A setback?  How to get your savage back.

I know, I know.  We are Savage Masters.  We crush goals.  But what happens when we have one of those days or weeks or months when we don’t crush our goals?  What happens when our goals crush us?

I’ve been less than stellar on the nutrition front this week.  Partially because I’m experimenting a little, verifying my guesses as to what works for me and what doesn’t, and partially because every now and then I just loosen up a little more than I should.  I continue to be amazed at how a poor day of eating for me turns into instant crappiness in the gym.  Instant.  Like the next day.  Apparently, gone are the days when I could eat a ton of sugar and then feel fine and go kill a workout.  It just doesn’t work for me.  So after having too much sugar yesterday, I sucked during a workout today.  Sucked.  Doing movements I know I can do.  More on that later…

I like to play around online and here is a small sample of some of the setbacks I’ve seen folks posting about just this week:

  • I’ve worked so hard for so long in Crossfit and my Open workout results were just not what I’d expected.
  • I trained like crazy and bombed out during my powerlifting meet.  Couldn’t even lift what I thought were my easy opening weights.
  • My goal was to break 28 minutes during my 5k and couldn’t even break 30 minutes today.
  • I thought my shoulder had healed but I tried to snatch today and it hurt so much.

So, what do we do?

1.  Spend a little time trying to figure out what happened.  Don’t dwell on it and don’t sit there and rhyme off a litany of excuses, but be honest with yourself and think through some questions, such as:

  • Was my goal realistic? Really?
  • Was I truly prepared to be at my best today?  Did I sleep well?  Did I eat well? Had I recovered from my latest workout?  Am I under a lot of stress?  Did I warm up properly?  It’s not always obvious, but seemingly little things can affect us in ways we’d never though possible.
  • Did I “get in my head” and throw myself off of my game?
  • Am I trying to come back too quickly from injury?
  • Was I too wrapped up in what everyone else was doing?
  • Was everything okay, but it was just not my day?

2.  Once you’ve been completely honest with yourself you can begin to move on.

  • If your goal wasn’t realistic, adjust it.
  • If you feel your goal was solid, check into your plan.  Have you been doing the right things to get there?
  • If you realize that you weren’t well prepared on this particular day, think about how you can better improve your nutrition, sleep, warm up, or whatever area you think messed you up.
  • If you were too ‘in your head’, or too wrapped up in what everyone else was doing, give yourself a smack in the face!  Just kidding (kind of).  It happens to everyone.  Give yourself a pep talk and if it’s a recurring issue for you, read one of the awesome articles out there about stepping up your mental game. *
  • If you simply just had a bad day, and this happens to everybody, don’t make adjustments, just stick to your plan and…

3.  Move on!  Put it behind you and get back to training!

Back to my story.  I don’t have a lot of issues with being honest with myself.  I think it’s one of the gifts of age and maturity.  I can own it and I know that I ate like crap and therefore I performed like crap.  Shocker!  Lesson learned.  Again.  Moving on.  With better food this time. And you know what?  I still got out there and trained.  Better than sitting on the couch.

Stay savage, y’all!

*some good resources on the mental side of training can be found at: http://www.mensfitness.com/training/build-muscle/mental-toughness-training; https://strategicathlete.com/6-exercises-improving-mental-toughness/.

Maintaining your Edge: Recovery for Savage Masters

As I wrote when starting this community, this is a place for those of us who are no longer teenagers.  But despite the fact that we are aging, we want to continue to push ourselves to new limits – in the gym or wherever we train, and in life.  That’s all great but we need to be realistic and ensure that proper recovery is an extremely important part of our training plans.

This past weekend I competed in the NorCal Masters Crossfit competition.  I had an incredible two days and left very energized, with a whole new set of goals to chase over the next few months.  I fell asleep pretty early Sunday night and Monday morning I woke up feeling…sore.  My mind wanted to get into the gym, and I’m sure I could have gone in and done something, but I made myself skip it (and my coach is great and careful and wouldn’t have let me do much anyway) and my only workout that day was to take our dog on a nice, long walk.  Why?  Because I knew that pushing myself would not allow my body to recover the way it needed and the rest of my week would’ve been filled with crappy workouts or worse, injury.   And guess what?  As I write this it’s Tuesday and this morning we had a running workout programmed.  Nothing crazy – run a mile, rest four minutes, run 800m, rest three minutes and then run 400m.  I was so excited to get back at it until a few steps into the mile and my legs felt like lead.  Ugh.  So frustrating.  Turns out I’m still not completely recovered from the weekend.  So I had to back it off a bit.  It sucks, but for me this is part of growing up.  Listening to my body (and my coach) and overruling the teenager in my head who wants to go out and push push push.  And eat cookies.  Ok sometimes that teenager in my head wins, but I’m working on that.

Hopefully it’s not news that recovery is important for any athlete, but it becomes even more important as we age.  Why?  As much as we may not want to admit it, as we age a number of changes occur in our bones, cartilages, tendons, muscles and ligaments that can make us more susceptible to sports-related injuries.   If we don’t take the time to properly rest and recover, we’ll quickly notice the typical signs of overtraining and eventually our bodies will shut us down through illness or injury.  One or two rest days now can save us from being forced to take a much longer break later.

So, what are some of the signs that rest is needed?

  • Feeling excessively fatigued or sore
  • ‘Heavy’ feeling in arms and/or legs (Me. Today.)
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor technique
  • Inability to complete simple exercises comfortably
  • Irritability or lack of enthusiasm for the planned training

And, as the symptoms further progress into the land of the overtrained:

  • Increased resting heart rate and increased time to recover from elevated heart rate during training
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Lethargy

All of the above is bad news for anyone trying to crush their training goals.  So, what do we do to help our bodies recover and come back stronger than ever?


  • EAT!  Nutrition is important all the time but we sometimes forget about that on rest days.  While we may be tempted to eat less since we aren’t burning as many calories, now is the time to ensure we give our bodies all that is needed for proper repair.  This includes replenishing carbs, consuming high quality protein and balancing with some fats.
  • Hydrate.  Make sure you are taking in a lot of water and not overdoing it on alcohol or you’ll counteract your goal of coming back rested and more energized.  You may not feel thirsty, but your body needs hydration or your training will very definitely suffer.
  • If you feel up to it, try some active recovery.  Very low intensity movements like walking, light rowing, swimming, a slow jog can help remove lactic acid and stretch you out a bit.  Resist the urge to go hard (I’m talking to myself here)!
  • Stretch, massage, foam roll, roll with lacrosse balls, whatever you need to do to help relax those muscles and keep them limber.  Consider an epsom salt bath if you’re feeling a little bit tight.
  • Sleep. Sleep is amazingly restorative.  Go to bed early if you can.  Take a nap.  Close those eyes and let your body heal and get stronger.

Now, I also want to mention mobility work.  I am one of the least flexible people on earth and it very definitely affects my athletic performance.  To me, mobility and recovery go hand in hand, and while I’ve been focusing this discussion on taking actual recovery or rest days, it’s also extremely important that we take time each day as part of our training plans to work on recovery and mobility.  It’s something I neglect too often, so maybe by confessing publicly, I’ll take my own advice!

“All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves.”

– Kelly Starrett

Kelly Starrett is the author of “The Supple Leopard” and founder of MobilityWOD.  He is at the forefront of focusing on the basics of efficient movement so that we can all perform better as athletes, but also so that we can function more effectively as human beings in our day to day lives.  Mobility work is the key to improving those basic movements we are doing wrong and may have already caused us injury, but it is also important for us to maintain our ability to move well as we age.  His site mobilitywod.com features a ton of videos and “how-to’s” to help with specific issues we may have.  There is a cost for some of these items, but he has also made a lot of videos available for free on YouTube.

Bottom line?  This isn’t likely new information for most of you.  But as masters athletes who thrive on pushing limits, we sometimes need to be reminded about the importance of rest.  We have all set very tough goals for ourselves, but we can’t be savage if our bodies are broken.  Treat your body right and it will reward you with results!

Sources and for more information:

  1. Reaburn, Peter. “Chapter 13.” The Masters Athlete: Improve Your Performance, Improve Your Fitness, Improve Your Life. Mackay, Qld.: Info, 2009. N. pag. Print. Mastersathlete.com.au
  2. Starrett, Kelly. “Mobility|WOD.” MobilityWOD. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2017. Mobilitywod.com