#78: Current Fitness Goals
Even though my lifting goals are nearly always been about building strength, I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t excited about the prospect of building muscle and improving my appearance as well. Years ago, I jokingly asked a family member if she was afraid I’d ‘look like a man.’ She responded that she didn’t believe I’d ever be consistent enough to get there. I was offended that someone who knows me so well didn’t believe in me, but that was all the more reason to succeed. Before I left for Hawaii, I was really improving at pushing myself to lift as heavy as possible nearly every day, which meant that I built muscle pretty quickly. I’ll always want to be stronger (my 2023 deadlift goal is 300lbs), but for the first time, I’m satisfied with the amount of muscle I have. (Or I was, until I let myself get overwhelmed with the stress of the last few weeks and now want to lose a few pounds again.)
I’m in disbelief that I reached this point. My 8th grade self would be over the moon. My 21-year-old self would be in disbelief. (P.S. my abs started showing once I stopped eating so much ice cream, even though I didn’t lose any weight.) Honestly, I didn’t think I’d ever reach this point. For all the goal setting I do, I’m not sure if I even believed I was capable of this. Where do I go next?
I thought about trying out body-building for the experience, but I’d want to make sure I’m doing it for the right reasons. Bodybuilders put in an INSANE amount of effort into each show day and in the off season, so it takes it a toll on their social life and mental health. I’d love to see what I could do as a bodybuilder, but I’m probably not as motivated as I’d need to be to bring my best self to the stage. I’m also not convinced I want to try to make it my goal to build more muscle. Someone described me as “jacked” the other day. As much as he meant it as a compliment, it made me second guess myself. I hate when people say lifting makes women look like men, but I don’t want to look ‘like a man.’ If I want to build more strength, I’ll end up with more muscle whether I like it or not. I have to keep lifting if I want to maintain this muscle. I could maintain my strength, but where’s the fun in that?
Needless to say, I completely fumbled when someone asked me what my fitness goals are. I should’ve just said that I want to deadlift 300. Instead I went into some speech about how I don’t want to get any bigger. There’s not much you can say in response to that.
Honestly, I feel burnt out of the gym. I get so comfortable in my desk chair that I have to drag myself to the gym around 6:30 or 7pm. I start contemplating when I should go to the gym around 3pm, but quickly get caught up in something at work, don’t want to go in the middle of rush hour, or would rather just keep working. It’s not a gym problem. I’m letting my anxiety get the best of me, and then I feel too paralyzed to take a break and just go. Each day, I make the right decision when I finally peel myself away from my desk and go to the gym, but I waste 20-30 minutes frozen in the anxiety of not knowing if I should leave my desk or keep working.
As much as I’m not looking to get bigger, I’m curious what would happen if I started taking creatine. (Creatine is an extremely safe supplement that’s been proven to increase lean muscle mass, brain function, and improve recovery time. However, after lifting heavier for the last few months I notice the muscle imbalances returning. For example, my left arm is ~20% stronger than my right arm again. As I rapidly increased weight, I was less focused on form, which resulted in overcompensation from the left side of my body again. I also notice that my stronger muscles take over for weaker muscles, so the weaker muscles don’t get a chance to improve. My lower trapezius are weak as can be, and my Gluteus Medius needs serious help (haha). I need to fix these imbalances before I can increase strength, otherwise I’ll end up with injuries or further imbalances.
The logical question is to ask how I find these weak muscles and imbalances. The imbalances are obvious when I can’t lift the same amount of weight on one side of your body as the other. When doing unilateral exercises, I always start on the right side of my body to make sure I do the same reps on each side. I can feel how much easier it is to complete the exercise on my left side than my right.
I find tight areas and weak muscles in my body through trial and error. My friends laugh at me, because I’m always rolling around on the floor trying to find new stretches. When I find a new stretch, I practice it every day until my muscle is loose. Once the muscle is loosened, I still practice the stretch, but I spend less time focusing on it and move onto the next one. I also take note of where my body gets sore. I’ve said this before, but research shows that soreness is NOT an indicator of a good workout or predicted muscle growth. I rarely get sore because my body is used to my workouts. If I do get sore at this point, it’s usually delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it’s likely because I found a muscle that I don’t usually train. When I find a muscle that I’m missing, I seek out ways to incorporate the muscle into my routine or improve my form to target the muscle properly. I also use form cues such as if my knees cave in on my squat, or where in the range of motion (ROM) I’m failing. Once I triage the issue, I can search out exercises that will provide the quickest improvement. While this strategy works for me, I understand that it won’t for everyone. I’ve been lifting for nearly five years now, so I’ve developed a sixth sense for how my body feels over time. If you’re newer to lifting, I’d recommend trying different stretches to figure out which muscles are the most difficult to stretch (tightest), and go from there. (This is NOT professional advice, for the record.)