Let me set the scene for you: I wrote (typed?) this after a particularly crappy morning in the gym. After the gym, I went to the grocery store where I proceeded to be ragey and buy chocolate and shove it in my face. It was delicious and I regret nothing. My current mood when writing this amounted to something like: pissed off, frustrated, throwing myself a pity party, etc. – basically wallowing and being annoyed at the wallowing.
Sunday morning I was supposed to PR my clean & jerk – key words “supposed to”. I didn’t, obviously. I woke up feeling kind of crappy, had a stress filled hour or so before the gym and arrived feeling angry and mentally tired. Warm-ups were decent - little impatient on my second pull on the clean & lacking some aggression & need to work on my footwork in the jerk – the usual things I need to work on. I put weight on the bar to go for a PR, pulled it, didn’t get under it. I pulled again, got under it, didn’t rack fast/aggressively enough and fell on my butt. Same thing again. And then I start doing this stupid RDL thing that I do when I rush everything. Basically, it looked like this: yell, set up, pull, impatient second pull, getting under, elbows not up, falling on my ass, slamming the bar, ripping my belt off in frustration - add chalk and repeat for 20 minutes. I finally called it because one, I had other stuff to do; two, I don’t want to practice missing lifts; and three, I was getting too tired to do anything well. I finished my workout, got in my car, and was just SO frustrated. I knew that I should have made that clean & jerk PR and frankly, I was pretty disappointed with myself. I know the difference between the PR not being there (not strong enough, fast enough, whatever) and me not being there – and I just wasn’t there today. True, the PR might not have been there either but I wasn’t even close to a place where I could have found out. I hadn’t really been there all week really. Why? Because I turned into a giant ball of stress.
As I was driving to the store still covered in chalk & sweat (yeah, I’m classy like that), I just grew more and more frustrated. This had NOTHING to do with my clean & jerk – yes, I was disappointed with myself because it was there and I wasn’t, but I know what I need to do, what I need to work on, and saw the progress I made even in my failed attempts. I do what I do because I love it, it’s fun, and I genuinely enjoy it – I don’t stress too much about it because I don’t want to wake up and suddenly hate the barbell. It was a productive morning if for no other reason than I learned what I need to work on – I was over it. What I was really angry about was the fact that my performance was a direct reflection of how stress was running me down – and more accurately, that I LET stress run me down. The past week had just knocked me on my ass – something that quite literally happened multiple times that morning. I was stressed beyond belief with crap and therefore didn’t eating well or nearly enough, didn’t sleep well, and my head was everywhere but where it needed to be. I felt extremely under recovered because my nervous system was overwhelmed from being in a constant state of freaking the eff out. Also, I’m not a terribly emotional/expressive person - it's just not really natural for me. I’m the person who likes to observe and listen - a definite introvert. The only place I’m really vocally emotional/expressive is in the gym (always been that way) so when stuff goes wrong, I get pissed and then realize it usually has nothing to do with what is going on in the gym.
I hadn’t taken the proper steps to mitigate & lessen that stress either because old habits die hard. I’m a stress seeker – I like pressure, I like expectations, I hold myself to ridiculous standards, I like being busy. During college, I never worked less than 2 or 3 jobs while taking 15-19 credits. I finished my bachelor’s in 3 years as a double major and was pissed when I was a few decimal places away from graduating with a 3.9 GPA. It’s not so much that I liked feeling stressed (I don’t), it’s that when I was stressed it usually meant I was busy and being busy meant being productive and basically, I just glorified “busy” until it chewed me up and spit me out.
I’ve moved on from that but little bits still linger here and there and they come out when life gets hectic. I think people often forget how big of an impact stress has on them – their mind, body, gym performance, whatever. I know I do. I often forget about it until I’m in this type of situation. We still glorify “busy” as a society and I think we often forget that busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive. This past week has definitely been a
not so gentle ass kicking reminder of the fact that we all need to just calm the heck down and take time for ourselves. I'm a firm believer that more isn't more, that rest and recovery are extremely important, and I believe that stress sucks and too much of it kills your progress. I suppose this is the world's way of telling me to take my own damn advice.
I've come to realize that for me, the platform is just a mirror for what is actually going on outside of it. I haven’t built up the skill of being able to just walk through the doors and shift my brain into a different mode – I’m too much of a novice for that. I still struggle with handling stress in a productive way. But I work on it and some days are better than others. But ultimately, the barbell has a way of shining a big, annoyingly bright, and glaring light on whatever is going on inside my head and outside of the gym. And ultimately, I think we all just need to take a deep breath and relax.