Julia coaches the ladies class in the Science Lab. She talks a bit about her various titles in this article. When you buy “Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss” you get a subscription to the Science Lab classes and access to a private support group. Click here for more information.
As performance athletes, we all have goals; some are within our grasp, and some might take us years to achieve. It is our job to control the variables that will determine our success. When considering what it’ll take to achieve our goals, we tend to think of either getting closer or further away from the end. What we tend to misunderstand is that there are times when we need to just stabilize. Our initial progress may make it look like we’re on the fast track, but without stabilization, down the road it will slow us down.
Picture this: you go into the gym and you break your overhead squat record. After you’re done celebrating, consider why that just happened; was it the training, the extra caffeine in your pre-workout, getting all worked up as your favorite training song came on the radio, or the weight gain? There are a few different variables here that could be coupled together to explain that broken record.
Now, on the flip side, what if you go in and get smashed with less than 90% of your record? There are just as many variables to account for why you may have missed.
After breaking a record, it’s a great time to take a small step back and let your body adapt to that new stressor you just placed upon it. I am not saying you need to take a week off or go on vacation, but don’t start training at that new training max right away. Let yourself recover.
When you start your next training cycle, you will now have a greater potential for more reps/sets with same percent of the old training max. This also allows your nervous system to adapt. Too often, we feel like we’re on such a roll that we push too far, too quickly. If we stabilize and let the adaptations set in, we end up better off 2, 3, even 6 months down the road.
With nutrition, we need to stabilize as well. Rather than the typical “bulk” and “cut” cycles we see over and over, as strength athletes we need to keep the variables of our nutrition constant (at times) while we ramp up intensity or volume in our training. We can then enjoy a gradual, natural change in our body composition without the worries of eating too much or too little. The focus is placed on performance without a worry of being a few pounds heavier on the scale, because we are breaking records in the gym.
They Broke the Mold
We have all heard the phrase “They broke the mold when they made you.”
Well, it’s the truth.
Just because another person added 50 lbs. to their squat doing a certain workout doesn’t mean that your experience will be exactly the same. Just because this person lost their love handles eating one meal every third day does not mean it is the best option for you. This is where controlling the variables can help you find what works best.
We often want to throw out everything and start over when fixing the weak link could propel us to new records. Drastic changes are not always right. If you follow one of the popular training templates out there and things become stagnant, maybe you need to add more calories to get over the hump.
Altering that single variable could make all the difference. If you only manipulate one variable of your nutrition/training while keeping everything else constant, (stabilize) you can dial everything in perfectly. If you change too much at once, you’re playing a guessing game trying to determine “what did what.”
What “They” Say We Should Be
The problem with the fitness industry (well, one of the problems) is that information flies around so fast. If I’m a person fairly new to this training thing, and I see people at my gym and at the CrossFit games just killing it, I assume I need to be just like that.
Doctors use BMI measurements (which calculate weight in relation to height) to determine body composition. Six years ago, when I was hitting some of my biggest numbers in powerlifting, I was 138 lbs. (at 5′ 3″). Calculate my BMI with those stats, and I was borderline “overweight…” Yet I was strong, healthy, I had a good blood profile, and I was walking around at 17-19% body fat. I was performing extremely well in the gym, getting pregnant, having kids, and loving life. I was happy with what my body could do.
Now, I’m 2 days out from a physique show. I’m the same 5′ 3″ but I’m now 120 lbs. That BMI calculation puts me right in the middle of the “ideal” weight, yet at 9.4% body fat, I missed my period last month, I’m tired all the time, lethargic, and achy. My strength is down, but thankfully most of my muscle is still there.
Is every woman at 5′ 3″ is supposed to weigh 120 lbs? I don’t think so. My build is different than yours, which is different from the next person, and so on and so forth.
We need to stop lumping everyone into the same bowl. Even at the same body fat percentage of 15%, not every woman is going to look the same.
Focus on doing. Focus on building. Focus on being the best version of YOU that you can be. Your body is smart; give it a chance to grow and perform. It will adjust to homeostasis if you let it. In doing so, you might just realize that the best version if you is yet to come.