Progressive overload

A yellow sand beach by the ocean, with many people on the sand, sitting, standing and enjoying the water and the sand.
Santa Monica beach, on our recent trip to LA. 🌴

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or follow me on Instagram, then you will know that I really enjoy lifting weights and have been training for several years. “Get big and strong” has been one of my goals for the past couple of years, but I didn’t really consider putting much action into it until about a year ago.

The progressive overload philosophy in weightlifting is that increasing how much you lift, putting more stress on the muscles, progressively, over time, will help build up strength and muscle size over time. I was not focused on employing this even though my broader goal was to get bigger and stronger.

When I decided to hone in on this, I became aware that I was not fuelling my workouts enough – I was not eating enough to gain strength or size, or possibly to even maintain my physique. I had a low body fat percentage and I was lean to the point where I was probably doing more harm than good by trying to lose fat when I had very little muscle – so I was risking losing muscle, too, and making little progress.

I went a little overboard at the beginning of this year by bulking too much, too soon. I was eating to the point of feeling sick, and focusing too much on eating a lot rather than strategically planning my workouts to lift heavier weights. So I went nowhere, really. I gained a lot of fat, very little muscle, and burned out after less than two months.

The silence on the blog

It’s no secret: I’ve been struggling for the past few months. I had really wanted to “find my groove” with blogging, but it feels like I don’t have a groove at all right now, and I have zero motivation to write anything. I feel like I’m making excuses every time I write, that yeah, I’ll get back into it soon, or something. I have internalised thoughts that I simply don’t want to write down or type out.

The truth is that everything started to feel like a chore, and it started long ago. Writing felt like a chore.

I generally feel like my writing gets thrown off every time I travel. I love travelling, and I travel regularly, but I want to spend my time enjoying that travel. Writing takes a lot more time than it feels like it used to. A combination of adulting and just wanting to do what I want instead of this “side project” I’ve been slaving at since I was a preteen.

That, and I think ultimately, I don’t enjoy writing about travel as much as I used to. This “groove” I tried to create wasn’t natural. Trying to blog twice a week wasn’t natural the way that three-hundred-word posts every second day was natural back in 2009.

Writing about love and relationships is less natural because we are all familiar with the fact that I’m married to the love of my life (we celebrated our second wedding anniversary the other day! 💕) and the pleasant feelings are also familiar, and they don’t necessarily conjure up inspiration for writing about feelings.

Asking someone to take Fashion Friday photos and then subsequently writing about my outfits took significantly more time than it takes to get dressed in the morning since I minimised my wardrobe a shit-tonne, when it used to be the other way around.

Having conversations with people gets my brain ticking and thinking of beautiful and wonderful new things that I want to spend time appreciating, when in the past I would go oh fuck yeah that’s a great blog post topic.

I literally love my job five times as much as I did at this time last year – and last year I loved it like, a fair bit. So you can guess where that leaves me now. And similarly, I gotta stop and smell the goddamn roses because I work with some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met.

Catch my drift?

The way I think.

It’s different.

Is it the end of the line?

A couple of days ago, I thought… is it the end? Fifteen years of blogging, have I decided to just drop it and give it up? Has my interest waned so much that I’m done?

I caught up with my friend Lilian, and we were reminiscing about how terrible school was. We remembered an incident that happened shortly after school, where someone posted something nasty about me on Facebook where all my friends could see it – and I actually blogged about it and it’s still in existence on this blog somewhere in the archives, except the third-party image hosting site that held the screenshot of the offensive post decided to delete all my shit. 😂 And it was like, oh, this negative piece of the past is like, somehow, deleted, and I marginally cared about it, but then also, didn’t care. My thought process immediately led me to think for a split second: if I happened to lose this blog I claim to be a huge part of me, I actually… I actually don’t think I’d be that gutted. Start over, no big deal.

(Maybe it’s just the minimalist in me talking.)

I talked to my friend Mitch, who brought up something he heard from someone else: sometimes inspiration and motivation comes in waves. Sometimes we get nothing for a day, two days, or even weeks at a time – and the best we can do is accept it, and wait it out, which is healthier than obsessing over something we don’t even want right now.

Let’s face it, I’m pretty sick of obsessing over “blogging regularly”. Is “blogging regularly” something I even want? Or care about?

As I write this, I feel my slightly raw, agitated personality writing from somewhere in my heart. From a place that also feels a great affinity for Weezer’s music (and I just realised that they have an album coming out in 2020! An album almost every year, and I can’t even write a couple of goddamn blog posts), and my wonderful husband, and for lifting weights, and for building a design system, and for trees of green, and red roses too.

Progressive overload, now

Somewhere from mid-September, after I returned from our short trip to Seattle, Portland, and LA, I decided to slowly add more calories to my diet, and gain a little more weight, but take it easy. Make it a gradual process, instead of jumping straight in and doing something like eating 24 chicken nuggets and then feeling sick. I love weight training with high intensity, but I dropped it back a notch, slowly, to focus on lifting heavier, and for fewer reps. It took a lot of patience (but not as much as I could use… haha) because I love working up a sweat and I dislike waiting around while I rest between sets.

But since then I’ve noticed some fabulous progress in some of my lifts, with no sacrifice of technique as I lift heavier. There is no doubt that I feel stronger. I am trying new exercises, as well as doing compound lifts regularly, and enjoying the process.

I came across a video recently on a YouTube channel called Better Ideas. The video is about how to get out of a rut, and channel creator Joey mentions progressive overload as something that can be applied to productivity and work. This resonated with me a lot, along with this “just start” mentality: often, we look at the bigger picture and freak out, and get nothing done. Instead of thinking about the fact that I have to speak in a few weeks at a conference and I have to write and present a whole talk, I should start with – hey, what’s my title? What’s a theme I’m focusing on in the talk? What are the takeaways and things I want the audience to learn?

Do a little now, a little more tomorrow, and progressively overload until it’s done.

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I think it’s particularly difficult to blog when the blog culture we preteened/teened/early adulted in doesn’t exist anymore…

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