I know what you need.
Soak that up. Reading it might comfort you, or it might upset you, but either way: I do know what you need. I don't know the specifics of your circumstances, and you don't know mine (even if you think you do). I don't know the bills, or overhead, or fading love you are worried about. I don't know if your significant other has become unbearable. I don't know if you're able to access food or you're afraid of losing what shelter you've got.
What I do know is that you need the same thing as me.
You need something to fixate on, we all do. A goal that—even in your current, emotionally, financially or otherwise crippled state—you are capable of attaining or, at least, working toward. A goal is what we all need; something to aim at, something which is currently far away. And on our way toward it, we need goals or focal points; sharp and precise, crisp and clear. We need targets that will assure us we are on the right track when we hit them. More than that, we need to commit ourselves. If the thing we commit ourselves toward improves us, it's that much better.
I am doing what I know, but more than that, I am doing what I am able. I suggest you do the same.
Keyhole Barbell is part of my home. It is located within the church, where I also live. With that said, the aggregate of all my current training, beyond activation work, is made up of SSB squats and bench presses. That's it. Anyone with a power rack, an SSB, a power bar, and a bench could easily execute a similar strategy if they had a reason to. I am not suggesting that.
You don't need bars or racks of any kind to set up a plan that will yield positive psychological dividends and help you keep moving through the troublesome situation in which most of us currently find ourselves.
Replace my nonsense with your nonsense. Replace my goals with your own unique goals; goals that fit the criteria I outlined above. As I explain my thinking with my focus, take the time to consider how this sort of thinking might help you with yours.
When it comes to my training, I don't just show up and happen to be able to perform. No one does that. I prepare for each mile marker target ahead of time. I eat enough. I sleep enough. I hydrate. The night before, the morning of; I run my mental game. By the time I get under that bar, I have already completed the task 1000 times. If I had any doubts about my ability to execute, they are gone before my first working set.
A huge benefit of training is the psychological reward we get when reaching short-term goals. There is a physiological aspect to this, too, but even without that, even when the goal isn't something physical, the psychological reward holds true. These "mile markers," in my case, can be as short-term as the goal for a given session.
Meeting a goal is fine, and that is usually enough to keep us going, but I prefer to set up short-term goals I know I'll be able to exceed slightly if I'm organized enough to prepare for them correctly. On the other side of the coin, there are usually psychological obstacles we need to face to meet even our short-term goals in training or any other aspect of life for that matter.
Performing well is, in itself, psychologically beneficial. No one feels great about doing an acceptable job or barely meeting the mark.
So, following a plan that allows for realistic "mile marker" goals like I mentioned above is a crucial piece of the puzzle. But also, we don't want to undervalue the role of psychological preparation in having the confidence we need to execute our plans and meet those goals.
Let me start my training overview by explaining that I rewrote this article in its entirety, after thinking through the way I presented the specifics of my current programming, which is complex and not explicitly relevant to the message I wanted to communicate. I did take the time to write those things out, as well as the templates I'm using for myself and a handful of variations of others I've been using with clients.
Again, that was wide of the point of this column, so I excluded most of it. For those who are interested, I may include these things in the second edition of Evolutions, which will drop on paperback on Amazon at some point in June (depending on the Apocalypse).
If you are familiar with my methodology, 5thSet for Powerlifting, you'll be familiar with the nine-day microcycle we use for it. If you are not well acquainted with the method, you can learn more about the nine-day microcycle here.
I'm still only training four out of those nine days: Two squat days and two bench days. Aside from activation work before each session, I am only doing SSB box squats and bench presses. That's it, and that's enough. Of course, I would not recommend this for a beginner or someone still in the process of basic development as a lifter. I have one high-volume session and one heavier session for each lift, per microcycle.
Right now, I am working with an 800-pound SSB training max, wearing single-ply with no straps (so basically briefs) and no knee wraps. The long-term goal is to squat 900 pounds in a meet, with wraps and the straps up. This seems doable for me, though it may take a year. That's a long time to pursue a goal, but micro-goals every session not only get me through the monotony of work, they also reassure me that I am on the right path and moving closer to my macro-goal all the time. My micro-goal for a volume session might be to improve or correct technique for every rep I perform on that day. My micro goal on a heavier session might be to maintain the improvements or corrections I made while using a heavier weight, or if tech is already good, it could be to get an extra rep or two with a given weight.
The take away from that brief synopsis of my current training structure, I think, is that I have a goal predicated on my ability to optimize the modifiable factors which influence successful performance. This keeps me accountable to prioritize those things because I am faced with the possibility of only performing acceptably or barely meeting the mark. And, as I said before, no one feels great about that. This incentivizes the work necessary to perform well while achieving my short-term goals. Performing well on my short-term goals becomes performing well on my long-term goal. Incremental improvement both "adds up" and is its own reward. It is truly the only path to anywhere worth going.
And that is the moral to extrapolate from our larger story this time, also. Set up short-term goals that not only incrementally support your long-term goals, but that remove as much misery from the process as possible.
Thank you for reading and, as always, please feel free to reach out with topics you'd like me to write about in future columns.