- Lifter doubles workload in preparation for a powerlifting meet. He simultaneously halves his calories in an effort to shed bodyfat as quickly as possible. The last day prior to the meet, lifter eats and drinks nothing, then kicks ass at the meet. Lifter is unsatisfied with his effort, however, and decides to only take three days off after his meet and then re-embark upon the same training routine, but with periodic attempts to drastically increase workload to force physical adaptations while following a less strict diet. This means up to and including 11 heavy sessions a week, as opposed to 6 heavy and 5 light, as he'd been doing previously. This is where the fun begins.
- After a week of 3 hour to hour-and-a-half ultra-heavy and three moderate squat sessions, lifter's legs cramp uncontrollably. To compensate, lifter switches to deads the following week.
- More cramping of the back and legs ensures. Lifter switches to one arm deadlifts every morning, and three weekly nighttime sessions. In his arrogance, lifter turns to chat with someone while doing a one arm deadlift with 315, causing his right leg from the hip down to become irrevocably fucked. Pain shoots through his hip girdle, his IT band knots up like some dickhead pirate decided to practice square knots on it for a week, and his lower back feel like it's got a white-hot knife in it all the time.
- Lifter then switches to clean and jerks, every morning, to work on form and stretch out the forearms and legs. More cramping in the leg results, followed by tremendous knotting in the brachialis, brachioradialis, and all of the silly little dickbag tendons tying the upper forearm into the elbow joint.
- Thus, in his last workout, he was reduced to machine bench pressing, which pissed off his right shoulder.
- He is now a cripple.
I'm the guy with the RPG, but I'd have it pointed at myself.
In case you hadn't guessed it already, the above lifter is me. I somehow managed to transform my general mindset of "fuck everyone, I rule" into "Fuck you body! Rule more!" That, my friends, was a mistake. As I lost use of bodyparts, I increased the workload, massively, on everything else as I kept my total workload constant and dropped lifts from my grab bag. I was effectively punishing the rest of my body for losing the ability to train the parts that were pissed at me, and ended up spending 6 hours trying to roll out knots (unsuccessfully, for the most part) in my back, shoulder, hips, and legs with a Theracane, tennis balls in a sock, and my knuckles all day yesterday. I've spent the entire morning today with my left forearm pinned between the arm of my chair and my desk surface, trying to grind out the knots in my forearm.
Considering getting all Evil Dead on it.
Not a good time. Though I probably should have had a period of reflection as the whole deal started to turn south, I was so convinced that I could force my body to do what I wanted that I ignored every sign to the contrary. Mike Tuscherer recently commented on this phenomenon, and stated:
"You have to know when enough is enough. This will really be common sense, but we Powerlifters tend to toss that aside sometimes.
If you feel an injury coming on, stop. If you’re not confident in hitting a weight, should you be doing it in training? If you’re too tired to maintain focus, call it a day. The list goes on.
These are really important for everyone, not just solo lifters. But for the solo lifter, the stakes can be higher." (source)
At this point, using my Theracane's kind of like pissing on a housefire.
So, what does this show us? You might be the master of your domain, and you can employ all of the mind power you want, but at some point, you may be doing more harm than good. Thus, if you've come to the realization that you've been flogging yourself like a fucking donkey all day long, for weeks, to drag ass into the gym, you might be spinning your wheels at best. Take a good long look at what you've been doing, and adapt your training to fit your environment. As such, you should not leave your volume at the same level as it was when you were totally healthy, drop exercises, and continue on- adapt your volume to match your work capacity. This way, you won't beat your body into a shambles while you recover.
Me, on the way to my last workout.
If you want a bit more scientific method for determining your level of recovery for a given day's workouts, you can try Tuscherer's TRAC system. It's a comprehensive bit of software (by its appearance) that should help you figure out when you need to dial it back a bit, based in large part on the Bulgarian biometric system. Unless it's got krieg sirens and lights that go off if your death is imminent, it likely won't be of much use to people like me, but at the very least it will be a fun tool for the tool box, and a nice counterpoint to stories about Stoitsov barely being able to walk and still hitting PRs after forcing himself to hit the gym.
It's all about the journey, not the destination. Every journey has some detours, switchbacks, blowouts, and sundry other fuckups. We all make them- the key is to learn from them. As such, I'm taking this time to reevaluate everything I'm doing, from my lifting routine to my diet, and trying new and old variations to see if I can both spur recovery and improvement simultaneously. This doesn't mean that I scrap everything- it means I look back on my training and dieting to recall exactly what worked, when, and to revisit something that I used to do or incorporate something new, all while working within the basic framework of what I know to be useful for me. This is what everyone should do on a free-wheeling regime like Chaos and Pain, but occasionally those of us who are a bit hard-headed might need our bodies to jump up and bitchslap us as a reminder.
Get introspective, then get brutal.