Battling Psoriasis: Building Confidence Using Progressive Overload
Confidence is never won or lost entirely overnight. Confidence is more like a fifteen-round boxing match. Squaring up with your opponent, you know you’re destined to land some punches, but you also know you’re going to take a few hits right back.
Writing this, I brush the flakes off my cotton t-shirt from my scalp psoriasis and take a proverbially left hook to the body.
What is progressive overload?
Psoriasis doesn’t aim to knock you out in one swift haymaker like a heavyweight. Instead, it picks you apart piece by piece with fast, crisp combinations. Its strategy is methodical, deliberate, and calculated. Like any great fighter, you need to develop a fight strategy of your own to counter the flurry of punches.
My personal fight strategy was crafted and forged through the iron I lifted inside the gym. Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I started winning the grueling rounds against my psoriasis by a simple method called progressive overload.
Progressive overload is a gradual increase of stress placed on the body over time in order to elicit the desired adaptation. Basically, if you can do one more rep or just one more pound than you could the week before, you’re achieving progressive overload. Simple enough, right?
With every step, you can grow stonger
Have you ever heard the story of Milo and the calf? Milo, a wrestling legend in Ancient Greece, started to train with a young calf when it was born in a village nearby. His program was as simple as they come. Carry the young calf every day.
As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, Milo and the calf grew together. The calf in size and Milo in strength. Continuing this daily routine for four years, Milo eventually became strong enough to carry a fully-grown bull.
In short, Milo perfectly executed the art of progressive overload. With every step Milo took, he grew stronger. Furthermore, with every step, Milo gained confidence.
What does this teach us?
This wouldn’t have been the case if Milo wasn’t patient. If Milo would have attempted the bold feat of carrying a fully grown bull on his first attempt, surely he would have failed. This would have been a hard blow to Milo’s confidence, and potentially could have halted him from ever trying again.
So what have we learned?
As a personal trainer, I always start too light with my clients. Not only does this ensure their safety during the training session, but it also begins to subconsciously develop their confidence.
If I were to irresponsibly load a barbell with a weight a client wasn’t prepared to handle and they failed the attempted lift, I would be creating a negative feedback loop. As a trainer, my intention and responsibility are to give a client enough of a stimulus to elicit a positive adaptation.
When starting a weight training regimen; start slow. Set your intentions on learning the proper technique of the movement, completing all of the prescribed sets and rep, and developing a positive relationship with the gym. After you have successfully accomplished that, then you start adding weight to the bar.
Milo also taught us the importance of consistency. Milo showed up every single day to carry the young calf, not just when he desired to or when it was convenient for him. Without this dedication, Milo may not have attained the same results.
Imagine if Milo stopped showing up for a week or even a month and the young calf gained twenty pounds. This drastic jump in weight would be much harder to adapt to. Constantly restarting a weight training regimen is not only bad for building confidence, but it will also inhibit you from seeing results.
Consistency creates momentum, and momentum builds a habit. In the beginning stages of your regimen; create consistency. Set your intentions on establishing baselines with your weights and do whatever it takes to make all your gym sessions. It’s not necessary to go to the gym seven days a week, but set your goal and be absolutely bonded to it.
It was because of Milo’s first two lessons that he was able to progress. Patience and consistency are two of the biggest keys to success inside the gym. This brings the third lesson: celebrating your success.
To celebrate your success, you first must state a goal. When choosing a goal, think back to the first lesson of practicality. Avoid choosing a goal that is too far off in the distance. Pick something that is within your sights, but will still challenge you. Losing two percent of body fat or adding twenty pounds to your deadlift are two examples that are challenging but still obtainable with a little work.
Then, celebrate. With choosing your goal, also comes the reward. Those new shoes you’ve had your eyes on, that band you wanted to see, that vacation you wanted, or just a simple night out. Remember that you don’t have to equate celebrating with food and drink. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them from time to time, but don’t forget to think outside of the box and come up with exciting new ways to celebrate success.
It's also about the journey
On a smaller note, keep a training journal and log your workouts week to week. When you get frustrated or impatient with your results, refer back to your journal and see how far you’ve come.
Looking and honoring your progress feeds the brain and establishes a positive relationship with exercise. Practicing this lesson will further help the first two lessons, and in return create more success to celebrate. It truly is a giant circle feeding and helping each other.
Fitness is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the victories as they come, and learn to embrace even the struggles for even they will make you a stronger person. As both a personal trainer and someone who has found solace through weight training, I truly believe the answer to overcoming a lack of confidence lies in firmly grasping a steel knurled Olympic bar.
Does your psoriasis skin feel out of control? How are you managing?