Leave Your Ego At the Door: A Coach's guide of how to get yourself acclimated back into a GPP /
Leave your ego at the door. This is my word of advice to those who are thinking about coming back into a structured GPP program or Strength and Conditioning Program. I know many of us out there have come from a previous athletic background and it is hard for us to live down our Al Bundy Polk High Glory Days. But just like anything in life if you don’t use it you lose it and to get back into a structured program again it will take time, practice, and patience.
Sure in high school you may have had that sub 6 minute mile or a 1000 pound powerlifting total. But those days are far gone and you have been far removed from the type of training that got you to those numbers. Most of us are probably working the 9 to 5 now and have become less active and, in most cases, unhealthy.
So you come to your first day of your GPP class or Strength and Conditioning class and you start measuring up the biggest bloak (picked that up in Australia) in the room or one near your size and you are confident you’re on the same level.
As most GPP/Strength and Conditioning programs have, here comes the Lift of the Day. It's the Squat. You are saying to yourself “in high school I had a 315 pound back squat. Got This.” You get up to the bar and start warming up with the clearly inferior partner you have been paired with. His jumps are small. You are living your glory days though and your ego kicks in full affect. “Let's start loading the plates on.” You jump from 135, to 225 in a blink of the eye. Today you are supposed to be working up to a 3x5.
So what happens your second warmup set hits, you are at 225 you hit 2 reps (the shakiest ones ever) and reality bitch slaps you in the face. The once glorious 315#, 1 RM can’t even put up 225 for 3 reps without feeling like your brain is going to pop and you probably shit yourself a little.
You feel like your ego was punched in the gut but this is only the beginning. Next up the Metcon.
4 Rounds for time 15 min cap
400 m row
10 ring rows
“Easy”, you say. “Got this! One, two, three. GO!” You are on the rower. Your booking it, Your 500 m split is at 1:30. You want to be the first off the rower and you are. Reality sets in once again. You’ve smoked yourself on the first movement. The rest of the reality is that you can’t breath, you are nauseous, and you haven’t even got through your first round none the less 4 of them. You keep on pushing and next thing you know the cap time is up. You’ve completed 2 and a half rounds and you feel like you’ve went through a 12 round prize fight with Mike Tyson. The coach after the workout says follow the stretches on the board and you skip them. “I don’t need to do that, I have to catch that episode of Narcos”.
The day is done and you are walking out of the gym in a daze. “What happened?”, you say. Life Happened! But wait, there’s more. You go home you go to sleep with the intent that even though you got destroyed today you will make class tomorrow morning.
5:30 AM. Your alarm is going off. One eye lid opens, one limb moves and your next dose of reality sets in. DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). What you call it, or recognize it as, is “everything FUCKING HURTS, I can’t move. No gym today.” You say, “I’ll go tomorrow.” So a full day passes, you wake up again and it hurts more. Your next instinct is that I’m done with this and you go back through another vicious cycle of not working out.
So how do we avoid this?
What to do
When you get into your first class introduce yourself to the coach and let them know it’s your first class and or you haven’t worked out in a long time. Tell them any past history of injury or things that may hinder you in a workout.
A good coach will get a brief history and understanding of your capacity and depending on level of athlete will explain the class step by step to the athlete what will be happening in class and at what level to take it, DO NOT take this as an ego check. Coach knows best. It’s better to play it safe in the beginning and modify intensity from there.
When class is happening listen to the whiteboard briefs and ask questions as needed. Briefings are there for a purpose, to inform athletes of intensity levels and what will be taking place in class. I REPEAT, listen to your coaches prescriptions of intensity and scaling. Leave your ego at the door. Most of your classmates have been doing taking class for a while or are there for general fitness.
Do not size up fellow athletes and assume you are at their level or they are at yours. Every athlete has their own level of strength and conditioning. It is important to listen to your body, scale down, and take your first workout at a light to moderate levels in strength and conditioning pieces.
DO pay attention to what numbers mean. A 3x5 in the American Strength and Lifting world means you will be working up to 3 sets of 5 repetitions at one weight. Depending on how heavy or light you may be going that day will dictate the amount of warmup sets you will do, Typically when doing warmup sets you will be decreasing the amount of reps as you add weight until you get to your work weight. Once you get to your work weight depending on what week of the cycle it is your couch should have briefed you on how the sets should feel: light, moderate, heavy..If you're new to a movement or haven’t performed one it in a while the coach may keep you at a light to moderate weight even in the heavier weeks. DO NOT feel discouraged - this is for your benefit. You can always go heavier next time.
You see that the workout is the same one written up earlier.
4 Rounds for time 15 min cap
400 m row
10 ring rows
You watched the demo and the movements appear easy (the whiteboard is always deceiving) and you are ready to take it on full force. DON’T
You have been inactive and it’s been awhile since you participated in a sport. You remember when you played sports or learned a new skill when you were younger. It takes time and practice, and GPP program is no exception.
Like I said above Metcons can be very deceiving on paper or the whiteboard. Pace is the name of the game here and that goes for experienced athletes as well.
In workouts it’s best to pace yourself and move the whole time - instead of gasing yourself upfront and spending an over-abundant amount of time sucking air.
It is okay to push yourself hard but do it within reason and within your capacity. Metcons are often tested and re-tested so you will have other opportunities at these workouts. Next time you see the workout you will be more adept in the skills and you will be more conditioned to take it on so - be patient.
STRETCH AND RECOVERY
Your workout is over and you have heeded your coaches advise so far. Don’t stop here. If your coach or trainer asks you to stay around and stretch. DO IT!
Your muscles have not been worked in a long time. Today they have been worked, contracted, and tightened. Now is your opportunity to save yourself a bit and lengthen those tightened muscles. If you haven’t even stretched in a while this will be beneficial to you anyway since our everyday lives put us into a shortened/tightened position. Each day should include a minimum of ten to fifteen minutes a day of mobility and stretching!
Drink ALOT of water. Keep those muscles hydrated so they don’t seize up and tighten anymore then they need to be.
Eat a decent meal. After you have worked out your muscles have been broken down and worked. It is important to refuel and repair your body. The best time to do so is about 30-45 minutes post workout. Eat lean proteins and healthy carbs as well as lots of veggies! Begin the building process for your muscles.
After the gym and the next day you should continue to stretch and roll. Take some of the stretches you have learned from the gym or ask a coach or trainer to give you some to focus on. After you have worked out it is natural for your body to tighten up. Stay limber. Again - every day you should include a minimum of ten to fifteen minutes a day of mobility and stretching. Get reacquainted with your body.
You wake and your initial thought is go to the gym. You wiggle and shift and you’re next initial thought is “OH, HELL NO! My muscles are so sore how am I supposed to go to the gym and do power cleans, box jumps, and pullups?” It’s okay we know you are ambitious. We know you used to be able to do 2 a days 5 times a week. That was old you. Now you can use the rest. Only going 3 days a week your first week back is recommended. Ease into things. Your body needs to acclimate. DOMS are common it happens to seasoned athletes and non-seasoned alike. Don’t get down, take a break and get in the next day. All the extra stretching and maintenance you do in between will have you up and ready to go by next class.
Always be vocal with coaches. Soreness is ok and happens. PAIN is bad and should be spoken of immediately. Most pain and injury come from overly tense/tight muscles or poor movement patterns. These can be easily alleviated in a flash with smart stretching, proper movement patterns, and good coaching.
One of my favorite quotes is a simple one is “TRUST THE PROCESS.” Be patient, be consistent, listen to your body - not your ego - and you will be on your way to a healthy and happy fitness journey.