Most of the time when I write, I have a specific topic in mind that prompts the post – particularly for these posts that are not weekly competition diary updates. I’ve been thinking about a lot of things recently, but I don’t think any one of them is substantive enough to be its own post, so here comes the kitchen sink!
First, I am snugly inside the ever elusive sweet spot. My head’s right, my body’s right, my training is challenging, but manageable and my diet is regimented, but sustainable. In some ways, program design and meal planning are extremely simple and in others ways, they are a labyrinth. Your training plan should be challenging enough that it will produce the desired results, but not so insanely hard that you injure yourself or give up because it’s way more than you can handle. Dieting requires the same balance – you have to ensure your caloric intake is appropriate for your goals and that you are eating high quality, nutrient dense whole foods, but also that you are eating enough to support your activity levels/recovery and preferably enjoy eating at least some of the foods on your meal plan.
Too many people stick with the same program long after it stops producing results, but far too many people also jump around from one diet/training plan to another without ever following one long enough to see if it is effective. One of my pet peeves is when I overhear someone say, “Oh, I tried the [insert popular fad diet here] diet, but it didn’t work for me.” Newsflash – pretty much all diets work (especially when you have significant weight to lose). If your diet “didn’t work,” chances are that you didn’t actually follow it or give it enough time to work before throwing in the towel. To further complicate things, as you change over time (whether for better or worse), the location of your sweet spot is also going to change. Training programs need to be altered and diets need to be adjusted as you (hopefully) make progress, both physically and mentally. This is one of the reasons that having a trainer/coach is helpful.
There have been some pretty incredible side effects to all of the work I’ve been putting in, not just during official competition prep, but since I first recommitted myself to fitness after moving to Charlotte. First, I have been battling chronic shoulder pain for the past 10 years. I have had multiple MRI’s (showing degenerative disease of the tendon), multiple courses of physical therapy, and multiple cortizone injections, all of which have failed to provide me with anything more than short-term relief. When I first signed up at my gym after moving, the training manager told me after my physical assessment that I had very weak rhomboids and that he was confident my shoulder pain would resolve once I strengthened them. Of course, I thought that was ludicrous. I thought, “There is no way I have spent a decade grinning and bearing significant joint pain because of a muscular imbalance!” Well, I am elated to say that I have been completely pain-free for at least a month now, which is the longest I have ever gone without chronic shoulder pain since high school. I don’t have an explanation, so I may have just proven his hypothesis.
The second side effect is two-fold. I have lost interest in TV for the most part. I still have a bunch of shows set on my DVR, but I find myself deleting most of them without ever watching or losing interest in the first 10 minutes and shutting it off. So what have I been doing instead? I’ve been reading. I bought a Kindle Fire right before I moved here 6 months ago. I looked at my Kindle library the other day, and I have read over 30 books in the past 6 months! Everything from biographies to sports science to sci-fi to fantasy. A much more productive use of my free time if you ask me. Oh, and of course, I have been training!
Finally, I’ve realized the importance of support and encouragement from others. Too many people who compete are often the target of negativity and criticism, although I have to say that my personal experience has been overwhelmingly positive with one exception. It can be very scary to put yourself out there and to pursue a goal and engage in a lifestyle that many people consider to be weird. I often shy away from doing it or try to do so very quietly because I’m afraid of being hurt or being judged. But every time I have put myself out there, I am always touched by the responses I get. And because I understand how important that is, I make every effort to be that support for others who are following their dreams or pursuing a goal, regardless of whether it has anything to do with fitness or not. So many people are discouraged and scared away from greatness because of bullies and critics and cynics. Can you imagine what an incredible world we could create if everyone chose to encourage and support each other’s dreams? Every person has the power and potential to be extraordinary, and helping someone to discover and seize that power has got to be one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have.