Climbing Out of a Rut

Rowing Machine - June 18th

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you feel like you just can’t get any forward momentum? From the time you wake up on Monday morning, everything you do feels more difficult than it needs to be. By the time Wednesday or Thursday rolls around you’re just sick and tired of it all and can’t wait for the week to come to an end.

This has been a very long week for me and at this point it just can’t end soon enough. I think it all started when I fell ill on Friday. I spent a lot of time in bed and, while it was nice to get some solid rest, getting out of bed on Monday was difficult.

Work wasn’t anything out of the ordinary and I headed straight to the gym afterwards. I hopped onto the treadmill for my usual fifteen minute warm up and it felt like I had never run before. Two minutes in and I was breathing heavy. I spent the remainder of that warm up staring at the treadmill counter, counting down the seconds until I could end the madness.

My time in the weight room wasn’t much different. I started out with front raises and fifteen pound dumbbells felt like boat anchors. Moving on to dumbbell shoulder presses was just as bad, it felt like my core was wobbly and weak which lead to an arched back and difficult reps.

By the time I got through the remainder of my exercises in the weight room, I was ready to pack it up and call it a day. As I headed towards the door, I stopped short and thought about what I was about to do. Was I willing to end a workout without my usual cardio routine to close it out? Was I willing to leave the gym on a bad note? Nope, get your ass back in there and finish strong. Leave the gym on a positive note…

I walked over to my nemesis, the rowing machine, and took a seat. My last experience had me rowing 2,000 meters in the neighborhood of twelve to thirteen minutes. I set the resistance to six, programmed in a 2,000 meter goal, and got to work. It was hard and I needed a couple of real quick breaks but I crossed the finish line in 9 Minutes 13 Seconds.

I could have went home right then and there, feeling confident, but I wasn’t finished yet. I hopped onto the treadmill and trotted along at a slow pace for thirty minutes. Between the initial warm up, weights, rowing machine, and the final cardio session, I was gushing sweat out of every pore on my body. I may not have been proud of my workout as a whole but I didn’t quit.

Tuesday went down more or less the same way. The running was hard, the weights were harder, and I felt like I was slipping into some kind of rut. Mentally, I was allowing myself to be defeated before even setting foot in the gym. Man, I hope things are easier today. This week has been brutal!

Wednesday I hit a tipping point. I was laying on my back, under a loaded barbell, struggling with the weight. I was shooting for fifteen reps and I felt burt out at eight reps. I was about to chalk it up as a poor set when I got angry. Before I knew it I was telling myself over and over again “Push that fucking bar until you can’t push it anymore!”

I was still tired and my arms burned but that bar came down, stopped on my chest for about a half second, then went right back up. The last rep was agonizing and felt like it would never get all the way up but it did. I slid off the bench drenched in sweat, arms trembling, chest burning.

At that moment I realized what was happing and everything became clear. I train alone, just me and my music. I’ve been slowing slipping into a rut but I just couldn’t see it until that moment. Since then I’ve been surprising myself. “Holy shit, I can only do twelve” has turned into “If I can do twelve then I can do fifteen, now shut up and get in those last three”.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel run down in the gym but I’m putting in the work. I’ve allowed my diet to slip a little this week (not enough that it should prevent any weight-loss but enough to feel guilty about it). When I complete the eight week cutting program I’ve been doing in the gym, I think it is time to take a hard look at my diet and make some adjustments.

The dietary change will most likely include adding calories (perhaps more carbohydrates to give me more energy) and perhaps a protein supplement. I’ve been trying to avoid a post-workout shake due to the calories but I think I may be to the point where it will do more good than harm.

This little situation of mine raises an interesting question. When you are working out hard and feel yourself starting to slip, how do you overcome that and prevent it from turning into a slump?

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