Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fear and Self-Loathing in the Gym

Since things are going well with the blog and there are a few people out there who must enjoy reading what I'm writing, I'm going to kick the schedule up. I'll still be posting my main articles Monday and Wednesday with a traditional Friday web roundup, but throughout the week I'm going to post little bits of whatever is knocking around in the old nugget, whether it be something I thought up in the gym or something that bugged me about an article. Rock.

Today was leg day. I do deadlift on leg day because I don't do heavy squat (due to an extreme tightness in my rear-chain that I'm constantly trying to loosen up), so it doesn't conflict, and we all really know that deadlift works the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, and so better fits into leg day than back day. Anyway, for the fourth week in a row now I've added five pounds to my pull. That's crazy. I haven't had a run like this since I started deadlifting. I made it for a solid five reps (well, 1 strict, 4 touch and go) so I think next week I'll go for five more pounds and then I'll hold for a few weeks to make sure everything is as strong as it needs to be.

But I almost psyched myself out this morning. I do that a lot on deadlift. I know that I should be able to make a pull, and I fail it because some little thing isn't perfect, and then that builds the beginning of a wall and I might fail the same pull for a month straight. The thing that always gets me is that one of the employees always seems to decide to mop while I'm doing deadlift! I admit that I lift during slow times, but still. I feel like he's watching me, just waiting for me to move so he can clean under me, and I freak out and fail my big pull. Today he was vacuuming, and I said to myself, 'Great, there goes my streak.' But I did it. Now hopefully I can use this as proof in the future that he isn't placing a curse on me and I can pull a new personal best even while he's dust-busting my plates.

Today I'm going to try something new; I'm going to ask a question of you, my reader. I hope I get some good replies, because I'd love to have interaction here. That's really my ultimate goal with this blog.
Do you ever feel like you miss a goal because you've psyched yourself out?
Do you have any tactics for overcoming this when you can feel yourself building a mental wall?

If no one comments, I'm going to make another account and answer myself. Look for a name like "Superman's A. Wimp" or "Gym Ninja".


Jennifer said...

I just added your blog to my feed after seeing your guest post on another blog and I've become a big fan - working on becoming a smaller fan.

If by psyching myself out, you mean rationalizing why it's okay that I didn't meet my goal - then yes. I've just started lifting and I'm still convinced I'm doing squats wrong. I walk in with a goal but usually when I'm 1/5 of the way done, I've already started talking myself out of it. I'll usually do one or two more sets and then move onto something else. A solution might be to lower my goal but it's not that I can't meet my goal, it's that I convince myself that I looking like a fool while doing it. *Whew* How's that for a response?

Jeff said...

Jennifer, thanks for commenting and helping me to not look like a fool.

Squatting is a hard exercise It's painful, exhausting, and the form is very difficult. I think it's awesome that you're doing it, because too many people avoid it, and it's inarguably one of the best lifts for overall strength

I know what you're talking about, being worried that people are judging you on your form. I have a tight, shallow chest, long forearms, and an inability to support a lot of weight with my elbows very far behind me due to too heavy tricep-dips nearly ripping up my shoulder. So I can't lower the barbell to my chest. I know that people obsessed over range of motion see that and think
1. I don't know how to bench or
2. I'm using a reduced range of motion to cheat more weight out of pride
and it makes me not want to barbell benchpress at all. I guess I have to be more like Kanye and ignore the haters.

Anyway, for you, the good news is that if you're practicing your squat on a weekly basis, you're going to get your form down before long and you'll be confident about it. Until you get it down, maybe take those sets you're not squatting and supplement with heavy leg press.

me said...

I psych myself out when it comes to running. Since having a few babies, I am much, much slower and have a hard time accepting this fact. Unfortunately this leads to me (sometimes) not running at all, which I know is the wrong attitude to take.

I try to overcome this by making myself go out for a run and leaving my watch at home so I don't focus on time or pace.

I go out to run just for fun and always feel better afterwards.

Great blog by the way!


Jeff said...

Thanks for the nice comment. I think that you pointed out one of the biggest downsides of being extremely motivated by progress (which I am): when you backslide it can make you not want to start again at all. My hardest times in the gym have always been after a long break. The only way I got through it was to suffer through a week and reset the bar to that lower level and gain from there, forgetting where I was at before.

leslie said...

Maybe it's that I'm older, but I set goals knowing I will give them my best shot, but they are MY GOALS, and as such, are able to be modified by me. (I was not nearly this reasonable in my 20s and 30s.) What this takes, however, is the ability to be truthful with myself as to why I might be changing what I'm shooting for.

For example, I'm running the Nike Half Marathon in San Francisco a week from Sunday. My goal is a finish time under 2 hours. I've trained reasonably well, but the intensity of the hills on the course is the big unknown. So I'll come knowing what pace per mile I need to hit, doing my best to hit it, but being ok with it if I'm not as fast as I'd like.

Heather said...

Hey! Great blog! I totally psych myself out all the time. There's many ways I do it: justify a non-goal-obtaining behavior. Such as, well I really don't need to do cardio because um, I don't want my knee to get hurt. Is my knee currently hurt? No. Has it hurt in the past? Somewhat. Was it biking related? No. Right.

The other is if I'm running/working out with a friend, I automatically take a passive role and put in about 80%. I suspect I shy away from competition when it comes to fitness, because it feels like my fitness/weight goals are sacred, and letting someone else compete with me (even in a good way) makes me uncomfortable. Solution: I avoid pairing up with people to work out, especially if it's in close proximity. Driving to the gym and splitting up when we get there is fine, but having someone watch me is the quickest ticket to me psyching myself out.