You think you’re at an 8… but are really at a 2

Truth: You think you’re working out at an 8. You’re actually working out at a 2. I don’t care how long you’ve been training; that’s just the reality. If that hurts your feelings, I’m sorry. It’s time for you to reestablish your baseline in order to define intensity.”

Joe Manganello

That was me until I took up powerlifting as a hobby.

Every session is a challenge. I walk into the gym, start warming up, do a few mobility drills before hitting the weights. I start with just the bar and slowly work my way up to my main sets. And right before the first work-set, I’m thinking “I’m pumped and I’m going to crush the next sets!”

I approach the bar with all that enthusiasm. Attempt the list and be humbled by a weight that’s merely 65-75% of my one-rep max. This happens all the time. Particularly when I get overconfident and am focusing on the performance aspect (the output) of the lift instead of the mental and physical aspect (the input).

Our expectations are really weird. We expect all our days to be an 8 (on a scale of 10, duh?). Some even think it’s a 10! But that’s just being unrealistic. How I’m feeling mentally and physically has a lot to do with my output. If I feel a 2 in between my ears there’s no way I can deliver an output that’s a 10 or even an 8!

Even if you’re convinced you can.

If your output is at 2… it is time for a reality check. You need to step back and analyze the factors that are affecting your performance. Pushing yourself harder would only aggravate the situation. In training, that means injury. And if you’re an athlete or even remotely passionate about fitness, that’s the last thing you would want.

We can’t be giving our 100% if we’re looking to push at a 110%. 

Instead of pushing harder, try lowering your baseline. Instead of a 110% try 70% and work your way up from there. Make it simpler for you to start over, work your way up to your baseline (your 100%), push your limits (a 105-110%) and then repeat. That’s a cycle. Fitness gurus will call it periodization. I simply call it a “life’s cycle.” Because that’s how our lives are.

We think we’re working so hard. But when our output doesn’t match up to our own (or our bosses’) expectations we think of better ways to push ourselves harder. Only to find that we’re still way off from the results we’d expected.

You need to back down. Create a new baseline and then start over. If you’re really at 2, you need to figure out how to get to 4 first. Not 10. Not 8. Not even 6. Get to 4 first. And once you get there, start over from 2, then 4 and then a 6.

Trust me, it’s a time-consuming process but worth the investment. You just might be shocked at the amount of work you get done when you’re at a 4 and a 6.

So, are you working out at an 8? Or a 2?

What’s your baseline?