On a new fitness program, I've been steadily building up strength. Lift heavy weights, do complex lifts, eat lots of food, increase weight each session when you ended the last session with good form.
Told, I failed to put 5 kg on my squat, and it was murderously hard, despite last session being not unusually difficult, and not seeming particularly fatigued. I dropped back down to last session's max, and that too was hard.
The first inclination was something like, "What's going wrong with me? What's going on here?"
But that's the wrong way to think.
On a slightly more careful realization, I noticed that,
1) I didn't eat as much earlier before the gym, I just ate a little bit slightly before going, and probably had less nutrients and energy overall,
2) I wasn't as well-hydrated as usual,
3) I didn't take creatine before going, which generally gives you a bit more capacity to work with, and,
4) I didn't take caffeine immediately before going, which helps fight fatigue and have stronger workouts as well.
This is a pretty easy cause and effect relationship to see when lifting weights -- "I'm not fatigued, I'm not ill, and I'm not injured... and yet I'm having a hard time than I did last session, despite the fact that I should be stronger." It's pretty easy to look at how you've managed lifestyle factors around that lifting session, and identify the cause.
Yet, most people do the exact opposite when they're having a bad day in business development, writing, or any other endeavor that takes skill and creativity. People say, "Why can't I do well today? What the hell is wrong with me?"
People discount those lifestyle factors when it comes to creative and professional work... but why? Eating well, being hydrated, rested, and generally doing things the right way has just as much impact on work-life as it does on lifting weights. Maybe moreso.
Next time things are wrong, run through the lifestyle factors that might influence it. Start there. Tune them up quickly, and results improve rapidly.
In my experience, lifetstyle factors have a large impact on recovery ability over longer periods of time, say weeks. But a day or two of little sleep or sloppy eatiing make little difference. If your progress slows down, comes to a halt, and then reverses, this is a clear sign of overtraining. That means you need to take at least a week off and, when you resume, put in more rest days between workouts. Personally, I have found even little sleep has minimal short term effect on my strength. As soon as I start lifting, the adrenaline kicks in and I can lift at full intensity. It is the same thing with work. It is only if I mishandle sleep and eating matters for several days that I start to be unable to produce well, either in the gym or working.
I think that you may be falling into the trap here of taking your theory about why you didn't lift well today for the fact of the matter. Granted, the introspection is better than nothing, but how can you be certain that any of those variables really had an effect. In a situation like this do you just trust your intuition, or will you try and collect more data to test your ideas?
I ran through other likely options (fatigue, illness, injury) and they came up blank, but it could be random noise. Lack of food and caffeine before a workout definitely lowers your potential for a higher intensity workout though, it's pretty well-accepted in fitness and I've experienced it personally in the past.
I like the gym as a metaphor connection. As for your diagnosis I would agree on all points except creatine. While it does improve muscular endurance, it is not a short term effect bjt rather caused by the overall creatine levels jn your body.
Is it possible that you have gotten so strong that you need an extra day of recovery between workouts? That usually helps in my case.
It's funny... I was just writing a similar blog post. I had three low productivity days, and then the next day I slept like 12 hours, waking up at 3pm. At first I felt crappy about waking up so late, but then I actually got tons of solid work done because I was so well rested.
I like training to overcome environmental factors... but when they can be controlled, it's always worth it to align them in your favor.
Are you trying to add 5 kg every time you go into the gym? If so, that's a lot of weight to expect to add every time. In my experience, only people very early on in their development as a lifter are able to do that. As you lift more and get closer to your genetic potential, your body gets more efficient at lifting, which means it takes longer for your to recover from each workout. I am not sure of how long you've been working out, but this is something for you to think about.
Another thing to think about is that eventually, your strength will come down a little bit. Eventually you peak. You cannot keep adding strength in a linear fashion. When this happens it can be highly demotivating, but recognize it for what it is. Your body is trying to recover. Ease off on the intensity at the gym for a couple weeks or more. If you do this, you'll find that you'll have hit a new baseline level of strength compared to what you first started out. That's still progress.
The light is low in the bar/cafe, opera music is playing, and I write with a single candle on the table providing most of the light.
The owner is a very internationally inclined Chinese man. Impeccably dressed in Italian clothing, he slowly works the room, offering for people to try...something, I can’t see exactly because it’s too dark. Candy? Chocolate? Olives? Something.
He and I have chatted before, but he sees that I’m working and leaves me to my writing and coffee. The coffee is pretty good. I’d prefer if it was slightly stronger, but it’s still pretty good.
I stayed up all night talking business with a Chinese friend, then had a call back to America scheduled at 5AM local time. I didn't sleep until 9AM, and then I awoke at 5PM when I got a dinner invitation.
Well, dinner for my host, breakfast for me.
When I was younger, I hated work. It didn’t matter what kind of work it was, I always found a way to avoid doing anything that required a significant amount of effort. On the rare occasions I did work I never did any more than the absolute minimum that was required of me.
This is how most people operate. Most people see work as a dreaded necessity in their lives and will do almost anything to avoid it. It’s been said that people are naturally lazy, but I don’t think that’s the problem. The problem is most people don’t see why hard work is necessary.
When I first started lifting weights I found it very difficult, but I continued because I thought that eventually working out would become effortless. As you might imagine, I was wrong.
As I became stronger, and began lifting more weights, working out actually became more difficult. As I progressed to lifting more and more weight I began to realize the strongest guys in the gym weren’t the strongest because they had been lifting the longest. They were the strongest because they were able to work through the most pain. They were the ones willing to work the hardest.
Another interesting thing I noticed, was that although most people dreaded having to work out, the strongest guys actually looked forward to it, and many even considered it the best part of their day. The strongest guys loved working out because they saw it as being necessary. The strongest guys worked out because they knew it was the only way to reach their goals.