A Confession About Lifting Heavy

I was amazed at myself yesterday when I had a rather disconcerting epiphany.  I somehow realized I’d been committing one of my biggest pet peeves ever in terms of training.  And this was not a one-time slip up.  Oh no kind readers, this was a consistent and prolonged transgression that I continually speak about and desperately wish people (especially women) would better understand.  Lifting heavy.  And then lifting heavier – meaning working to capacity through progression.  That’s what my mind had me brainwashed to believe I was doing…until yesterday.

Turns out I have been coasting on my lower body workouts.  Yes, even though I devoted an entire post to the concept of  Go Big or Go Home, and it’s all I can talk about when people ask me what they should do at the gym, I realized that I have been deceiving myself on leg days for many months now.  Swell!

I love working my upper body.  I think it’s because the muscle response has been so consistent and quick.  I enjoy pushing to failure on almost ALL sets for each muscle group.  I really like it.  Even though I work hard, I truly consider it easy.  On the other hand, I don’t really enjoy leg days.  I hate admitting this fact, but it’s true.  I’ve had the hams, glutes and quads on a perpetual improvement plan since day one, but working them wears me out and makes me grumpy in general.  Seems I’ve let this disdain for working some of the largest muscles in the human body keep me from lifting to my full potential.  And that’s sad because I’m all about building muscle.

Today, after my first set of split squats, the realization finally dawned on me.  I was huffing and puffing and hunched over like I always am.  I always feel like I’m working hard, but for some reason I noticed that I hadn’t really pushed for those last two reps.  My mind was focused for a minute and this quick thought shot through my head, “I’M NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH!”  I pondered.  Have I ever in the history of my transformation journey worked even one lower body muscle group to failure?  No.  Never.  Ever.

But why?  How did this happen?  I felt like such a phony, urging so many people to really ‘push it’ at the gym and always progress.  I haven’t pushed much of anything lately, except the skip button on my iPod trying to find motivating tunes I so desperately need to get through leg days.  I have not progressed on squats in 6 months.  Deadlifts?  Same.  And on it goes.  I have lamented to myself in the past that my upper body is so much more defined than my lower even though I train ‘hard’ and I eat really clean, yada yada yada.  Yet somehow the most obvious reason for my lack of vertical symmetry escaped me for a really long time.

I feel a little foolish because we all know training is just as important mentally as it is physically.  I thought I understood this, but I REALLY get it now.  I must continually push myself on all fronts, all the time, in order to succeed.  It’s not comfortable, and it shouldn’t be if I want it badly enough.  I should have seen this coming because I’m not an all or nothing kind of gal.  I don’t adapt to change quickly, and I know this about myself.  In less than 2 years I have managed to adopt a consistent workout schedule, including conditioning (which I’ve done everything to avoid in the past) AND change my entire diet drastically.  This is not a heroic feat, but for me it’s a big deal, so it’s no surprise that I let something surreptitiously fall off the plate.  It’s a coping strategy that I will address, now that I actually know about it.  Additionally, I must admit I do have some fears about reaching all my goals.  What happens when I get there?  What if I have done all I can do?  What then?  Will this still be my dream?

Well, I don’t know the answer to that question, but my journey thus far has presented me with more joy and unexpected gifts than I could have imagined.   I’m ready to forge ahead, because even though I will be cantankerous and broke, thanks to iTunes, I’m looking forward to the bounty my full plate has in store!

Have you had any realizations that surprised you lately?  What did you do about it?