Learning to See the World in Good Faith

Am I going to squat or overhead press this?

One of the best things about 5/3/1 is the deload week. In the latest iteration of the program it goes by the much more fancy name of The Seventh Week Protocol. Regardless of what you want to call it, it’s a week off from truly heavy lifting. When doing a program that calls for loading a lot of pounds on a barbell four times a week, the mental fatigue can quickly get as real as the physical fatigue.

A lot of programs have different systems set-up as to when one should deload, that is take down the intensity of training. Many of them wait until you fail a certain way. In Stronglifts, for example, once you fall a single rep, you stop putting weight on the bar. If you fail at least one rep three days in a row, then you take some weight off. 5/3/1’s system is nice because it calls for it be done before the weight becomes too much. Instead of thinking about failure as your stopping point, you just deload on a schedule.

Because I’ve been doing 5/3/1 for over a year and a half, I’ve had many deload weeks. I have learned to deal with the ego humbling of not loading up the bar with my current working weight. As I do lifts with less weight, random gym fellows might not know that I am actually much stronger! The horror!

There’s a meme to help new people scared of going to the gym that no one will judge you. This is because everyone at the gym is too busy with their own shit to look at what anyone else is doing. I’ve even repeated this meme.

This is a lie.

We all notice each other, this is how regulars start talking to each other and gym friendships are born. It’s how people literally save each other’s lives when a lift goes bad. It’s just a fact of being in a public space. You will be seen. What new people should be told is that anyone that’s strong looking knows they didn’t start that way, and that the lifting community is, overall, positive because we all know what it’s like to be less (or more) than we currently are. We also know that our progress is not affected by your progress. There’s no scarcity of gains, there are gains for all.

There will be ass-holes. There are ass-holes everywhere, and the gym is not impervious to this. They will notice you too and, hell, they may even say something. Part of being an ass-hole is making sure everyone knows you are one.

But, point being, at the gym, we are seen. And we see others.

This ritual of taking a week easy every now and then has taught me to never judge how much weight anyone is pushing. I don’t know their story, maybe it’s a deload week. Maybe they are working on form over weight. Maybe they are nursing an injury. Maybe they just fucking feel like it.

This is a lesson we would do well with in real life.

Often, we don’t know what someone is going through any given day. When their path hits ours, we can, and often do, make a bunch of assumptions about them. We are best served if we make those assumptions ones of good faith, just like we can do in the gym. When someone steps up to the squat rack and does quarter reps, it’s easy for us to call that person lazy, undereducated and worse. Or, we can approach with good faith. They are targeting their quads or keeping an injury from flaring up with some limited range of motion.

Or we can just say “That’s how they want to squat.” and leave it at that.

Some people, we know where they are coming from. When a guy curls in the squat rack and tells you to buzz off when you ask if you can work in with some actual squats, he’s kinda shown his ass. Likewise, when someone spends their career writing for Brietbart and sending tweets about how “ Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage,” we know there’s no good faith on their end when they challenge someone to a debate.

But, day-to-day, we need to approach people with some good faith. In and outside of the gym. It’s lesson that I am working on more and more in both realms of my life too. It’s come very easy at the gym, less so in real life. But I’m getting in a lot of reps.




Hi. I make movies and lift weights. I write about the latter here.

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Hi. I make movies and lift weights. I write about the latter here.

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