In my last post I talked about how I was lacking motivation, being inconsistent with my workouts, losing strength as a result, seeing dips in performance, and just feeling very lackadaisical in regards to my powerlifting. My answer to this was to alter my lifting program to try remedying these issues. And, to an extent it did work. I was much more consistent -- almost to a 'T' -- for about 4 weeks until the very same problems started creeping up again; laziness, waning strength, poor performance, lack of enthusiasm, etc.
During the time while I was on this altered program I posted a squat video on Instagram and in the text I detailed how I'd been feeling recently. I'd like to say that these feelings have been just in recent weeks, but realistically I've been feeling this way for close to 4 months now. On this post someone commented asking me when the last time a took a BREAK from powerlifting was. I answered that it was right after my most recent meet in October of 2016 when I took a little less than a week off but still trained with a barbell. But, if I'm being honest with myself, I don't think that's the kind of break he was really talking about...
Heavy lifting and intense weight training -- which is exactly what powerlifting is -- demands a high capacity for physical performance and mental grit. Over time this can really take a toll on the body and mind, and this toll can occur even if the proper protocols for rest and recovery are followed on a regular basis.
When I first started powerlifting I read a lot of articles about the sport; how to execute the lifts, how to program appropriately, how to train for a meet, etc. And I specifically remember reading in one of these articles (though I forget the author or the specific source) that for every few years you spending training for powerlifting you should take a nice, long break spanning multiple weeks. At the time that I was reading this it was almost laughable. I'd only been in the sport for a handful of months, and I wasn't even competing yet. My training hadn't reached a point yet where it was so taxing that my body would need to take an extended break like was being suggested. I actually remember thinking it was a silly suggestion. Why would I want to insert a break like that into my training? Wouldn't it just set me back?
Fast forward to today when I'm realizing how spot on that article really was...
I'm very thankful to my friend who brought it to mind when he commented on the Instagram post I mentioned earlier. He wasn't asking when the last time was that I took a few days off or maybe even a whole week. He was asking me when the last time was that I really gave my body, my mind, and my central nervous system a true break from the stress I'd been placing it under for the past 3 years. He wound up shedding some serious light on the fact that since November of 2013 I'd been training for powerlifting, programming for powerlifting, competing in powerlifting, learning and teaching powerlifting, living and breathing powerlifting, and I never gave myself a moment to step away from it.
I had been fully submerged since then, and I was so blinded by my desire to continue BEING a competitive powerlifter that I was ignoring what my body was asking me for.
Rest. Reprieve. A very intentional hiatus.
The symptoms I was feeling -- laziness, lack of motivation, lackadaisicalness, poor performance, decreasing strength -- are all your typical signs of O.V.E.R.T.R.A.I.N.I.N.G But I couldn't see it, because I didn't want to. In fact, even when this friend of mine originally posted his comment I was unable to accept it for truth. I shrugged it off. 'Nah, I'm good. I took a week off after my meet. I've been inconsistent, too, with training, so I'm sure my body is fine. My CNS is fine. My mind is fine. I'm just being weak.'
But at some point I'm going to need to face my very real fear of taking a break...
Ever since stepping foot into this sport I've been terrified of taking a step away from it. I'm afraid on some level that if I take a break for a little while I'll never come back. I'm also afraid that upon the return from a break I'll have lost a depressing amount of my strength. And, lastly but most importantly to me, I'm afraid that taking a break revokes my title as a competitive powerlifter.
So, as someone who derives so much of her self-esteem and self-worth from the competitive powerlifter title, it's really important for me to come to the following conclusions:
1. Taking a necessary break to allow my mind and body to recover is just part of the powerlifting process. Stepping away for a few weeks doesn't mean I'm not a powerlifter anymore. It's just part of being a powerlifter.
2. I will not lose all of my strength over the course of 2-4 weeks, especially not if I supplement my routine with other forms of exercise and continue to eat in the quantities I'm used to. In fact, it's possible that I'm going to feel even better, stronger, and more energized in my powerlifting once I return since this break was so obviously needed and belated.
3. It's up to ME to make sure I return to my normal training regimen once the break is over. In 2-4 weeks when it's time to step back into the power rack it's my responsibility to actually do so. The fear that I'll never return is irrational, because I'm 100% in control of what happens.
So, with all this being said, I'll be stepping away from the barbell for a little while. I haven't decided for how long yet, though. All I've planned for is this current week in which I'm going to do my kickboxing at a higher frequency than normal, and I'm going to add in hot yoga to take place of my normal lifting schedule. I'm hesitant to plan too obsessively since part of what I'm taking a break from IS the planning and programming and constantly THINKING about my regimen. I'll stay active, but I want to let my mind rest as well as my body.
This break is hard for me to admit, because I really hate showing weakness in regards to my lifting.
This break is scary, because even though I don't want to now, I might decide not to return to powerlifting.
This break is a leap of faith, because I truly am terrified of losing everything I've worked for over the past 3 years.
But this break has also made itself clear that it is no longer an option.
I can't keep grinding away at myself trying to force training sessions to happen and chipping away slowly at the love I have for this sport.
I'll come back stronger.
But for now I'm stepping away for my very intentional hiatus.