One thing I try to constantly do in my life is assess and re-assess everything I am doing. I believe it’s a huge part of being a self-aware adult with high goals and expectations. I don’t want complacency, I don’t want to settle for ‘just OK’ and I DEFINITELY don’t want to be average.
Average scares the bejeezus out of me!
Lucky for me, I also have some close friends and family and a wonderful boyfriend who will let me know VERY quickly when they notice I am being complacent, not pushing myself the way that I could, settling for less than I deserve, or when my actions don’t align with my big-picture goals.
And thank goodness… because assessing yourself honestly can be a very difficult, often impossible task. That’s why I have a coach for my training, that’s why I seek help with my nutrition goals, that’s why I read books and listen to interviews and podcasts with experts, and that’s why I surround myself with the incredible people that I do. To keep me accountable and to help me see what I can’t always see.
That being said, recently I realized a couple of mistakes I was making in my training and nutrition that may be holding me back from the Elite level that I say that I want. You know, saying you want something and actually wanting it and working for it are two different things.
My boyfriend always uses the example, “I would LIKE to play the piano… but I really don’t WANT to. Otherwise, I would have bought a piano, carved out time for lessons, spent time practicing, and made it happen.”
See the difference? So if I really DO want these things that I say that I want, I must constantly be searching for my weak areas and trying to make them stronger. Without further ado, here is the first installment of 6 Areas in Which I Can Improve:
1. Giving it my all on warm-up sets -
You know, I’ve noticed a funny thing lately. When I am in the gym and working up to a 1-5 rep max (RM) on an exercise, my warm-up sets will often feel heavier than my work sets. For example, if I am working up to a heavy triple on close grip bench, often times 95, 115, 125… these weights will feel challenging, in fact, to the point where I might not have tried to go up in weight if I hadn’t been recording my weight training session. (side note: always record your training sessions so you know what you’ve done and you know what numbers you are trying to beat). Once I realize that the previous week I benched a solid 140 for 3, I quickly realize that 125 is not all that heavy, and if I hadn’t realized that, I may never have hit the PR shown below, 145×3. Some people call this “sandbagging” which my good friend Jen Comas Keck wrote about last week here, and while I have definitely done this in the past, I don’t think that’s always my issue. I think my issue is being a complete and total lazy-ass on my warm-up sets. Yep… that’s right. I am being lazy, pure and simple.
I remember being at the EliteFTS compound last September for the Learn to Train Seminar and I saw some of the biggest and strongest guys in the game warm-up with JUST THE BAR on bench for several sets. And you know what? They held their arch, their back was pulled together as tight as it can be, they were rowing the bar down with their lats and they were exploding up… just like they would have with 500 lbs., and yet they were only working with 45 lbs.
My good friend and coach, Mike Robertson always says, “You have to practice how you play.” Meaning whatever you plan on doing in competition or when the weight gets heavy, you need to be doing when you practice. And so that is a goal I am setting for myself from now on. I need to give each set my all, including my warm-up sets which can feel ridiculous and boring at times. The more often I can practice getting and staying in a good bench position, the easier it will be to get in and maintain that position when it really counts.
And who knows… maybe one of these days I’ll actually experience this whole “leg drive” thing everyone keeps raving about.
FYI: here is a DEFINITE instance of me sandbagging. One week I try so hard to Hip Thrust 225 x 12, and a week later I get it for 20, followed by 315 for 8. THAT is the definition of sandbagging! =)
2. Planning out my cardio/conditioning/energy systems training sessions -
If you know me, you probably know that cardio is not my favorite thing. (We’ll just call it cardio for now… I don’t feel like writing “conditioning” and/or “energy systems training” a million times). Now making cardio fun always helps like I did here in this article about fun cardio and conditioning when it’s cold outside, but bottom line is, I would much rather be weight training, or sleeping, or eating, or even doing laundry than doing cardio.
That being said, when it does get done, it’s usually some combination of Kettlebell swings, Battling Ropes, Medicine Ball slams, Prowler pushes, Sled drags or something of that sort. My main problem is, I need to do a better job of planning out my cardio ahead of time to not only ensure that it gets done, but also to ensure than it doesn’t interfere with my weight training.
Like I mentioned above, while I am not the biggest fan of cardio, there are times when I get a wild hair and really feel like doing something fun like sprinting or running hurdles… yes, hurdles. Running hurdles in middle school obviously makes you a track running champion for life, so of course I decided that running some hurdles for the first time in 15 years was a brilliant idea the other weekend (this is why I have a Coach… to save me from myself and my hair-brained ideas.
I would NEVER let a client of mine run hurdles if they hadn’t done it in forever! The risk: reward ratio is just not there!). But I digress. So yes, I ran hurdles a couple of Saturdays ago, and then drove 5 hours back and forth in my car to go see my Grandmother for Easter, so as you can imagine, I was TIGHT when I got home. I was also supposed to be maxing out on squats on Monday. Oops.
I ended up having to switch my lower body session to Tuesday instead of Monday and it pretty much threw the rest of my week off track a little bit. It was no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but if I had planned my cardio better, I could have thrown the sprints/hurdles at the end of my lower body session on Thursday, and had plenty of time to recover by Monday.
I also find myself doing this often with Kettlebell swings which can make my glutes and hamstrings super sore, or Battling Rope drills which can make my forearms and delts very sore…I always seem to do those movements the day before I am supposed to get in a good lower or upper body session, respectively. This leaves me sore and somewhat unmotivated to get a killer training session in, when otherwise I would be chomping at the bit to kill it in the gym. Again, not the worst training sin in the world, but if I want to be not just above average, but ELITE, I have to be willing to so the little things that other people wont’ to be the best.
So, in order to not overwhelm myself, these are two goals I am setting for myself for this week. They shouldn’t be too hard… it’s just a matter of exercising a bit of discipline in order to maximize what I am getting out of my workouts. I will keep you updated on how it goes!
Do you have anything in your life or training, big or small, that’s holding you back from your goals? It can be hard to step back and objectively analyze what you’re doing (or not doing) that might be a limiting factor for you. Let me know your thoughts below!