I take a very different approach to training that most people. There are basically two main ways to approach your training:
- get it done no matter the obstacle
- weigh out the pros and cons and make the best and most informed decision
The first option is what 99% of bodybuilders will choose. Why? Likely because it has been driven into our psyche that we are weak if we don't push through every obstacle that we are faced with. Training HAS to get done, right? There are no excuses, and you're a pussy if you don't do a scheduled training session. There is a common misunderstanding associated with this mentality that states—and I'm paraphrasing—that you can train through anything. I like the idea in concept, but after training for almost 40 years, I find this mentality to be, how should I say, quite stupid.
The idea that we need to train, no matter what, stems from the fact that most times when people don't feel like training, the reasons are weak—tired, haven't had all of our meals, long day at work, plans with friends, etc. I don't disagree with this mentality for the reasons listed above. However, there are plenty of legitimate and logical reasons to miss a scheduled workout. This is where you need to be honest with your assessment of your mental and physical state, and be able to make the best decision for your situation. I doubt I have to state (but I will anyway) that too many of us struggle with honest assessment of ourselves. Too many of us are very good at justifying our decisions, while others are just not honest with ourselves. Case in point: how many times have you heard someone say they were in their best shape ever, only to view their pictures and you know right away that they were not being honest?
I take the stance that the number-2 option is the best for those people who are able to be honest with themselves. I use myself as an example this past week.
In my situation, things have been going very well. 4 weeks ago I stepped on the gas, and I have had zero complaints as I have started to fill out, my strength is climbing, I feel great, and I am enjoying my training again. Even my knee has felt better than it has in weeks (continuing to progress, of course). With all of that being said, last weekend I started feeling absolutely exhausted. I started sleeping at odd times, my body clock was (and is) out of sync for some reason, and I have battled to not fall asleep while driving. Still, workouts were good and I had no complaints. I had no desire NOT to train.
After catching up on sleep over the weekend (thinking this was the issue), I went in on Monday and absolutely destroyed legs. I felt that the weekend situation was a one-off, and I put it behind me. The very next day, I was exhausted again and simply could not get out of bed. I was up for roughly 6 hours and laid down for a 1 hour nap prior to training which turned into 7 hours. I then worked for 6 hours and went back to bed for another 8 hours.
It was at this time that I contemplated whether to train. I could have pushed through, but something was obviously going on that wasn't right. I couldn't put my finger on it because I didn't feel sick. I didn't have any aches and pains. I didn't have any appetite issues. I didn't have any other variables that would make me think I was sick or something was not right. I just knew that something was off and because I have so many years of experience reading my body, I felt that continuing to train would likely continue to make the situation worse or at least prolong the situation. Keep in mind that this next week is when my cut-phase starts. I start to lower calories and make a strong push to get lean as quickly as possible. It will basically be a prep phase but with no shows. Even with no shows planned, I am approaching this as if there are shows. In short, I want to be 100% for Monday when I start. Giving up the last week before making this transition seems the logical option.
I gain no psychological edge by convincing myself to train the rest of this week. In fact, the only thing that could or would likely happen is that I could drive myself into a situation of getting sick or even worse, getting injured. The thought of getting injured after the 2 years of injuries that I've had, doesn't sound very appealing. To put it into better perspective, I have trained upwards of over 7000 workouts in the last 38 years (4 per week for 38 years, give or take), so another 2 or 3 workouts means almost nothing to me.
I am completely fine with being pegged as weak or not motivated or even a "pussy." I might care more if I was being judged by someone who has trained more than I have, but that is incredibly unlikely. Why? Because anyone who has trained for as long as I have will see the logic in what I am saying/thinking. So, to be judged as weak by someone who has trained a fraction of the years that I have, is not at all concerning to me.
The name of the game for me at 52-years old is to continue to progress as much as I can, but to also remain injury-free. If you are in your 20s or 30s, you are likely not thinking much about remaining injury-free—not that you don't want to be injury-free—but that it doesn't occupy your brain like it does for someone who has trained for 4 decades. It's a completely different thought process, and one that until you are there, you may not fully understand.
The bottom line is that I am going to finish this week by sleeping my ass off. I will come into the weekend doing the same thing, but I will be getting my sleep schedule back to normal (normal for me, not normal for everyone else lol), and making sure that my stress is low, as well. I do not want to push through obstacles only to create more obstacles. By Monday, I plan to be 100% (probably before that, actually), and I will have my ducks in a row to come out of the gates strong.
The next time you have an obstacle in front of you, be honest with yourself and assess your situation. Do not think that you absolutely have to train if all signs are pointing to you taking time off to get right. A few days off is better than the myriad of things that could go wrong. I don't know about you, but I'm in this for the long haul, and I think I continue to prove this.
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