Loving the plateau — inside the gym and outside of it!

I used to hate squats. And it still isn’t my favourite lift. But I LOVE having squatted and make gains. In retrospect, the only reason why I used to despise the exercise was because I wasn’t making any significant progress. I would start with lighter weights only to crumble under a heavy load that my body wasn’t prepared to handle. I would then be left with no option but either to start a new cycle (or go back to the first week of the program) or start a new program altogether!

Breaking out of that plateau was even harder. In fact, it took me close to six months for a measly 10 pound gain! It was horrible!

I reached out to a powerlifting coach to write me a program that would take my squatting to an all new level. During the initial call I asked him the reason behind “not growing” compared to the other lifts. And he sagely replied, “Sunil, you need to learn to enjoy the grind. Savouring the plateaus is the essence of what life is all about.

At that moment I did scratch my head wondering who schedules a call with a meathead for philosophy? But I knew deep down he was right. I was focusing on the fruits of my accomplishment than the joy of harvesting the fruits. One of the key learnings that I’ve had with strength training/powerlifting in general is the art of enjoying the plateau and enjoying the process. Just like strength is built with lifting medium weights (between 70-85% of your one-rep max) so does your resilience to stay at the plateau and keep practices what you’re really weak at.

Brain Johnson of Optimize summed it up (based on George Leonard’s book Mastery) the best — “we MUST learn to love the plateaus—those times when we may or may not be seeing external rewards but when we can revel in the subtler joy of doing our best moment to moment to moment. Let’s love the process.

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