another tough one for me. I’m a pretty independent person and, much like giving things up, I often view asking for help as failure. In reality, I have more on my plate than I’m capable of handling right now. Besides, asking for help isn’t failure -- in fact, it’s an opportunity to build relationships, learn, and grow.
Noticing a trend? I’m not the best at relaxing. I like to feel that I’m using my time productively, rather than “wasting” it on relaxation. And again, that’s just not reality -- a nonstop work ethic is a quick road to burnout. So I’ll have to make time to unwind, meditate, and step away from the things that are causing me stress.
Honestly, this post lays out what is probably the biggest challenge I’ll face in my training this year. Letting go and cutting back do not come easily to me; even deload weeks are a struggle. But learning to change that constitutes a huge part of my personal and athletic growth, and besides -- I don’t have much of a choice!
That said, if you have any advice at all, I would really appreciate it. Leave any words of wisdom in the comments, and I’ll check back in with my progress next month.