I have lost count of the number of people who have asked ‘Am I back in Training yet?’ or stating ‘You’ll be taking a break then won’t you?’
They then seem surprised when the answer to the former is ‘I haven’t stopped training’ and the answer to the latter is ‘No, Why would I?’
Why is this strange?
Why would I stop training?
Why would I be taking a break?
Ok, so I’ve finished competing for this year, am I supposed to just stop training as well? That’s it, we’re done and dusted, everything is great, and because I did so well this year I can just cruise along until comp season next year?
Not a chance.
Off season is when the real magic happens. In fact there are plenty of studies out there that show the (up to 12 weeks) immediately post comp are when you can make some significant ‘muscle rebound’ gains, so I am not about to waste such a window of opportunity.
Google the phrase ‘Champions are made in Training’, you’ll get approximately 150 million results. It’s something that I believe very strongly in…
Those that reach the top of their chosen sport or profession are different from those that don’t quite make the cut. Champions are made of different stuff, there is something indefinable that comes from inside. You can’t teach it, you can’t learn it – it is there or it is not.
I believe that I have it, which is why I find the concept of taking time off just because I’ve stopped competing for this year, quite odd.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should never take time off – there is an excellent article here (http://blog.trainingpeaks.com/posts/2012/11/30/how-much-down-time-is-too-much-the-concept-of-detraining.html) that talks about how much time off is too much time off, so I won’t go into that and I’m well aware that rest is just as critical a part of your whole process, as the training (and diet) itself. Timed, scheduled rest is crucial to growth and I do take my rest phases when they are due. I very much enjoy them, but I’m always glad to get back to my training. It just so happens that I will be taking a break over Christmas and by an amazing coincidence it also happens to be 12 weeks after my last comp…perfect timing for a scheduled rest!
Another thing that appears to surprise people when they ask me about my training is how many times a week I train with Aiden. At the moment the answer is 3 a week and after Christmas I want to bump it up to 4. Now that might seem a little excessive, I mean, I know exactly how to structure my program myself, I know exactly how to manipulate my split, I know exactly how to rotate exercises in and out, when to superset, giantset, waveload or dropset to provide variety, change the intensity and keep my body growing…so why go to the trouble and expense of paying for a trainer so often?
Well firstly, lets go back to the champions argument – champions do whatever it takes to win/be the best. There is no greyness about their process – they do it or they don’t, end of story. I want to stand on the stage at Natural Olympia next year with the best physique and be in the best shape I can be in,
I want to win it and I will do whatever it takes to get there.
I am acutely aware that my muscle building window of opportunity is very short – my age, being female and the fact that I am so injury prone seriously counts against me. I am well aware that I am up against people sometimes 15-20 years younger than me and with many more years of training in their bodies than me. It means I have to wring the most out of every training session that I do.
Amongst the many reasons why I enjoy training with Aiden, and probably one of the more ‘forgotten’ reasons is that I can push, pull, lift or squat heavier for more reps because he spots me. I’ve done plenty of programs created by other trainers then been left to my own devices – quite often they consist of a lot of numbers and x’s – 10×0, 4×20, 2×20 – I know thats all about timing, tempo and stuff, but I find this distracts me from what exercise I’m trying to do – I spend all my time wondering what the ‘x’ means or the ‘0’, is the 2 the up or down bit? Yes I know there’s a lot to be said for this format and its purpose, its industry standard, proven etc, I just don’t like it, it de-motivates me. I overthink it.
The gym is my down time, I don’t like having to think when I’m there, I just want to lift stuff…and the first training session when Aiden spotted me was a revelation. I could lift more and heavier which meant I was getting more work done in a shorter space of time and I didn’t have to think! Who’d have thought!
So 4 sessions covers my whole split, meaning every body part gets hit as hard as it can at least once every week. Over the course of a year that adds up to a whole lot more work and hopefully will maximise my muscle building potential.
Think about it. When I train legs by myself, I can’t (won’t!) squat more than 70kg, because I just don’t feel safe. When I fail, I fail catastrophically and I really don’t like suddenly finding myself on my butt with 70kg of metal landing on me. Same thing with the bench press – I don’t like the idea of failing and having 60kg land on my chest.
Even DLB takes a spot!
When I train with Aiden, I squat 80+ for however many reps/sets and if I fail there is someone to catch the bar and stop it falling on me. In addition to that, when I’m getting close to failure, and I’m struggling to break out of the hole, there is someone who can help me get the bar past the sticking point and get out those few extra reps.
Doing some very simple maths, let say I train legs once a week for 48 weeks, do 3 sets of squats with 70kg for 12 reps thats:
70 * 12 * 3 * 48 = 120960 kg moved (120.96 metric tons)
Training the same reps/sets with Aiden spotting me at 80kg
80 * 12 * 3 * 48 = 138240kg moved (138.2 metric tons)
18 extra tons of metal moved?
Lets take a look at my dumbbell Shoulder Press – by myself I can just about get 17.5kg into the starting position or down to the floor without something being pulled or jerked the wrong way. With Aiden, I start at 22.5kg. He can place the dumbbells into my hands when I’m already in the starting position and take them off me just before I fail.
5kg is a big dif on a dumbbell shoulder press.
Think how that adds up across all exercises, for all body parts, every week over the course of a year…
How much extra muscle would that translate to?
If this is what we can achieve in a year with 3 sessions from such a low starting base, we know there is room for improvement and I intend to make the most of it.
Does your trainer spot you? Why not? Isn’t that why you hired a trainer in the first place – to get results that you wouldn’t be able to achieve on your own?
So what is the focus of my training? Well, having done my retro (you HAVE done your retro…?), scoured photographs and talked it over endlessly with Aiden, Biceps and Abs are the key, with Chest/Tris next, and of course it never hurts to make improvements in the good bits as well. Biceps have been a victim of ongoing elbow tendon issues – I didn’t train them directly for 8 months prior to comp prep and already after just 3 weeks of ramping up the intensity, they are falling apart…again, so I’m back doing the rounds of physio and doctors trying everything they can come up with to adjust my technique, fill them full of blood/cortisone – whatever it takes, I want them fixed ASAP. If that means I do have to stop direct arm training for a period of time prior to Christmas, then so be it…I’ll just work on those abs and making my shoulders, glutes and legs even better!
At this time immediately post comp, now is your opportunity to really make an honest assessment of yourself. If you’ve done your retro, you know where you’re at and where you want to be. The next question to ask yourself is how you’re going to get there.
I love my training. I have the right trainer, with the right knowledge, by putting training at the top of my list we’re making the progress we expect and getting the results we want to see. We have a shared vision and the commitment to see this through as far as we can take it.
How many of you are lucky enough to be able to say that?
If you’re not, I’m going to challenge you as to why not? Why are you training that way, with that program, or those methods that are not getting you to where you want to be…
If you want different results, you’re going to have to do something different, now is the time to do it, and one of the key areas to make some changes is your training, especially if you’re aiming for the comps at the end of next year, you have a really good 9 months to see if what you change is working.
It’s up to you – are you a champion? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? The ball really is in your court, you just have to decide what you want and how much you want it…
If so, its time to assess, maybe overhaul and prioritise your training!