Training this week has been a bummer. I can’t Snatch because my previously mentioned shoulders aren’t being cooperative. Apparently, forcing them to “cooperate” isn’t a valid workaround as that approach just made them worse. If I were to describe this week’s training with one word, it’s this: disappointment. Disappointment doesn’t necessarily mean dissatisfaction, however. No, because of my broken body I’ve actually learned quite a bit, and it’s given me another outlook to discuss. Today I’m going to list the three most pertinent epiphanies I’ve had this week about training, and wrap up at the end with what I think it all means.

Idea number one: Injuries suck. Of course, you already knew that, and I’ve already written about mine. I’ve had to re-organize a lot of my training around my current shoulder situation. Sometimes there’s a silver lining to these things, however. Admittedly, my problems were beyond me, so I enlisted the help of a professional. As it turns out, my hips are the principle problem, lacking internal rotation capacity, especially on the left side. What this has done is promulgated deranged movement patterns, forcing my upper-body into, for lack of a better term, a sub-optimal position. I suppose this a good lesson, though: often times whatever kind of problem you’re trying to fix may not actually be the problem you ought to solve.

Idea number two: Be honest with yourself, and resist the urge to obscure the difference between what your training goals are and what they ought to be. When I write training programs, especially for the more advanced lifters, I plan anywhere from six to twelve months in advance. Now, when I do this, I don’t mean exercises, sets, and reps. The most I write that in advance is two or three months. What I do have written is a conceptual plan that outlines what our focuses need to be, and in what order they need to be addressed in. Think of it like building blocks; even though what we’re looking for is that peak at the top we still need to lay a foundation, and everything in between that leads to our apex (conceived of as the most important competition of the season). Within that plan I allot time for injuries, life events, whatever. Detours are a simple fact of life. That said, I usually conceptualize these as marginal changes where I don’t have to rapidly reformulate the plan. I know it’s probably becoming a tired point, but my injuries are the most prominent feature of my training right now.

With both an injured leg, and shoulders, that means there’s actually a lot in Weightlifting that I shouldn’t do before I solve these issues. It’s immensely frustrating, and at least one or two chairs have felt my wrath as a result. I’ve been fixated on how to program around these issues, and still manage to achieve all the little sub-goals I’ve made for myself that need to be attained to build the foundation that leads me to my desired peak. For my purposes, I have no big competition to go for, just numbers. I want a 300kg total before I feel as though I can live with treating this as a hobby. I use the little in-between goals to guide me because they break my singular, grand goal into more easily attainable chunks. Here’s the thing, though: that’s not always the case.

If I can’t move properly because of mobility restrictions and injuries, should I really be that focused on my ultimate goal of a 300kg total? It seems clear to me that I should focus the bulk of my attention on fixing my underlying issues, which, in doing so, will enable me to achieve my goal. Suddenly those little sub-goals don’t make much sense to fixate on, do they? If you have movement problems, injuries, technique problems, and so on… Don’t get set on numbers or your ultimate goals. Sometimes it makes more sense to take stock of your situation, be disciplined, and focus on what you’re fundamental goals are as opposed to your ultimate ones since the fundamentals are what will enable the ultimate ones. Is it disheartening? It can be. It’s certainly put a major damper on some of my plans, but that’s my ego getting in the way. The fastest way to Snatching 130kg is first putting my body in a state where it can healthily Snatch with proper technical consistency.

Idea number three: For the most part, you never truly regress. We all hit walls in training for myriad reasons both related, and unrelated to lifting. Occasionally (and I am guilty of this, too) I hear some of my athletes claim, after a frustrating session, that they’ve regressed. No, they haven’t. The weight on the bar might have gone down for whatever reason or you might not like that new technique change. Put things in context. I can’t Snatch what I want to right now, but that’s because, anatomically, I can’t receive a bar properly. In having to address my shoulder issue I’ve actually hard to learn a lot of new material that I’ve, in fact, already begun employing in my coaching curriculum. Seems like growth to me, no? As long as you’re at least attempting to constantly improve in some way, you’re getting better, just not directly so. Because of my injury status I’ve learned a fair bit more about hip and shoulder anatomy than I knew a few months ago. It’s going to help me lift properly, and pain free in the next month or so, but more profoundly, it will enable me to keep doing so if I run into this problem again. You only regress if you make the decision to stop getting better at whatever it is you’re working on.

Like all rules, there’s always an exception. In the past I’ve said that it’s prudent to focus on the present, to spend most of your attention on what you’re doing at that moment in your training in order to avoid over complication and analytic paralysis. I think my training week is a case study in this sense, however, for when it’s not a good idea to place too much weight on the moment, and instead, look at everything indirectly affecting your goals. Sometimes the goal isn’t what you should look at. Sometimes you should take a step back and simply take stock of what simply enables you to even have those goals in the first place.