Listening to Your Body

Posted on 12. Mar, 2009 by in Exercise, Motivation

Last week, I felt very weak at the gym – relatively. By relative, I mean that I could barely lift the weights that I normally wouldn’t have a difficult time lifting. At the same time, I also couldn’t perform my usual number of repetitions/sets. On most days, I would just shrug this situation off and keep on going with the workokut because my strength usually improves once the Adrenalin kicks in. But, on this day, it really bothered me. It got me into thinking about what could be causing such an episode.

My initial thoughts went to what I did a few hours right before my workout:

  • I just finished my second fast for the week at lunch.
  • I didn’t eat my usual snack which I usually have at about 2 hours pre-workout.
  • I haven’t been drinking my water.
  • I downed a double espresso about 30 minutes before my workout.

As you can see, there are many possible culprits so I had to really pin it down to one or a few. I really think that fasting was out of the equation because I have been fasting on the same schedule and same frequency for quite some time and I haven’t experienced such effects. At the same time, I broke my fast with a bigger meal than usual (about 600 calories instead of the usual 300 calories) So, the lack of snack is probably not the reason either.

The last two things on that list really got me into thinking. I’m usually pretty good at drinking my water or tea throughout the day but I was so busy at work that I just completely ignored my drinks even though it was right there in front of me. If there is one thing I’ve learned in health and fitness, I definitely know that hydration can affect your performance at the gym. After all, we are made up of 55-60% water right?

I am also not used to drinking caffeinated drinks after 3 p.m. so this was new for me as well. I have heard of people drinking lots of caffeine to power up their workouts but for some people (like yours truly) may respond differently.

Another reason that came to my head was lack of rest in between workouts. I haven’t missed a gym workout for the last 12 consecutive weeks prior to this particular week but I did take one day off from the gym. Craig Ballantyne usually suggests taking a weeks worth of rest after going to the gym for 12 weeks but I was too stubborn to take a full week.

So what’s the lesson of the story? Listen to your body and be mindful of the things that you do prior to your workout because the little things that we do can have a big effect on our performance at the gym.

As for me, my upper body (mainly my arms and back) were actually sore for two days after that “weak” workout. It turns out, I may have pushed myself hard enough to elicit a response from my muscle fibers even though I felt like I could’ve done pushed myself harder after I left the gym that day. So if or when you have one of these moments at the gym, know when to stop. Your body can be a well-oiled machine (like this workout from Straight to the Bar) on most days but even the best ones need a rest or break down every now and then.

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  • Going at it for more than 10 weeks will usually do it. It sounds like you just ran into a brick wall. For me the brick wall is a mental one, rarely physical, but…your body is definitely telling you that it’s time to step back from the weights. While the brain will lie, the body does not. Good news is that you can still hit the HIIT’s and do a week of bodyweight circuits.
    ps. when Craig said to take a week off, I didn’t listen either. Welcome to the club!

  • Drink water. Plenty of water!!!

  • Hey Anna,
    I hear ya on listening to the body. I’m one to overdo as well! It’s hard to just take a break though. I read your website daily, keep up the great work! =)


  • admin

    Hi Mike, I know you’re a bit stubborn like I am too…haha. I actually ended up just working out through the week. I felt sore for the past two workouts but it wasn’t that bad. I still have abou two more weeks so I think I just might do bodyweights on the last week.

    Hi Francis, plenty of water right before my workout really does make a difference.

    Hi Hannah, I’m glad to see you here. We tend to really overdo things sometimes but I know that eventually we learn to listen to our body.

    Thanks for stopping by everyone!