5 Lies You Keep Telling Yourself
When I was 10 years old I set off a firecracker in my cousin’s backyard. My parents thankfully didn’t hear it because if they had I certainly would not have lived long enough to write this blog. It’s easy to forget, now that my parents are grandparents and have mellowed out by about 12,000%, how intense they were when we were kids but, believe me, they were. Don’t let the current sweet façade fool you.
Unfortunately my brother and cousin Lee did hear it. And they knew very well that if my parents had found out that it would be the end of me. But rather than rat me out they proceeded to hold it over my head the rest of that Summer. Any time the two of them were together and wanted something done all they needed to do was extort me with the “do it or we’ll tell Mom and Dad about the firecracker” blackmail and, for fear of being outted, I would comply with whatever they asked.
And while I didn’t exactly lie to my parents, not just fessing up and continuing the rouse taught me a good lesson – facing the facts would have saved me from having to abandon my street touch football game in order to get my cousin a bagel with cream cheese from the deli at his whim.
When it comes to your fitness, I suggest you learn this lesson as well. That you admit the lies that you are telling yourself right now and either face the music and accept them or do something to change them. Because the last thing you want is to realize months or even years down the line that you were just fooling yourself and have the proverbial firecracker blow up in your hand.
I can get lean at any time. Maybe at one point in your life you had six pack abs. Or you’ve spent a lot of time in that 12-14% body fat range. And as you go between strength training and hypertrophy phases and all-you-can-eat barbecue rib nights with your boys you tell yourself, “no problem, I can get (or get back to) being lean whenever I want”. While getting lean is not complicated, it certainly isn’t easy – particularly being very lean - and doesn’t just happen. You have to have incredible discipline, consistency and dial in the finer points of your diet in a way that will take over your life. Night’s out with the guys, staying up late to Netflix and chill with your girl and lunchtime visits to the taco truck all have to be put on the back burner for a while as fight off hunger and the temptation of a good time in order to get a good look at your obliques. It’s even harder if you have been sitting at a higher body fat percentage for a while and have established that as a set point. Remember, when your systems are running smoothly and you’ve achieved homoeostasis your body will resist changing. So the longer you’ve been away from being lean, the harder it will be to get there.
One final note on this, hopefully to make you feel better. It seems that performance is actually improved at a slightly higher body fat percentage. So if moving more weight or improving your Fran time of adding some much needed muscle is important to you, not being super lean all the time could be of benefit. So enjoy the Sunday morning donut, Diesel.
I used to bench 300 in college. This is so cliché that it’s become a running joke in the fitness industry. So many people want to talk about what they used to do rather than what they can actually do right now. What you used to bench, squat or deadlift is mostly irrelevant. And, quite frankly, no one cares. Sure, if you won the Heisman Trophy or an Olympic Medal, by all means, talk about that until the end of your days. Otherwise, just focus on what you need to do to get better right now. Make tomorrow your glory days, not high school.
Related is the “I did x weight for 9 reps which means I should be able to do z weight for a double”. This type of percentage-based extrapolation can help you when trying to load the bar for a max double as it’s good to have some guidelines to go on. But until you’ve actually lifted the weight you haven’t lifted the weight, no matter what the math says. So stop telling people you can, in theory, squat 400 pounds and just squat the 400.
Programming doesn’t matter. As long as you train consistently and with some intensity what you are doing in the gym doesn’t matter. This has been the rallying cry of many an internet guru and, to a point, it has some merit. If you are completely untrained or very inconsistent with your training doing something, anything, will be an improvement over sitting on the couch or your once-per-week treadmill walk while reading Us magazine. But once you’ve got past the point of rank beginner programming details do matter. Progressive overload, specificity, adaptation, work-to-recovery ratios and all the other principles that drive progress in training need to, at some point, be managed. And the more experience you have in the gym the more critical this becomes. As you advance can you self-monitor and adjust your training on the fly a bit more? Sure. But even these variances are quite small in the best lifters, athletes and trainees. So develop a sound plan (or, better yet, have an objective and knowledgeable outsider create one for you) and follow it. Your gains will thank you.
I Need To Do This Before I Do That. We have a talented weightlifting friend, let’s just call him George, who never lifted in competition. His justification was, “well, I need to hit this number and that number before I get on the platform.” And then when he did hit those numbers his standards for beginning competition would always increase. You know what happened when he finally decided to compete? Nothing. He made a respectable total, didn’t medal nor qualify for any big national meets. Of course he didn’t. It was his first meet and no one would expect a different result. But what he did do was rob himself of valuable years of competition experience, setting a competition total that he could then try to beat and, quite possibly, getting to the national level much sooner. We see this thing a lot. I need to fit into this size before I go wedding dress shopping. I need to do 100 handstand push ups before I go to my first CrossFit class. All these false expectations are doing are keeping you from getting the experiences you want and are important to you.
You Only Regret That Which You Do Not Do. This is 100% true. Except when it is not. We are huge proponents of stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a risk. Progress and personal growth does not happen without it. However there are times that you should stay in your lane. Loading weight up on a bar that you are incapable of and then predictably failing that weight does not help you. Being reckless in your training will stall progress at best and get you hurt at worst. And, at risk of getting out of our lane, this is as true outside the gym as it is within it. Taking a job or jumping into a relationship that you are unsure of because, you know, carpe diem, will not usually net the best result. And while it’s easy to hide behind and champion yourself for this warrior mentality, being patient and working towards the thing you actually want is almost always the hardest thing. So don’t be so quick to jump. Bet Sony wished they’d thought twice before green lighting the latest “Ghostbusters” movie.
Obviously it’s been many years since I lit the fuse on that firecracker. I bet no one in my family remembers anything about that 4th of July, never mind the terror that I felt the minute that it exploded. But that’s the funny thing about the lies and mistakes you make in life. We tend to give them much more value and importance than they are actually worth. The best we can do is learn our lessons and move on. But sometimes that is the hardest thing. I don’t think I’ve lit a firecracker since. Sony sure as hell isn’t about to make a Ghostbusters 2. But I’m sure, on the other side of it, I still constantly repeat some of my mistakes. Load up the bar with too much weight. Throw the program out too soon. Jump into something too quickly. Mistakes will continue to be made. I’ll keep telling myself the same lies to make me feel better about them.
And, Mom and Dad, if you are reading this, let me say, 30 some-odd years too late, that I am sorry. Having my own son I realize how important keeping your kids safe truly is. I’ll try to not let it happen again.