THEME OF THE WEEK: #1- Why The Lows? / #2- Really Listening To My Body – Am I Ill Or Fatigued? / #3- Getting Comfortable Eating More To Fuel Growth.
#1 – So High, But Low At The Same Time. What Gives?
It’s funny how you can be so on it and fired up, yet have the daily mind battles and moments of emptiness and reflection. I’m really starting to realise that it doesn’t matter how good things are in life between work, body, relationships, mindfulness etc – whether you’re an employee or a billionaire that seems to have everything – there will always be moments where our ego and intellect trip us up and makes us question our value and happiness.
Last week was incredible – because I chose it to be. Sure, I deal with some demons, but I’m starting to reframe those thoughts and signals from my body that I need to be deliberate and practice being happy, fulfilled, energised, caring and aware. I also need to to deflect my own negativity, self-doubt and concerns daily, in order to tap into all the good stuff.
The thing is, I’m not a negative person. I’m a natural optimist and risk taker. I’m a sales guy – I love to get passionate and transfer that emotion to others. I’ve had a great career to date and the family is happy, fulfilled without much worry. I’m not battling with depression or lots of negative self-talk. Far from it, I have an inner drive to show up and do what it talks, rain or shine. I love that perseverance and unshakable belief. That said, I still have my shit to deal with – DAILY!
Maybe Pain & Negative Moments Are Good For Us…
Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe pain, discomfort and moments of negativity are all there to challenge us to grow and to recognise that you need to act and/or do things differently. The key for me is to listen to what the signal is trying to tell me, versus trying to ignore it, or worse indulge in the low-moment and lose all positive momentum. Wallow and doubt.
My EUREKA Moment
What you’re about to read is simple, but only once you fully embrace it. That happened last week for me.
It’s more important that I show up and do the ‘work’ on those down days, than it is to crush it on days when everything is perfect and I feel great. When I turn around a negative thought/moment and have a great productive fulfilling day, that’s such a good feeling. Plus, it’s in these moments of tension and lowness that breakthroughs often occur. Embrace the feedback. Hear it and adjust. But most importantly – go through your days assuming it’s going to be great irrespective!
#2 – What you Say Body? Sorry, I’ve Not Been Listening For 37 Years…
But I’ve Telling You That For Years!
Isn’t it true that you need to be in the right place to hear certain advice and act upon it, otherwise it’s just noise? Have you ever had your partner or friend recommend something, perhaps something so obvious like you need to get more sleep, and you just push it to one side? You do nothing, because it’s too simple, or that person does not have the perceived authority for you to pay attention. I can’t tell you the amount of times my wife, friends or family have told me to do something, and yet I took no action. Only for me to then place massive importance on that thing later in life once I hear it from someone I deeply respect AND I am in the right place to receive it. What a dumbass. Sorry. 😐
That’s kinda the realisation that is happening daily with me over the last six months or so, with increasing frequency over the last couple. Sleep, Nutrition, Mindfulness, Cold Showers, Fats in Morning, Binaural Beats, Naps, Sunshine, Being Outdoors, Real Connection. All these pennies have been dropping only in the last 6-12 months for me.
Feeling Beaten Up When Sleeping
Last week, whilst I was on fire during the day after working through my morning ritual of activities and ploughing through creative productive work, I was getting to the end of the day and physically was feeling beaten up. My whole upper body felt chewed up and uncomfortable.
Where this really showed up was when trying to sleep. There was NO comfortable position. I already have issues with sleep quality such as needing to wee 1-2x a night and being quite restless, but this was just making it worse. I was resulting in sleeping on my back – a major problem for my wife as I snore. D’oh. I don’t want her to have a bad night sleep too, especially given all the responsibilities she has in helping our family to thrive.
So What Is Going On?!
At first, I put this down to perhaps some muscle soreness from working out – just some DOMS. It comes and goes, and is part of life if you constantly train heavy. But it wasn’t going away, and felt deeper than muscles. It felt like it was coming from everything – the muscles, bones, tendons and insides.
Or was it simply tension from thinking about work stuff and not getting enough downtime with Michelle in front of the TV, just chilling with nothing to think about? Maybe. So I made sure I turned off earlier and got in some Billions and Googlebox. 😉 I also put a renewed focus in some of the Sleep practices (check out 10 Sleeping Hacks – & Why You Should Care ) that I’d drop if I was short of time, such as a hot shower/bath and reading before bed. Helped, but I was still left with this achy body.
That got me thinking – is my body trying to tell me something? It feels beaten up. Am I beating myself up? Have I taken the idea of training and activity for positive body change a little too far? Was I kidding myself with how resourceful and capable my body was, thinking I don’t need anymore than two days off training a week max? I’m addicted to training, being productive with my body, and the positive changes I am pursuing. I need training to feel alive and on my a-game. Was I therefore not listening to signals that perhaps my body needs a little time off from being challenged constantly, so it can fully restore?
I think that’s what has been happening. I’ve been so committed to my training (and needing training to feel good). I am a productivity and progress junkie. Without progress I feel I am going backwards and am less fulfilled. Plus, my body has been strong and able, with new PR’s and improving functional quality happening often. Little to no muscle soreness day to day. And, I’m mentally hitting my stride from a productivity and balance perspective. You can see that there is almost a sense of self-meaning I derive from working out.
But in this blinkered fashion to training, I’ve not been listening to cumulative signs of fatigue and break down. My last Deload was probably sometime in October-November 2017. I trained hard 4-5 times a week in what was a restorative month-long holiday to Australia in April. Perhaps it was more restorative to my mind and soul as it was to my physical body…
It looks like I am suffering with a little bit of General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), which is discussed in detail in this article – Chronic Exercise & Life Fatigue – Are You Gas’d Out, Not Making Progress Or Stressed?. This is where you do not allow enough time for you muscles and Central Nervous System (CNS) to fully recover, and through time you end up going backwards in some measure. In my case, that has not been strength or growth, as both metrics are increasing, but perhaps it was my resourcefulness and robustness of my CNS that has been taking a hit. In truth, it feels like strength, muscle size and weight is going up too slow given my training volume and diet. Maybe this is because I’m not allowing my body to recover sufficiently and supercompensate with increased strength, muscle, endurance and capacity.
F**k, Do I Have A Cold Too? Or…
Moreover, I’ve been hit by a bit of a cold. It’s weird though, as it’s not the kinda of cold that makes me snotty or drained throughout the day. In actual fact, I’m buzzing for most of the day with no real symptoms. I just get a smoky sore throat at night time and for the first hour or so in the morning. Perfectly coinciding with the body physically feeling beaten up and miserable. Hey, it’s normal to have worse symptoms at night and first thing, but to have no symptoms during the day just seems a little odd.
Here’s my theory. I am doing so many good things for my body – super nutritious food, supplementation, healthy fats in morning, mindfulness, cold showers, rebounding, sunshine, outdoor activities, working out. On the nutrition side, I can honestly say that I am on every aspect of optimal living and I am absolutely loving the taste and feeling of putting in an abundance of high quality nutrients. Perhaps I am creating such a great internal environment for the good guys to win the battle against the bad bacteria and viruses, that I barely notice that there is a war happening inside of me.
Or, maybe I am not ill at all! Mind blowing concept, but maybe my body is having to strengthen the signal for me to listen that my body needs a little time to take stock and recover from the gruelling strength work I have it do almost daily, for months on end. I’m drowning out the signal with all the good things I am doing, so my body has staged a multi-faceted approach – sensation of a beaten up body and being ill at night – when it’s the most disruptive and obvious.
OK, I Am Ready To Finally Listen – Deload It Is!
Call it increased intuition, an intervention by my body, or me just over thinking things (plausible). Whatever it is, it feels right to take a little time out from killing it in the gym. That’s a big step for me, as I attach so much meaning to working it, and the loss of potential progress is hard for me to accept.
The reality is, I’ve got a lifetime to sculpt my body (and mind) – one week out is not going to put everything in jeopardy. In actual fact, it’s often cited anecdotally and scientifically that a Deload week is both restorative and progressive. Inasmuch it builds and repairs without the ongoing stressors of training, and enables you to come back refreshed physically and mentally, with greater capacity to push to new heights of strength, endurance and power.
#3 – Getting Over My Hangups Over Getting Fat
I’ve also been battling with this hurdle last week.
It’s an unfair reality of building your physique – you cannot sustainably build fat without gaining fat, or lose fat without atrophying muscle. Boy do people try to defy this law with all sorts of crazy approaches, nutrition plans, workout-styles and potions. For the most part, it’s not something you should try and chase. Accept you have to go through phases of growth and shrinkage, with the hope you get these right to minimise the downsides.
I’ve known this for a while, but I still try to thread that needle of minimising fat whilst gaining muscle. And look, I’m generally happy with my progress. I’ve put on good size naturally, whilst being able to maintain a 10-13% body fat. And there is plenty more progress left in the tank. Moreover, I’m pursuing my physique and strength goals whilst paying deep respect to wellness and nutrition. I’m not interested in physique to the detriment of vitality, energy, happiness and overall wellbeing. I want my cake and to eat it! I think that’s fair.
But I Still Want My Abs
However, here’s my demon. I don’t like seeing weight go on. I know academically it’s par of the course, and I have a relatively easy approach of stripping it back when I need to cut. But I just don’t like the feeling or the sight of getting soft, bloated and squidgy. It’s just not a great vibe, when I love the feeling of being fit and being an expression of health.
Plus, I like having Abs. You understand – I’m sure. Healthy is sexy, and I want to feel sexy. For me and my wife. I also have no desire in being a bulky ‘bouncer’ type. My ideal is muscular athletic with minimal body fat (see An Intro — Steve’s Body ‘Journey’ and 2018 Goals).
Is My Body Burning & Eliminating More Calories Than I Assumed?
I know how to calculate my TDEE, my Macros and Calorie targets based on my goal to cut or bulk (See Losing Body Fat For Good – All You Need to Know pt2 for more detail). I work off this number to test it in real life, and adjust up and down to get the needle moving in the right direction.
Previously, my TDEE was coming it at ~3,300 calories, so I’ve been working to a small surplus of 200 calories per day – 3,500 kcal total. I’d adjust up a little if my day is particularly active, such as all-day gardening on top of my daily workout, and I’d also adjust down little if I’m on a rest day and desk-bound. From a nutrition perspective, I eat what you see on the AdapNation Food Diary, and I supplement as per Supplement Pills & Potions — Optimising Health & Gains. It’s working.
However, I’m hitting weight plateaus and the weighing scales are jumping around a little too much without enough short term upward trending.
So, I re-checked my TDEE based on current bodyweight, body fat and exercise levels. It’s now coming in at 3,460 calories. Whilst it’s not 100%, it indicates I should have adjusted up my daily calorie target. I also checked out my Fibre intake. It’s healthily pretty high at ~40g daily. Indigestible Fibre(s) are Carbs, but as they are not digested, most of their calories are not taken on board for the body to use. That equates to say 140-160 calories I am counting which aren’t really being consumed. These two factors of increased TDEE and high Fibre intake are probably why my weight gain is a little too erratic.
Let’s Stop Sitting On The Fence
OK. So I need to eat more calories. That’s fine, as I love my food and consuming say 4,000 calories is not hard for me. It’s just the way I was raised – love your food and always go for seconds! 😋
But, the fear of unnecessary fat gain is still very real. I want the calorie intake to fuel maximal muscle growth whilst having as little left over for fat storage. That said, I need to stop aiming for perfect.
I’ve decided to up my calories to 3,700 for the following week, and see how I respond. I’m Ok with pushing that higher up, but lets see if that is necessary. I’ll eat pretty much the same as usual, with a healthy high fibre diet. I’ll get the extra calories by larger portion sizes, getting in more healthy fats or increasing my snacks and desserts of nuts and dark chocolate up a little.
Focus For This Week
In terms of Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness and Body Goals, here’s my focus for this week:
- Deload Week – Will load in more stretching and parasympathetic work, do APR-18 #HyperWorkouts at 50% effort to focus on form and connection, and will get in more outdoor things like shooting hoops in my garden. ,
- Increasing Calories – As above, will increase to 3,700 calories and monitor bodyweight response.
- Napping with Binaural Beats – Will try and embrace the science and see if napping can increase post-lunch productivity and mood, versus just being a lazy mans thing.
- Emphasising The Importance For Connection – Nothing feels your pocket like deep and meaningful connections with your partner, family and friends. More of that this week.
I’ll let you know how I get on next week… 🙂
Follow Steve’s Body & Mind Progress Journal as it unfolds. Comment if you have questions, ideas or motivation to offer, and please keep me honest to the above.