Monday, March 3, 2014

Evaluations and evolution

The only constant in life, is change.

I think most people have read or heard these words and on the surface, understand the meaning of it.  Life, relationships, work, and the world around us is constantly changing and evolving.  Sometimes these changes are so slow and methodical that we don't always notice them until we've stepped away for a while, and then get a chance reevaluate them.

If you propped up a chair in your front yard and decided you'd watch your grass grow each day, you probably wouldn't really notice anything happening, and the whole thing would be very much like masturbating with a cheese grinder.  That is, fairly amusing but mostly painful.

But take a week off for vacation and then come back to that same yard, and you'll probably quip that you're amazed how fast it grew over such a short period of time.

Indeed, perception can be radically changed just because of circumstance.

One of the worst things about training is how a lack of progress can feel so apparent at times...or so it seems.

We see our body on a daily basis.  Despite our vigilant efforts to get more muscular, leaner, bigger, whatever, it can feel very much like watch that grass grow.  We don't see very much in the way of change going on, but once enough time has passed, proper reflection should reinforce that many changes have occurred.

A week or so ago I injured my pec bench pressing.  It's the first time I've ever REALLY injured my pec to this degree.  I was having a really shitty day of benching....or so I thought.  However upon reflection, I had done 3 sets of 5 with 405 that day, all very fast and all reps paused.  As I've been rehabbing my pec, I realized just how far my bench has come in the last year.

A year ago, a set of 3 at 405 with all reps paused was a VERY good day.  Now, that would be considered a very BAD day.

It's obviously very clear that my bench press has gone up significantly in the past year.  Perhaps somewhere in the range of 50-60 pounds (from 440ish to nearly 500).  I truly owe such a gain to the methods I have created in Base Building.  Long consistent periods of basically increasing bar speed at specific intensities.  And in spite of the fact that I've seen more progress in all of my lifts in the past year than the previous 3-5 years combined, I still get frustrated with where I am at.

This goes against the very things I often write about here on the blog, or on Facebook.  All of us succumb to our greedy humanistic natures at times, despite our best efforts not to.

We tend to ruminate on all of our perceived short comings quite often, blinding us to the positive growth that has taken place or occurred.  After all, it's hard to notice the rose garden in front of us when we can't take our eyes off the pile of dog shit on the sidewalk in front of it.

Or perhaps we do notice them, but then belittle our own accomplishments by adding in the such phrases as "I know this isn't a big deal to some..." or "I know I'm not as strong as some people".

Many of us complain about other peoples slights about our abilities when we really should ignore them.  After all, most of us do a perfectly fine job of tearing ourselves and our accomplishments down.  In spite of the fact that we had to work for them and earn them, we belittle them by injecting just enough self deprecating solution to disallow happiness.

Every step forwards is meaningful.  Despite the length of the stride or how our foot struck the pavement upon landing, the fact is, we still moved forward.  Yet it's incredibly hard for many of us to even take a moment of joy to evaluate what is positive, and what is TRULY negative.

This conundrum seems to span most facets of our life, and not just how we feel about our progress, or lack of it, in the gym.

We belittle our accomplishments at work, in our personal life, and almost every endeavor that we undertake with any amount of passion.  Mainly because, we keep using improper context in order to evaluate the changes that have taken place.

I wanted to do a set of 8 with 405 on bench last week.  Because I had an off day, I "settled" for three sets of five.  I was fairly pissed about it because two weeks earlier I had done a fairly easy set of 6, leaving a rep in the tank.  So in my mind, before I even got to the gym, anything less than 405x8 was going to be a failure.  Nevermind the fact that I had never done 405x8 before.  It was 405x8, or it was going to be a shitty day.

In other words, I was comparing my progress only in the context of what I had done one workout previously, and not in the context that now I was able to do many sets for more reps, than I was capable of just a few months prior.

Getting caught in this mindset of judging progress based on singular context is often the culprit behind why we don't feel we are advancing or getting better fast enough.  We often base the context of progress around single training sessions, then lose sight of the fact that we are well beyond what we were just a few months ago.

We will run into plenty of self defeating circumstances in our life.  Do your best not to add to the quota and instead meditate on the grand scheme of progress and change.  Change will happen anyway.  Understanding the process of it all will keep your demons and angels in check.  

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