Wasted Energy

One Saturday morning early in my experience at Fivex3, Diego was coaching my deadlift.  After observing a warm-up set, he said, “You need to stop babying the bar when you put it down.”  What?!!  I was so focused on my set up and the actual pull that I had little room left to think about how I was putting the bar down.  In fact, I wasn’t even quite clear on what he meant.  Primarily I was aiming to keep the bar tight and not to allow the iron plates make too much noise when they hit the floor.  Every once in awhile, you’ll see video of someone pulling a heavy deadlift who then basically drops the bar back to the floor from the standing position rather than returning it properly.  I did not want to be that person.  It seems I was taking that concern a little too far.  Diego explained that in putting the bar down so carefully and quietly, I was wasting energy, energy that I should be saving for my next pull.  Having only ever seen me at the gym, a place where I am relatively comfortable and outgoing, he sort of laughed off my concern about being loud and said, “I get the feeling you make a lot of noise a lot of the time, … but in any case, sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do, don’t we?  You may need to make a little more noise with the bar than you want to in order to save energy.”

It seems that life frequently goes this way too.  Like the mental checklist of set-up cues I ran through for my deadlift, we often we have lists of the important tasks we must accomplish, items that demand our attention.  Just as I was oblivious to the effort I was wasting trying to keep the bar quiet, we may not give much attention to the time and energy we spend just spinning our wheels or by being a little too concerned about making some noise.  Often, when life gets really busy, the things we need to do to restore our energy, the things that preserve our good health, don’t even make the list.  In a world where we tend to focus on the equivalent of our next big pull, sometimes it takes a coach to remind us that conserving energy and using down-time to recover are important too.  It’s at least worth a quick review.  Where in your life are you wasting energy?  Where are you shortchanging yourself on needed down-time?

When Less is More

When I started working with Emily at Fivex3Training, I had to relearn some of the form that I had been using. I had been doing high bar back squats, and Emily was teaching me low bar back squat. In general, that doesn’t really make much difference. I had started barbell squatting with light weight, high rep squats in a group fitness setting that coached the high bar squat. I was comfortable with that bar position and took it with me when I went to the squat rack to lift heavier weight. During this transition though, a small kernel of an idea was beginning to sprout in my mind, the idea that I might want to look into powerlifting competitions.  For that possibility or at the very least for my own personal reasons, I knew I wanted to lift more weight, and learning the low bar back squat the way Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program coached it would allow me to do so.

Since I was still learning a new form, obviously I hadn’t earned the right to weight up the bar much, especially on squat and overhead press. I knew I also had to train my breath and bracing. Stay tight but still breathe. Super important with a post-pregnancy history of hernias. Emily was helping me train this too. My instructions on leaving my first session at Fivex3Training were not to do any other lifting that would interfere with her work with me and mostly to rest. Having just lifted about 40% less weight than I was used to, I resisted that a bit. That old feeling of “not being something enough” was trying to insist that I had not lifted heavy enough, and I knew following her directions would be a struggle for me mentally.

“Emily, I need specific directions so I don’t get stupid. Can I still train my pull up? Can I swing a kettlebell? Tell me what I CAN do, so I don’t do something I shouldn’t do.”

She helped me break that down. I still had my group fitness classes to teach – use minimum weights. I could still train my pull up, do some light cardio, yoga. OK – there was something I could work with to keep that edgy feeling I get when I don’t work out at bay.

So I did what I could, and Craig helped me with the mental piece. He sent me links to articles on the importance of planned de-loads, about training smarter for more gains. Harder work and more work does not necessarily mean better work or better results. One of the differences between training and working out is the recognition of the need for rest and recovery, having an off-season, not constantly moving to move.

Craig is always telling me to “get my mind right.” The meaning of that seems to change a bit depending on the circumstance, but I’m learning. I’m learning that the mental aspect of weightlifting is hugely important, just as important as form and technique, and that I need to train that too. Master the feeling of “not enough”.  Face the discomfort, and not “workout” to silence it. Accept that sometimes doing less for a period of time is essential to moving forward. Resist the idea that busyness is better, the idea that we need to do more to be more. Train myself to move away from a feeling of “not enough” and instead work from a place of “strong enough”.