I thought I was over it – that feeling of anxiety about the amount of weight on the bar. But this week I realized I’m not. Squats, deadlifts, and bench (to an extent) have me pausing in reflection instead of asserting myself and just lifting.
I am cautious by nature. I take my time acclimating to new experiences and approach change slowly. But I had assumed that knowing my goal (a 400-pound deadlift, 300-pound squat, and beating my previous 159-pound meet record for bench) would make it easier for me to increase weight on the bar and be appropriately assertive (or aggressive) when lifting.
Last week I had a massive deadlift PR: 3×5 sets at 315 pounds- beltless. So this week (with my eyes on 400) I thought a 3×5 at 325 pounds beltless would be a breeze, or at least very do-able for me. I loaded the bar, chalked my hands and stepped up to the bar. Hah! I was only able to pull one rep without my belt. One. It was kind of a let down. My heart sank a little because I wasn’t able to continue without a belt. Somehow I forgot that I just lifted 325 pounds. By myself.
Instead of dropping the weight I put my belt on and began again. One. Two. Annnd three. I was able to pull 3 reps but they felt heavy and hard. One of my Movement coaches (David Dellanave) asked me what RPE (Rated Perceived Exertion) it was, whether I had anything left after last lift. In my head I didn’t. It felt like I could have ground through one more rep, still shy of the 5 reps in my programming. It just felt heavy.
My second set went up easier, but I was exhausted by the 3rd rep. (Side note: David thought my initial RPE assessment may have been skewed because of the ease he saw in the second three reps.) By my third set it was all I could do to lift because I had decided it was heavy (sometimes it IS heavy – especially when you are seeing stars) and my final lift was a grind. I got it up and locked out, but it wasn’t my easiest lift.
And then there were the squats. The lovely, difficult, heavy squats. It was much the same as the deadlifts earlier in the week. Last week I was doing sets of 5X3 and this week it was sets of 4X3. My first set at 265 pounds was beltless and HEAVY. My second beltless set? I didn’t get the third squat up (yay for squatting inside the rack with safety bars set). So I put my belt on and everything was much lighter – with better form. Slight disappointment that I couldn’t complete the sets without a belt, but happy to come to the conclusion (thanks Mark) that any squat up to 250 pounds can be done beltless but above that, belt on.
Why was it so much harder this week? I’m blaming the fact that I’ve got numbers running around my head, messing with me. I have it in my head that each week I have to be at least incrementally better at my lifts than I was the previous week – without a belt. And each week the weights get heavier and my mind gets more anxious – “what if I can’t lift what I did last week?”, “what if I can’t lift more than I did last week?”, “why do I need my belt?”, “I am not progressing fast enough” and so on.
So, how will I get over it? I don’t know. But I know I’ll have help.