What are you training for? Do you have a goal? Is it measurable? Does it have a time frame? Do you have a plan?
You know, if you don‘t know where you‘re going, how will you get there??
I debated whether or not to write this post, because it may turn some of you readers off.. Or give you the impression that I’m shying away from my love of pure strength training. What I’m about to write has been a thought process of mine over the last few weeks however and I think it’s worth sharing.
The Arnold wrapped up about three weeks ago. Since then, I took a week off from training and have been back at it for the past two weeks. My current regimen consists of four 30 minute sessions of fasted cardio each week and five afternoon sessions of strength training. My next show on the horizon is tentatively July 9th, Team Universe in NYC. With this upcoming show, my training methods are shifting. For the past 3 years, I would say I have focused on athletic based movements with a strong physique emphasis. Primarily working on strength and power in the gym, followed by physique and function. Conditioning too in the mix consisting of all out short bursts of intensity for 10-60 seconds maybe up to 3 minutes depending on the challenge, but you get the point.
For a while now, I have specifically been trying to hammer home the message to women of the benefits of STRENGTH training and heavy lifting. I am not afraid to lift with every ounce of effort. I have followed and performed all programs ranging from 9 sets of 3 reps, 10 sets of 10 reps, 5 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps, 3 sets of 15 reps and 2 sets of 24-30 reps…and so on…I am not turned off by any lift, set / rep scheme or challenge as long as there is a rhyme & reason. I am not afraid of getting “bulky” because I think I have proven as a figure competitor, you can train like the big boys and still look like a chiseled, petite, feminine woman. Ladies, hear me loud and clear.. genetically and hormonally, we will not beef up! Unless of course we have a poor diet and then we’ll beef up from fat, not muscle!
If you asked me to define an “athlete” in a few words, I would immediately think “strong, agile, powerful”…then I thought, what about the triathelete? They are built very different from the average power or field athlete and function quite differently, yet they are an athlete. From there spawned my thoughts: What defines “athlete” and what defines “being fit”?
My brother is a sick athlete, but he’s not a field athlete or a triathlete. In fact, he’s a rock climber and snowboarder. In a recent conversation with my brother Doug, we were talking about training disciplines. We often identify with a specific one and may even limit our attention and appreciation to one. Why not, if it’s what interests us and pleases us to pursue. We may also however fall into the trap of becoming opinionated and closed-minded towards other disciplines and training methods. Remember, it‘s the principles that we adopt that are most important – not necessarily the method(s) we use or the discipline we tackle. Now there may be more favorable methods to utilize when pursuing a particular goal, but there’s also a lot of ways to skin a cat or there wouldn’t be so much debate on the internet regarding the good, the bad and the ugly in training exercises and design.
This brings me to another point. What defines “being fit?” I think I’m fit…I have gotten my pull ups to 10 body weight reps for four sets, my DB bench to 60 lb Dbs and my legs can outlast most. I like to pull tires, hit the prowler, run sprints, or jog for an hour. Ask me however to swim for an hour and I think I’d sink. Ask me to train only in circuit or high rep ranges, I may vomit. Ask me to go rock climbing with my brother and my forearms would fry. Take me for a 50 mile road bike venture and well, I might gas out at that too 🙂 …but I’m fit right? And so is the triathelete and or my brother who doesn’t lift in schemes of 5 sets of 5 reps or push the prowler all day long.
So my brother and I were talking about training disciplines. Once you master one, its good to switch it up, both for the learning experience AND the mental and physical challenge. He referenced his personal experience of rock climbing because that is one of his thriving passions. My brother has been climbing for 14 years – about as long as I’ve been lifting (going on 13 years). When he was younger, he used to spend his time mastering bouldering – a style of rock climbing that is essentially all strength and power. You may get 5-8 moves in a bouldering challenge. At the time, Doug had disgusting relative body strength. Years later, he wanted to challenge himself differently. He decided to pursue the outdoor climbs more and challenge his endurance. Now he scales 3,000 foot walls such as El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. He even sleeps suspended from an edge because the climbs take a few days. Talk about a challenge and change!!! Doug’s shift in style stayed within his love for climbing but demanding completely different energy systems and tolerance of his body. Not to mention, a new learning curve and stepping outside of his comfort zone both physically and mentally.
I share this conversation with you, because I believe we should pursue what we love but also push ourselves to be open-minded, learn and master new things. Stepping outside of that mental and physical comfort zone. Learning something new and trying to enjoy sucking at it at first only to make new gains over time.
Now, going way back to my first point – training goals. Over the next four months, I am a FIGURE COMPETITOR. My training goal is to step on that Team Universe stage with the best physique I can bring. If I had a sports performance goal in mind, I’d train for that. If I needed to get stronger, I’d train for strength. If I needed to put on muscle, I’d train to put on muscle. My goals however are to streamline and fine tune the foundation I have built. To come in more petite than previous shows. Although I don’t want to lose strength or the athletic nature of my movements my training is shifting.
For a while, I have identified with heavy lifting. I am proud of my strength and conditioning abilities. I love feeling like the strongest girl in the gym but I am shifting my training methods because my goal over the next four months is not to be the strongest girl competing, if so, I’d enter a power lifting competition – it is to get on stage with my best physique yet. Please please, don’t get me wrong, I will never turn my back on STRENGTH nor will I stop studying it, appreciating it or prescribing it for most, if not all, of my clients. I however, will be shifting my personal training methods to a new scheme in order to see what response it brings. It took me a few weeks to wrap my mind around the change in training because I like and identify with the strength and conditioning crowd. My goal to compete however dictates my latest training style and I am excited to change things up, suffer at first because my body is not used to this style, learn to be open-minded and use myself as a guinea pig to see what works and how I can transform my lines and physique. Believe me, my principles will remain intact and you better believe I will keep the intensity high in my sessions, but it will be different 🙂 To me, this is a shift much like my brother took on. There will be crossovers in my latest training program, but at the same time a very different approach. (and yes, I will continue to post the new training days)
So I ask you again, do you have a goal? Do you train (and eat) to meet those goals? Are u in a trap of closed-minded training beliefs? To you, what defines an athlete or being fit?
Already, I have had to step outside of my comfort zone both mentally and physically. For now, I will be putting the training I have done for the past three years on hold. I also thought I was going to vomit on one of my recent leg days and I was sweating like it was 110 degrees and humid out. I look forward however to embracing this change, holding on to the things I love about training, learning from the experience and sharing the ride again! After all, if you do what you always did, you’re going to get what you always got. I encourage you to do what you love but don’t get caught up on one style or discipline forever…
p.s. Doug plans to climb El Capitan again in late spring / early summer. He is one rad guy and the very best big brother. I love him to pieces and am so proud of his accomplishments and pursuit of his talents and passions!