#11: Do I Need to Rest or am I Lazy?
A few months ago, I was so overwhelmed with finishing the semester early that I wasn’t eating enough or in the right mindset to make progress in the gym. It’s frustrating enough not to move forward, but it’s even more frustrating to feel like I was backsliding by lifting less weight. For a while, my definition of a “great lift” was being able to lift the same weights as I could several months before. My blood boiled looking at my PR’s at the top of my workout log from December. (I use an app called MyWorkout+ and I highly recommend it.)
A few posts ago, I talked about how I had to learn to understand that I can’t give 100% focus in the gym and in my career all the time. I later realized that I made more progress than I thought: I lost ~10 lbs while maintaining my strength. If I put this into strength ratios, I did in fact make progress. I benched 85x5 in December, which meant that my bench to bodyweight ratio was 0.601. (Yes, I know you can do the math to find out my weight.) In March and April, I was still benching 85x5 but my strength ratio was 0.664. I didn’t feel like I got any stronger because I couldn’t increase weight, but I’m still a stronger person for my size now than before.
Even after the stress went away, I struggled to make progress for about a month and a half. I started eating more, but admittedly not truly enough. However, in the last few weeks, I finally returned to eating 1,800-2,200 calories a day and maintained my new lower weight. The last two weeks in the gym have been magical—I easily hit several PR’s on every major lift. As much as I blame my lack of progress on events in my life, I know that it was just the lack of fuel more than anything else.
I couldn’t be happier about these new records, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. This past week, I continued to hit PR’s, but I also had pain in my lower back and shoulder joints for the first time. I know that my muscles are ready for more weight, but the rest of my body isn’t. I need to make sure that I stay healthy so that I can keep going. It’s hard to know when my body is telling me to lay off versus when I’m just being lazy. The other day, I did 60x4 seated overhead press for sets. A month ago, I struggled at 45x5. On the last two sets, the outside of my shoulder started to feel funny. It didn’t feel like a muscle issue, so I wanted to keep going. I stopped because I was so afraid that I would hurt a rotator cuff or drop a weight on myself, but it really ruined my day (First world problems, but this is not an exaggeration.) My gut told me to stop, but my mind told me that I was just tired and lazy since I had been out until 3am the night before. If I’m going to go out and have fun, I absolutely have to be back to my routine the next day or I can’t go out in the first place.
In general, I struggle to push myself to increase the weight as much as I should. This makes for slower progress, but less injuries. I can lift 6 days a week because my body doesn’t exert as much effort as someone else who is better at pushing themselves. If I knew I could push myself 110% each day in the gym, I might be able to take more rest days and make the same or better progress. Until I know I can do that, I feel like a slacker when I’m not in the gym. When will I know that it’s time to take more days off? How do I know if I’m pushing myself enough?