Consistency and Cutting

Warning: this entry contains pictures of me in my pants. Sorry about that.

I started this year sober and motivated, with the lofty goal of attending the gym consistently. Gaz’s generous gift of a year’s gym membership for my birthday in early January was going to be the catalyst for improvement in my strength and physical fitness, and the motivation I needed to re-introduce deadlifts and finally start bench pressing.

True to my word, I started attending the gym 3 days a week. I went twice in the period between Christmas and New Year, smashing out a new back squat PB of 102.5kg 1RM @ ~77kg bodyweight. Unfortunately in February my knees started playing up (after niggly pain on and off for some time) necessitating some time off and a drop in squat weight to less than half of my new PB. Sad face. I later discovered, after much research and reading, that this was potentially caused by a quad dominance. I have not had any problems since I incorporated more work on my hamstrings to balance out my legs. Another gym break occurred in May/June because of the house move, but aside from that I have attended the gym consistently: week in, week out.

As well as working out religiously, I started documenting my lifts consistently. Rather than turning up and winging it — doing what I felt like that day — I came up with a plan that targeted different muscle groups on different days, with accessory lifts and a range of low rep/high weight and high rep/low weight stuff. (I was very much aided in the draft of a plan by lifting insta-friends and Google.) Documenting reps and weights meant that each week I was able to increase one or the other: progressively overloading my muscles to encourage growth and increase strength.

Sobriety and this new-found consistency meant that I started to drop some weight early on in the year. I lost 10lbs without really trying. Although I was confident and happy at that weight, I was particularly liking the increase in muscle definition that losing 10lbs had given me and I decided to lean out a little more. I wanted to make the results of all my efforts visible.

Unfortunately it wasn’t that simple. My attempts at furthering my losses didn’t seem to make much difference; I was bouncing back and forth between 150-160lbs (68-72kg). Not only that, but I was feeling weaker and I would often stand up and get a ‘head rush’/low blood sugar feeling. I was concerned I was under-eating despite being in ♥ with food, because I didn’t know how to properly fuel the work I was putting in to both my lifts and my other fitness exploits (running, taekwon-do, pole dancing etc). I was eating like a sedentary person, rather than an “athlete” (for lack of a better word).

In June, I finally decided to seek help, and ordered a fat loss template from Renaissance Periodization. Now, you may recall that I’d ordered a diet plan from a “personal trainer” back in December. This original plan left me underwhelmed, which I think reflected in my previous entry on the subject, but I decided to modify it and stick it out for a bit. However, within days of posting that entry, I’d queried some bits in the template and got back an answer that could be summed up as “because I said so”. I don’t do anything in life on the basis of “because I said so” and especially not when it comes to something as important (and full of bro science) as nutrition, so I chucked it in as a bad idea.

Anyway, back to the template from RP… like the original plan I’d ordered, it broke down macros into 5 or 6 meals across the day. However, it did so according to training or non training days and workout intensity, and crucially (unlike the other plan) everything was backed up by references to scientific studies. The plans themselves are written by a team of doctors, dietitians etc: all with actual qualifications and everything. I felt more comfortable with the template (which in itself was non-restrictive and flexible) which straight away gave me the confidence I needed to fit it into my intensely busy schedule.

RP recommend a 12 week cut maximum, followed by 12 weeks minimum at maintenance. This gives your metabolism time to recover and beds in your new metabolic set point (the body weight set point is a theory in nutritional science that suggests we have a “comfortable weight” and that the body will use various signals and hormones to get us back to that point despite increases and decreases in calorie intake; it has its critics but has been observed in animals). Resetting this metabolic “set point” helps prevent bouncing back to your old weight, which is a common problem in a lot of diet programs and weight loss systems.

Within a couple of days of starting the new template, the dizziness and side effects from low blood sugar were gone. I was eating HUGE amounts of food compared to what I was used to. ALL THE CARBS! Holy macaroni. Not only that, but the weight loss started easily and immediately: I’ve lost over 10lbs in just shy of 8 weeks. Losing weight while eating all the foods? Winning!

weight loss progress over the course of 6-7 months
I have lost significant amounts of fat from my stomach, hips, back, chest and face. Also boobs. Bye bye boobies :(

Perhaps even more importantly than losing this weight, I have smashed out some fucking EPIC lifts. Yesterday, after struggling with my squats since my knee problems, I did sets of 5 at 40, 50, 60 and 70kg. 3 and 2 reps at 80kg then 1 each at 90kg and 100kg. I am within touching distance of my Christmas squat PB and I weigh 10kg less. I finally incorporated the deadlift back into my program and am already doing reps at 80kg, which thrashes one of my new year goals “deadlift my bodyweight” without even really trying. This morning I benched 40kg for a handful of reps (bench is my weakest lift by far) after starting the year barely able to lift the bar for all 5 sets. Add this to running PBs at my 5k and half marathon distances (and a couple of 10km races coming up to thrash those too) and finally completing my long-held goal of completing a pull-up (albeit with dodgy AF form)…

& I am just buzzing! If I maintain the consistency (including trialling a 4 day split over summer), and see the cut through the final month, what else can I achieve? A double bodyweight squat, 100kg deadlift and 50kg bench seem like good goals to be going on with. Fingers crossed!

Personal Bests and Personal Worsts

I started this week on a fantastic high. After having cracked squatting my bodyweight earlier this year (roughly 72kg give or take) I had been struggling with improving my squats further. Marred by dodgy knees, skipped gym sessions thanks to a chaotic schedule and over-indulgence on food & drink, it’s my own fault. Still, this didn’t stop me on Monday when I smashed out squats at both 80kg and 85kg with a set of 2 for each. Strong strong legs.

Not content on just PBing there, I went on to pull 50kg doing close-grip front lat pulldowns having been stuck at 45kg forEVER. To say I was buzzing after that was an understatement.

(I am currently using Myprotein Impact Whey Protein to support my workouts but I’m looking to potentially improve on this in the new year. If you supplement protein, I’d be interested to know what you take. Drop me a comment/email.)

This strength-related high was short lived as I got home to yet another round of work related emails (boo) and the ever present threat of the taxman knocking at my door.

Every single year I forget about HMRC’s payments on account, leaving me ill-prepared to meet their demands for large sums of cash at a time of year where things are tight as it is. My kids want Christmas presents and I’m sat watching the balance of my overdraft grow hoping my clients pull their fingers out before December 25th; this doesn’t leave me much leeway to pay the taxman money for a tax year that isn’t even over yet (don’t even get me started).

Why is balancing the ebbs and flows of freelance, and planning sufficiently ahead, such a personal weakness? It’s been over 5 years since I started working for myself and barring a break in the middle where I briefly returned to my old agency, I have had to put money away all this time. And I fail, time and time again.

2018 has to be the year where I nail this shit.