Monday of this week was a lousy workout day.
If you have been training for any length of time you know that some days are just lousy workout days. Some days you just can’t train like you usually do. Monday was one of those days. Part of it was my fault. We ate heavily in the early afternoon and then not again the rest of the day, so I was well into the fasted stated by 5:00 AM on Monday. Plus, I had too much simple carbs and alcohol (two drinks, I know, #lightweightheavyweight) on Sunday and was feeling heavy and sluggish.
Part of it was only slightly in my control. We let the girls listen to Celtic Women, and they had been obsessed with two of the songs “The Caelie” and “You’ll be in my heart.” So all my dreams had a Celtic Woman soundtrack in toddler voices. Needless to say my sleep was poor.
Part of it was completely out of my control. The YMCA was closed for some silly reason on Monday, so none of my regular equipment was available to me.
So the workout was weak and I couldn’t hit my regular moves. The video is long, I don’t expect anyone to watch the whole thing, so I’ll sum up:
- I couldn’t keep a straight arm on the lever pullups, and could only do one rep instead of my usual three per side.
- I couldn’t push out of the hole on the HSPU.
- I couldn’t hit more than one weighted (24kg) pistol per side.
This is why it is important to master the basics of calisthenics and have a solid understanding of the progression of every move you are working on. Some days you will be feeling great and may want to hop up a level or two just for fun. Other days you will be feeling lousy and will need to take it back a level or two. Know your progressions, be able to transition up or down based on your body’s needs on the given day.
The one thing you must not do is nothing.
Moving into the stamina phase, my third round was rocky. My pullups were weak, partly because I was tired and partly because rings are just harder. I didn’t have a box to elevate my feet so I subbed out KB OH presses (32kg) for my regular pike pushups, and concentrated on form.
Drop back if you have to, just put in the work. Even if you have to right back to square one (aussie pullups and floor standing pike pushups) you still get in your reps and sets and rounds.
The secret to progress is really very simple. If you practice anything every day, 4 – 6 days per week, for a year or two, you will start to develop a certain proficiency at it. If you keep it up for 10 years, you will be quite good. If you keep it up for 30 years, you will master it.
Since no blog post would be complete without a reference to the spiritual life, let me point out my prayer time that day felt as sluggish and lousy as my workout. Or rather the other way round, since I did my prayers first, as per my custom.
Some days you will feel alive and alert and in tune with God and the Communion of Saints and all people of good will. The light of Eden will flow in your veins. When that happens, recognize it as a gift and take advantage of it. Give in to the call, say the extra prayers, read the extra chapter, spend the extra hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Do not worry about sustainability, just capitalize on the present gift.
More often, I think, you will find your thoughts wandering, your enjoyment sluggish, your insights shallow and halting, and your love pale and stunted. Some days you may not be able to collect yourself for one minute out of the whole hour.
Don’t worry about it. Just put in the work. Keep the discipline, say the prayers, leave the rest in the hand of God.
Calisthenics, when done properly, is a prayer of the body. It is a choice to glorify the God of the Incarnation by disciplining the body He designed and gave me to its maximum strength, beauty and usefulness. Like all relationships (which is what prayer really is) it has its up as downs, its highs and lows. The only thing that really matters is giving it your best, whatever that may be at any given moment, in every moment. If all you can do is one pushup, let it be a perfect pushup. If all you can say is one “Our Father,” let it be with your whole heart.
Even if we have to go all the way back to “Now I lay me down to sleep…” Let us never give up.