If you follow fitness pages on social media, you will see many messages that fall into that “go hard or go home” theme. They are success stories. They walk into the gym, abs a blazin’, and are pushing to the limit EVERY.SINGLE. DAY.
I don’t do that. I can’t do that.
Here are few reasons why I’m doing this thing “wrong”.
REASON #1: I do as little work as possible.
I don’t go “beast-mode” in the gym. I used to. And I got hurt. Twice. Not serious injuries, but they still nag at me. Lifters get hurt – that’s true. But actively choosing to avoid injuries means I can keep lifting without interruption or work-arounds. There is a difference between the loads my muscles can handle and what my connective tissues can handle. Those little pieces and parts have been moving me around for over 54 years – I am always conscious of that. Random strangers sometime feel the need to offer critique about how I do a movement, and that’s OK because they have helpful intentions. They might not realize that I actually do know what I’m doing. Range of motion is a connective tissue issue for me and I send video to my coach to analyze almost weekly. We both know that over the long term, things have improved and will continue to improve. Nothing good comes from rushing a biological process. My body never lets me get away with that. I also found a coach who shared my perspective and he keeps me healthy. (Knocking on wood as I type…) Now I just show up, do what I’m supposed to do that day. No more, no less. Every 4th week, a deload is programmed in whether I feel like I need it or not.
If you’re a teacher, this analogy might make sense – think about IEPs and least restrictive environment. I do as little as possible to get the results I want. There is nothing further for me to gain by breaking down more tissue and increasing my recovery time.
REASON #2: I eat ice cream every day.
I worked hard in the beginning to redefine “food”. When I started, I put everything on the psychological table, so to speak. I got help and learned what nutrition was all about. I had to develop a new habit of measuring and tracking. I do believe micronutritents saved me – I remember when my paradigm shifted. I had just read about cellular regeneration and BOOM! It hit me. I could change every cell in my body by consistently providing better nutrition. That was when I became a clean-eating zealot. Apparently, upon reflection, I needed to be an a-hole for a while. Sorry. I was obnoxiously passionate about what I was learning and I also needed a little validation. I believe it was just an awkward, emotional, necessary part of my journey. Eventually, I grew weary of feeling like a food martyr who only ate foods on a short list of “approved” items. I started to research and learned more. I learned about macros. I also learned that because of how I trained, because of how I changed my body composition, not only could I incorporate some of “off-limit” foods back into my life, I knew I could control them, and my body used them differently.
I asked my coach (Alberto Nunez, 3D Muscle Journey) if he thought I had any emotional issues with food. Paraphrasing, he said “No. You use food as a tool. You know when it’s necessary to be precise and you know when it’s OK to relax.” Please know that I do have days when I’m HUNGRY. Those are planned and necessary for what I’m doing. It’s also a natural physical response for hormones to trigger hunger when precious fat stores are being used. Bodies don’t like that. Bodies want to be plump and ride out the famine. My body has not evolved itself to support my first-world goal of improving my conditioning as a bodybuilder. I still believe micronutrients in veggies are my bestest buddies for recovery and general health, but because I eat a little ice cream each day (until I’m deep in contest prep and I don’t want to), that tub of cookie dough has lived safely in our freezer for almost a year.
REASON #3: I don’t cut water when I compete.
After I did my first show, I started researching how to compete without cutting water. I did a water cut again for my 2013 show and that just confirmed for me that I would rather quit competing than cut water again. It’s just not something I choose for myself. I’ve worked very hard to get off the path of health complications that I was traveling back in 2009, so cutting water, using water pills (or even fat burners, for that matter) just doesn’t fit into my personal philosophy of how I’m going to live. I continued to research and learn. That research eventually led me to my coach. More and more competitors are learning the science behind a peaking process that makes it unnecessary to cut water. It’s actually counterproductive because I looked flat on stage when dehydrated. For the 2015 show, I had a water bottle off stage and was drinking as we were being called out for prejudging. Yes, I did gain some muscle between those two shows, but if you look at the 2015 conditioning, drinking water didn’t have a negative effect. To improve my stage conditioning, I need to focus on improving my body composition gradually over a long time. Just that. Nothing else.
REASON #4: I won’t do whatever it takes to improve in my sport.
I’m competitive, but I’m working to keep that drive focused on things I can control. There is a list of things in my head that I won’t do. I believe I can do this thing on my terms, or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’m curious to see what I can accomplish doing it the way I want to do it. I’ve seen this sport wreck people and relationships. I can understand why the stakes would seem higher for younger people. Me? Hell, I’m going to be 55 and one year closer to retirement the next time I post a new stage picture. To me, I’m in the prime of my life right now. To the fitness world, I’ve been called a grandma. (Not blessed with kids, btw, so I’m not literally a grandma.) I hope the lessons provided to me by the Universe about the irrelevance of my ego are over, but if I have more to learn, I that’s OK. Seriously. What do I have to lose if I earn a 4th last place?? Nothing. What do I have to gain if I win an overall? Nothing really. The shows and the pictures are cool, but they are not the endgame. Progress is the endgame. The true endeavor is to show up each day and recommit. There is joy that for me, but not all the time. Passion ebbs and flows. I’m still motivated just to see what is around the next corner. In some ways, it’s a very long game of strategy of me vs me. Win/win or lose/lose depending on how I play, right?