Friday, September 20, 2013

Training adjustments with life changes

I answer quite the myriad of questions each week.  Generally, they are all pretty similar, though the occasional wild hair will pop up here and there...and frighten me as to why someone is asking me what they are asking me.

A fairly common question I get are from people who fret losing their "gains" during a lifestyle change.  And I don't mean becoming swingers or getting man parts turned into lady parts.  Nothing that extreme.

Generally they tend to run the gamut of......

  • Had a baby
  • Got a new job
  • In school
  • Tons of life stress
Why this causes so much stress and anxiety in peoples lives, I do not know.  

Throughout my life, I've had to train through all sorts of circumstances.  From being in the military and having to be in formation at 0400, to extensive travel, new jobs, three kids, being unemployed (well, that one tends to make training easiest), etc so forth and so on.  Life "gets in the way" so to speak.  

The one thing I try to emphasize about training and it's relation to life is that both provide a stimulus or stress. Good and bad.  Training too hard or too often can equal too much fatigue and cause a sharp degree of fatigue debt that makes recovering much harder.  Having a girlfriend or significant other that is constantly in your shit and making life a living hell has the exactly same effect.  Minus the muscle soreness (unless she's beating you as well).  

Making adjustments is not difficult if you just put some thought into it.  Secondly, sometimes you just have to train in a way that you must stop being a whining bitch.  

For example, I can't tell you how many times I've gotten this e-mail.....

"...this new situation makes it so that I could really only train in the morning.  But I hate training in the morning."

Someone call the fucking WHHHHAmbulance.

I don't want to turn into my father, who walked uphill both ways to school here but I've trained at 4 and 5 a.m. many a times when my schedule only allowed me to train at that time.  Did it suck?  At first, yes.  Over time you adapt to it, and I had plenty of awesome sessions in those early hours.  The other nice thing about it was, when you come home in the evening and are tired as fuck, there is nothing to do but rest.  Training is done and out of the way.  

So if that is your "only option" then for the love of God suck it up, go train early in the morning, and stop trying to finagle some way around it.  Lots of people have trained early in the morning and survived to tell the tale about it.  

If you aren't used to training early, I can offer some suggestions - 

  • Get to bed early....duh
  • Make a good warm up a priority.  20 minutes on the treadmill is a good idea.
  • Pound caffeine.  Coffee should become a close friend if it's not already.  
  • Even after the treadmill, do extra warm up sets with the bar only.  I found this to be extremely helpful and I still do this to this day, even though I don't train in the morning.
  • Don't eat before hand.  I found the coffee with some cream and then drinking some simple sugars with protein powder mixed in to be best here.  I still do this.  When I ate breakfast I felt even more bogged down.  
Outside of that, I get a lot of questions from people who worry about what "split to use" when these things come into play.

This is why you have a "philosophy" rather than a "routine".

And the philosophy is to ALWAYS be singular minded in your training.  This always helps to keep things clean and simple.

If you have not been single minded in your training that will become very evident if you end up in one of these situations where you are forced to decide what you must narrow things down to.  And this good sir/maam, is an excellent thing.

Giving yourself FEWER options falls right in line with that mode of "singular minded thinking".  That is, once you are really forced to remove options, you'll assuredly end up picking the thing you're most concerned about.

For those that had a kid for the first time, congrats.  Second, shut up complaining about it.  Jesus Christ people have been having babies for, well, forever.  And it's a survivable task.  Yet I get tons of e-mails from men (not women mind you) that complain about having a new born, and the lack of sleep, blah blah blah.

Harden the fuck up a bit.

If you can't harden up enough, then make a deal with the lady so that she lets you sleep on the nights before you train.  Again, this is not a hard concept to figure out.  Other than that, try a stimulant, and just deal for a few months.  If you're a LIFER, then you're not going to sweat a few months of training.  Also, this is where Base Building is such a beautiful thing.  You aren't trying to hit rep PR's or 1 rep maxes (unless you're in high school, and then you're still trying to hit 1 rep maxes in the gym), so you will probably be very surprised in a few months of just how strong "maintenance" work will have made you.

Don't sleep on this concept......because you're not sleeping the rest of the time with that baby crying.

Life is going to happen.  Stop sweating losing your "gainz" because you will be working more or training earlier, or later, or whatever.

If you're going to be working a more physical job, eat more.  That's really priority #1.  You'll need to account for the energy expenditure.  Kirk Karwoski has always worked a physical job and he got kinda strong still doing that.  Kirk's own admission was that the physical labor jobs are what kept him lean.  And that he got fat after he found a desk job.  So think of it like cardio, if that's the case.

If you're sleeping less, grab a nap on the weekends, and train in Base Building fashion and be pleased in a few months when you've either maintained your base in shit conditions, or even gotten stronger.  I've had insomnia my entire life, and it's just something you end up dealing with (the lack of sleep).

If you're sick, use your best judgement.  Unless it's in your chest.  Then take plenty of time off for that to clear up.  I watched a former training partner literally turn white and pass cold the fuck out in the gym after he tried to come back too soon from bronchitis.

Again, don't get so wrapped up in hitting PR's all the time during these times, and I promise that you will be surprised at how much strength you either maintain, or gain.


  1. Gainz...
    Started in Sept 2010. Moved 3 times, including out of state. 3 'new jobs'....

    I may not have maximized my gains like a pro.. but damn.. I am doing ok.

    Routine. It's all routine. We don't even discuss when we are going to train any more.. we just come home, change.. and go.. or wake up and go.. depends on the day.

    Man up.

  2. I'm dealing with unemployment at the moment, and yet when I think of all the shitty situations life still has in store for me, and all the shitty situations that passed, I realize I managed to love the process of life and lifting... it`s gonna be hard, and it`s gonna be great
    being a lifer is about overcoming

    Paul, I`m really looking forward to your base building book!

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
    ― Theodore Roosevelt

  3. Great post PC. I'm right in the middle of moving house ATM, with our first baby due in 6 weeks, so this is timely.

    Luckily the new house has a patch of dirt in the back that will become my new training digs. So no excuses with that type of convenience.

    I've always been driven, but becoming a father has had me more motivated to train than ever. I want my kid to walk around knowing that his dad is the biggest fucking badass in the neighbourhood.

    And I want to show up the fucking fatass excuse-makers around me who whine and whinge and throw around their faux-wisdom and say 'just wait till you have a kid, you won't want to/have time and energy to train'. Yeah? I'll show you how it's done motherfuckers!

  4. I do a ritual for the dark goddess Tiamat and sacrifice two bunny wabbits to make sure I don't have bad training days. Works 50% of the time. Gotta do whatever it takes.