“Don’t let it beat you.”

The last few weeks were tough.

I hadn’t been sleeping well. The crooks in my neck were starting to make a permanent home.

I hadn’t been eating well — laziness often got the best of me. Bojangles was my breakfast and lunch more times than I was willing to admit.

Still, I went to the gym. And I proceeded to stumble through mostly everything.

Me trying to make it through my workouts.

The first visit, I didn’t listen to my body. I jumped up 10 pounds on my squats and failed every set. While my overhead presses went well, deadlifts were another story.

No matter how hard I tried, no matter what I did, the.weight.would.not.move. It frustrated me to no end. I ended the workout with just one — ONE — rep done at a weight I KNEW I could take (160 lbs).

The second visit I was smarter. I moved back down to a manageable squat weight, but while I hit all my reps on the first 4 sets, on the 5th set, I squatted down and couldn’t come back up. I stayed in position, reevaluating my life, before I left the weight roll off my back and onto the safety rails. I thought of how funny I must look to the guys in the gym, contemplating my lack of focus at the bottom of a squat rack.

Frustration set in again, but at least I was able to complete most of my bench press reps. And, thank God, I could move 160 lbs this time. Not all was lost!

The third visit almost broke me. Everything about my squats felt off. My hips were aching despite me having warmed up. I was acutely aware of how tight my knees felt. On the second set everything went downhill, and I was so annoyed with myself that I skipped the last 3 sets in favor of overhead pressing. At least there was something that I was good at and I could move up to 70 lbs next week, I thought.

I failed my fourth set by 1 rep. Now I’d have to repeat the same weight next time, no progress for me. I threw my hands up.

FML.

By the time I made the trek across the gym to the wellness room for deadlifting, I was dead tired. It was a struggle just to complete my warm-up sets. 90 pounds to 110. 110 to 125. 125 to 140. 140 to 150. 150 to 160. I had to rest two minutes, sometimes three, between warm-ups. I sat down behind the barbell to rest my legs (silly, I know. The resting period wouldn’t last long enough).

Finally, I loaded the 170 pounds. I walked up to the barbell, set my feet, got my grip, set my hips. Pulled.

Nothing.

Set my feet, got my grips, set my hips, took a breath. Pulled.

Nothing.

To the outsider looking in, it probably looked like I was shaking a two sided, over-sized lollipop.

Still nothing.

While I struggled with this weight, this tall man who strangely resembled Simpson from Jessica Jones was doing ab work on the mat next to me. As I leaned over the bar, exhausted, he said,

“Don’t let it beat you.”

“I’m trying,” I replied, huffing. “I’m trying.”

But, I had given up trying. I was tired, I was beaten, and I didn’t want to try anymore. I dreaded my next workout. Why would I keep doing this only to be disappointed?

I wish I could say that I looked at how far I came and that gave me the motivation to go on. Honestly, I shut my brain off, went home, showered and went to sleep.

The next morning, I started working on fixing all of my bad habits.

It sounds cliche, but sleep does a body good. So does not eating junk. So does keeping stress down. All of the things that I needed for a healthy life, I needed to fuel my gym workouts. And my body was telling me that I needed to get my life right before it would allow me to progress in the gym. When I stopped listening to my body, it decided it was time to teach me a lesson.

Last week, I started listening to my body and it showed me what I could really do.

I finally reached my new personal record of 105 lbs on squats. I also completed all of my deadlifts at 170 lbs, which is just 2 pounds shy of my current body weight.

I thought I needed to take some supplement to boost my energy in the gym, but in the end it came down self-care. Was I sleeping enough? Was I treating my body right by nourishing it properly? Was I feeling OK mentally and physically? If the answer to one of those was no, my workout would suffer.

It’s simple, self-care, but taking the time to do it is often hard. But, if I want to progress in weightlifting, I need to make myself a priority. As I write this, it’s almost 10:30PM. I’m going to sleep. Time to eat, rest, and lift again tomorrow.

See you in the gym,

— D