Thursday, May 24, 2012

Adelfo Cerame - Road to Wheelchair Championships: Don't Let Red Flags and Banana Skins Stop You!

Image 1: I don't see that chair. I see an amazing physique, a great friend and an outstanding competitor!
I have alway been looking up to Adelfo Cerame Jr. - ever since I first heard his voice on my friend Carl Lanore's radio show, Super Human Radio. "That's a true super human, this guy!", that's what I thought; and this has not changed, now that we know each other for almost a year and I am calling him a friend. It has little to do with the fact that he is sitting in a wheelchair and "still competing" (so what?). In fact, I tend to forget that from time to time and am tempted to ask him why on earth he has no leg day in his weekly training regimen (I mean, come on no leg day ;-). No it's not that damn chair that amazes me. It is the way he is marching forward - constantly! Yeah, marching, not rolling! And that he almost stumbled last week and asked for help and reassurance to re-balance himself only heightened my respect for him.... but I guess, I'll let him tell you his whole story.

Dieting in between shows… Not as easy as I thought it would be

I thought that I would just be able to cruise with the physique I've built before the Florida NPC Wheelchair Nationals; just trucking along the next 15 weeks... but I guess, it just doesn’t work like that - or am I simply not used to dieting in between shows? It's the first time for me to do that and it has become somewhat of an ambivalent experience. On the one hand, I keep learning things about my body and my psyche on a daily basis, on another hand, it is a pain in the ass, or rather my psychological sanity, to always eyeball my body fat percentage while I am initially gradually increasing and eventually gradually decreasing my caloric intake to make a smooth transition over to the next show. It’s, to be honest, by no means what I expected.

You never know! And that's the problem :-/

Image 2: When being ripped to shreds and at the best you ever were in your life was not enough once, what if it ain't enough the next time as well?
It’s that mental uneasiness nothing physical that's really burning you out. A stress that, in the end, can have detrimental physical side-effects, as it hampers clear judgment and you run the risk of making mistake after mistake ending up ruining your physique by changing your diet and training regimen on an almost daily basis and constantly thinking you need to do more, oh, ah... no less - confusion!

Before I started working with other people, I always felt this was something that was characteristic for competitors, only. I mean, why would a "normal" being worry about whether the 10g of carbs could slow down his fat loss by 0.5% per month? But after seeing the most ambitious of my clients struggle with the same problems, I know that I probably don't have to tell you about that feeling of not doing enough or just being about to ruin everything you have been working so hard for - right?

2nd place no more!

For me it's yet even worse. I mean, imagine this: You've put all your efforts and focus at the task at hand. Doing your very best and sometimes even more to achieve your goals and still you fell short of your goal - the one goal to which you have dedicated 25 weeks of your life (I guess by now you know that I am talking about the pro-card for the overall I did not win in Florida, right). Now, there is just one more chance and 15 weeks to make it happen. Your last chance to attain your goal this year.
Image 3: It felt as if I must have nailed it, and then... "2nd place, Adelfo Cerame Jr."
First you are mad, then you are pissed and now you are more motivated than ever. But what if you missed your goal again? Things begin to get nerve wracking, your thoughts are racing, you can hardly focus on your lifts and ... you feel just like I did the last days :-(

Competitiveness + Drive + Motivation + Fire • Ego = TNT

Competitiveness, drive, motivation, fire. I have emphasized the importance of each of these in my past blogpots, but when you add them all up and multiply them with your ego, you get an explosive mixture. On their own, each of them can be huge plus; together, however, they need to be handled with utmost care, because otherwise they will have you go to extremes - detrimental extremes, training- and diet-wise. You start to make unwise, if not straightforward stupid decisions. I didn’t realize it until this week. Until I had to take a step back, to see that I was about to run myself into the ground.
A crash course in vexillology

I know that you would never be so stupid to (over-)train against better judgment, but the following list of red flags may still come handy. I mean, don't we all have "that friend of mine", who happens to have all these embarrassing questions or problems he does not dare to ask, so that we have to do it for him?
    Image 4: Bulls are probably the only ones who would be better of if they simply ignored "red flags". For humans, on the other hand, the ignorance has similarly nasty consequences as the enraged overreaction of a bull in the bullfight arena.
  • Red Flag 1 - Trying to do more after your workout: I never used to do this but I’ve notice myself lately doing extras after my training sessions. Even though I knew that my body was already beat down from an already insane workout; this little man on my shoulder kept whispering in my ear: "One more! Just one! Good, and now another one..."
  • Red Flag 2 - Trying to tweak your training regimens to the extremes: Adding more reps, more sets, heavier weight; there’s a difference between improving your training regimen and just being ridiculous, and I was approaching the latter like a bullet train.
  • Red Flag 3: Doing things out of the norm: I rarely do any cardio; and if I do, then for a good reason. Yet as of late, I was struggling not to join the ranks of the skinny cardio-maniacs.
  • Red Flag 4 - Over analyzing: I am "meticulous", as Adel likes to say, somewhat too much into the figures for his liking, yeah... but what happened in the last week was borderline OCD. Almost as in the good, or rather bad old days of previous contest preps, when I was close to weighing and measuring every blueberry I ate.
So, does "your friend" ever show any of those "red flag symptoms"? Yeah? Well, maybe it helps him to break free from the vicious cycle if you talk to him about the underlying psychological culprits, which were - at least for me...
  • Culprit 1 - Wanting to outdo² yourself: There’s nothing wrong with bettering yourself but I think I started to take it to an extreme, where the one thing that "improved" was my own insanity. Nothing was good enough, progress was insignificant, and everything went just way too slow...
  • Culprit 2 - Having a chip on your shoulder: I guess after, that last show, I’ve had a big chip on my shoulder, and for those of you that have had this issue before, it can be a good or a bad thing, or both. You better make sure it is the former or get rid of that chip!
  • Culprit 3 - Not wanting to disappoint others: I don’t want to disappoint people! Plain and simple! Whether it’s my performance on stage or how I bring in my physique; I don’t want to disappoint.
By now "your friend" should either be relieved that, compared to this guy with the guestposts on the SuppVersity, he still feels pretty normal, or he should better go on and read the following list of solution, which worked for me:
  • Solution 1 - Leave it in the past, and focus on now! One of my biggest issues is that I always tend to compare old contest prep pictures with current ones. To a certain degree this is unquestionably necessary, but in the course of this prep it was insane. Every week I would be sitting there staring at the pictures trying to figure out how my progress was paring up with last preps progress. Overanalyzing, seeing things that are not there and missing some (like my abs ;-) which were clearly visible, I was psyching myself up into a frenzy, until... I just yelled at myself "STOP IT!", put the pictures from three months ago into the folder, where they belong and returned to evaluating my contemporary progress on a week by week basis.
  • Solution 2: Accepting that things don’t happen the same way: You can’t expect your body to progress exactly the same way as it did before. Just as your experience growth and your physique changes (I mean, this is what progress is all about, right), the way your body behaves, when you approach contest day will change as well. You will have to tweak your diet, your training, your everything to the "new you" and it was a mistake on my part to lull myself into believing that "If I just do everything exactly the way I did last time, my body must react exactly the way it did last time!" And when it turned out that this prep was not going to become a carbon copy of the last, that scared the heck out of me. Once I realized how stupid these expectations actually were, it took a lot of the stress away.
  • Image 5: Moe, the bartender, or Barney the drinker? As long as he is a friend, it does not matter. He will be there when you need someone to take a pound or two of the load you are carrying off your shoulders, if you dare asking him.
    Solution 3 - Ask for help when you need it: I’m pretty keen on crunching my own numbers and monitoring my own prep, from diet to nutrition. There are times, when I have other stuff going on outside of bodybuilding that have priority. In weeks like that going through the numbers becomes increasingly stressful. In concert with the "I am not making enough progress" craze of the last weeks, everything appeared to get out of hand. Those are the moments where you are lost, when you don't have someone or are too stubborn to turn to someone for help. "Help", yeah, that was the title of the email that landed in Adel's inbox a couple of days ago. Adel, or Dr. Andro, as many of you know him, is pretty much the only one I trust with this stuff, so I emailed him, told him my situation, and asked if he could help me out with some of the thinking from time to time with my prep from here until June 23. And although he did not really make any changes to the regimen I had prepared for myself just knowing that he is there, just like a "human safety net", really helped take some of the insanely heavy mental load off of my shoulders.
I guess, "your friend" can consider himself lucky that you are a friend for him, as Adel is for me. I mean, you have read the whole blogpost, right? Did not skip to one of the SuppVersity science news, when I mentioned that you would obviously never make a mistake like that, but maybe a friend of yours, right? That's good! And I am sure that "your friend" will do the same for you, just in case you should ever maneuver yourself into a similar situation ;-)