Internal Chatter III

We deliberately construct our own stereotypes.

I want glasses because I think it will make me look smarter. I tuck my shirt in because I want to appear professional. I wear a beard to convey ruggedness.

Others do the same and it doesn’t just apply to how we dress or groom ourselves but how we carry ourselves. Two-metre Peter strides into a room, chest and chin up with a firm look on his face. He’s showing not only is he tall but powerful and confident too. Just as easily, people can convey indecisiveness, anger and fear.

I have gotten to the stage where, when I want to buy something I ask myself, ‘What do I think this will do for me? What stereotype am I trying to create?’ I’ve been yearning to buy a four-wheel drive and initially, I tried to justify the purpose, telling myself I’d explore the outback and drive off-road often. Though as I dug deeper, I realised the true purpose of the vehicle was to build an image of adventure, exploration and fearlessness. I want people to see me this way, even though my actions (four-wheel drive purchase aside) indicate that’s not the case.

Will a purchase change the way I act? I don’t know. Will I become adventurous if I did buy a car that typified adventure? It could. But I think the change needs to be internal. I can still be a bold explorer without a hulking four-wheel drive. I must focus on my actions, not things.

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Internal Chatter II

Doubt.

Is this person right for me? Am I wasting my time in this relationship? Should I leave my job?

I doubt others and other things but should I doubt myself? I’m constantly asking: whether I’m capable, whether I have the capacity and whether I’m good enough.

But even if I’m not good enough, what’s the worst that could happen? I could fail. Yes, it will sting a little. Sure, I might feel a little embarrassed. And there’s every chance I could disappoint others too.

But so what?

Are you putting in your best effort? Yes. Have you asked for help? Yes. Have you given it ample time? Yes.

Then what’s the problem?

The problem is you’re too critical of yourself. You see another person living a life you think you would desire and you wonder why your life doesn’t look like theirs.

Be patient. Yes, life is short and you must move quickly and take chances but remember chances arise everyday in everyday life. That challenging colleague who doesn’t respect you provides an opportunity to prove him wrong. That manager who fails to support you – tell him your concerns, make him listen.

You don’t have to travel or be constantly moving for doors to open just keep your eyes open.

As for that weird feeling of discomfort and doubt that seems to sit in your throat. Laugh it away. Surprisingly, it works.

Internal Chatter I

A good life is one that gives me the freedom to build upon meaningful relationships, improve myself and create a positive difference in the world around me.

I want to feel content rather than regretting mistakes or worrying about what could happen in the future.

At the moment, I’m a little off. I’m too judgemental and critical of others. I take situations seriously when a light-hearted approach would work best. I struggle to see how fortunate I am. I’m blessed with good health, a support network and the opportunity to thrive.

While it’s important to seek improvement and not to settle for mediocrity, I need to understand the value that each moment offers. Stop thinking you’re expected a to do certain things. There is no pressure; not external pressure anyway. My discomfort is because I feel I don’t match up; I’m not doing the best possible job every single moment.

But this is not possible nor is it sustainable. Not for anyone. It leaves no room for error and humans are prone to making mistakes. Remember that, you’re human. An animal, not a machine that can be programmed to run at an optimum efficiency. You have flaws and that’s OK. So you like to watch TV from time to time, that’s no reason to feel guilty. Unwind and relax.

And when you make mistakes do you acknowledge it or make a mental note: next time I’m in a similar situation I’ll behave differently? There is no right answer; do what feels right.

As for the flaws of others, the annoying habits, the funky quirks and the things that rub you the wrong way. Laugh them off. Get used to them. They are cues to lighten up. Habits, by nature, happen often and by letting them dampen your spirits, you’ll be in for a wretched time.

GMB Rings One – Phase Two

Summary

Phase two, like phase one, is designed to build conditioning. The main difference between the two – the second begins to get specific.

The movements are still general but I could begin to see their purpose in building the end-stage moves. There is less fluff too. There are only three exercises per session, whittling down from the five in phase one.

Also, phase two increases the difficulty of movements – a completely supported dip becomes a jump to dip, for example.

Aside from that, the second block follows the same structure; three weekly training sessions and two different programs – one above the rings the other below.

What did I like about phase two?

The broad rep range
The trainer is given an opportunity to begin at a point that is manageable for their ability ensuring quality remains high. Expecting a novice to do eight or more reps of a foreign movement is a big ask and is sure to lead to form breakdown or loss of motivation due to an inability to do the necessary work. The rep range for phase two begins at five reps – a number that doesn’t daunt the newbie.

An opportunity to practice
The structure of the program –  having only two sessions – gives the user an opportunity to regularly practice the movements. When first attempting the shoulder stand, I thought I should cut my losses and end the program there. My form was horrendous and I worried whether it would get better. But sure enough I saw improvement. The more I did the movement the less I ‘muscled’ my way through and found the key was technique not bruce force.

What improvements could be made to phase two?

Offer advice for common problems
I battled with certain movements – namely the L-Sit. Although the program called for a watered down version of the full movement, I still felt my form wasn’t up to standard. Rather than my torso being vertical and perpendicular to the ground, I found myself titling forward.

GMB does have a troubleshooting section but it lack specificity. The L-Sit tutorial is mainly centred on building the movement on the paralletes and makes note that an L-Sit is more challenging on the rings, given their wobbly, ever-moving nature.

Including regressions, even if this takes the user away from the rings, would be a step forward. It provides a chance to begin at a starting point where good form is ensured rather than completing the exercise in a substandard fashion.

Exercises should progress within the phase
Wholsesale changes occur when moving between phases but during a phase the movements remain the same for the course of that phase. This limits the user in two ways:

  1. The not-so-competent trainer struggles to find a good starting point and is playing catch-up for the entirety of the phase. Form and enjoyment suffers.
  2. The competent trainer my find herself growing bored with the tedious repetition of moves hampering enjoyment and stunting progress.

Is there room to include movement variability? Absolutely. The program should include prompts for what to look for so the trainer knows when to progress – hitting a certain rep and set milestone, for instance.

What have I learnt from the program?

I need to improve my shoulder control; the unstable nature of the rings has shown that. When working on the L-Sit and even the dips, I regularly found my shoulders around my ears, as I couldn’t maintain adequate scapular depression. Another sign of poor shoulder stability was my tendency to keep my elbows too flexed when the movement called for a straight arm position – the skin the cat exercise, for example. This shows I have to rely on my biceps to achieve the requisite stability demanded by the movement.

Also, a key point for the shoulder stand manoeuvre is the need to keep the forearms and elbows tucked in. Once I achieved this, getting into the correct position – and maintaining it – became a lot easier.

Stay tuned for phase three.

The Organic Deload

A deload is a deliberate reduction in training load, volume or intensity and has become common practice in weight training circles. But it doesn’t only apply to strength pursuits. Elite athletes from all sporting fields use some form of deloading or periodisation to eek out maximum performance. The idea – to help the athlete peak at key times during the season.

Deloading helps athletes by allowing a:

  • Mental break – Improving motivation and refocusing of mindset
  • Physical break – Provides the different systems of the body a chance to recuperate

When do I deload?

The variables to consider when planning a deload include:

  • Training age – Experienced lifters benefit from frequent deloads compared to new lifters. Part of the reason comes down to the differences in training. The programs followed by seasoned lifters are taxing on the central nervous system – an area of the body that requires regular rest in order to function efficiently. Less experienced lifters work at a much lower threshold so can work longer before needing a break. A race car (the experienced lifter) runs at close to its maximum ability but needs frequent servicing – the vehicle is worked on constantly on race day. A regular street car (the newer lifter) plods about and requires far less servicing as its duty is not so arduous.
  • Training goals – If a lifter is looking to get stronger or more muscular, deloads should form part of their plan. For those pursuing general fitness, deloading is less of a requirement.

Training programs, particularly those targeted at intermediate lifters and above, incorporate a deload week as part of their schedule. Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1, for example, treats every fourth week as a deload.

Why not consider an organic approach to deloading?

Instead of structuring a deload into your program, why not rest and recuperate based on feel and performance?

Autoregulatory training, a style that calls for tweaking a program based on how easily the weights moved, could be used on a macro scale. How would this look?

As you follow your training program, gradually upping the weights and progressing, keep a close eye on how your body feels and how the weights move. Look for signs of slowing or halting progress and a body that begins to feel like it’s no longer coping.

An organic approach builds momentum. Many times when I’ve followed a scheduled deload, I felt I was stunting my progress by reducing the weights despite feeling good. I rationalised, even though I feel I could keep going maybe I’ll come back stronger. But what often happened was I returned from the week off sluggish and off the pace and would have to back off the weights and gradually ramp them up.

The organic approach, on the other hand, allows me to capitalise.

Who would benefit from the organic deload?

The intermediate and experienced lifter. People who have, over time, developed good body awareness and a strong sense of what they’re capable of.

The lifter must be able to differentiate between general soreness and signs that the body is asking for a well-earned break. Also, the lifter must know their mind – do they not want to lift out because of poor mood or being intimidated by the weight or are they mentally lethargic because their central nervous system is fatigued?

Finally, the organic approach suits the conservative lifter. The person who may stunt their own progress by not pushing themselves and deloading too regularly. On the contrary, the ‘no pain, no gain’ lifter who constantly pushes hard would not benefit from this style of deload.

What should you look for when deciding to deload?

  • A failure to progress or keep up with the program demands – like requiring more and more rest between sets. Don’t deload as soon as a planned weight is missed – give it a few sessions. If you notice a decline across the board couple this knowledge with…
  • A fatigued body that is not recovering between between sessions. Be cognisant of lingering muscle soreness and unusual tightness
  • General lethargy over a number of days should also be considered

The organic deload relies on a keen body awareness and a balancing act between ego: knowing when to rest, and complacency: knowing when to push. If used correctly it becomes a fluid part of the training program and fosters growth rather than hindering it.