Guest blog by coach Eric Falstraut
Every january, in every gym around the world, a grand event takes place.
It’s called: The Annual January Gym Membership for Fat Loss Frenzy Event.
Everybody wants to reverse in 6 weeks the damage they have done in the 12 months, which is big mistake number 1. There are plenty of big resolutions that will be taken in the first week of January and it is easily confusing, especially after listening to all the cousins and friends who have found their way, which is as they suggest, THE way people should do.
So before you have it straight in the face from someone who got their diploma in the University of their basement, let’s have a look at the different ways to help you start out, and maybe, make it last a little longer than an infomercial.
People often start with the wrong priority. They suddenly want to stop their late night snack, but fail to change the rest of the day’s nutrition. They are usually done after a few days. Some will go all out at the gym for the first few weeks, doing cardio and abs, only to give up a few weeks later, drained and confused.
What we learned throughout the years is that one bad habit feeds another one. The goal is to find those that can kill two birds with one stone. Here are some quality resolutions to take
1) I have quality sleep every night
Shortened sleep is associated with reduced leptin and elevated ghrelin. Leptin is the satiety hormone and ghrelin is the hunger hormone. Reduced satiety and increased hunger… the message could not be clearer.
Most people think that 5-6 hours of sleep a night might be sufficient. It might be if it was uninterrupted sleep, if they didn’t sleep with their phone at bed side, or even worst, under their pillow. Aim to fall asleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am. When you can’t respect these times, your looking for problems. If you can’t fall asleep, do what is necessary to actually fall asleep. Dim the lights, chill, relax and let the sandman do its work.
2) I eat at regular intervals
In the Journal of Physiology and behavior (1), a study demonstrated that:
- Changes in meal timing influence obesity and success of weight loss therapy.
- Unusual feeding time can induce a disruption of the circadian system.
- Digestive enzymes express in a circadian manner and are synchronized by food.
- Feeding is the source of energy for adipose tissue. The time of feeding is decisive.
- Clock genes are important in meal timing by changes in circadian control of hunger.
Besides the fact that it will be the determining factor in the success of most of your health related resolutions, it will also help you: maintain your energy levels throughout the day, keep focus, concentrate at hand for your daily strength workouts. Which leads me to my next point.
3) I choose a gym that fits my needs
Let’s take a look at your needs. Have you gotten a few years of training under your weight lifting belt? If so, the gym with all the crazy machines, nice high definition TV’s are not for you. If those gyms would put as much attention into the training decor and fashion as they would into training services and quality, continuing education of their trainers and what truly matters in the gym, it would be a balanced mixture of cleanliness and all around gym performance.
Look for Atlantis, Hammer Strength, Watson equipment and more dumbbells, barbells and power racks than aerobic room spaces and vibrational plates. Even if you don’t have a few years of training under your belt, you should look at those gyms primarily. They will give you the most bang for your bucks by bringing you all the basics and best exercises to give you a strong core foundation of strength and conditioning. All the nice high tech gyms with the latest electronic and televisual equipment diverts the attention from the lack of actual knowledge and care from the staff.
4) I train with a purpose
Some people just like to brag that they go to the gym, but do they really hit the weights? It is what everyone wants to do first when they want to lose weight. I’m not telling you to go to the Olympics but to make sure you are not wasting your time, just train with a purpose, a goal.
You might want to lose fat, or see your abs but for the love of god, have a goal in mind. Losing 10 pounds is fine, but you can be a little bit more specific, like 10 pounds of fat. You want to increase your squat 1RM for example. This might take a little help along the way from a good coach or get your nose in the books and try it out for yourself.
5) I add some unloading/maintenance weeks in my annual workout plan
Unload phases are usually periods of lesser volume of work in a given workout or for a few days while usually keeping the same intensity. You can add them into your current program such as in week number 3 of a 4 week cycle (meso Cycle).
Cited from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning: “The purpose of this unloading week is to prepare the body for the increased demand of the next phase or period”
The NSCA’s Strength and Conditioning Journal compiled a list of benefits of deloading:
- Up to 20% increases in strength and power
- Lower levels of stress hormones
- Higher levels of Testosterone
- Better moods during the day, and better sleep at night
Maintenance phases are almost identical but could last longer with a complete change of activity. In the athletic population, maintenance phases are usually the “In-Season” protocols. For the non competitive crowd, see maintenance phases as busy times, when you can’t go more than 2-3 times a week.
Most people will say that they don’t need it. That there ain’t no rest for those on “Beast Mode”. These Beasts have deload/maintenance weeks, but just not planned. They usually fall on their face, tired, over-trained and weak. Only to lose all their gains and start all over again with another bulking phase (cough cough…). Planned unload is to best way to regenerate and recuperate after the hardest phases of your annual training plan.
A study (2) was done to examine the effect of in-season strength maintenance training frequency on strength, jump height, and 40-m sprint performance in professional soccer players. The players performed the same strength training program twice a week during the previous 10-week preparatory period. In-season, one group of players performed a strength maintenance training session per week, whereas the other group performed 1 session every second week. Only the strength training frequency differed from the groups, the rest stayed the same, as in reps, sets, and exercises.
During the first 12 weeks of the in-season, the initial gain in strength and 40-m sprint performance was maintained in the once a week group. In conclusion, performing 1 weekly strength maintenance session during the first 12 weeks of the in-season allowed professional soccer players to maintain the improved strength, sprint, and jump performance achieved during a preceding 10-week preparatory period. The once every two weeks group actually lost strength and suffered a decrease in performance in the sprint and jumps.
Yes, that study was done for and on athletes, but still, we can learn a lot from it. Athletes have in season and off-season strategies. During these phases, they have High intensity and low intensity, unload and transition. You might not be an athlete, but you sure are training like one. Plan these phases properly and you can train longer, harder and keep the gains coming.
Bonus tip: I choose my friends wisely
The most influential lesson I can give you is this; you are the average of the 5 people you hang around with. It takes a few dimwits in a group to lower the group’s IQ. The difference with people who hang out with friends that uplifts them instead of those who try to bring them down to their level is the advice they get from them. Let’s be honest for a moment, how many friends do you have that have the same passion as you do? Who share the love of training, dieting and having the pain lasts a little longer from a great workout?
Not many, if any. So first things first, you probably are the one helping them so keep going. If some of them are trying to keep you from going at the gym because you are “too much” or that they want you to absolutely taste those brownies and “have a life”, gently and kindly go on with the regular schedule.
Coach Eric Falstraut
1: Timing of food intake and obesity: A novel association, Marta Garaulet, ,Purificación Gómez-Abellán, Department of Physiology, Faculty of Biology, University of Murcia, Spain
2: Rønnestad BR, Nymark BS, Raastad T. Effects of in-season strength maintenance
training frequency in professional soccer players. J Strength Cond Res. 2011
Oct;25(10):2653-60. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31822dcd96. PubMed PMID: 2187389