Self-awareness in the gym will help you grow

"Make a decision, Jeff."

That cue is something I hear from my training partner Nicolai Myers when I'm pushing through a really difficult set during my workouts.

It's something we're all presented with no matter what level of fitness we are at. Our bodies either feel great or run down and we have to make a choice as to whether we will push through that boundary or dial back in order to get quality work in.

One thing my coach Brian Alsruhe has mentioned quite regularly throughout our training for Strongman Nationals in Las Vegas is CNS fatigue. 

Your Central Nervous System can only handle so much of a beating before your body runs into a wall. If you're consistently doing compound movements like deadlifts, squats and other total body exercises, you'll feel run down if you consistently try to red line in training.

Constantly going all out will stall your progress leading to frustration.

The same can be said if you're midway through your set and your body starts to shut down unexpectedly. 

You may enter the gym feeling great, but any exercise can quickly take a turn for the worst. 

Front squats are the quintessential example of this. Maryland weather is more hot and cold than the Katy Perry song. Some days it's humid others mild. Those hot and humid days may make it hard to rack the bar across your deltoids and shoulders. If you don't have enough wrist mobility and the bar starts to slip, it may be pertinent to avoid injury by dumping the bar instead of continuing a set. 

Cramps also happen from time to time. When we think we are hydrated, our body has other ideas and decides to lock up a muscle we are using. 

This is where communication is key. If you have training partners or coaches assisting you, say something. You wouldn't want to put yourself or others at risk of doing some serious damage. 

But one of the most important and often overlooked aspects of training properly is breathing and bracing. 

Your body needs as much air as possible in order to perform optimally and efficiently. I've been guilty of either not breathing, not breathing enough or letting my breath out during a motion instead of bracing and being as tight as possible. 

One thing Brian always tells me and other athletes at Neversate Athletics in Westminster, "get more air than you think."

Despite the blood rush your head may feel, your body will thank you for being more mindful of your energy output. 

Remember, working out leads to micro and macro tears in muscles. Figuring out the difference between pushing through plateaus and being smart about the rest of your routine should bring you a steady climb of progress on your fitness journey. 

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