progress, or lack of

One of the best parts of my job is conversations with the people who train with me. Almost every time, it is a learning opportunity for me. Plus, the coaching advice I end up doling out is almost always relevant to me as well. Except it is much easier to see the truth when it is someone else.

Raj working on some flows. Photo courtesy: Rahul Sadagopan

At The Quad, we have a quarterly training cycle. We introduce new skills, accumulate volume, build a base for the first half. And then we intensify things for the second part of the cycle. The ultimate goal is to benchmark where we are towards the last week of the quarter. Then, take a week off. Repeat.

This quarter, we've been doing an interesting press progression. Starting with a Z-press, moving to a tall-kneel press and finishing with the standing press. As the intensity builds up, the stance becomes easier and the idea is for it all to come together as you re-learn how to wedge and brace and all that fun stuff.

square one

As part of the training session, I ask my students to share their training log with me at the end of the class. This is a great opportunity to continue the conversation, as well as developing the habit of writing down what you did.

One of my students, let's call them Neil (not his/her real name), sent me their numbers (training log) for the day and was comparing it to something from a few weeks back, remarking that it had taken them the past few weeks "to get back to square one".

Obviously, said with a tone of disappointment and self-reproach and all that.


Except Neil had missed two of the press days (we press only once a week; most press programmes have you press 3 times a week) over the past few weeks.

Neil had been pulling a few all-nighters at work. In addition to managing a crazy transition over the past few months as most of us have, due to the pandemic.

Shattered two plates and froze them
Photo by chuttersnap / Unsplash

In addition to doing all that one needs to do in life - pets, kids, family, friends and all that.

So, here's what I told Neil. And it is something I should be reading/following closely as well. Maybe you do too.

one piece

As Coach Dan John is fond of remarking, the body is one piece. If you are happily doing a seated press and I come in and poke your foot with a fork, you are not gonna be happy and will quickly realise what he means by the body is one piece.

Similarly, our training is not isolated from our lives. We cannot view the weights we lift or the distance we run or the times we set based on a random, misguided sense of "oh it needs to be better than last time".

Yes, you are putting in the effort. That's wonderful. You are showing up to the gym. That's definitely applause-worthy, at a time like this when work is nuts.

But look at the overall picture. Effort is not just what you do at the gym. Effort is how much sleep are you getting, how's your stress, how much fun are you having, is the crazy dialled down across the rest of your life?

We all want to kill it at the gym, whatever that means. That's missing the point. And that's setting us up for disappointment.

Expand. Look at the larger picture.

Your body is one piece.

Your life is one whole.

Meaning what exactly

If the volume knob at work is set to crazy, or the volume knob for fun is set to 'start drinking in the morning coz its party time', then the goal at the gym is "high five for making it to the gym".

If the volume knobs at the various parts of life are balanced, then trying to go on a strength cycle or gainzzzz or 'run a faster 10k' or whatever you want makes sense.

What I find works is about two 8-week periods in the year where I dial things up at the gym - those times I can expect and demand forward progress. And punch the clock for the other 8 months, learning new skills, playing more sport and goofing around.

Finding my roots
Photo by Jeremy Bishop / Unsplash

There's more to life than random numbers and games that don't add value.

There's more to life than just work.

I don't know the answers but I am getting more times on the path just by spending a lot of time off of it.