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On the left is Luke in Q4 of 2020
He was sitting at 200lbs, he wasn’t training at all, and had become quite inactive as he’d blossomed into his career (as we can relate).
Luke and I have been close friends since high school, and we’d shared the same dietary struggles of binge tendencies, and family/societal pressures with eating. “Binge and restrict” is the label, but essentially he could go without eating, then when he ate, he’d eat, and without activity/muscle and quality food choices to put those calories/macros to work, he’d gained some serious fat. Luke also has a great family life, and as lovely and supportive as a tight knit family unit is, there also tends to be struggles with breaking the mold of eating what, when, or how the family is eating.
On the right is Luke currently, in December 2021
He is 168lbs, able to do 3 sets of 8+ perfect pull-ups, bench pressing well over 200lbs, squatting 250+, and deadlifting 315 for reps.
Luke is certainly more of a “type a” personality, but it took some time for that to traverse into his mentality with training and his diet. The first few months of coaching we had to ease in, as the approach was meant to be long term and that’s counterintuitive for many people; i.e. bringing his intake up to stimulate metabolic processes, training lower intensity, volume, and frequency to make use of the “minimal effective dose,” and to worry less about numbers, and focus more on his behaviors.
Behavior Change>Number Emphasis
What does behavior mean? There are habits and behaviors that we adopt and subconsciously repeat that we’re totally unaware of. A majority of the success of coaching is creating that awareness for someone who’s willing to change. I aimed at making him aware of what his “triggers” were, and what habits he had that would collide with his lofty goals.
This. Takes. Time.
See, if we focus on the numbers and mechanistic side of things exclusively, we’ll see results, and usually we’ll see those results faster. However, as the majority of us who’ve ‘cheated’ have learned the hard way, receiving the answers to the test was an instant gratification that led to delayed distress.
The Trainee’s Progression
A constant “2 steps forward 1 step back” whirlwind of emotions plagued him, as at first he’d feel very defeated, because starting off slow had gone against every approach he’d ever taken before (of which I had to provide constant reassurance that it didn’t work, and if nothing changes nothing changes). Following euphoric periods of rapid progress physically and mentally, he’d really begun to transfer his “type a/do more” mentality to this arena. Therein posed the problem of sustainability and recovery! He began yearning to train with 110% intensity, and do so everyday. Training took primary focus, nutrition the secondary, and recovery an afterthought.
It’s the natural progression of a trainee. However, this is where many people halt their success entirely and create this ceiling for themselves. As any true, sustainable fitness success story knows as well as I know: recovery is the bridge that takes us from the stress that we’re putting on ourselves, to the results that we’re trying to achieve from that stress. Intensity and volume are being toggled throughout your training career, and articulating this to someone so interested in learning for himself was necessary so that he (unlike so many trainees) understands that the higher the intensity the less volume, the higher the volume the less intensity, and frequency can be used to moderate them both. Not to mention I wanted to stress “out-training a bad diet” is a trap, and to also think more about “under-recovery” instead of “over-training.”
Luke trained in a “functional” phase to set a base and understand and grasp movement, he went through my relatively basic “meat & potatoes” strength/muscle program, he completed a more obscure and unconventional strength program, we trained like a bodybuilder for awhile, he even did a short stint in a power phase, and has now begun writing his own workouts.
I stressed training in phases, because once graduating from utilizing a coach, many will go on to find their favorite training style and train that way forever. We must have some new stimulus to adapt from. He’s also not someone I’d worry too much about being inconsistent, I’m more concerned with him (and overachievers alike) being cognisant of his mood, stress levels, sleep, recovery, performance, hunger, digestion, and other biofeedback to help inform him of how his total health is, not just his training.
Luke had a 2-3 month diet period coming into summer of this year, which wasn’t a huge success, to be blunt. It became very apparent to him where his true struggles lie, and that his food behaviors are what needs to be addressed, and he did just that. We then focused strength and muscle up until August, since then Luke has been in a calorie deficit. He’s going to take (no less than) ¾ of 2022 off from being in a deficit to focus on building and maintenance. Luke has been a binge and restrict-er in the past, and he knows he has to commit to a desired outcome. Now his next focus is to commit to matching that time he spent dieting (minimum) with being at maintenance/bulking to prioritize not only healing himself metabolically, but also to enforce not constantly dieting!
It’s simple, not easy.
Even for Luke who became invigorated with all things training and nutrition, it’s not that all of the above is so complex that it’s off putting, it’s that it’s not easy. There’s a constant whirlwind of emotions, that’s why discipline and accountability are so vital; to escape the trap of being pushed and pulled by fleeting emotions.
Just over 1% of Luke’s life was dedicated to this (1 year from the average lifespan of 79 years=1.27%), and that’s a relatively miniscule investment with tremendous returns. There’s truly no telling where you can be in a year if you truly commit, work with a coach, adopt the mentality and understanding that “I’m going to do this to my absolute best ability and be willing to change.”
You have to change in order to change. That’s why it’s so ridiculously difficult to make those changes if you’re wearing all the hats. You’re not only completing the exercises, the diet, the sleep, you’re also creating the structure, you’re managing your recovery and mentality, and within all of that you’re biased. You have to give up the reins, just for a while.
Thanks for reading, as always!