2011 has borne many lessons for me. Here is what I learned in 1 year summarised into a brutally honest and convenient format that will take you 3 minutes, or 0.000006 years to read. Good return on your investment if you ask me.
1) Bulking Fail
After my transformation, I spent the year eating a large calorie surplus, averaging around 4500kcal. I followed these guidelines, except I went against my own advice and made one crucial error: I continued training in the same format as I had during the diet. Very low volume, one or two working sets per muscle group taken to failure.
The result? Got fat. Gained 13kg of bodyweight, with very modest strength gains (even some strength loss in the bench press!) despite how difficult it was to cram in that much food.
I had made such a fundamental oversight in my training, and it caused me to regress, I’d been wasting a lot of my training time and efforts. Oh well, at least I snatched 90kg:
Luckily, editors Jonny and Ben set me back on the right path, after I witnessed their alternate day fasting experiments. They were often eating 10,000kcal on feeding days, equating to around 5000kcal per day, and yet they were losing bodyfat and gaining inches on their chest and back. What was I doing wrong? Volume.
The reason they could eat so much is that they earned their calories. They were training twice per day with very high volume (see here and here), and therefore had no problems with low appetite. They actually had to stop themselves.
The last few months I’ve been doing just that. Avoiding failure, training with higher volume and frequency, and lifting explosively. My appetite is better than it’s ever been, and eating is no longer a chore. This is the biggest gift after a year of seeing food as an enemy to conquer!
Lesson learned: Train with enough volume and earn your calories. That alone will stimulate your appetite and you’ll have no problem hitting your calorie targets!
2) Ramadan, and The Accidental Cut
Ramadan came at the right time for me. I had an optimised plan (that was surprisingly well received) and I had some chub buffer. I followed the plan as written, trained in the evenings just before sundown, 2-3x/week.
– Retained strength
– Benefitted spiritually from Ramadan while directing the minimal mental energy towards training and diet.
– Lost 7-8kg (kickstarted by illness)
One thing I would change: I’d find a gym that closed after sundown, and train in a fed state. Training dehydrated is the worst thing ever. It’s risky and there’s a noticeable drop in performance.
Post-Ramadan, I competed in powerlifting, weightlifting and gymnastics. I’m now ranked 16th unequipped powerlifter in Scotland for this year (lol.. undersubscribed sport).
Gymnastics: This is why I won the men’s division:
Lesson learned: Compete wherever you can, even if it’s with yourself. It gives a purpose to your training.
4) You won’t die if you miss a meal.
I did alternate day fasting for 12 weeks: 36 hours fast followed by a 12 hour eating period. Gained muscle, lost fat while eating what I wanted. More details to come in our series on fasting.
Lesson learned: If you don’t eat every day, you won’t die!
All coaches will tell you that when they train themselves it is a whole different ball-game to training other people. JCDeen writes about this phenomenon here. You’re much less objective with yourself and can fall into traps of laziness, habit, overzealousness and pride. Proximity bias! You’re often too emotionally involved with your own body to make the optimal decisions. The result is that your clients make much better progress than you do, because they’re being monitored from an objective source. Having the PropaneFitness editors to put me right and highlight my mistakes has been invaluable.
We, the editors, coach each other just like we coach our clients. Often the more you learn, the more you realise how much you don’t know, and you start to doubt your decisions. When you put your diet and training in someone else’s hands you will jump in with both feet and make far better results, because there’s no second guessing, no thinking. All you have to do is train and eat!
Lesson learned: Buy a transformation package. (Couldn’t help myself. Really though, get some informed perspective. It’s invaluable.)
Although there have been some major time-wasting mistakes and stupidities, a lesson learned the hard way makes damn sure that you won’t do it again – so I’m grateful for the lessons. There are some other lessons, but I’d better leave them to Ben and Jonny. I can’t just steal all the good ones. You can see the latest in my training log here.