Why Holidays are Important:
I’m sitting on the beach in Bali admiring the pitch black sand and a shoreline where there are tourists enjoying the luke warm Indonesian water. I’m pretty sore from my first surfing lesson yesterday and I wanted to share some insights with you.
It’s really easy to get caught up in life. I know almost all of you appreciate how turbulent day to day life can be.
The nature of the beast is such that even after a holiday, it’s so easy to get sucked back into a life that is not doing your health or intrinsic priorities any favors.
It’s Hard To Keep It Simple
Probably the only reason I get results for myself and clients is because there is a relative amount of consistency and adherence.
Simple strategies can have the greatest bang for buck. I noted this again when I went surfing for the first time yesterday.
As a beginner you basically get a raft for a surfboard. Navigating the surf is especially hard and because maneuverability is compromised for the extra stability of the board your job as the beginner is to get out of the waves and try and stand.
It sounds easy but getting out behind the waves is physically grueling. Honestly, after the fourth throw from not even 2m high waves I was already considering why I needed to turn back (this is a lot like intense metcon).
Each wave comes in a successive batch of 5 or 6 so if your arms are burning or your neck is tweaking there is no turning back and you have to navigate the surf. The coach can only direct you and possibly help prevent you from drowning BUT you are the one at sea and at the end of it all you are responsible for the effort required to be successful.
It’s OK To Be a Beginner Again
Well most people don’t realize this but almost everybody experiences fear and doubt. It’s really just that the protocol by which the fear is assessed changes as you age and gain experience.
When it comes to fatloss or any goal really I like to believe mastery begins with the following mentality.
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
― Steven Pressfield
In situations like the above I almost always ask myself what the commitment was and how long it would last (2 hours). I quickly refreshed what I had been taught and how I could conserve energy for each wave and then I just went for it.
Like with any goal you need to trust the process and… I caught my first wave…
Using Self Directed Q&A to Reassess Goals
Remember when I was telling you that consistency can be the powerhouse for aggregated change?
Well knowing that a true fatloss training cycle should only last 4 weeks is perhaps the most important part of planning your training for the year.
NOBODY should be training for fatloss year round.
I block each training cycle as a 12 week period in which the client gets graduated adjustments in training volume, intensity and load. This precipitates fatloss irrespective of goal BUT we are never training for fatloss all the time.
Once you get lean from actually performing the work as defined by goal and periodize the adjustments results don’t just go away… They are there to stay.
I really like the analogy of waves because in surfing or training each month should be progress on the previous month in a simple manner. This is a fundamental shift in the all out mentality and just like with surfing your not picking the biggest wave you can get, your picking the wave you can catch.
The Concept of Self Neglect
If you have read any of my other writing you might have come across a few references to my ideas about self neglect. I keep trying to write and refine this topic again and again because I keep running into it.
I’m not a psychologist or anybody who could be considered a ‘guru’ but when assessing quality of life via the movement/body composition continuum I can’t help but make this direct observation.
“People neglect themselves in direct relation to how they feel about the world” – Unknown
It’s not the unconvinced stares or the criticisms that bring me to this conclusion. It’s the behavior of people who know that for whatever reason they are sick and can’t seem to find a way to get better. It’s the coaches who run businesses in 30 degree heat and would rather invest the profit of the business in a change of rims rather than a water cooler.
I think we all know how it feels to be stuck somewhere in the realm of business, life and strength. Nobody gets away from the fact that at some point change needs to happen.
“The greatest damage done by neglect, trauma or emotional loss is not the immediate pain they inflict but the long-term distortions they induce in the way a developing child will continue to interpret the world and her situation in it. All too often these ill-conditioned implicit beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies in our lives. We create meanings from our unconscious interpretation of early events, and then we forge our present experiences from the meaning we’ve created. Unwittingly, we write the story of our future from narratives based on the past…Mindful awareness can bring into consciousness those hidden, past-based perspectives so that they no longer frame our worldview.’Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present…Until you reach that point, you are unconscious.’ …In present awareness we are liberated from the past.”
― Gabor Maté,
Why You Need a Holiday
Nobody on this planet is exempt from the physiological changes that are being precipitated by stress, pro-inflammatory foods and the accumulated damage that is on backlog.
It might seem like another calorie restricted, intermittent fasting, cardio banging workout is the best thing for you but this ironically is 90% of the reason why people cannot lose weight consistently.
Stress will always be a part of life but whether the stimulus, event or danger is real strikes a very different conversation.
If you have read ‘Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers’ you will know that the sympathetic nervous system responds to stress constantly BUT it also responds to almost all stressors in the same way irrespective of the capacity for real danger.
This is why stress management is fundamental for sustainable results.
Your bloodstream doesn’t care whether sugar is coming from your liver or from your mouth.
1 Gram of Sugar, depending upon your Insulin Sensitivity can be as much as 12 hours of ZERO fat metabolism.
Weight-loss experts forget that this is an even greater problem for those who have experienced traumatic events in their lives. Training and Nutrition should offer the reset button precipitated by a decrease in Inflammation, Stress and Elevated Blood Sugar NOT Caloric Restriction, Steady State Cardio or Extreme Metabolic Conditioning.
I have seen overall drops in weight simply by reducing the number of sessions performed per week and readressing quality of food consumed. In the chronically over trained the beginners appetite is almost ALWAYS suppressed, irrespective of experience of the trainee.
While I love the concept of pushing oneself in the arena I seriously dislike the lack of recovery based strategies used to help beginners recover from workouts which are actually damaging the bodies of the individuals paying a professional to help them optimize performance through health.
This is the laziest form of coaching out there and jumping in a badly planned class for the sake of it is actually promoting rebound (the weight you always seem to put on when you stop training) and the skinny fat mentality.
There is nothing I want more for you than to appreciate what I appreciate, enjoying life. That is hard to do when you are tired, lethargic and overweight from not only training too hard but from the confusion of so much mis-information on the web.
Back to Bali and Personal Example:
There is a familiarity with travel that I really appreciate. When you travel it’s not hard to be filled with the realization that people are more similar than they appear. That we all have the same problems and that even if we lose sight of this fact, travel can give it back to us in a matter of seconds.
I’ve been trying to build sustainable habits for over 10 years now and I am finally at a point where I feel that the daily habituation of meditation and exercise is helping my cognition improve to the degree that I can pump out some good writing fairly consistently.
This theme of doing less better is probably the most important concept in my life at this point. Here is an example of an activity that regularly frustrates me and how I how small changes to the style of the workout helped me.
This year has been a little different for me so far because I have chosen to invest learning the Olympic Lifts with a credible coach and by the end of February completed just under 6 weeks of programming.
Olympic Lifting has to be one of the only sports that I have tried where load has not been prioritized in the same manner as proficient movement. For those of you who don’t know there are really two primary movements to the Olympic lifts. Snatch and the Clean and Jerk.
The relative simplicity of these two movements cannot communicate just how much effort and skill has to drilled to drop under a bar in under a second. Not only this but lifters are some of the strongest and fastest people on the planet.
To put this in perspective, the average female world champion can snatch close to double bodyweight. While these ladies are not huge in a typical fitness stereotype you can clearly see how powerful the physiques of these champions are.
As mentioned above what is most challenging is getting under the bar. The movements must be precise, the first, second and third pulls must be explosive yet not overly so. Control is required every bit as much as force.
What is fundamental is this understanding that all coaches need time working with others. Until I was coached on foot position, torso and elbow position. I was just muscling the bar into the top position. It would take me perhaps 8-12 attempts working up to that load alone and this was an ineffective way to periodize the training.
In the end what changed everything was the ritualized style I developed when approaching the bar and platform for the lift. It sounds ubiqitous but having a mental protocol to follow is EVERYTHING in the world of strength, performance and body composition. Tradition is an important part of learning to understand what the investment of time and effort can achieve in people’s lives.
Another concept that really worked for me was first learning the different positions of the lift according the the number system style of coaching common in Eleiko weightlifting. After spending 2-5 workouts refining each portion of the lift I could go home and focus just putting it all together in the most effective way possible.
It all came together nicely when I used EMOM in the final 3 sessions.
This style of overload is using a predetermined amount of sets performed on each working minute of the session to perform either a snatch or clean and jerk. I did both of these during my last session and I was really surprised how the predetermined times allowed me to focus less on external noise and distractions.
Can you see what I am highlighting? I’m talking about complexity as a source of our current dilemma and that this has led MANY people to believe that self-neglect is not a pandemic in today’s society.
Doing and Teaching are Different:
As a coach I consider it an obligation to replace anything I take away from your life with something that gives you equal value. I want everybody to understand that complexity for the sake of a voodoo system of fatloss or convalescence is generally mediocre at best.
It’s incredible to get a sense of just how powerful Olympians actually are, especially when you are being forced to perform the pattern as close as possible to a competition standard but what is even more incredible is that these individuals plan their lives and and training so well they almost never miss a lift.
As far as possible I try to be a coach that can be coached. I consider it an honor to allow qualified individuals to instruct me in a way that is consistent with their framework of experience. It’s coaches who don’t like being coached that I tend to stay away from since they are kind of like writers who never write.
Training, nutrition, coaches… These people exist to add value to your life. They are there to help you clear a path with relative ease. In the same way that breaking away from convention can return a lust for life, intelligent adjustments in your day to day habits, lifestyle and training can make all the difference. Don’t forget to take a break and ALWAYS put yourself first!
“I needed to write, to express myself through written language not only so that others might hear me but so that I could hear myself.”
― Gabor Maté,