Hell ain't a bad place to be

Thank God for satellite radio because the AC/DC channel has given me plenty of entertainment for the past couple of months. As I was driving home today the song after which this entry is named came on. In the actual song the singer finds himself in a relationship with a woman who maybe let's say doesn't always have his best interests in mind. At the same time she does possess certain abilities which he deems of value. This leads him to conclude that while he may in hell as far as his relationship goes, it really isn't too bad. This got me thinking about training.

How often do you find yourself in the middle of a tough set thinking "this really sucks" or "why the hell am I putting myself through this"? Yet, at the end of your workout you feel pretty good and are already making plans for the next day's training. It is interesting how you get from point A (hell) to point B (let's do it again). What can we do to facilitate the transition?

I have blogged a bit about the virtue of long timed sets which are the hallmark of kettlebell sport. I have also discussed some mental techniques to facilitate survival during them. Looking at the big picture though, I think perhaps the hardest part is getting started.

Recently I was paging through a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu book by Eddie Bravo. Eddie wrote that he used to have a lot of anxiety before rolling, even practice made him very nervous. For anyone with any experience at all with this, it can be a real stresser. Most people don't enjoy someone laying on top of them and trying to submit or suffocate them. Eddie said that once he started hitting the wacky weed before training, things really opened up. I am certainly not advocating getting stoned before training but I cite this example to show that everyone feels some stress even in training sessions. You know you are going to suffer some; so how do you deal with it without having to hit up your shadier acquaintances for some Maui Wowee?

The first thing is you have to have a plan. Put some thought into what you want to accomplish for the session before you walk into the gym. Best to have it written down because that involves at least three distinct steps. You plan it, write it, and review it again just before doing it. Second the plan has to be realistic. If you plan a PR every session, it won't be long before you will fail and burn out. Schedule some variety to keep it fresh. If you are striving for a goal, lets say a given rep number in an upcoming competition you can plan the variety around the goal. Maybe have a session or two during the week dedicated mainly to assistance work or perhaps a day dedicated to cardio. It breaks up the monotony and keeps it interesting. On the other side of the coin though is the bitter fact that this should be the exception, it is not all fun and variety. You have to work the basics over and over. So eventually you will find yourself like I do quite often these days. It is evening, you worked all day and you are tired. You don't really want to train. You are hungry and you sort of have a headache. Why not pack it in? It's dark out. Maybe you have a set of 20 rep squats planned or a heavy set of 2 arm long cycle. Whatever it is you know it isn't going to be a waltz through a gingerbread forest.

Here is how to handle this. First have a cup of coffee if you are so inclined. Caffeine will give you a little boost. Not too much though if you want a restful nights sleep. Stay away from those crystal meth-like energy drinks. When you get to the gym warm up. Establish a nice ritual with some joint mobility and easy stretching. This lets your body know it's go time. Once you are loose and warmed up it is a little easier. Getting into that first heavy set is like diving into a cold pool. I often use that mental image in fact. If you prefer it is like getting in a fight. You don't want to get hit if you can help it and you always fear the first shot. That fades once you get hit. (Especially if you get knocked out.) Seriously once the heart rate kicks up you are in the game. Now it is a matter of staying focused. By this time you have overcome the inertia of getting started and you may be feeling energized. In fact you probably forgot all about not wanting to train.

So far so good. We managed to get things rolling but we still have work to do. During a challenging set you are going to want to bail out. Guaranteed. If not, by definition, it wasn't a challenging set. Since we know this will come up what are we going to do about it? First I have said this before, if you are thinking too much during your set you will fail. Pretty much all self dialogue is negative, it might not start that way but it will end that way. That is why it is better to have a mantra. Here is the difference. Let's start with self talk. I will use myself as the example: "Come on Scott you have 10 more reps easy!" this leads to doubt "Really? Man this sucks. It isn't happening today" then to insults "Don't be a pussy, don't drop the weights" finally excuses "But they are really heavy and my lips hurt really bad" As soon as the phrase "drop the weights" comes up, even if it is preceded by the word "don't". In all likelihood its gonna happen. Contrast this with a mantra that involves no dialogue. Just a simple phrase..."two more reps" get your reps and mentally repeat it "two more reps". Heck, anyone can do two more reps.

There you have it, your road map out of hell, two reps at a time.