Sunday, March 25, 2012

When the ego gets in the way of smart training....

A bunch of us CrossFitters were out the other night, eating meaty things and drinking drinky things, and a blogger friend and I started yapping about the bloggerificness of it all. I was mock-hassling her about not posting very often, and her response was that it is hard to think up new topics for posts. I said something like, "Yeah, but lately I just try to think about whatever I have done lately and, invariably, there is something colossally stupid or, occasionally, vaguely smart that I did that gives me fodder for a post."

File this one, like most, under "colossally stupid."

See, I am fitter than the average 49-year-old you might work with, see at the mall, etc., but I am not particularly strong. I seriously suck at overhead lifts -- although I am hoping that tomorrow's (tomorrow? aaauggghh!) looming elbow surgery does wonders, over the long haul, to help that issue. My back squat is OK (one rep at about 1.5 body weight), and my front squat is similarly OK/mediocre as well. But my deadlift is a little better than all that. It is not astounding by any means, but it's my best lift. As of last Monday, when I was headed into CrossFit for a little deadlifting, my one-rep max was 365.... about 10 pounds over double bodyweight. Nothing awesome, but not bad for an old guy who weighs just a hair north of 175.

But old guy was not satisfied with that. No, old guy -- brimming with enthusiasm over the chance to get in One Last Pre-Surgery Lift Before My Arm Hurts So Bad Post-Surgery That A Cup of Coffee Feels Heavy, *and* hoping for a new PR -- went to CrossFit last Monday night all fired up.

We were doing three-rep deadlifts. OK, let's be clear: *they* were doing three-rep deadlifts. My plan was to do some threes until it got a little heavy and then switch to ones. Total beast mode, duuuuuuuude. One last hurrah! Hell, yeah! I was ready.

I am a jackass.

Here's how it went...

Oh, wait... I should mention that my lower back was already ever-so-slightly sore from doing heavy sled drags two days earlier.

Anyway, up the ladder of three-rep deadlifts we went: 3x135, 3x225, 3x275, 3x325. At that point, when asked by my lifting partner what the next weight was going to be, I donned the costume of the Lone Ranger of Ego, and said, "Fuck it. 375. If I screw around at a slightly lower weight, I might not PR my one-rep, and, I am really just here to PR my one."

Like I said, I am a jackass.

One rep at 375 went fine. Vaguely difficult, but totally solid. The second rep was not so good. It got about two inches off the ground before I failed. But I didn't care. Let's remember that I was there for a one-rep-max PR and I had just gotten it.

This is when sensible people would have quit. Failing a deadlift rep is not all that advisable in the first place. It is an enormous strain to dig in hard and not have everything work right. So, I already deserved at least a small kick in the ass for not realizing (or caring) that attempting a second rep at a weight already higher than my old one-rep PR was not terribly smart. Double the intensity of the boot to the posterior for doing that when my back already hurt to start the day.

But the triple-strength ass-kick should have followed my next words, which were, "What the hell.... Let's try one rep at 385."

The universe sensibly replied, "No."

I did it anyway. Well, I tried to do it anyway. The bar got about as far off the ground as the last failed rep.

But now my back definitely felt like it was strained.

This, of course, is the moment when I regained my senses, packed up my stuff and decided to skip the metcon that followed.

Ok, that's not what happened. Demonstrating nothing if not mindless consistency in my jackassery, I did the metcon too, five rounds of: five 225-lb deadlifts, 15 pushups and 8 chest-to-bar pullups.

Then my back really hurt, and, timing being everything, I couldn't even take an anti-inflammatory for it, like ibuprofen, because it happened during the two weeks prior to surgery when you can't take that stuff at all. Ouch.

*Then* I played volleyball the next night (Tuesday) because, you guessed it, it was my last chance to play before surgery.

You are catching the theme here, I presume?

By Wednesday morning, in more than a little discomfort, I had finally learned my lesson.

You might think that lesson is as simple as "Don't let your ego run your training," and that is a very large part of it, but I think it's maybe a little more than even that (extremely) useful mantra. If you trust your trainer -- and lord knows, if you don't, why is he/she your trainer? -- don't go into a workout where the trainer's prescribed rep scheme is three or five or whatever, and try to pull one freaking monstrous rep. It is not only moronic, from a potential injury standpoint, but against the designs of the trainer that you trust, *and* it is also wildly self-defeating, because as good as I briefly felt ("Yay me! One-rep PR!"), the ebullience passed pretty quickly in favor of the pissed-off realization that I had better sit out the rest of the week to let my lower back recover. So I did, grumbling under protest against myself.

Whether your training scheme is CrossFit or some other strength/conditioning program, there is a reason your trainer programmed the reps in a particular workout. When you listen to your ego and do dumb stuff just to PR, you may not only lose the benefit of that workout. You may miss the rest of the week as well.

Lesson finally learned.... and maybe just in time, considering the fact that whenever I get back to the gym post-surgery, I am going to need to leave my ego in the car and go inside with a plan to rebuild my strength in a smart, sensible way that doesn't involve a lot of failed reps.

Talk to you next time all jacked up on pain meds and hungover from general anesthesia....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

  1. I sure hope the surgery went well and best of luck on your recovery. I'm sure you'll be lifting those heavy weight easily again in no time.