To my dearest readers,
It has been a while but I am back with a whole new series of Blogs! For 15 weeks I have been undergoing a bodybuilding transformation and as I have now entered into the final 8 weeks, now is a great time to reflect on what I have learned so far…
You can feel it can’t you? Autumn coming. The drop in morning temperature, the deep grey rain clouds, the many back to school pictures on Facebook! It’s one of my favourite times. The start of the new school year after the summer still to me provides feelings of excitement, of anticipation and much promise. Like Harry Potter in his first term at Hogwarts, September is always an exciting time.
I have always wanted to be my very best, and that includes how my body looks and operates. For years I kept fit through practising jui Jitsu, running and lifting weights, but I always felt that I could do, and be, more. And so this year at the end of spring, I embarked on a bodybuilding adventure of strict nutrition, punishing workouts and relentless discipline. I’d like to share some of what I have learnt so far, as there are so many aspects that’s have learnt and applied into different areas of my life. I hope that you find them useful.
1. You must dedicate yourself to what you are doing with no excuses
I now stick to an extremely strict diet every day, and have done for over 5 weeks now. In the first 9 weeks, I looked forward to a weekend cheat meal indulgence of chocolate cereal, pizza and cookies. No more! Now it is sweet potato, chicken, broccoli, rice, mince, yoghurt, nuts, protein powder and 6 litres of water. Every day. No days, hours or even minutes off. As well as that I walk every morning before breakfast, work out five times a week and do five lots of interval training as well as sprints. This has now become the new normal for me. Of course, at 5.30am yesterday morning I did not want to go for a 35 minute walk in the pouring rain. But I did. Because when you follow and dedicate yourself to something absolutely, to the letter, it takes away the guess work, the indecision, the hesitancy and laziness. You just become the things by doing it. And any excuses would hider your own progress.
2. Consistent practice pays dividends
Muscle growth and fat low is slow! Slower than your hair growing, it takes more than a month or even two months. But by applying myself every day, especially on the days when I felt nothing and saw not even a hint of progress, the real building was going on inside. Like a plant underground, or the beautiful invisible ( to us) neural network of billions of our brain cells, the growth is felt first before being seen. After a few weeks I felt stronger, then I saw results, then…nothing! For a long time. Then when I look back at photos the change is undeniable.
3. Always be open minded
In order to progress, I have trusted others. I have kept the mind of a beginner. In learning the form for important compound lifts like the squat, bench and deadlift, I started right at the beginning. And I adapted and tried and changed and got better. We only truly know so little of the world, but by acknowledging this, we allow our minds to remain open to endless superb sources of quality information from people who know more than us. To paraphrase a well know quote, you can achieve anything you want, as long as you don’t mind not getting the credit for it.
4. Get ready to fail!
Oh boy have I failed. I’ve dropped 250kg tyres on my foot, I’ve dropped weights on my chest and head (that hurt…) I’ve nearly blacked out twice and been sick once. And many many times I have felt failure, the creeping uneasy sense of feeling overwhelmed and incapable. And yet… it was Samuel Beckett who suggested that we should fail again, fail better. And that is exactly what bodybuilding is about. You must be willing to fail, to go past your limits, to push for extra reps, sets and heavier weights, as that is where the true growth is: both physically in your body and psychologically in your mind.
5. You are so much stronger than you think you are
When I was briefly a personal trainer I heard from people all the time they they didn’t think they could do things: press ups, pull ups, even jumping. But once I had got them to do even one rep of an exercise, they could no longer say that they could not do something- as they had just done it. And so it is with bodybuilding. I particularly love strong man training for this. As once you have flipped a 250kg tyre 10-15 times, you realise that everything else that you lift for the rest of the day will be, in comparison, light. A good spotter got me benching from 70kg up to 110kg. With his support and skill I massively exceeded my usual limits. Recently I have been doing 4 sets of 20 reps in each exercise, that’s 80 reps each exercise! But after initially struggling last week, this too is fast becoming the new normal.
6. Things get easier with time
Initially, the discipline of eating very strictly was challenging. It required a lot of mental focus and discipline. Now it really doesn’t, it’s just a matter of being well prepared and remembering why I’m doing this in the first place- to be my best self. Saying no to certain foods has become an easy habit, as has getting good sleep and drinking lots of water. And they are good habits which I now have for life. I love pizza and recently I had friends round and whilst they enjoyed some, I sat there with my chicken. It was when I was able to do this,that I knew I was onto something!
7. Your world will grow as you do
I am constantly making the effort to learn new things, to meet new people, to try new ways. I know for a fact, due to much neurological study, that this helps to keep me in optimal condition. But it is so much more than that. A disciplined framework to life can often lead to an expanding of the mind, as you become open to considering alternatives. I am fascinated by different people and their different views and actions. I know that I have my path for now, and knowing that and being happy in that, has allowed my to enjoy a genuine curiosity and respect for those very different to me.
8. You really can live your dreams
This is the year that I have begun to live my dreams with my eyes wide open. I have sky dived, swam with sharks, climbed mountains, learned to juggle, travelled to new countries, begun my true life’s work and been happier than ever. But it is no accident. And if is not related to either time of money. It has been down to a decision that my dreams are able to become real. Once I thought like that and made the decision to make it so, things started to happen. So whatever your dreams are, get clear in them, and just go about living as if they are certain to happen and they will begin. Be bold.
9. Use mantras
This is one I have only seen the benefits of in the last few weeks. At the end of every gym workout, I do 25 minutes of interval training on a bike. It is very challenging and I sweat profusely. It is also challenging to not let my mind wander off towards other people, the past or future, or focus on how tired I am. And so I now have some phrases which I repeat to myself to keep my mind focused and in sync with my body. One of my favourites is I am strong. I say, I am on my in breath, and strong powerfully on my out breath. I repeat this one for five minutes, and then do a different one. This can result in 5 different sets of powerful mantras practised in the 25 minute period!
10. Be ready for success
You have to be ready for success. Your have to prepare for your end result and consider what it is going to look like, to feel like and be. For me I am now holding onto a vision of being the strongest and leanest version of myself yet. To look at before and after photos with great pride, to enjoy taking all the skills that I haves learned forward. And knowing that whatever happens, I really did give it everything. There’s no need to spend time worrying about failure, instead spend time getting ready for your success.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this. I have loved writing it for you! Please let me know what you think in the comments section below. I wish you all the very best in whatever it is that you are doing in order to pursue success and fulfilment in your life.