Morale falters

Motivation comes and goes, discipline is forever.

Indeed it is. We should not rely on outside sources of motivation to compell us to workout. I can understand that watching a video or staring at a couple of pictures depicting fit men and women can be motivating to some, but this road leads to nowhere. You are getting hyped up by creating unrealistic expactations of what your training regimen will yield you. Dehydrated, oiled up and photoshopped models smile at the camera. The text says something along the lines “that can be you in 2 years”. Unless we invent real world image editors then no, that can’t be you. Did you know that Hugh Jackman dehydrates himself for 36 hours before a shirtless scene as Wolverine?

On top of that motivation is a fleeting thing, it’s great to possess it and, by all means, we should treasure it, but we should not lean on it’s temporary effect of euphoria and the will to act. If you make yourself train when you are not motivated and you can finish without half-assing your workout – that’s when you create discipline. A force that is much stronger, but harder to acquire. It will drive you to the apex of your abilities if you let it.

There is no better way to achieve your athletic goals than to be disciplined and it is much easier said than done. But we can’t forget to enjoy life outside of fitness. Let’s be frank, most of us aren’t proffesional athletes. We don’t get paid to train and we do not get paid for the results of that training. Keeping in mind that your life must be balanced in all things is important. Keep your diet and regimen in check but be mindful not to ignore the rest of your life. And believe me, there’s plenty more to life than eating, training and sleeping. Although to most of us doing a physical activity helps with other areas of life, some get carried away on a self-rightous path to be better than everyone else. Take care of your loved ones, nurture your friendships and above all else – remember that what’s truly important is to enjoy yourself and to get what you want. The question is if you want to get what you want now or what you want most.

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Brace your core

That’s the cue when doing compund movements. Tigthen your abs, not exactly like flexing them, but more like stabilizing the entire midriff, not allowing it to bend to any direction. Important for safety and taxing for your core as well, providing yet another reason for doing compounds.

The reason why stabilizing is so effective at developing core muscles is because rectus abdominis is not the only muscle you have on your stomach. Behind it is another layer of muscles called transverse abdominis, which is responsible for protection during those movements. A lot of people care a lot about how their stomach looks and doing compunds as well as other stabilizing exercises like planks and using the ab wheel will push the rectus abdominis out due to enlargement of the transverse muscle.

Another common misconception regarding stomach aestethics is the bewildering belief that by doing a lot of exercises that target it you can locally shed fat. There is no way to lose fat of a single body part with another method than liposuction. During a caloric deficit – hence the saying “abs are made in the kitchen” – your body uses the accumulated fat as fuel and it burns it throughout the entire body. By doing thousands upon thousands of crunches you will not see visible results, because the muscle is covered by fatty tissue, if you want to lose that then examine and adjust your diet.

Now regarding that saying – “abs are made in the kitchen” – I disagree. They are made during training, what you do in the kitchen simply reveals them. I know the saying is figurative, but it can lead to confusion. The look of strong, hard muscles doesn’t boil down to simply eating less and sitting on your ass. An easy way to develop them is by doing compund movements and maybe incorporating from time to time an isolation exercise. Squats and deadlifts – due to their stressing nature – are perfect for this. Form is paramount, and good form means you are bracing your core throughout the entire movement – effectivly training your abdominal muscles.

Overboard dieting

Due to having issues with self-image a lot of active girls consume so little that their caloric deficit reaches as much as 1000kcal and more. Not only is it hard to absorb all the necessary minerals and vitamins on a diet such as this, it’s detrimental to health in other ways too.

When a human body does not get enough energy everyday to fuel itself it shuts down systems it deems unnecessary for survival. In women this surfaces most commonly as problems with the menstrual cycle. There are women that have skipped their period for two years propably in everyone’s proximity, when fertility problems arise as soon as a couple of months. This is a big issue that I don’t see being tackled.

Another reason for this can be not consuming enough fat, even though the rest of the diet is reasonable. Female athletes often suffer because of this. Among women there is this belief, born in the 90s, that low fat diets are healthy. This is simply not true, eating fats is incredibly important, I can’t stress this enough. Also if you are fit and not overweight than there is no such thing as ‘bad’ fats. Some of them may be carcinogenic if you use them for frying, but there are many that do not have any adverse side effects no matter how heated up they get. Saturated or unsatured – we need both of those in healthy doses.

Now when an active woman goes to a gynaecologist the doctor almost always presribes contraceptive pills to deal with the symptoms rather than the cause of the issue. On the other hand some female athletes are happy that they are skipping menstruation, as it can interfere with the training regimen. There is nothing to be happy about, this is an issue and it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Adjust and monitor your diet, please.

 

Shameful enhancers

Public scrutiny of performance ehnancing drugs is incredibly intense. There is a bigger lashout after hearing someone is on anabolics than after, say, psychadelics. People look to others that excessivly drink, smoke or use and see nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to be concerned about. But if you did a single cycle of testosterone then you need serious help with that body dysmorphia of yours. Not to mention the severe side effects that will propably shorten your lifespan by ten years. The ignorance is screaming so loud it’s deafening.

I understand why it may be frowned upon to use PEDs while being an athlete. I get why it is considered cheating. However I think it is common knowledge among people who can tell the diffrence between a natural and someone on gear, that top-level athletes use it. The tests fail time and time again to the point where I don’t see the reason to still ban the usage of steroids. I believe that regulating that use, not banning it, would bring more benefits to athletes and the general population. Now some of you may argue that making steroids only avaible through prescription is regulating it. I agree to some extent, but I also believe that this is a measure taken too far. Making it avaible through a physitian to everyone could yield good results. After counseling the doctor, a prescription is fashioned, the dosage agreed upon and examination follows through, and after, the cycle.

While there definitely are side effects to taking anabolics, their frequency and intensity are overblown. Yes, it may get serious if someone is careless about monitoring their use and how his or hers body reacts. The same thing however can happen with aspirin. In fact I believe that alcohol, which is legalised, has far more severe effects on our bodies and minds. Ofcourse there’s nothing wrong with a party each weekend, right? But it is wrong when someone wishes to enhance their performance, because they weren’t gifted with natural high testosterone levels. With those declining generation after generation it would be beneficial to our health to increase them, contrary to popular belief.

Glorified circuit training

There is no more controversial topic in the fitness industry than CrossFit, maybe supplementation can be on par. This training methotology drew so much attention in such a short amount of time it’s no wonder there are two opposing sides to the debacle. My view on the subject is in the shades of grey. I’m not a blind follower of CrossFit HQ, but I’m not blasting them at every turn, either.

What I believe is being done wrong – but at the other hand, there’s very little people can do about it, because the human element is at work here. There is no point to full on randomization. I understand that this methodology calls for diffrent workouts each time, but there must be some kind of progression and periodization. Few boxes can manage this kind of programming (a good example of how to do this right is Tricity Crossfit). Throwing random WODs at people every time they show up at the box does not promote growth in the field. It may work for some time for those that are new to the sport, or – more likely – new to exercise itself, but in the long run it is damaging.

Doing everything for time. This is a big issue, because WODs incorporate a lot of weightlifting and other technical, whole body movements. People can get easily injured if not well coached. I believe that teaching people that proper form is much more important than a fast rep is mandatory. An easy way to achieve this i simply by no-repping them at any sign of improper movement and cuing them right the next time. Supervision is extremely important, which is why classes shouldn’t be overcrowded.

Now let’s move on to the merits. Promoting overall growth. This is great. Being good at everything is important for everybody. Endurance, stamina, strength, speed, power, agility, flexibility, balance, accuracy, coordination. These are the so called foundations and must be worked in tandem in order to become fittest and being fit – as stated on crossfit.com – is the preparedness not only for the unknown, but the unknowable. That ability to adapt no matter what is being thrown at you. To efficently act at any given time, under any circumstances. As I said – important for everybody.

When done right CrossFit is a great tool to become a fitter version of oneself across broad domains. If you are of a mind to try this methotology out I urge to find a capable coach and box. This is paramount in order to remain healthy and not injured.

To each his own

There is incredible arrogance among many exercise enthusiasts. They believe that the discipline they are specializing in is the one everybody else should be doing, the rest being a waste of time and effort. This is wrong. We all have different bodies and goals, and we all should be respectful about how we want to treat those bodies. I am of a mind that as long as a person is actually healthy and active, then there is nothing wrong with the given way he or she trains. Be it weightlifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding, crossfit, running, swimming, fighting or virtually any diffrent sport. If it makes you happy and healthy – good for you. Keep doing it and progressing in your given discipline.

I personally have chosen powerlifting as my main goal and will keep doing it until I am satisfied with how strong I am. There is something very alluring about being able to move that much weight, altough I must say that putting a lot of it over your head seems incredibly fun too, so it may be that I will try to implement weightlifting into my routines when I am finished with the current program.

Ever since I started powerlifting my conditioning went downhill. It is entirely my fault and something I am not happy with. I also need to work on mobility to achieve wider range of motion. Even though currently my main goals are strength oriented I will try not to stagnate in other areas of fitness. Being functional is very important to me and I believe it should be to all.

I am aware that at the begging of this post I stated that everyone should be doing what he or she likes to do. Having said that, however, I also believe that excessive bodybuilding is not good for you health. There, I said it. Not everyone digs functionality, some people focus on aesthetics and I get that. What is beyond me is how can you allow your body to be so unbalanced that if you do a little bit of strenous activity you risk a heart attack. I think that having so much muscle mass that your natural hormone levels can’t sustain it is going a little overboard. Therefore it is my belief that today’s era bodybuilders are no longer healthy, which should be a priority even if you are competing.

Genetics, surroundings

The study of epigenetics claims that we can change the way our DNA expresses. What this means is, that by changing our surroundings – what we do, eat, how long we sleep, and where all of that takes place – we can effectively change our potential.

This is still limited, but nontheless heartwarming. I have heard numerous times lines sounding like “he grew so fast, must have good genes”. Most of the times it has nothing to do with your genes. Perserverence and training smart. There is no shortcut.

Why I say this is limited? Because no matter how hard an averege person trains, they will never reach the athletic capabilities of Lance Armstrong, Rich Froning or Micheal Phelps. Those are the kind of people with amazing recovery rates. Training five times a day and improving, instead of doing damage to your body isn’t just a case of eating a ton of calories. Make no mistake, potential exists, but attributing someone else’s accomplishments to it isn’t fair. They work just as hard, if not harder, than other top-level athletes, they are just as smart, and conscious about their training. It just so happens that they have the right genes for it too.

Notice that those are extreme cases. Athletes that are one of a kind in the entire world. I don’t think we can throw around phrases in the gym like “he’s got better genes”, in small enviorments genes make little diffrence, the way they express is much more important. That can be manipulated to suit our goals. Don’t blame your genes, blame yourself for not being smart about your training, for missing a meal or for not getting enough sleep.

I have purposely avoided talking about performance enhancing drugs – regarding aforementioned athletes – in this entry because this is a topic that deserves a separate article.