"Learn to love the plateau"
These words, from the book Mastery have been shared with me over and over and over again in training. Plateaus happen and should be expected. They are part of the process of moving from one stage to another and learning what changes you need to apply so that you are constantly improving, but still these words make me cringe every time I hear them. I HATE THE PLATEAU! THE PLATEAU IS AWFUL! THE PLATEAU IS BORING! THE PLATEAU NEVER ENDS!
The plateau is our body's way of resisting a change to homeostasis. Sure, we have off days and off competitions but eventually we have to come to terms with the fact that if we want to see changes, we need to make changes. Deep wisdom, I know.
But change is hard and change is scary. We become set in our ways, convinced in our own mind that the way we have always done things is the only way. We have to become comfortable being uncomfortable, and sometimes take a giant step outside of our comfort zone. Obviously we cannot predict the future. All we can do is make informed choices, but in the end, much of training is a crap shoot. You try, you find something that works, or you find something that doesn't work, cry, throw your belt, regroup and try again. Because giving up isn't an option and this is the stuff that builds persistence and tenacity...the stuff all good lifters are made of.
In the end, we have to be confident in the changes we are making and believe that our goals will be attained if we trust our training and faithfully stick to the program...trusting that if we put in the work, fuel the body, and trust the process, that the results will come. Loving the plateau means loving the process...all of it, the PRs and the failed lifts, the days everything is going well and the days you are ready to pack it up and quit.
And sometimes you have to let up on yourself, forgive yourself for the perceived mistakes you've made and rediscover your love for the process of training...to take a moment and ask yourself, why does this even matter? What is your purpose for training? The reality is, if its purely physical...it's likely not going to last.
The early days in my home gym/homeschool room. The very first time I pulled 300. I had not a single clue what I was doing, but I knew I loved the iron and wanted to be strong. There was something in handling heavy weights that made me feel fully alive.
Rediscover your love for training. Not your love for the numbers on the bar, your love for medals and meets, but simply your love for training...what inspired you to compete in the first place...that feeling of being fully alive, of the bar on your back, the creases in your palms...but I digress.
I'm about three weeks into a new training cycle as I get ready for XPC Finals in March and I'm making a few changes. I started a new training program in which my main goal is to do less volume, train smarter not harder, leave more in the tank, stay fresh, recover better, and become more technically efficient.
I absolutely love the feeling of leaving a heavy, high volume training session feeling exhausted. The feeling of hard work is exhilerating to me. I love the feeling of being starving after a particularly challenging workout... knowing that I just put my body through hell and it's time to refuel it for the next challenging session.
Why am I so drawn to hard work? Perhaps because I wasted so many years of my life making excuses why I couldn't do the very things I am doing right now. So many years avoiding work. Doing the bare minimum. I found a passion, something that I love and I don't want to do less. But I am driven to be better.
I am proud of my work ethic. I was not born with natural athletic ability. I have had to grind hard for every minor accomplishment I have achieved. I know that I cannot change my genetics, but I am driven and I know I can outwork my competition.
"You can't overtrain, you can only underrecover and undereat." I have fully embraced this philosophy. But after a few less than satisfying meets, I realize I'm seeing diminishing returns.
I have packed on a decent amount of muscle, especially in my upper body and I am happy about that. However, I'm also a bit heavier than I would like to be and I am generally worn out with the whole water manipulation game before a meet. To be very superficial, I also would like to lean out a little bit and see what's under this bulk. I decided to start working with anutrition coach for this training cycle, and have been very emotional about the whole process. For years I have followed the "If it fits your macros approach." I strive to eat a diet primarily consisting of whole foods, but nothing has really been off limits. This has been a great thing for me in teaching me there are not good foods and bad foods, there is just food. I no longer view food as the enemy but rather a training tool.
The nutrition plan that I am following is based primarily off whole foods and is moderate in calories and carbs, but the food choices themselves are stricter than I am used to. It has been hard mentally for me to take that shift and I have been dealing with a lot of fear. Changing my mindset is hard and scary right now, but I am willing and ready to get comfortable being uncomfortable...to do the things that I firmly believe will make me a better lifter in the long term.