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Life’s Struggles Are Like Barbell Squats

Amber DeLeal May 25, 2016
Life Is Like Barbell Squats

Now that I’ve finally updated everyone on the results of my competition weekend, there is something I need to come clean with you about.

I debated whether I should write about this or not out of fear that it may tarnish how some of you feel about me as a coach. Then I realized that this is a normal experience – even if it hasn’t been the norm for me over the past year or so.

I think the last time I felt this way was about 30lbs ago, when I was just beginning my journey to a more healthy and fit me.

If you have read any of my previous postings, you know that living fit and eating healthy are my lifestyle. It is not just a meal plan I follow when I feel like I have been eating like crap and notice a little extra fat in my mid-section and my abs are no longer visible.

It’s just what I do. Day in and day out, I train and eat to fuel my body with what it needs to continue building lean muscle mass.

And I love doing it! I’ve written a number of times about how motivated I am all the time. I’ve explained how I always change things up to ensure that I never get bored with my training. I talk about it so much, in fact, that I’m willing to bet that some of you even rolled your eyes while reading some of my posts, thinking there’s no way I’m really that motivated.

But it’s true. Everyday I wake up with a plan. I wake up motivated and ready to hit the gym. Ready to smash my goals! Because I know, as Craig explained in his latest podcast, that one step and one day at a time is how we accomplish things. And goals don’t accomplish themselves. It takes work; lots and lots of work.

It won’t happen over night. Depending on your goals it could take several years to accomplish them. But if you want it you have to work for it one step at a time. So that’s what I do. I wake up with my goals in my head and I go to sleep with my goals in my head.

Motivated. That is what I am, all the time.

Except that I’m not right now…

The Problem: No Motivation

That’s right. Miss Motivated has lost her motivation. All of my motivation seemed to fly right out the window after my competition. Even these tips for getting motivated haven’t helped much. I don’t know why and I don’t like it one bit.

It didn’t happen right away.

Immediately after my competition I was on a high. If you have ever been to a physique competition, you know what I’m talking about. It’s impossible to leave a physique competition and not want to go straight to the gym to train.

Being around people who are in top physical condition is probably one of the most motivating things to experience. It provides hard evidence of what your body is capable of if you’re only willing to work for it.

Fast forward about a week after my competition and I noticed changes. Not just physical changes, but mental and emotional ones, as well. I sort of expected to hit an emotional low because after 16 weeks of eating clean and sticking to a strict, no-carb diet, I felt and looked better than I ever have.

What I quickly discovered is that it only takes one day of eating like crap and loading up on carbs to see my body change for the worse. I’m not kidding when I say that it seemed like the hard work over 16 weeks to get my body ready to compete evaporated in just one week. Gone!

To be honest, though, I was prepared for that. I expected it. I knew I would feel terrible about it after a certain amount of time of relaxing on my diet.

My coach even had a talk with me about it and had a separate conversation with my husband to prepare us as much as possible for the post-competition fallout. We were prepared for what my coach described as being similar to feelings of postpartum depression.

You come down from the high of being in the best physical shape of your life and it’s hard to stay positive when that high slowly dissipates.

Fortunately, though, that didn’t happen to me. The fact that my body is no longer in competition shape is okay with me. It really doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t hate the way I look or feel down about the weight I have put on over the past few weeks.

It’s sort of unfortunate because it would be easy to blame my lack of motivation on my physique returning to “normal”.

I knew that wasn’t the problem, but I couldn’t pin down exactly what was killing my motivation. I didn’t want to get up in the morning. I didn’t want to go to the gym. I didn’t want to prepare or plan out my meals. I basically didn’t want to do anything at all.

What a change from my outlook over the past year. It was a change that I didn’t and don’t like. I despise it!

How was it possible for me to have less energy now than during my competition prep?

Then it became obvious.

The Silent Motivation Killer

The silent killer of my motivation was my diet. Not a real shocker, right? It’s a little embarrassing that I didn’t figure that out sooner. I suppose after a number of months of eating well it became all too easy to take for granted how much of a difference eating clean makes and forget the devastating consequences of eating to my heart’s content.

My motivation was gone, but I still put up a fight. Even though the last thing I wanted to do was go to the gym for cardio and weights, I did it anyway. This made it easy to realize my problem wasn’t a lack of exercise or time spent at the gym, which is motivating in its own right.

I was also sleeping longer than before. So that ruled out a lack of rest being the culprit.

After ruling out a few possible offenders I realized my diet, or lack of a diet, is what was ailing me. I wasn’t meal prepping and I was snacking WAY too often. I was eating a few of my regular healthy meals, but I most definitely was not making eating healthy and nutritious foods a priority.

After coming to terms with my lack of nutritional self-discipline, there’s only one thing left to do: Take action and fix the problem!

And that’s what I’m doing. My healthy meals are prepped for the rest of the week and I’m ready to feel like my old self again, motivated and happy!

We all have ups and downs (yes, even me) and it is up to each of us as individuals to fix whatever it is that gets our minds in a rut and off our games.

This applies to whatever it is you might be in a funk about. It doesn’t have to be your physical fitness or diet. It may be your work, family, or anything else. You have to figure out what the problem is and do what you can to fix it! It’s not going to fix itself.

It make take some trial and error to get to the root cause of the problem. I’ve found that if we will only persevere we’ll soon figure out what changes need to be made to get us back on track.

You also need to be prepared to accept whatever might be outside of your control and move on. In other words, focus on making positive changes on whatever is under your control and don’t sweat the things that aren’t.

And, remember, you aren’t alone. All of us struggle and deal with adversity from time to time.

Also keep in mind that there’s almost always a silver lining and a purpose behind the struggles we encounter in life. The problem is that we are often too quick to be so blinded by the difficulties we’re facing that we rarely allow them to make us better.

I mean, how would we ever know what we are capable of if we aren’t pushed to our limits from time to time? Hard times, difficulties and challenges only make us stronger. They also make us more confident about facing challenges in the future.

A few more things I like to go to when I find my motivation or positive attitude slipping are:

  • Reading motivational books
  • Reflecting on previous accomplishments
  • Concentrating on my goals (or writing them out) and remind myself that I’m never going to stop pursuing them

These things all contributed in some way toward helping me realize what it was that was killing my motivation. They also helped me maintain at least some level of positive feelings when it was tempting to only harbor negative thoughts and emotions.

Life is far from perfect and sometimes it can really bring us down if we allow it. It is at times like these that we must realign our focus, remember what it is we want in life, and continue pushing forward toward the goal.

Come to think of it… Life’s struggles are like barbell squats.

The bar is across our backs weighing down on us. The first rep is easy enough, but the movement slowly becomes more difficult with every passing rep.

As we near the end of our set, our muscles are burning, our legs are shaking, and we don’t see how another rep can be possible.

We can focus on the pain and quit, but quitting is what whiners, excuse-makers and haters do. Quitting doesn’t make us stronger. It makes us weaker. Quitting is what kills gains.

The final rep is the most difficult, but pushing through it is the action that leads to the most significant personal growth.

And so it is in life.

So dig deep, give it everything you have, push against your struggles with relentless force, and never give up.

– Coach Amber

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