Sports-to-business analogies abound. Another one crystallized in my mind as I was reading a training article by Dan John this week. His advice? Do not chase fatigue. “ You WANT the weight to feel light and easy. Inch that load up over a few workouts. Like we discover in throwing the shot and discus, inching your effortless efforts up a bit seem to increase your best.” ~Dan John
Fatigue is a natural part of serious training, and a natural part of business life. That’s true as individuals and can also be true of an organization as a body. And I think that thinking of an organization as a body can provide a perspective on everything from Alignment to avoiding the Zero Sum Game.
Stronger and faster is a fantastic goal. In that regard, why not ta learn something from elite athletes? Yes, they train, and even to fatigue. Nevertheless, they also diligently put efforts into recovery and rest. Many training programs will focus on fatiguing only one or two main muscle groups. Legs today, arms tomorrow, back the next day...carefully ensuring that the nervous system has what it takes to turn this teardown into new strength and skill.
Likewise keep an eye on the team; the body.
Everyone is going to experience times of fatigue such as during big projects. But extended periods of fatigue set you up for only one thing; injury. Make sure you do not have too much stress on one area for too long. Make sure the burden is shared. Make sure there is time for rest and recovery.
Want faster and stronger? Do not chase fatigue.
Yes, another Powerlifting/Work Life analogy.
I am very close to benching 135#. Lifters know that this is less arbitrary than it sounds, as it means that I will be using a full plate on the bar. It’s a milestone! And in a sport based on tiny incremental progress, these milestones are major. And it’s very likely within 3 months or less from being achieved.
Some things that have struck me during this last bit of effort towards my big lift:
1) It’s on my mind. And it’s going to be the same incremental progress when I hit it. I go up in 2.5# increments every time. This will be the same. And yet… it’s different. Just like other progress, we often celebrate what seems like progress, but not recognize all the other exactly equal steps we took to get there before.
2) I’ll miss a few times before I get it. Because it’s really at the edge of what is possible for me, I won’t know if I can do it until I try. So I will, inevitably, fail. I have already. And I will again. In fact, even after I get it the first time, there are no guarantees that I can the second, because for that moment, I am playing at the edge of possible. And if I chose to wait until I knew for sure I could do it without fail… until I was strong enough to make it certain? Well, then for sure it would happen way later than it will by trying whenever it just might be possible.
3) The best version of me will be needed. Again, because it’s on the edge of impossible, when I try, I have the best chance when I had a good night sleep, and have been eating clean and feeling focused.
It’s this last one that really sticks with me. It’s very clear to me that to deliver this lift, I need to be at my best, and that comes not just from my intent at that moment, but what I have been doing in the hours (even days) prior to it.
And that makes me think about my other endeavours in life, especially at work. For sure most of my job is not playing on the edge of impossible. It’s certainly not a walk in the park, either. So when it’s not easy…. The very best me ensures the best outcomes. And the best me does not just come from that moment, but the moments leading up to it, including what I eat, how I sleep and how I recover and play.
So the next time I am at the gym, or resting, reading, or eating optimally, I will remember that what’s good for me is good for the best me at work too…and taking that time and effort is an investment in work as much as it is in life. And not doing it? Well that’s just not an option, now that I know, is it?
First ever un-spotted 115lbs #benchpress. I’m pretty sure I have never NOT used a spot on anything over 100lbs.
It’s not that I can’t safely move the weight. But I let fear prevent me from trying without a safety net.
I would stand there at the bar, trying to reason with myself that there was no need to be afraid. And even though I knew it was true I could not convince myself. So I would ask for a spot.
Today I tried something different. I figured since I wasn’t going to be able to reason myself into NOT being afraid... I’d just do it no matter how I felt. And the results.... you can see for yourself. I wasted a lot of time trying to reason with the part of my brain just doesn’t reason.
I’m done with that.
Some smart ladies have been telling me the same thing lately: it's coming from multiple places,.... that it's not events that make up your story, but rather it's the narrative that you make of those events. And that is the story of YOU... that makes you who you are.
It's a powerful notion. And I have been practicing. Jessica recently said when we were having our ritual Pho...."It's interesting that you would frame your story that way".... and it was a punch in the gut. She was right. I was undermining an accomplishment by the way I framed it. It took some thinking to figure out why I would do that, but the greater win for me was that now when I tell a story, at least sometimes, I hear Jessica's voice.... "interesting way to frame it", and then I consider whether the story I write serves me. And while being TRUE is the most important, there are ways to be truthful that still lack honour. Everyone has blurted out something ... out of a feeling, perhaps. And for that millisecond it was true, but.... it was not really TRUE. But you've said it... it can't be unsaid. I am practicing writing my story in consideration of this reality. Practicing that requires that I check my initial story to make sure that I am honouring the deeper truth. The text message with Jerimiah, above, is an early example of my new practice.
My life. My story. My choice.
I had a Personal Trainer for over a year. And then I had a coach. It was an easy transition because it’s the same guy. Let’s call him Jerimiah… (Because that’s his name….)
In March 2016 , spurred on by a growing love of powerlifting and Jerimiahs recent place (the TOP) at Nationals…. I decided to participate in a summer Powerlifting meet. The London Open, to be specific. Initially, I only asked him to help get me ready. But when I eventually (reluctantly) asked if he’d be there to support me, he was surprised I had considered that there’d be any other option. And at that moment, it started feeling just a bit different.
In the past, when he said “we”, I often laughed. “We can do this”, he’d say. And I’d think “We? I don’t see you picking up the other end of the barbell! Is that some training-speak to encourage me?” But not long after we started prepping for the meet; it really felt like WE! And now, the value I put into this relationship is kind of shocking. Personally, in some ways he remains nearly a stranger. But I trust him with a lot. I rely on his guidance, support and feedback. So how did it become “we”, exactly? Well, here is what I see now:
So has his approach changed? Actually, I have to sheepishly admit that it probably hasn’t. Those things actually didn’t start when I committed to the meet: they were there before. It was my perspective that changed. Yes, I did specifically ask for him to ‘have my back’ and got his commitment. But the only real change in approach was mine. So I had a coach all along, but didn’t know it. My bad.
And now I look around at people giving me feedback in my personal life or at work, and think: Maybe they are my coaches too? The push to own something. Or the encouragement to give it up. The dialogue to help me sort out how I feel, and what’s on my mind. Suggestions to consider modifying my approach. A pat on the back for a little win...... Sound familiar? It’s the SAME things I listed above that I value in my relationship with Jerimiah. I don’t always take the feedback from others as easily as I do with Jerimiah. Maybe its because it does not feel like “personal coaching” because of their approach. But maybe it’s also because of my perspective. And that, I can change.
Icon made http://www.flaticon.com/authors/nikita-golubev
I've been a bit frustrated this week with my weight. Here is the ramble of stuff in my brain.
So....why is my weight relevant? Because -I made it so. And here's how.
I don't think about weight so much anymore. A scan of this blog shows one of the truths of my heart. I love this sport.
But when sharing with most people ....it's often a story about how much weight I have lost. Everyone gets that. They can see it. And the rest of the journey....while so much more valuable to me .... hasn't made it into my vocabulary beyond the closest friends and this blog. It seemed personal ...a bit un-graspable.... irrelevant to others.
And the competition added the weight-on-the-scale to my radar. And it became my focus. And that little continuous ping reinforced the weight story. And if that's the story...the real story , then NOT losing weight when I head to a meet where I made it some sort of brass ring...well then that's failure, isn't it?
But neither story (despite the fact that I wrote them) ...is autobiographical. Unless I MAKE THEM the story. And I actually do get to choose.
So I write this blog to sort out my head and my heart. And I'm going to start telling people that the weight loss is nifty but that if veils and deeper and more relevant truth. And I am going to eat healthy, and compete at whatever weight I am at when I get there. And I'll lift more than I did a year ago.
And I'll have another story that's true, that I wrote and that I chose.
In an article on Linkedin, I talked about some lessons from powerlifting. What I have learned from powerlifting is a topic that often gains my attention, as it’s really changed my perspective on growth, community and a number of other important aspects of both my work and personal life. And today….. I put another one on Linkedin for the “books” (even if this is digital….). And it made sense to put it here as well, even if this platform is uusally reserved for 'fitness' and is introspective, while this one ends with a question.
A stickler will say that I should be using the word decrement to describe what follows. And while grammatically correct, it just does not convey what’s on my mind.
There is a lot of noise lately about innovation in general. And it is important. It’s exciting. It’s often FUN! But it does not replace improvement. I have made some major changes to my gear (not technically innovation, but from the perspective of me as the lifter) that have given me measurable boosts in a short period of time (I really love my SBD knee sleeves), but MOST of the gains have been incremental based on constant small improvements to mobility, strength, and technique. Even looking at a quarterly progress (chart above)…. There are no momentous moments here. Just incremental improvement. But it remains real material progress of which I am proud.
Here is the rub. I won’t get to stay here unless I keep it up. In fact, in order to consistently do what my current best is, I need to get better still. And if I take too long of a break from testing my strength by using it…. By requiring ALL OF IT it to complete the activity I’ve chosen to do…. I’ll actually fall back. Staying right exactly where is I am - stasis - is not likely. People don’t stay exactly the same; we change. So the odds are very high that I will either take an incremental step BACK, or get STRONGER. I am grateful that I have the choice. I am not going to waste that on incremental decline.
Enough about Bench Press. The same can be said about many areas of personal and professional development. My job is to take what powerlifting has taught me, and bring it into all that I practice.
How about you? In what areas do you continue to improve, and where have you gotten stale…. Even maybe started to increment in the wrong direction?
Deadlifts and I struggle to get along. Always.
I did have a 13# PR in July...at 198#...and was overjoyed. Hugs were even squished out to Jerimiah. But it was months before I got even close again. Partly it was just the way the programming block was built. But then even at the end...it was still basically the ceiling. Squeezing out 200# 5 months later gave me mixed feelings. Yeah, it was more. But the smallest amount. And that was really all I had in me. Was it that going to be it? And if it was, then what!?
And then at the beginning of February I threw my back out...doing deadlifts, of course. We were doing reps (and reps, and reps) and the fatigue was building and I lost form. It was pretty bad. Tears. Doctor. Meds. Physio.
So I didn't train for a bit, and then did but ensured NO stress to back. I missed squats but didn't miss deadlifts one bit. I felt like they had met me down. Or I had let me down.
Well, we started up again, and I screwed up my optimism and told myself to just do the work and trust the process. It was hard. It was a few sessions of back to basics and changing things up. I was all awkward AND had low numbers and didn't have the excuse that I was a #newb. But I kept at it ....with a slightly wavering faith that it would build up to...something different.
And it did. A 5# PR at 205#....With maybe a bit left in the tank. Evidence! Finally a little translation into the actual lift.
Let's be honest: even at twice the increase in the previous 5 months, its a tiny increase. But it's the encouragement I needed to remind me that trusting the process is not about blind faith, but rather about relying on what you know and who you trust ...and sticking it out.
I'm elated about the result, but even more so by this little gift of the encouraging reminder that progress comes ....as long as you keep at it.
As I mentioned in the last post, we're into more volume. Not what most would call high reps (10) but definitely not what I do most of the time. I really noticed the fatigue when training by myself today. While I felt good going in, my performance was not so hot.
Anyway....We do it again this week. And "We'll try for 12 if we can. But it's ok if we can't." ~Jerimiah
And after, I was thinking...how do I know if I can or can't? With the high intensity stuff, it's easy enough to tell. Oversimplifying, but either the weight is going to move, or it's not. But squatting for 10 this past week never felt like I could not drive the weight up. Legs and glutes etc were a-ok. But at the top, getting ready for the next rep was ....I am looking for a word only slightly less emphatic than "excruciating". My heart was pounding, and I wanted to heave out my lungs. And my breakfast.
And then I figured if I have to ask that question (should I go for 2 more, or not), then I guess I should. After all, I know how to bail, and what that feels like, so it'll all be ok.
I texted my little self-talk to Jerimiah.... ( I'm sure he loves that...) and ended with what chrystalized for me only as I typed it.
"Seems like now our sessions are a lot more work and a lot less fear."
And that idea has stuck with me all weekend. I have less fear because of the work we have done. A trust in him, in the process, but most of all in myself. I am going to be ok. I can handle this. And I can only work this hard because I've left fear behind. Well, at least a lot if it. And I did have a lot. :).
It's a virtuous cycle.... I can feel it. And I built it.
I'm no social scientist. So if you want to read about Maslow's hierarchy of needs try Wikipedia. But there was an interesting reference to it in a book I am reading for work. I'll spare the back reference (but the book is called "Beyond Engagement" - Brady G. Wilson, if you are interested...)... but it quotes someone who ran the Boston Marathon as saying;
"After I ran the Boston Marathon, I had no motivation whatsoever. My diet and my training schedule went to pot. I need to set another goal for myself before I fall apart."
....And I do kinda remember that feeling after the London meet in July. I have continued training, but I know for sure that it's a slightly different feeling than training towards prep for a meet. Which is OK. I think actually that may be one of the things that makes Powerlifting the sport for me. There is ALWAYS a goal. Because it's not a specific event at which you measure your progress.... well, of course it IS, if you go to a meet, but also... it's not. Every few months you cycle through the program and BOOM! PR baby!
I found my magic. My girlfriends is yoga. I can imagine that it might be much the same.
My goal tomorrow: Just one squat at a time. Just one more. My goal for January - test and new PRs for all 3 (Squat, Benchpress and Deadlift). And then we'll set them again, AND schedule a meet!
I know it's called a "Meet" because people... well, they MEET. But I am going to think of it as just the place you meet your goals.