Thursday, September 29, 2011

Adelfo Cerame - Pre-Contest-Prep: Rest, Recovery and the Underestimated Value of Taking a Week Off.

Image 1: If this is how you feel, than it is about time you take one week off from whatever routine you are on.
It's only Thursday and I feel like I could use an extended weekend (luckily this will be one, with Monday being a holiday, here in Germany ;-), already. Some feel like it's life or work that is getting in their ways, for others its their hobbies, like blogging and training (that's me ;-), but, after all, if we are honest with ourselves, in almost all cases there is "no one" or "nothing" that really stands in our way, other than we, ourselves. I mean, oftentimes we are so busy with our everyday routines that we begin to feel to be externally controlled, although, in almost all cases, we are the ones who decide / believe that we must follow the exact same routine day in and day out.

The results of this practice, in the best case, are boredom and discontent - in the worst case, however, our routines will burn us out and make us sick. Adelfo, our man at the  2012 Wheelchair Nationals, is well aware of the fallacy of routines - especially when it comes to going to the gym day in and day out and he knows that taking a day off before you feel it is utterly necessary is way smarter than digging a whole out of which you cannot escape, no matter how "hard" you rest ;-)

One Week Out = One Week Off

I'm taking a week off from training, before the hot phase of my contest preparation begins. The time, this stands out of question, is well spent to heal my nagging pains, to rest my body, who has already been sending me the first signs of a cold and, most importantly, to be able - mentally as well as physically - to really kickstart my contest preparation in October.
Image 2: Comparison shots from September, 1st to September 21 2011 - the prep has not yet begun, therefore no major changes in this time of experimentation (photos by Adelfo Cerame, 2011)
As it happens, I am also just reading Rob Regish's Blueprint. In his book, Regish mentions that a depressed immune system, and subsequent infections, like if you're getting a cold out of nowhere are tell-tale signs that is is about time to take a week off from training... Now, while this idea obviously was not new to me, reading it black (or should I say blue ;-) on white, from someone with Robb's years of experience in training people, and as one among a whole host of other valuable tips, really helped to put me at ease with my decision to take the week off... Let's be hones, I assume for many of you it won't be different: we are always hesitant to just stay at home lying lazy on the couch, when we "ought" to be in gym. For some its the fear to gain fat, for other's (as myself) it's because we are afraid to lose some of the muscle we have been working so hard for over the past weeks, months and years. And this fear haunts us, although we all "know" (our brain knows, but our hearts don't) that all we will lose (if anything) is some easily replenishable muscle protein, i.e. there won't be any substantial loss of muscle mass, the muscles will only lose some volume.

"You should always listen to your body!"

Well, I guess you will have heard this verdict before "listen to your body" - but what if your heart, certainly a part of your body, cries - "I am afraid I could lose muscle!" and it cries so loud that you can hardly hear the your aching muscles under the pain of weeks and months of continuous training. Now, what can your do? I guess, the best thing will be to advice your brain to tell your heart to shut up and rest. At least that is what I decided to do and to take my mind off the issue of losing muscle or getting fat, I am sitting down and getting the plan for my contest preparation stream-lined. I am planning my workouts (and off times !), sketching the meals I will be eating and deciding on which  the foods that will make up the majority of my diet in the next 4-5 months.

"Rest appropriate nutrition" - cutting back carbs, when you don't need them

Image 2: Healthy post-workout meal of the week - 7oz raw wild caught salmon, 12oz sweet potatoe, 6 carrots, 1c mangoes, 1 tbs raw blue agave and some refreshing coconut milk - the all natural sports beverage!
A pros pos nutrition, I am still fasting 16 hours and feeding for 8 hours, but during my off week all my meals are high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates. Examples would be ...
  • raw milk, carrots and raw cheese, or 
  • raw/seared steaks / sashimi with carrots or fruit and coconut oil, or
  • raw wild caught salmon from image 3, but without the sweet poatoe 
Basically a high quality protein source + some additional fat (if the former is not high in fat) + a minimal amount of carbs from veggies or fruit. I must admit that I still sneak in a meal from time to time, but this is partly psychological, because I know that this is the last week I can to it without messing up my contest prep, where I have already planned on the three days were I will deliberately "break" my diet:  thanksgiving, christmas and my birthday... and even those will be pre-planned refeeds.

Refeed? I guess you have already been waiting for this keyword to occur. After all, I promised you to report on my experience with a fruit based refeed... Well, I gorged on fruits just as I would have done with pancakes and the processed carbs that I usually eat on my re-feeds, and... I would have to say that even though I stuffed myself with fruits I did not get that comatose or sick feeling that I usually get, with the crappy foods from the grocery store. While I am still not a 100% sold on the idea, I am toying with the idea to start out my prep with fruit-based refeeds. We will see whether this will be sustainable, once I start getting leaner... for now, it works fine, though.

Adelfo Cerame's personal blueprint: Mens sana in corpore sano

Video 1: Adelfo does single arm cable rows 2 weeks before the hot phase of his contest preparation.
As far as my training is concerned, I have been toying back and forth with some of the suggestions from Regish's Blueprint. I've been reading the whole book on the past weekend and am still in the process of sorting out those training principles of which I think that they make a valuable addition to my routine. Don't get me wrong, the book is awesome, but if there is one thing I have learned in the past, then this is never to copy a routine from someone else to a T. Yet despite the fact, that there are some profound differences as far as the nutritional protocol is concerned (this is quite obvious, as the book outlines a muscle building not a contest prep diet), I really do like the weight training protocols and I hope to find a way to combine my constantly evolving contest prep diet with some of the training strategies from Regish's Blueprint...

I will also try and use my week wisely to do some meditating, soul searching and spend some time with the Lord, as I like to be spiritually healthy just as I am physically healthy. And, in case spirituality is not for you and you do not feel like taking a week off, anyway, you may want to check out the promised training video (video 1), head to the gym and treat yourself to a large portion of wild-caught salmon with delicious sweet potatoes and some carrots (cf. image 2) ;-)