Last week I told you a story about what I had been through in the past year and how it has affected me both emotionally and mentally. Now, it would not be farfetched to think that those events would be a reasonable excuse to not have a great training year or make any progress.
However, that could not be further from the truth. After trying to bury myself into the ground immediately after everything had happened, I decided to get professional help to put a different spin on my outlook and to reframe my thinking. This is what I consider to be the first step in dealing with emotional pain and turbulence, getting help.
This helped me to reframe my situation in a way that resonated with me. I was given the analogy that I was (ignore my rev head tendencies for a minute) a turbocharged 6-cylinder engine, however, I was only working on 2-cylinders. I was spooling up and building pressure (in the turbo), forcing it down to an engine which only had a third of the capacity to compress and create action. I was burning myself out and the longer I did this the closer I got to a full engine implosion.
So how do you fix this? You pull the engine out, clean it, replace the internals, spark plugs, and make sure everything around it is clean and ready to go.
Unfortunately, that is not quite as easy for humans. For me, I had to drop this expectation of performing at 100% regardless of the situation, give myself some space to breathe, and allow myself downtime (something ex-partners will agree I could never do well). And once I had done this, I could slowly start to build up the intensity with how I attacked each task, minute, hour, and day. Two years later and I am still slowly ramping up.
During this time, we need to give ourselves time to mourn and accept our emotions. By fighting them and asking damaging questions such as why I feel this way, we inadvertently make it worse for ourselves. Mark Manson proposes an idea in his book “The subtle art of not giving a fuck” which explores the pursuit of a positive experience being a negative one, and the pursuit of negative experiences being positive. It’s a weird concept. But it’s accurate.
By trying to feel better and smashing ourselves over not improving we make ourselves feel worse. However, by accepting the emotions and learning to deal with them in a constructive manner we find happiness and peace with who we are.
Ok, so I hear you asking “That's great and all Lachy, but how do I modify my training? After all, I’m here because you offer training advice, not life advice.”
Valid point, but I needed to get that out of the way to get you to understand why during these times using tools to help us autoregulate is so important.
Eric Helms in Stronger by Science defines autoregulation as, “a structured approach for embedding a respect for individual variation within a program.”
An athlete's ability to perform on any given day can fluctuate ±18%, which is a huge variation. This could mean that 80% of your max squat is closer to 98%. When your program has you hitting that for sets of 5 you are going to get buried. So how do make an intelligent decision to modify or select appropriate loads to achieve a stimulus?
The cheapest and easiest method see’s the entry of Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and Reps in Reserve (RIR). I have talked about how to use these methods in great detail before, you can see them here if you want a quick introduction.
Long story short we use percentages as speed limits, if the weather and traffic conditions are good then you can do the speed limit. If the weather and traffic conditions are poor, you drive to the conditions. RPE and RIR provide context as to what exactly we want the stimulus to be relative to effort or proximity to failure. By implementing these we can modify the load based on our subjective perception of how hard or close to failure the set was. There are arguments against this being that using feelings to gauge training is soft and inaccurate, however, when trainees are experienced in using this method, there is quite a high correlation between percentages of 1RM and RPE or RIR. We need to remember that 1RM’s are just a snapshot of your performance on that given day, they do not represent your potential on any other day. Instead, they provide us with a guide to base training intensities off. Let’s not get married to them.
The more expensive option comes from velocity-based training. However, to implement this we need to have completed a force-velocity profile for all major lifts that we plan on using. The premise of this method is that the percentages of 1RM have a high correlation to velocities (m/s). Therefore, if we have 160kg loaded on the bar which is normally 80% of 1RM, but you can only move the bar as fast as you moved 90% during testing. Then it would be wise to reduce the load until which point that you can move the bar at the same velocity that you moved 80% during testing.
The problem with this is that we assume you were at your peak readiness on testing day. Thus, this principle can be applied in the inverse as well. That is with the same load on the bar you move it with the same speed that you moved 60% during testing. This is a green light to load more on the bar until we reach that same velocity.
My preference when deciding which method to use is a combination of the two and linking RPE and RIR with velocity to create more accuracy with the measurements. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to velocity transducers, so the best method is using RPE and RIR.
In addition to this, if you aren’t enjoying and being completely present when you are training, then you either need to change what you are doing so you enjoy it, or put extra effort into leaving your baggage at the door when you walk into the gym.
There is no harm in adding variation to your training while you are battling demons on the inside. Variation is a key principle in training, and this might just be a great way to enjoy training a little bit and supply novel means of excitement.
If you are going through something rough at this point in your life, please reach out and get help. It’s not weak and no one will think less of you. In fact, it’s a brave thing to do and you should hold your head high.
If you would like some assistance in understanding using these methods to regulate your training send me an email at email@example.com or message me on Instagram.
"If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss;"
An exert from IF by Rudyard Kipling - Thanks dad.