When it comes to working out and staying motivated, I typically don’t have a problem. In fact, for over two years I’ve been waking up super early in the morning, typically between 4 and 5, and getting to the gym. Doesn’t matter if it was warm and sunny or pitch black and ice cold. Iron is in my blood (get it?) Ok bad pun.
Following different programs throughout the last several years, many prescribe a deload week (or a light week) after anywhere from 4-8 weeks of intense training. I always hated deloading. I know I needed the rest. I know I needed to take it easy.
Case in point.
Several times over the years I’ve closed in on goals, whatever they may be, in the gym. One of these was trying to break 1:20 on the rower at 500m. 80 seconds took everything I had. My legs and chest would burn for a solid 5 minutes after as I would lay on the floor drooling, heaving, and shaking my legs thinking it would help relieve the pain. It didn’t by the way.
Here’s the kicker. I would do this even when I wasn’t feeling well. I wanted that sub 80s time. I worked so hard. I’d do intervals. I’d do longer rows, and I’d come in, early in the morning, when I wasn’t feeling good, and do it again. When I say I wasn’t feeling good, I mean I was having breathing problems do to wheezing and bronchial constriction, dry nasopharynx, and lack of energy. All this is also known as a common cold.
My first reaction was, “I’ll just use an inhaler I have to open up my airway. O2 levels should be better with that. I’ll use another inhaler to prevent the crud from forming.” My logical mind knew this was stupid. My logical brain knew I needed to stay home, sleep in and rest. But my raw, emotional side was in control and told me that preworkout and the inhalers would do just fine. Foolishness.
Long story short, rather than be with a cold for the standard 7-10 days, it last more like 14-21 days. I was mad. I got my macros right with my diet. I had the right protocols to progress. I was doing everything right. So why did I have a cold? Why was I sick?
Sleep and rest.
I knew the answer logically. I even told myself on the way to the gym, you need to rest, go home. But I didn’t listen to myself. In my arrogance I thought I could overcome some stupid virus with caffeine and working harder. Ridiculous I know.
I’ve done this in other ways too.
With the deloading…or lack thereof. Most plans I’ve seen take a week out of 7 or 8 to deload. I’ve even written my own plan to deload after 4 weeks of intense lifting. My problem was I felt like I could break through, like I could overcome.
Except I couldn’t.
In my twenties it didn’t seem to matter. If I got injured and felt a little worn, I could sleep in, recover a couple days later and that would be the end of it. I even sprained my ankle once and was doing ok a week later. Ah the joys of youth.
Fast forward 1 wife, 5 kids, a steady job, and 15 years. About 8 weeks or so ago I did something at the bottom of a heavy squat that you shouldn’t do, loosen up your core. I’m still not exactly sure what happened, other than my psoas muscles hurt like !@#$ and my low back was also not happy with me.
Logical brain steps in and tells me to back off for a solid 2 weeks on all exercises. This wasn’t based on any guideline or principle, but just an intuitive feel for how long it was going to take my body to feel better. I took 2 days.
My upper body was fine, so naturally I kept doing things like bench press, pull-ups and other lifts in my normal routine. But 2 days after my incident, I decided I’d do some “light” squat work, just to keep things moving.
I need to say when I actually hurt myself it was with a 400ish pound squat. I can’t remember the exact weight.
So when I say light, I mean a 300ish pound squat. You know, nothing really heavy. Fools mistake.
A few days later I attempted it again, but this time with 250 pounds. I felt ok and I could do the movement, but my psoas, low back and hips in general let me know of their fury. And furious it was.
I did get a week off during a scouting trip. We spent most of our time on the water canoeing. Upper body was fine and my hips were feeling ok toward the end.
So I attempted low body work again. Light deadlifts (350lbs) and other hip dominant exercises crept into my routine. And surprisingly, my hips kept hurting.
Last week I decided, finally, enough was enough. 8 weeks of pain is a problem. The thing that kills me the most is that if I’d just taken the 2 or so weeks off to let everything feel better, I wouldn’t have lost the 6 in being stupid rather than productive.
Sleep and rest and sometimes the best prescription for the simplest things. Most of us know when we need a break, be it from the gym, a stressful work environment, a toxic relationship etc. But if we don’t take the time…we waste more time in the long run being stupid rather than productive.
So for this week, and next, my lower body will engage in no exercise other than standing at work and taking some morning walks. I’m hoping the extra rest in the form of sleep will help things too. I’ll keep you posted.