Training programs go through cycles: macro, meso, and micro. Macro cycles encompass large periods of training blocks that encompass an entire year. Meso cycles are measured in block periods of 2-6 weeks. Micro cycles go by days such as a hard training day on Monday followed by a light training day on Tuesday. Using all three allows a trainer to “back plan” your program design. Let’s say you want to bench press 300lbs (fellas) or build a firmer butt (ladies). First, your trainer will assess your current standards. Then, they will determine how long (more of an educated guess than an exact science) it will take you to achieve your goal. Finally, the trainer begins planning out your program from the “goal date” all the way back to the “start date” of your program (ex. 1 year from now back to your first training day next week). This takes a great amount of time, math, and artistry. Planning a training program for a specific goal is very much like being an amazing chef: there’s science and art involved. However, all of this is for not if you do not know how to gauge your RPE: Rate of Perceived Exertion.
Every time you come into the gym to train you feel great, horrible, or somewhere in the middle. How you feel the day of has an immense impact on your workout and your overall workout cycle. This is why when a trainer asks you how you’re feeling it’s not just a simple, “I’m fine” that we’re looking for. We really want to know how you’re feeling because that will determine how we change the design of your workout for that specific day. Any changes made will effect your RPE. Very simply, what might have felt easy last week will feel extremely difficult today. To get an idea of how an RPE rating system works see below
So, if last week bench pressing 135lbs for 3 sets of 10 was a ‘6’ and you feel like crap today then the same weight will probably feel like an 8 and you won’t be able to push hard in your other lifts (assuming you can even complete your 3 sets of 10 with the same weight today). The thing you should be asking yourself next is, “what should I do now?” Lucky for you the answer is fairly simple.
First, if you feel like hammered sh*t then you’re probably sick or about to be sick. Best advise? Go home. Aside from a brisk walk outside you will only make yourself worse if you continue to push through the workout. Are you a Navy Seal training to kill terrorist? No? Go home. You’re not proving anything to anyone by pushing through the workout.
Second, if you don’t feel like hammered sh*t (can you tell I like this phrase?) but you’re about half way there then you can continue with the workout. However, treat your workout as if it were a “deload” day even if it isn’t. That means you decrease the number of sets, the number of reps, the weight, etc. Make it a “recovery” workout. This will help speed up recovery and not let you lose any of your precious gains.
On the other side of the spectrum is where you find yourself feeling like a million bucks. This means what felt like an ‘8’ last week might feel like a ‘5’ today. What should you do? In my opinion, go “balls to the wall” and kick up the numbers: the weight, the reps, the sets, etc. This might help you bust through a plateau or, at the very least, give you some leeway when you have a day where you feel like hammered sh*t (ok, that was the last one I promise).
That’s it. So, next time your trainer asks you ‘how are you feeling?’ answer them honestly and don’t be tough. It’s not helping them and definitely not helping you.
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!