Have you ever sat down and written out your lifting goals on paper? I think it’s part of being on a hot streak. When your lifts are going through the roof, you start to think about how much progress you’re going to make in the future months based on what you’ve done recently. So you plan out a month-to-month max out schedule, or maybe you plan out a whole year of meets if you’re a competitive lifter. You write a timetable where you’re going to increase your lifts by ten pounds every month or so, or maybe ten kilos on each competition lift between meets. Before you know it, you’ve got a sheet of paper in front of you that says your total is going to go up by a hundred pounds in the next year. Those weights you’re scheduled to hit will make you a national champion. Your excitement causes you to discharge a small amount of pee in your undies as you realize, “Holy crap, this is almost gonna be too easy! All I have to do is keep moving up each month the way I already have been!” Is it just me who used to do this in the early days, or is this a common one for intermediate lifters?
You know where this is going. A few months down the road, your lifts haven’t budged. You’re stuck at the same spot, and you now hate that sheet of paper with every fiber of your soul. You’ve slowed down, and you’ve gone from “I’m a lifting machine and nothing can stop me” to “I would slap my grandmother in the face for a new PR in the snatch.”
There are multiple reactions to slowing down. First, there might be an easy cause to pinpoint. John Dehmer commented on my last blog about times when you’re in the middle of a hot streak and then you get the flu, you sprain your ankle, etc. Those little derailments kick you in the wazzoo. I once had a time when I got injured, I lost my job, my girlfriend broke up with me, and my car broke down in a space of two weeks. When this happens, you just have to wait everything out and heal. You feel like getting on your knees and screaming, “God! Why now?!” Hey, you trying to understand these things is like me trying to understand why that girlfriend didn’t want to be with me. It just doesn’t make any sense, and I’m sure it wasn’t my fault.
Second, you can ask yourself if change is necessary when your hot streak starts to cool off. “I’m not making any more progress with the training program I’m using now, so I need a different one.” We’ve all probably thought, at some point, that we needed to modify things to keep the gains coming. And sometimes, I’m sure it’s probably true. There are undoubtedly some examples out there where lifters have retooled their technique or their workout routines, and everything got a nice big jumpstart. I’ve experienced this, so I’m sure many of you have too.
But you know what? I think many lifters are too quick to jump the gun on changing everything, because there are also times when you just need to stay the course and hang in there. You haven’t slowed down because of your program or your coach. You’ve slowed down because that is simply the life of the weightlifter. You’re doing the right things. You’re listening to the right person. Nothing is broken. It’s just that you’ve hit a wall, and the only way you can get through it is if you keep sledgehammering as hard as you can until some cracks start to show. If your system has been successful in the past, then it’s probably a good system. Don’t be afraid to trust it. I sometimes hear people say, “Everything works, but nothing works forever.” I understand the idea, but I can’t totally agree. There ARE some things that work forever, and there are also clearly some other things that DON’T work.
Want to know what I always thought about when my hot streaks turned cold? I thought about how life always boils down to a very simple decision. When things get tough, there are two ways you can go. You can either curl up in a ball and quit, or you can keep working and try to do better next time. For some reason, it always made me feel better to look at it like this. Simple choice…you either give up and walk away, or you keep pushing. It always seems comforting when you know that your whole life comes down to one clear-cut choice. The nice part of it is probably that we know we’re not going to quit, so we can put that out of our minds and get back to thinking about what really matters…the future.