Friday, August 9, 2013

Trusting the Process

Sure, I'm going to mention today's workout a bit, but this isn't a post about which metal plates I've been moving around in the gym lately. It's more about the plates I haven't been moving today--or at least, not moving as much as I'd like, and dealing with that.

My workout protocol calls for five sets of five being completed at a given weight in order to move up five pounds the next time the workout comes around. If I don't get that, I've "stalled" on that weight, which means that I'll be trying the same weight again next time. Today, I stalled on both squats and bench press. Gah!

I was frustrated when, on my third set of squats, I got two, went down for the third and couldn't get back up. Not only did the workout suddenly feel unsuccessful (I mean, I stalled! I didn't get the weight I was going for!), but I knew I had two more sets to do, and that's tough mentally. I mean, if I stalled after just 2 reps, what's the next set going to look like? It was a minor victory that I was able to push out 3 reps on each of the last two sets, but it still feels like failure.

From there I went to bench press, where I've been feeling pretty good for weeks. On my third set, I got all five, but the fifth one was rough. I took an extra thirty seconds in my break between sets... and stalled on the fourth rep of the fourth set. I had it maybe halfway up, and it just wasn't going any further. The minor victory here was that I kept pushing and pushing until I just couldn't, instead of giving up right away. I got four on the fifth set as well.

So if it's frustrating to stall on one exercise, what is it to stall on two? The thing I had to remind myself of, though, is that this is okay. It's all part of the process. It's expected that stalls will happen. It's not as though this program is designed such that hitting 5x5 every single time and moving up 5 pounds is the only outcome that's okay. Yeah, I'd like to do that, but stalling is part of the process. If I never hit a stall point, I'd be worried that I wasn't pushing myself hard enough and that I wasn't really growing. If I was really afraid to stall, I should have followed the recommendation to start with an empty bar on all exercises--I'm sure I could have had several months of stall-free lifting... which wouldn't really have challenged me.

What it comes down to, then, is that I have to trust the process--a process that knows stalls will happen from time to time and has a system for dealing with them: try it three times, adding rest time between sets; if you don't get it on three tries, you take off 10% of the weight and get back on it, focusing on technique. And if that doesn't work... there's a plan for that too. Trust the process.

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