Having just finished doing deadlifts and leg press, I’m sitting here with half closed eyes, a cloudy head and heavy legs. I was reminded of a truth about my training: if I’m not scared i shouldn’t train.
If I don’t dread what I’m about to do. If i don’t start getting scared and anxious 3-4 days before the lift. If I don’t wake up on the day with a headache. If I don’t spend the day negotiating with myself trying to find a way to get out of what I’m supposed to do. If my mood doesn’t turn sour. If I don’t do 15 nervous pisses within 30 minutes of starting my session. If I don’t do 4-5 nervous shits before starting my warm ups. If I don’t try and talk myself out of the first set all the way through my warm ups, then its going to end badly.
I’ve felt terrible all day. Everything feels off. Head off. Back tight. Upset stomach. My elbow actually is screwed from hurting it yesterday. I feel like I’ve drunk 10 coffees. Anxious and jittery.
I was on the brink of throwing up in my warm ups. My heart was racing so fast. My breathing was quick. I felt light headed. I wanted out.
But this is what I go through every time I do something that matters.
Today ended well.
This is in contrast to a few weeks ago when I squatted on Friday night. I felt fine all day. No worries. No concerns. Laughing and joking with clients all day. Body felt good. Head was clear and I had the number in my head of what I was going to do. Then I started training and everything felt awful. The bar on my shoulders felt like it was square and weighed a ton. I had to do 16 reps. After the first one collapsed, fell to the floor and came back up in a way that was NSFW, I stood there looking in the mirror thinking, “this is going to be a long set.” According to the video it was over 4 minutes later after having done only 6 more reps, with each getting worse and worse, my brain finally said, “fuck this, I’m outta here” and quit.
If I feel good. If I’m confident. If the sun is shining and birds are chirping. Everything is going to suck.
I should just go home.
I know this, but sometimes I forget.
It isn’t until I’m looking at myself in the mirror with weight crushing me that my simpleton brain goes, “Ohhhhh yeah this is what always happens.”
It’s the same every time I feel good before a big squat or deadlift.
Upper body or smaller movements? Who cares. They are meaningless. It’s when training actually matters. Positive thinking ruins everything.
My only explanation for this is because every time I feel like I’m going to destroy a weight or set, I don’t focus correctly. I’m already looking ahead to the glory of doing that big lift and I completely ignore the warm ups. It’s all going to be easy. I’m so fucking awesome. How good am I going to look when I’ve done the set? Ill be able to walk down the street and everyone will be impressed.
But when the warm ups get heavy, and they always eventually get heavy, it messes with my head.
It’s not supposed to be heavy. Don’t I know who I am? I don’t struggle. Me? Something else is to blame. The bar. The plates. The music. The earths gravitational pull to the sun. I told myself I was going to waltz in and blitz everything in my path. I wasn’t prepared for heavy. Something only half as heavy as my work set is feeling heavy? I was thinking solely about the work set. To be more specific, the end of the work set. Shit now the warm ups are hard. My confidence just flew out the window. Maybe I’m not so good. Maybe I’m not strong enough. Maybe I should buy a razor back singlet, bright coloured short shorts, get tattoos and start training for festivals. Fuck it, why even train any more? Everything is down hill from here.
Inevitably I always screw the lift and contemplate suicide.
However, when I feel like crap. When I’m anxious and scared I get so tightly wound up that I’m focused on every little detail. A building could be on fire with people falling out of the windows plunging to their death, “Sorry I’ve got more important stuff to worry about.” The first warm up set. That’s the hardest lift I’m ever going to do and I treat it accordingly. I’m not even thinking about the second warm up set let alone the work sets. This first warm up is going to destroy me so I need to make sure everything is perfect.
It all sounds so horrible doesn’t it? Why would anyone put themselves through something that makes them feel so bad? Why? Because there is nothing I’ve ever come across in all my years that provides the personal satisfaction of weight training. Progressing and doing something I’ve worked so hard to achieve and never done before.
It sounds so corny and cliched doesn’t it? Like one of those deep and meaningful memes. And everyone knows how much I love deep n meaningful shit! But weight training is about as individual as you can get. It’s you with a bar and plates. That’s it. You lift it or you don’t. You fail or you don’t. It’s all you. You train hard and make progress or you end up using photo editing software to manipulate your “progress” photos. Ultimately no one helps and even if you get spotted, coaching advice or tips, it was still all you that lifted that weight. No one can ever take that away from you.
You are a better human being for having made that progress.
Someone said to me many years ago, “Never under estimate what you do in the gym because it carries over to every day life.” The discipline and mental power you display in the gym speaks volume of the kind of person you are and normally is displayed in how you conduct yourself in normal situations.
Now I’m not saying what I go through is what everyone should experience. Everyone has their own process. To be perfectly honest I wish I didn’t have to contemplate suicide every time I go for an important lift. What I’ve only just realised, is I need to go through all of this. This is my process. This is how I mentally prepare to do what needs to be done. If I don’t do it, I’m not ready and I’m not focussed and no amount of pre workout scoops (not that i use them) hardcore slogans on bright coloured singlets or swearing at the bar will fix that.
It’s all about focus. Focussing on the thing that matters.