When You Hit the Wall

We’ve all been in that place where we feel like we’re not making progress. Maybe you’re just starting out and making changes to your diet and fitness routine is harder than expected. Maybe you’re a veteran, with your routine locked in, but just aren’t seeing the progress you want. In either case, many people get discouraged, and either give up, or end up injuring themselves. Neither is a great option. I’m of the opinion that moving, and being active will always be better than not. Here’s a list of suggestions that I work through with my clients who become discouraged.

  • Define progress. Don’t underestimate the importance of deciding what it is you want. The old adage of “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there” is perfect here. What kind of progress are you looking for, and how are you measuring it? Are you tracking your workouts in a notebook? Lots of CrossFit boxes are using Wodify, or another program like it to allow members to track their progress. Do you forget to enter your times and attendance? If you don’t track what you’ve done, you’ll never know how far you’ve come, and that leaves the door wide open for discouragement when you’re feeling tired, or frustrated. Once you’ve decided what you want, come up with steps on how to get there. Come up with a plan, with short-term and long-term goals along the way.
  • Consider your stress bucket. I love the analogy of a stress bucket, which was first introduced to me by weightlifting coach Sean Waxman, owner of Waxman’s Gym, and I think the analogy has so much relevance not only to coaching, but to life. We all have stress in our lives. Our diet, sleep, work/school and relationships are what I think of as the common fundamental stressors in our lives. If we’re eating badly, not enough or too much, our stress bucket is a little more full. Same thing with sleep. Those two things are the basic blocks for physical well-being. Do you have extra going on at school/work, or are things tense at home? After all of that, we can consider what’s going on at the gym, which also adds stress. “But, I go to the gym to relieve stress,” you remind me. Many of us do, and it does help to relieve stress. That endorphin rush is a very real thing. However, as you work, you’re tearing down muscles, and generally fatiguing your body which adds stress to your bucket. Add on top of that the emotional importance many of us apply to how our workout goes, and we’re piling on more. Now, if your fundamental stressors are already taking up an inordinate amount of your bucket, it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for gym stress, and we start to overflow. Overflow means things stop going well, you stop making progress, or you injure yourself. I know from experience that sooner or later, you cannot continue to make progress in the gym if your stress bucket is over-full. It will catch up with you. And it means you need to address the other stressors before you can expect to make more progress. Sometimes, its as simple as dialing in your nutrition, or getting an hour more of sleep at night. Sometimes, it’s being a little gentler with yourself until things, which may be completely beyond your control, settle down at home. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reminded women at all stages (particularly during pregnancy, post-pregnancy) that there are times and seasons, and sometimes the gym and optimal fitness simply cannot be a priority. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way!
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  • Proceed carefully through pain. It is all too common, especially in CrossFit for clients to want to just “push through the pain.” Now, I’m not talking about the “burn” or the natural fatigue we all feel when we’re pushing ourselves to our limits. I’m talking about the pain that leads to or is the result of injury. I’ve had my share of injuries, and I’ve spent months going through recovery, and I can very honestly tell you that no workout is really worth an injury. Sometimes, you never see it coming. I had a friend who pulled his hamstring, just bending down to pick something up off the floor. It happens. I’m talking about shoulder pain, for example, that isn’t going away, and isn’t getting better, and may, in fact, be getting worse. Figure that out before you go all out on any movement. Let your body be your guide, and utilize your coaches. Many times they might know a thing or two, or they know someone who can help. Keep in mind that sometimes, you will need to invest in outside help, like a massage therapist, a chiropractor, or a physical therapist. Now, that doesn’t mean that you need to turn into a vegetable until you’ve made a full recovery. Every exercise can be modified, whether you CrossFit, or do yoga or Zumba. Keep moving. Just be smart about it. Only you can gauge how much pain is too much, so it’s up to you to listen. Remember, when it comes to injury, patience will be well-rewarded, and actually, your optimal health and fitness really require you to be patient, as difficult as that is to swallow.

Sometimes, if you’ve run smack into that wall, it’s entirely appropriate to back off. Find another activity that you’re more motivated to try, or that’s more enjoyable right now. If you really feel the need to stick with what you’ve been doing, know that modifications may be necessary, and that’s okay, Today, be kind to yourself. Love yourself a little more, and know that you are capable of really amazing things!

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