Friday, August 19, 2016

Exercise as a mind game

I think there is always a balance between how much increasing the difficulty of your work out routine is actually about slowly building up to build strength and avoid injury and how much of it is just a mind game you play with yourself.  A game where you say "it doesn't matter that I feel exhausted, I can do more" or perhaps "I don't care that the weights look crazy big" or "I'm going to ignore that I'm intimidated by what I'm about to do."  Anytime you increase something there is always that nagging fear in the back of your mind that you aren't really sure if you can do it or not.  Which is mostly a healthy fear- it keeps you from pulling muscles and doing other stupid things to yourself.  But that fear gets in the way of moving on as well.

Growing up as a teenager I loved doing situps.  For one I could do more of them than anyone else I knew with only a few exceptions.  If I had a situps competition with someone else the explosion of power I could command at the start of a set honestly surprised people sometimes I think.  For another it was amazing how many daily life activities became easier to do once my abs muscles were in top shape.  And honestly sometimes the sheer strength was just fun to have.  I was strong enough I could lay on my back and flip my legs up so powerfully so as to throw myself into the air and land in a standing position.

It took probably several years of work to get to my peak- when I did 3 sets of 300 situps 3 times a week.  A lot of that time I spent just being scared- 100 situps in one set was a lot and I felt sore when I got up that high.  It just simply scared me that doing that many seemed kind of insane.  The soreness towards the end of the set of 100 just never seemed to go away.  Finally I got fed up with it and decided to push through the soreness to see how many I could do before failing.  I jumped very quickly from 100 situps to 300.  I discovered it wasn't about whether I was ready to move on physically, it was just a mind game.

Since I started exercising again I haven't really had many specific goals, except that I want to be able to do 300 sit ups again.  After learning how many I could do without feeling like I had practically pulled something I set a goal to always try to beat my last week's routine by 5 situps per set.  As I approached 100 it had me wondering, how much of this is just a mind game again?  I didn't want to recklessly push to see how many I could do before failure, but increasing by 5 has just been painstakingly slow.  In the range below 100 I felt like I had to fight for every increase and sometimes spent a couple of weeks in a row without increasing at all.  Since I past the 100 mark I've started to pick up the pace.  Instead of increasing by 5 every time I've been increasing by 15.  Last week that would have landed me only 10 away from 200, so I pushed through and increased by 25 just to be able to say I hit that mile mark.  Then today I was psyched up enough I increased by 25 again, up to 225 per set.  As I was working through the 3rd set going above 100 I just felt exhausted and scared that I couldn't do it.  225 situps just feels like an insane number, how could I push to that so quickly?  But for the rest of the day my abs have felt fine- no problems.  Tomorrow the stiffness will probably set in and I'll spent 2-3 days feeling the consequences of my rush.  It begs the question, what will I do next week?  And the week after that?  Am I at the point where physically I'm ready but I still have to win the mind game to keep up the pace?  Will it only take me another 3 weeks to get to 300?  Or will I be forced to slow down again, collapsing in exhaustion on my exercise bench?  I simply don't know what to expect.

The problem with doing endurance training with really high repetitions is that they take a long time to complete.  I could use adding maybe another wrist exercise to my routine but I don't have time right now.  Once I hit 300, I plan on switching my situps to be more focused on weight training instead of on high repetitions.  Lets see if I can still do 50 situps while holding 10 lb of weight.  I've never done situps with weights so I don't know what to expect.  But I know when I sit down on that bench there is always the fear that I won't be able to complete  my crazy goals.  But I'm doing it anyways.  Right now I'd say I'm winning the mind game.  And why not?  It's fun.