Until you grasp how important recovery and repair are you will always stay dissatisfied with your training.
BTW, here is something I posted on my facebook page:
I believe that a lot of you are killing their gains because they pride in the wrong things when it comes to training.
The ONLY thing that matters is how much progress you are making. That … is … all … that … matters. PERIOD.
I see a lot of people taking more pride in how much work they do than how much results they are getting. Listen: it doesn’t matter if you trained 7 days this week or 3. It doesn’t matter if you did 30 sets in your workout or 10. The only thing on which a program should be judged is how much progress you are making.
The work you are doing in the gym is done for one reason: to stimulate changes in your body. The goal is the changes, the work is only what you are doing to achieve the goal.
In real life would you brag about working 60 hours a week but only making 500$ that week?
Listen, being a hard worker is important. Unless you are a genetic freak hard work will be required to get maximum results. But understand that it is not an end in itself.
The problem is that those who pride themselves first and foremost in the amount of work they are doing, are often killing their gains because the amount they are doing exceeds the amount of work they can handle and have a positive adaptation from.
Because of biochemical factors that are outside the scope of this post, it is completely possible to regress because you are doing too much work (lose muscle and strength).
Take powerlifting for example. I know a lot of people who took the Westside Barbell system and decided that it wasn’t enough work soi they added more exercises and sets in each session. Listen why would you believe that YOU can tolerate more physical work than someone who is (1) likely genetically built to handle hard physical work (2) has years, sometimes decades of experience with high level strength lifting (3) might be using drugs.
If the Westside split is 4 hard days a week why could you handle 5 or 6? If they can handle 1 maximum and 1 heavy assistance lift per session why could you handle 2 or each?
And that is just one example. When you look at the top strength athletes for advice if your first reaction is 'are you sure that’s enough?" you might have a problem.
SURROGATE GOALS AND TRAINING
This is a continuation of yesterday’s post about getting results being the only important thing with training.
One of the basic needs of a human being is “esteem”: Feeling like you are achieving something and getting the respect of others.
People who are achieving either important things or accomplishing something worth respect have this fairly easily. But those who aren’t doing anything special need to crate surrogate goals for themselves.
This is true in life and in training.
A typical example is somebody who is a militant/manifestant for a cause that doesn’t affect him personally. For example an heterosexual, middle class male who is actively participating in feminist manifestations.
If you are a woman and you feel that you are oppressed or treated unfairly because of your sex I understand why you would want to protest publicly. I do not agree with the modern feminist views (I feel that our society is pretty balanced, in fact men are often treated unfairly themselves) but I understand why some females would feel strongly about that cause.
But why would a middle class, average male take this cause at heart? He might make you believe that he is fighting for the rights of women. But the truth is completely different.
The reality is that this cause is a surrogate goal: something that the person latches on to be able to earn the respect of others. In this case the person is subconsciously looking for the respect and approval of women.
Anyway I don’t want to engage on this slippery slope but that is an example of a surrogate goal.
I see the same thing in training all the time:
I might not strong but I can do more work than everybody else. That person uses the amount of work being done to get a sense of accomplishment or the approval/admiration of others.
I’m not gaining a lot of muscle mass but I can do crazy exercises like one-leg overhead squats on a Swiss ball, let’s see those muscle monsters do that! Again using a surrogate way to feel good about yourself and feel like others are respecting you.
The problem is that chasing these surrogate goals will take your eyes off of the real purpose of training. Training’s purposes are to improve your body’s composition (adding muscle, losing fat), capacity to perform (strength, power, agility, speed) and make it healthy (injury prevention, improving health markers). Anything other than that is just an illusion of accomplishment.
If focusing on the illusion prevents you from achieving the true meaning of training, you are wasting your time.
What will happen is that you will focus so much on the surrogate goals that eventually you will forget why you started training in the first place: to improve your body. And when that happens NOLT getting gains actually becomes acceptable to you as long as you are finding other ways to feel good about yourself.
Then you will ridicule those who are actually making significant changes in their body (he doesn’t even train hard… yeah he’s big but he isn’t functional like I am).
This is a dangerous spiral because the more you focus on those artificial validations the less results you will be getting and the more you will forget about actually trying to get results.
And when that happens you actually stop trying to find ways to solve your lack of progress issue.
See when you aren’t progressing (adding more muscle, getting stronger, getting more powerful, etc.) there is a problem somewhere… your training, nutrition, sleep pattern, etc. might not be adequate. And you need to fix the issue. But if you stop focusing strictly on the results you will also stop trying to find ways to solve your problems.
Once again: the only thing that matters in weight training is getting results. Everything else is just a surrogate goal to make you feel good about yourself when you really shouldn’t.
Listen it’s OKAY to feel bad about yourself, about your lack of results IF you use that frustration to find a way to solve your problem.