Thursday, November 17, 2011

Adelfo Cerame - Road to The Wheelchair Nationals '12: Ambitious Short-Term Goals Pave the Way to Success.

Image 1: This guy likes to suffer - no, not
what you are thinking now ;-)
I don't know about you, but I cannot stand how people constantly complain about how bad things are, how hard they are working (mostly these are the laziest people I know), how little they are paid, how desperate the economy was,... you know the whole litany, don't you? Then, Adelfo Cerame's weekly blogpost is exactly the diversion you probably need today. I mean don't get me wrong. Adelfo is only human, so he likes to complain, as well. But believe it or not, this guy complains about not suffering enough!? So just to make sure you get this right. Adelfo Cerame Jr. aspiring future pro-wheelchair bodybuilder suffers, because he does not suffer enough... does not make sense? Well, I guess, I'll better have him explain his "problem", then ;-)

Goalsetting 101: Short-term goals keep you on track

You think you could use some advice on your own training, diet and supplementation regimen and want it from someone who obviously knows what it takes to build muscle and lose fat? You can reach out to Adelfo via Facebook.
When you want to achieve something in life, setting specific and testable goals is always the necessary first step. Mostly, you won't have any difficulties naming your long-term goals - in my case, for example the it is to win the 2012 Wheelchair Nationals. It is, however, also necessary to pick short-term goals in order not to lose yourself on your journey from A to B. After all, long-term goals are exactly what their name implies.... they are LONG. More often than not, you will feel that you have been working towards them for ages, which can become so discouraging that you end up in despair, negate all the small steps you have already taken and surrender to what you believe would be the "fate of the loser" that you are. Some people, on the other hand, react completely different. They become complacent, keep telling themselves how good they already look, how much they already achieved and how well everything worked out... obviously a completely different mistake, yet with similarly unrewarding outcome. To prevent these types of roadblocks, I have made a habit of setting up an exact time-line of short-term goals to accomplish. By doing this, I keep myself motivated, and on my toes (or in my case, on my wheels) to get to the one "distant" long-term goal of which you can lose sight so easily.

I am in week 7 of my contest prep, now. And, psychologically, this has been one of my easiest contest preparations, so far... this does not mean that it could eventually become tough further down the road, but based on my previous experience, I can usually tell if it's going be a rough cut pretty early on in my prep. When the hunger pangs, temptations and cravings are starting early, you know your in for a long cut. But so far nothing! No cravings, no temptations, and rarely any hunger pangs or none at all on most days of the week. I rarely even get excited or anxious on my designated re-feed / cheat days. I don’t feel sleepy, or tired, and my strength and energy is still up at the gym, and I haven’t been using any type of pre-workout, N.O. or creatine supplements, yet.

This is intriguingly easy - too easy!?

Ironically, the ease and smoothness with which things are rolling is what begins to scare me. Being used to the psychological stress, battles and mind games that I use to play with myself during dieting, I am constantly battling the thought that this ease is not what I am supposed to feel when I am dieting or preparing for a bodybuilding show… “If you’re not suffering, then you’re not doing it right!” But I’m not suffering. And yet I seem to be right on track or maybe even ahead of my schedule.

I mean, I do "suffer" the usual pain and fatigue you get while training heavy and intense, but if you remember the statement from Arnold about "da pump", Dr. Andro quoted a few blogposts ago, you will know that this kind of "pain" is what every serious bodybuilder is looking for. What I refer to as "suffering" is what the mental drain the incredible fatigue, the constant huger, the battle against cravings and hunger pangs... the kind of "suffering", when you you are dead tired from dieting so hard that you cannot even perform your daily routines... yet, thinking about it, even calling that "suffering" makes me feel somewhat ashamed. There are millions of people starving - these people have real issues, and people like you and me are complaining about something we are voluntarily doing to ourselves!? But anyway, let's get back to the topic at hand...
Image 2: Cream of Roast Beef, post-workout meal of the week.
Recipe of the Week: Cream of Roast Beef
(Post workout meal)

  • 7 oz roast beef (bottom round roast)
  • 6 oz yam
  • 5 baby carrots
  • ½ c cottage cheese, topped w/ ½ c chopped apples, sprinkled w/ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbs. low-fat sour cream
  • 1 tbs. A1 steak sauce
Macros: 62g protein / 57g carbs / 20g fat

Quick tip: Personally, I eat more carbs around my workouts, but base all my meals on protein and fat on my off-days. So, if this was a rest day meal, I would take out the yam and replace the apples with a lighter fruit (lower in calories & carbs) like blueberries.

Raising the bar to outdo yourself: "Show ready" by week 12!

Since I’ve been cruising through my prep these past 7 weeks, I’ve decided to give myself a challenge or a short-term goal to prevent me from getting distracted and complacent, but to also keep me motivated (well I never really lost motivation, so I guess it's to add to my motivation) and give more light and focus to the real goal at hand, which is winning an overall title in March. The goal I picked is to be as close to "show ready" as possible by the 12-week mark, which should be Christmas day. Basically I’d like to be in the same type of condition Duong was in when he ended his 12 weeks (if you have not done that already, check out his amazing transformation in the SuppVersity Student Spotlight). Since it’s my first run at IF, I've been really gauging my progress with Duong's - from his macros, the type of foods he ate, to the schedule of his fast & feeding hours. I'm using Duong's progress as a checkpoint or marker, which means that if I am not in the same outstanding (or even better - sorry Duong ;-) physical condition as Duong was, when he hit his 12 weeks, then I need to pick up the pace and make some adjustments.

That being said, Duong gave himself "only" 12 weeks. I, on the other hand, deliberately started early and thusly do not have to cut my calories just as fast as he did ... it is nevertheless imperative that I do not develop the aforementioned complacency and eventually end up even worse than I would have when a relatively drastic, but short cut does not work out.

A log holds you accountable for your progress

My current plan is to maintain a daily caloric intake of 1.800 kcal/day until the end of November. This is in fact -100 kcal lower than the original plan. A plan, my instinct told me would not get me to where I decided I want to be by Christmas. Accordingly, I will drop my daily allowance to 1600 kcal/day in the first week of December '11. I am logging all my food and keeping track of all my calories and macros to a “T”, to be able to analyze which dietary tweaks worked, which didn't an which further alterations to my regimen will be most helpful.
Figure 1: Here’s an example of a program I made on my Macbook where I log my foods.
For the first month I was inconsistent with logging my foods. It was just easier for me to keep track in my head, but ever since giving myself this short-term goal, I made logging my foods just as much a priority as I do my training. Logging your foods and keeping track of your calories and macros also holds you accountable. You know every bite that you put in your mouth, so there’s no lying to yourself when you realize that you’re not making any progress, all the evidence is written down. When you look back and re-evaluate, you’ll know if you stuck to your diet or not... and what's more, logging my foods and keeping track of my numbers, soothes the feeling of "not suffering enough", it reassures me that I am doing everything to the literally "T" - no second guessing myself, no guilty conscious, and no elevated cortisol levels due to constant worries ;-)

It’s always a good idea to keep logs, especially if you’re just starting to learn about nutrition and dieting. Other than holding you accountable, food-logging helps you with learning about serving sizes, and how to count calories and macronutrients. And let me tell you, only when I began logging what I ate, I realized how little I actually knew about what I ate. Looking back four years, I have to admit that I did not even really know what a "protein" is, back in the days when I started.

Knowing your body and its limits is the key to success

On the non-dietary side of things, I noticed that I was getting a little burned out with the EDT in the course of the last week. My strength did not increase as much as it did the previous weeks, and I really felt fatigued the last training session of the week. So I took a break from EDT training this week and changed my workouts to a 5x5 routine, where I do 5 sets of 5 reps. I still lift heavy though. Depending on what muscles I train, I’ll do 7 exercises, and each exercise is 5x5. So for example on chest days, I’ll do 5 chest exercises and 2 triceps exercises, each exercise is 5x5, heavy. It felt pretty awkward going back to a regular split routine. I have gotten so used to the fast paced high-intensity EDT workouts that I wasn’t as hyped or amped during my workouts this week. Although I lifted heavy and intense (probably about the same if not more weight), I was not as mentally focused as I have been when I did the EDT cycles. I figure the best solution to this problem would be to alternate between a "regular" 5x5 split training and escalating density training regimen on a weekly basis. After all, the one week back on the "old" training split already paid off: my strength increased a lot! I guess after a few weeks without "classic" 5x5 training, my muscles were pretty shocked by what my brain tells me is an old hat ;-)

"In my opinion, classic cardio is way overrated and is for suckers!"

Image 3: Low-intensity cardio free! The only high intensity cardio I did during my prep in 09’ was hitting the heavy bag every other day for 30 minutes for the last 4 remaining weeks of my prep. I let my diet take care of the rest and suggest you do the same!
The comparatively low metabolic demand of 5x5 training also gave me the chance to pick up some 20-minute high intensity cardio during my rest days. I’m not a big fan of cardio, and I rarely do it, but when I do, I always enjoy doing high intensity cardio like hitting the heavy bag, doing sprints with my wheelchair or doing the burn machine (it’s a 10 pound hand cycle). I like to “get at it” for as hard as I can for 20 minutes, then I’m done. Don’t waste your time jogging on a treadmill for hours. That’ll get you nowhere fast (not even slow ;-)! Lift Heavy weights and do some sprints. That’s more productive and you burn more body fat than running on a treadmill for hour (assuming that you have your diet in check) .

You should never depend on cardio to transform your physique.

So whatever short- and long-term goals you may be setting in the course of the one week you will have to get along without another blogpost of mine, don't forget: "TRAIN SMARTER, NOT HARDER!"