Exams and School
Growing up in our educational system, the exams were the climactic moment of our lives. If things went well, what a relief! You could walk around with relief, you did not have to worry about watching extra TV or grumpy parents or being arm-twisted into studying more. If things did not go well, argh, the annoyance of it all. The extra classes, the extra glares from the teachers, the stamp of idiot student, the curtailing of freedom at home - the world came crashing down.
And these blasted things would repeat multiple times a year. To top it all, there was a ranking system too, so you knew exactly how terrible you were.
The exams were always purported to be the climax. It did not matter if you learned anything. It came down to what your number on the blasted paper was, and on the blue cardboard thing aka the report card.
Benchmarks and Challenges
At the gym, the testing day of your training plan is akin to the exam. It is the climax of that particular training cycle. If you are on a deadlift program, this was the day you attempted to set a new personal record (PR). Or see where your 5k is at. Or whatever the appropriate challenge or benchmark is.
Initially, my brain mapped these benchmarks to exams. But then, I grew wiser.
Because even with a great training ethic, there were times when my benchmarks sucked. I did not set that PR that my training log indicated I was heading towards. I let the pressure and expectation get to me.
But instead, what happened were other random days when I felt like pushing extra, outside of the plan, coz the bar was flying. And PRs were set. This seemed to happen on the morning after a night of poor sleep and/or too much alcohol consumption.
That made no sense. And that gave me the liberty to relax.
Today, more often than not, the benchmarks and challenges and exams go as per plan. Because I am a lot more calm and relaxed about it. Because I do not have any expectations or pressure.
With that came a simple realisation.
The exam is not the climax. The exam is simply meant to be a place of assessment and understanding. That's it. As simple as that.
If your exam went well, then your prep is on track. Your technique is solid, the amount of work you are putting in is ample. If your exam goes poorly, that means you need to dig deeper into your prep. Do you need to improve your deadlifting technique? Do you need to spend more time on fundamentals? Do you need to rest more? It could be anything.
But that's all it is. An assessment. A place to recalibrate. And update the plan for the next few weeks.
A better plan = a better result. Almost always. And if not, shit happens. Tweak the plan. Keep showing up.