Although you may not realise it, you prevent your own progress.
It’s easy to do and we’re all guilty of it, even if outwardly you have awesome dedication and have all your bases covered.
What do I mean by this?
Let me illustrate with an example, let’s say you wake up one morning feeling a little more tired than usual, you look in the mirror and notice you’re looking worse than normal, sharp abs have retreated to a blurred outline and you’re looking a little less “full”. What’s more, you feel a bit sore and in all honesty the prospect of heavy squatting today doesn’t seem too appealing.
“Maybe I’ll take a few days off?”
“Actually, maybe I should de-load”
“I’m obviously run down, I should probably refeed or relax my eating a bit for a few days”
“In a few days I’ll be right as rain and can train heavy again”
one step forward…two steps back.
I’m not saying everyone automatically thinks like this and I’m not saying that backing off when its needed is bad. Some people will press on and stick to their plan come hell or high water and in that instance sometimes they need to pay more attention to how they look and feel. You should always check yourself for feedback but feedback is only beneficial if you can interpret it properly.
It’s human nature to avoid discomfort and seek the easy path – even if you don’t THINK you’re doing it. In the above example you could easily bolster all of the conclusions with scientific backing…
- I feel tired and slow, this suggests CNS down-regulation, perhaps the on-set of adrenal fatigue, continuing to train heavy may exacerbate these symptoms and I may be at risk of overreaching; I should rest for today at least.
- I look soft and flat, obviously I’m not sufficiently replenshing glycogen stores after training which could negatively affect performance, I need to up calories and eat more carbs.
So, in theory, both decisions could be totally correct. However, the above decisions could equally be skewed, after all, carbs are nice and a night in front of the TV is certainly easier than fighting the heavy barbell resting on your shoulders. By extension few have the tenacity to wake up, look in the mirror and think, “maybe I should AVOID carbs for the next few days” or “I know my legs are sore and I’m tired but maybe I should go and squat anyway”. We have a natural propensity towards the easy decision and an understandable aversion to discomfort, a proximity bias.
There is an easy way to avoid this problem, quantify yourself.
If you have absolute measurements on which to base your decisions then it takes whatever tendencies you have out of the process, you can’t ignore numbers and figures.
Its worth noting that although this is the best way to improve the problem of self management, it still isn’t an exact science. At the end of the day, if you’re persistently bias, even the most consistent measures can be fudged and influenced. The best way to ensure you make the right decision each day is to hire someone awesome to do it all for you (propanefitness cough cough). Anyway, shameless plug over.
So, how can you quantify yourself? I’ve been experimenting with some of these methods for over a year now with decent success, below are the ones I consider to be most effective:
A piece of software from www.reactivetrainingsystems.com, It combines various tests for neural recovery and performance, as well as a normative question list for recovery.
The software records this data and spits out a training recommendation for the day. My suggestion, use this as your guide but don’t follow it blindly. If the software advocates a rest day, consider honestly how you feel and at the very least, drop the intensity of your training that day. Equally, if it suggests upping the volume, go for it!
Broad and Vertical jump tests
Both serve as a brilliant measure of neural performance. Optimally, I’d include this test along with TRAC to build a pretty transparent picture of how your nervous system is functioning on that day.
Obviously, you need to be able to measure this and broad jump would probably be the easiest method for most. Pick somewhere that allows plenty of room to jump and where you can easily mark the distance. If on a given day you overshoot your regular performance, push your training, if you fall short, scale things back.
An increase or decrease in morning oral temperature is an indicator of metabolic function. Again, not an exact measure but it works well for our purposes here. Take your temperature each morning and note down the value.
When you observe a drop in morning temperature by 10-20%, up your calories. Begin by adding calories around training. Keep this elevated intake until your temperature rises again, this should allow you to keep diet progress linear and eliminate any temptation to add calories when they aren’t needed.
If you listen, your body will give you all the feedback you need. Make a habit of really paying attention to how you feel and look. If you wake up and feel terrible, there’s probably something wrong, equally, a spring in your step tends to mean you can push things harder that day.
Blurred abs but full, hard muscles indicate too many carbs, but if muscles feeling soft to the touch and you will a little sluggish it could be an indicator that you need more carbs.
The only problem with this option is that it is open to interpretation, there is no solid data. My advice would be, start with the first 3, learn how you feel when the data tells you different things and eventually you’ll graduate to be able to regulate your diet and training yourself.