A previous coach told me in my previous off season: “Don’t write down your workouts prior to doing them. You may feel differently or need a different approach when the day and time comes to hit the weights and complete the exercises.”
I agree…and I disagree, of course. I spent all of last year not writing down my workouts prior to going into the gym. This isn’t a newfangled approach. I have utilized gut instinct and a daily dose of “what do I need right and right now for my physique in the tomorrow land?”. But I feel there comes a point when writing down a workout prior to stepping into the gym effaces a bit of anxiety that can creep up during the beginning stages of off season.
There are phases I go through after completing my show season:
- I just want to do what I want to do how I want to do it when I want to do it. Basically, I am a two-year old brat who wants to race down the aisles of Walmart and swipe into my arms all of the candy, cereal, and toys I can physically hold…and then some. I move out of this phase pretty quickly.
- I feel a sense of urgency of reaching a level of improvement that surpasses my last off season. I tend to go through photos over the previous year, watch my abs disappear, and teeter totter back and forth between doing more cardio, doing less cardio, lifting heavy, doing more accessory work. This is a dangerous phase to reside in because while it is great I’m comparing me to me, it also provides a weird source of anxiety that I may not be able to be as good as I was. This can threaten immobilization and an unwillingness to take a few risks, do things a little differently than last year or any other year, and then earn my place on the road of self-fulfilling prophecy because I really won’t improve if I stay the same. Duh.
- I wriggle back into a workout structure that is like pairing an old pair of comfy, torn, 300-times-in-the-dryer jeans with a brand new pair of purple ankle boots that scream the latest fashion. I take what I know, mix it with what I don’t know but am about to learn, and I tell myself, “You always improve. Trust yourself.” This is the hardest phase, and I sometimes fall out of it like a quarterback fumbling a ball. But I always eventually regain balance and structure.
I don’t have a ton of help this off season like I did last off season. Well, like I did to start off the first few months of last off season because there a came a point when that assistance dwindled off, and I was on my own for 80% of my workouts and choices. Which is fine. I am an independent girl and have coached myself through plenty of off seasons and preps and done a dandy job.
But I know I most adhere to a particular train of thought in order for this off season to be successful and have it to lead to a more auspicious start to my competition prep in 2018 than what occurred for my Alaska prep in 2017. This quote from Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind leads us into my thought process quite well: “. . . dawn was a small beginning compared to the ending of a season: the ending of a year.”
Human beings love beginnings. New ones (as if there are old beginnings, though I suppose when you recycle an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, that is an old beginning and one I don’t recommend). But we don’t appreciate endings. We are saddened by them. Or we are anxious to say good riddance to something and end it once and for all, but for the sake of having a new beginning. I have tried hard since 2014 to appreciate my achievements in the moment. To string out the experience like Christmas lights along the long base of a rooftop. To marinate in the award of completing something successfully—even with the stumbles, pitfalls, mistakes. I practiced this heartily at the 2014 WPC Powerlifting World Championships. I hit 8 out of 9 of my lifts, earned the bronze medal for the United States, and set a world record in a class that had no world records set prior. Typically, in years past, I would have drowned in the mistakes and not appreciated the entire experience as a whole.
I have strived to experience my experiences more wholeheartedly ever since then. As a result, it has allowed me to understand and accept an ending of one phase as an important precursor to the beginning of another phase. Think about this in terms of relationships. If you never truly deal with both the good and the bad of the previous relationship and understand the importance of the ending, you cannot successfully begin a new and healthy relationship…healthy being the key word.
I think this happens in the fitness and athletic worlds—with powerlifting, strongman, karate, track-and-field, bodybuilding, etc. And I think it is worse in the arenas that an athlete competes independently of others, in other words, not on a true team where all members of the team are doing an athletic venture together in the moment to reach a common goal. We finish a competition, and then we either find grievous faults or we don’t know how to appreciate the goal earned without the interference of the next goal breathing down the past goal’s neck. So we never celebrate the ending. And sometimes…sometimes, the ending is more important than the beginning.
I am still ecstatic and proud of my ending to the 2017 competition season. I became a Phoenix bird as I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, and earned my fifth-place finish at the 2017 IFBB Arizona Pro. But I also re-lived, re-examined, re-inspected the Alaska prep and end result. By doing that, I came to terms with the mistakes made (by myself and others involved) and set them in a pile labeled, “Learn from this!” I had emotional, mental, and physical things to learn, but if I had chosen to turtle myself and hide from my 16-week experience leading into Alaska, I would never have risen to a level of personal pride and success for Arizona.
The ending of a chapter is necessary for the beginning of the next chapter. The ending of a season is necessary for the beginning of the next season. The ending of a relationship is necessary for the beginning of the next relationship. Don’t abuse your endings or hide them under your bed. Keep them in plain sight, for they create your might.