My transformation clip!
The conventional belief in the non-fitness community goes like this, you build a physique and it remains with you till the time you grow old and are ready to push up daisies ( an expression for when you’re dead) The reality, however, is far from this. A well-built physique requires years of work, discipline, and dedication to the craft. Once you have built it, you must stay on course and maintain it. Despite of all this, even when you are so well prepared, there are chances you may fail. Now, for all the gurus and so called social media fitness experts, your standard retort “All it takes is to eat right, exercise, sleep and repeat and you are on track” Well, theoretically you are right. From a practical standpoint, you are living in wonderland waiting for Alice and hoping to lead a fulfilling life just like in fairytales.
The last 8 years of my journey as a fitness enthusiast/blogger, I have evolved from a person looking to build a physique to someone who is willing to take responsibility as a representative of the fitness community and learn the nuances of exercise and nutrition science explicitly. It is never about how much you know; it’s always how far can you go when it comes to acquiring knowledge. I have followed and applied conventional methods on my road from fat to fit and the maintenance phase alongside and it has worked for me. What we forget to factor in is life! when life kicks in with all the surprises, there are other aspects which need to be accounted for, eg the process of ageing, stress, adaptability, work life balance, limited access to the sporting environment etc and I’ll break all this down in a minute for you. The picture above and the 42 second clip briefly shows a 6 week transformation cycle, however, the details that went into the process are far greater in comparison to the time it took.
In the last 3 months starting from the lockdown, I changed my training from conventional lifting to endurance and bodyweight strength work. I moved like a breeze the first few weeks. In this process, my body changed and before I knew it, I was not the same. I was still in shape and training 5 to 6 days a week, but my shreds were gone. They diminished before I could say jack. The initial bit was stressful as I was unable to fathom this and it caused tremendous stress and prevented me from figuring out what led to it. But the one good thing I have been able to build over this course is a strong mind and a sense of belief. I have understood the value of the mind and the fact that it is the most important muscle in the human body. I knew what I had to do and went ahead with it.Let me break down my 2nd transformation for you.
- Training intensity- my goal has always been to remain aesthetic with respectable strength standards within my weight capacity. In the process I have trained my body and mind to go through optimal or, if I may use the word, considerable stress in the gym and the same has gotten me best results. To each its own, but this is old school and works for me and is backed by science as well. Now, the unprecedented fuck-up which we call the pandemic, changed training styles and the conventional gym. I too, like many others adapted the free style method and let me tell you, it has its merits and can be made extremely challenging, however, if your goal is to stay fit and look good with your clothes on, you’re on track. But if you want to go beyond and maintain below 10 percent body fat percentage, you have to find a way to push heavy and lift heavy shit. Let us understand this. I was used to pushing 30 to 40 sets at 70 to 80 % percent load capacity(Maximum heart Rate) on an average and suddenly I was limited to running(irrespective of the quantum) and push-ups with bodyweight which was only recruiting type 1 fibers. Potentially, my body’s capacity to handle physical stress and volume was far greater than the endurance output I was achieving. In simple words, you are used to lifting 10 bricks a day and you switch to 5. The negative load will compound over time and contribute to muscle loss and change the body’s equation. And even worse when you’re a 40-year-old. When you run and train with bodyweight and do it over a period, you body gets used to this and your potential to stimulate type 2 or fast twitch fibers(responsible for building Lean Muscle) reduces. You can still be in shape, but, in order to build lean muscle and maintain low bodyfat levels, you must recruit multiple muscle groups, which in turn will recruit type 2 fibers. The quickest and the most desirable approach is training with weights and often going beyond your capacity. So, the answer is to train at 70 to 80 % volume (MHR) in line with your goal. I am glad I have been able to put some equipment at home to ensure I can maximize my effort even when I don’t have access to a gym.
- Ageing- the older you are, the harder it is to build and maintain muscle. I have demonstrated and explained this in plenty of my YouTube videos and articles. Let me quickly take you through it again. you tend to drop T levels (testosterone) when you get old and start to accumulate fat. In simple terms, the process of ageing. The best way to negate this is by pushing your body to break muscle by way of lifting weights. This will help build lean muscle and the more muscle in your body, the less fat you accumulate which is a result of accelerated metabolism video link at the bottom. In my case, I was training at minimal body capacity and the age bit fast-tracks muscle loss. Free style training limited my range of motion and impaired my mobility to some extent. This isn’t typical but I experienced it. And lack of mobility also contributes to muscle wasting.
- Inflammation and digestion- as I was going through the new form of training, aside from my fasting regime which I practice till today, I took the liberty of indulging in foods that often don’t hurt an individual whose looking to lead a good life, but does change the equation for people wanting to maintain single digit body fat levels. I had started consuming liberal amounts of dairy with artificial sweeteners once in a while. Now, is this bad? Technically your body can manage it well, however, it does lead to significant inflammation causing you to bloat and impairs your digestion. Your mid-section (rectus abdominis or the abs) will be visible on top of your skin when you eat and train to point, however, to go beyond that and make them pop out, you must factor in digestive health and inflammation. When you are training hard and eating right, your body’s potential to fight inflammation is stronger. Now if you remove exercise from this equation and throw in foods that cause your inflammation markers to swell up, you are in for trouble. So be mindful when it comes to consumption of foods that may cause inflammation. I have experienced it firsthand and can tell you it is extremely distressing.
- Core training- The finest of performance athletes across the world have phenomenal core strength which is a result of interdependent core engagement. In simple terms, the rectus abdominis muscle or abs are present in every human body and needs to be revealed by removing the fat over the skin. A combination of right nutrition and ab training will only get you so far to make it visible, but if you are looking to go beyond and achieve the washboard look, you have to engage the core differently. In my conventional training I would train the abs independently twice or sometimes 3 times a week at the most and was always ready to get rid of my shirt at the drop of a hat. How did I manage the same? My training has always included multijoint movements like Deadlift, Squats, Clean and Press etc which engages the core to the maximum. All the dudes with an impressive mid-section indulge in multijoint/compound movements almost 3-4 times a week. The core is central in all multijoint lifts and ensures the development and upkeep of the midsection is at its maximum. My rule of thumb, I start my training with one compound lift and slip into my routine thereafter. As I was limited to running and bodyweight training the last 3 months, I could only do so much. This clearly establishes the fact that you must engage your core by way of functional movements to achieve best results. So, to sum it up.
- Train at 70 to 80% of your Maximum heart rate for best results.
- Factor in your age( for folks over 30) and upgrade your training intensity and standards periodically. The older you get, the more work you must put in to build and maintain muscle.
- Inflammation and digestive health are key and will change as you progress. Identify the foods that do not suit you and manage your gut better.
- Core engagement through functional training will let you keep your abs longer and almost permanently.
During this phase, I have identified the critical details which go into building and maintaining a quality physique at a point in my life which is different from when I started my journey and transformed 8 years ago. I am glad for this little dent experienced in my limited time as a fitness enthusiast. If it were not for this set-back, I would have never felt motivated to experiment with my training lifestyle. A big shout out to Mark and Andrew from Being Strong Fitness for letting me use their facility. Birds of a feather flock together, I guess. Not to mention the commendable effort by the support staff to sanitize the environment (only for the 3 of us) I know where I started many years ago and have realized the potential of the human body and mind is limitless.
Stay safe and healthy and thank you for being part of my journey all along. Happy Sunday!
Until next time, we lift, therefore we are.