Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we are our own worst enemy.
That’s part of the beauty of training, pushing yourself to your absolute limits and having a coach/training partner/program that knows when to ramp things up and when to slow things down.
But we know that all gyms aren’t created equal. And that not everyone has the benefit of a great coach, training partner or community to turn to. How do you navigate as a beginner or intermediate lifter to make sure you’re safely and correctly working toward your goals?
For starters, make sure you aren’t committing these five common mistakes.
1. You’re over-training
More is not better, especially when it comes to strength training. Yes, you need overload in your program to generate adaptation and improve. But your body can only take so much. If your workouts are dragging, you’re unusually sore and tired all the time and are struggling to hit your numbers you could be overtraining (and causing all that discomfort).
As tough as it can be, your body needs to rest to repair and rebuild. Can’t sit still? Work in some easy active recovery, like swimming or biking, instead. Mentally, this can be a challenge —if you work harder you’re supposed to get better, right?— but there comes a time when this can be counter-productive in CrossFit and lifting.
2. Your inflammation is through the roof
How to tell? Check your diet. Unfortunately the thinking that because you work out you can eat whatever you want is flawed for a lot of reasons, chief among them that —if you actually want to get stronger and look good— you have to think of food as fuel. Fueling up with crap all the time is going to, wait for it, leave you feeling like crap.
There’s all kinds of studies on the body’s response to inflammatory food (processed grains, sugar, etc.) and the health benefits of cutting back —if not totally eliminating— most of that stuff. We don’t care if those brownies are Paleo or that you can make 5 cookies fit your macros, they’re loaded with sugar and don’t have a place in your daily intake. Splurges or cheat meals are fine, but if your diet’s a mess, your sleep and overall recovery will also suffer. And then there’s really no questioning why your body feels so bad on a daily basis is there?
3. Your programming sucks
OK, sucks is harsh but this is an important one. If you’re a CrossFit athlete, your box should be incorporating variance in skills, strength and metcons. It’s OK to be on a squat cycle or have programming that favors gymnastics work for a few months. It’s not OK to be doing Hero WODs twice a week or deadlifting three days in a row. (In fact, it’s probably causing you a world of hurt.) If you aren’t sure, ask a coach or gym owner to explain their methodology. Most good gyms/programs won’t hesitate to give you more detail.
If you’re a powerlifter or weightlifter, the bulk of your training is going to be the main lifts you’re competing in. But adding in accessory work to help strengthen certain muscle groups, and keep your imbalances in check, can be a game-changer. If you’re in pain a lot (and chances are since you’re reading this, you are) consider adding isolated strength-training movements and eccentric training to help your tendons and ligaments. The explosiveness of the Olympic lifts are a lot on your joints and, in powerlifting, things like benching can easily make your shoulders tight if you aren’t doing concentrated accessory work to combat that.
4. Too much competing, not enough training
Competing and hitting new PRs can be a huge thrill. But it could also be the reason you’re so beat up all the time. Consider this: if you’re a lifter, you’re going to have to taper for at least a week (maybe two) heading into your meet. Then you’re down for a few days after to recuperate. That’s a few weeks of missed regular training. A few times a year, it’s OK. But long-term, if you’re a beginner or intermediate lifter, you need those reps and that practice time.
The same goes for CrossFit competitions. (Please, please don’t be the person testing heavy workouts a day or two before. Your central nervous system will be smoked.)
It’s not glamorous, but consistent training —with the occasional competition— is going to allow you the safest, most-effective way to get better. Unless you’re a nationally-ranked lifter or CrossFit Games athlete, competing shouldn’t be the top priority (and you shouldn’t be competing through pain.)
5. You’re not holding yourself accountable
Be honest with yourself. Are you squatting to full depth? Are you doing push-ups correctly? Or are you flailing around and cheating range-of-motion to “win” that day’s workout or brag about your 500-lb. squat PR?
The old “you’re only cheating yourself line” works well here, as does the reminder that if you aren’t doing the movements properly you’re setting yourself up for injury. Lose, lose.
Top photo credit: Heavy Athletics