Going Off Script as a Novice Lifter

Training means you have a script or program that you follow, but whether by your choice or life circumstances, you may have to or want to go off script. So, if you’re a novice and have to or want to go off script, how do you navigate the potential difficulties and tradeoffs of going off script?

SHOW NOTES

Off Script as a Novice Lifter

As a novice, you can progress quickly. For strength, this means that if you graph your progress of the weight on the bar for your lifts it will follow a line. This is a simple, hard, and effective way to train, which lets you build the habit of training, gain confidence, improve your form, and increase strength and quality of life.

You cannot always–or may not always want to–follow the script. Some examples of off script events or activities include:

  • sickness or injury
  • vacation or business travel
  • sports or other physical activities
  • powerlifting or strengthlifting meet
  • unplanned PR

Different situations demand different adjustments, and it’s better to plan for off script events than (e.g. powerlifting meet) than choose unplanned activities (e.g. unplanned PR) so you can both prepare and recover appropriately for them.

Consistent “off script” activities will slow your strength progress, and that’s okay. You’ll have to adjust your program (so you’ll adjust the script) and adjust your expectations.

Program Adjustments

If you have a coach and participate in physical activities that the coach is not programming, communicate with your coach (to the best of your ability) when, how often, and what those activities are like. If something unexpected happens (e.g. a BJJ session is much rougher than expected), let them know.

Vacations and business trips can be planned for, and you’ll have to decide whether you’ll train during that period or not. You can adjust planning before and after (and potentially during), and may have to take a step back afterwards.

Unplanned PRs can be fun, and for advanced lifters you may develop a knack for knowing when it’s there and take it. For a novice lifter, you’re progressing quickly, so we don’t recommend the unplanned PR…but, if you do it, realize you might have to take a step back or at least reduce the stress following the PR. Developing patience can help here.

If you’re sick, depending on how sick and what it is, you may still be able to get into the gym, but might simply take it easy and have the win being that you got in the gym. If you were really sick, you may not only have taken off training but might have lost some muscle if you mostly laid down. Take a step back, and adjust your mindset–it’s a part of life, and you’ll get back to (and surpass) where you were before.

So, training requires a script, that script may need revisions in advance or on the fly, but to always be off script or revising the script means you’re not really following a script or program at all, and then you’re not training. There’s some things you can do, however, if you go off script as a novice lifter.

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