There is no shortcut to your goals. Let me say that again so there’s no confusion. There is no shortcut to fitness, to greatness, to strength, to victory. Yeah, it would be nice if there was a magic formula for building muscle; some secret insider knowledge to becoming Rich Froning or Arnold, but there isn’t Rich spent years working out in a gym to get the physique he had going into CrossFit and Arnold spent a decade working towards Mr. Olympia. Part of the regular cycle of emerging new fitness trends (every five years like clockwork) is that so many people are constantly searching for a shortcut to weightloss and fitness, what they don’t want to hear is the truth; that it’s a long hard road and the best direction to take is to work your ass off every day and dedicate yourself to your program.
My clients constantly pull me aside after classes to ask me what I do to stay in shape, as if the advice I dole out all day everyday to them is the chump version I package to the masses, while withholding a super-secret program of my own. Well folks, there is no secret, the fact is my workout and diet program follow the very same guidelines, rules, and principles I preach here on my blog and in my gym. The difference is that I have committed myself to doing the work; I lose myself in the process and surrender to it. I hang in there and keep to my program; I record results, and plan my workouts ahead of time just like I do for those I train. I also plan my nutrition to support my fitness goals. I’ve been doing this long enough, 19 years in fact, that I’ve come to learn and understand the hard way that the only way forward is to work, to train, to repeat moves, and constantly push myself until I master exercises, and movement patterns. I’ve learned that jumping to new trends and new routines every 3 months may be fun but in reality it’s like having to start over again each time.
This is my 5th year of Coaching CrossFit and my 19th in weight-lifting. I got into CrossFit as a means to train for Obstacle Races of all things, and during the past 3 years my training habits and the basic movements I practice haven’t changed all that much. It’s not that I don’t do all the moves found in CrossFit, it’s just that I’ve been doing them all along we just called it cross training back in the day and threw it in the mix a couple times a week to help trim fat and increase mobility. As a young Marine we called it circuit training and did it every other day along with weight-lifting, running, and Obstacle course drills. No matter what though I’ve stayed consistent in that weight-lifting has remained the focus of my training, and everything else either supported that or was related to it. Nothing has changed, I might do it faster, or with more variety but it’s still all about lifting heavy stuff, and the only way to get better at lifting heavy stuff is to lift it often.
To answer all my clients and give an example of a typical program someone like me might follow and use to keep in shape I’m going to break it all down here and now and reveal what it is coaches, YouTube personalities, and trainers do to achieve the physiques we have and the fitness levels we command. It all starts with one thing, commitment to a goal. I cannot stress this enough and I’m sure most trainers will agree with me whether it’s CT Fletcher, Gregg Everett, or Travis Holley. We all have a goal in mind and even a picture in our heads of what we’re going after and want to achieve and better yet it’s written down in a place we see every day and throughout the day. Related to this, we might have someone in mind we want to beat, compete with, or catch up to. For me it’s Rich Froning. The guy is 10 years younger than me and seems super-human but is a great athlete to chase. This is not to say that I think I am him or have his ability or experience in competing, but I do like to live by the motto: what one man can do so can another, with enough effort training and will that is.
Next up is a timeline. In my training goals I include a time-frame by which I want to accomplish that goal. Right now I’m aiming for next year’s CrossFit games. I made a bet with myself this year to try the Open and see how I did and the results were encouraging enough to that I’m going to aim for the games next year. I may make it, I may not but that’s not the point right now. Too many people today aim low and short change themselves. I believe in over-reaching, even if you fall short you still land further out then most people dare to dream of so what do you have to lose? This timeline needs to be practical though and realistic, newbies who can barely lift an empty Barbell are not going to be snatching 300lbs in six months, outside of steroids or cybernetic implants. Though if anyone knows of some cheap implants that will allow you to do that please contact me.
Seriously though this is where most people could benefit from consulting a coach or trainer about the realities of their goals. Don’t be discouraged if you’re not going to be rocking a six-pack in 8 weeks or winning that lifting competition this summer if you’re just getting started. The things we want have a price and often that price is time and effort, be willing to pay it because it is not free.
Now let’s talk about my actual lifting program or better yet my schedule. I’ve been doing this awhile and at my ability; gains come in fractions of pounds and millimeters. Those of you who are first starting out will reach new PR’s and lifting maxes on a near daily basis enjoy it remember this time and embrace it while it lasts, probably 3-6 months for most. I’m currently engaged in a program to improve my Olympic lifting ability. I’ve been squatting and deadlifting most of my life so while the strength is there technique and speed are something else I have to learn and perfect with these lifts. Right now I’m doing Olympic lifts and or technique work 4 days a week with the 5th dedicated to bodyweight met-cons for speed and time. I start each weight workout with a warm-up and light technique work with a pipe or empty barbell. My warm-up is not a mini workout in fact it’s the routine I found in Gregg Everett’s book “Olympic Weightlifting.” Two of these days I go as heavy as I can, the other two I go lighter, maybe half of my max weight and work more on things like pulling under the bar and foot placement. Three days a week these lifting workouts are followed by Met-cons, jumping rope, or running. In general I follow a 2-on-1-off cycle. I tried the whole 3-on-1-off thing but by the 3rd day I was dragging. In addition to this, and thanks to my dog, most mornings I’m up at 5am and go for a 1-3 mile run or walk. I try not to run on those days that I plan to lift heavy though.
One day I focus on Cleans and will also do some heavy squats, Deadlifts, and pulls etc. The next day will be dedicated to the snatch, overhead squats, snatch grip Romanian Deadlifts and a back workout. The following “off” day I might run and do some bodyweight moves for 30 minutes or so like Pushups Pullups, double-unders, HSPU, and maybe some pistols just to get the blood flowing through the muscles I bombed the previous two days. On my off days I’ll also increase my protein and calorie intake. Many trainers do the opposite but on the days I’m “resting” I want to provide extra material for my muscle to grow and rebuild. On Sundays I do absolutely nothing except walking, or going to the beach. I do not go near my weights.
Speaking of eating let’s talk about my diet for a moment. I am what I call Common Sense Paleo; that is I understand the science behind it, agree with its basic tenants but don’t obsess about it. Regardless of what our ancestors ate things change and people adapt. Hardcore Paleo preachers hold to the belief that the last 10,000 years was not enough time to genetically adapt to new modern foods. The fact that most white people of western European descent are not lactose intolerant would seem to conflict with that belief. I think animals can and do adapt and quickly, it’s called survival. Moving on though, 6 days a week I eat clean and fresh, no wheat, grains, gluten, starches, sugar, or milk. On that other day though just about anything is fair game. I am fortunate that I have no food allergies, gluten sensitivity, or lactose intolerance. I enjoy these foods and relish the opportunity to indulge. That being said I do understand their effect on my body and my training so one day, or more realistically one cheat meal a week is all I allow myself. This habit and holding to it has done more for my fitness goals than any other thing including weightlifting. I used to be a soda drinking, bread devouring, and milk loving fiend. I also ballooned up to 215 back then and it wasn’t muscle.
So let’s summarize this opus and I apologize for this running so long. I have goals; I have someone who I want to beat. I’m realistic about the effort and time it will take to achieve that goal. I’ve prepared a plan to get me there and I stick to it regardless of how exciting or fun it is that day; I follow my workout, I do the work, and I don’t skip the things I dislike in fact I often focus on them. Most important of all I’ve adopted a sound eating plan that supports my weightloss/strength/fitness goal. My diet does not hinder my program, work against it, or contradict it. Too many people are working out like maniacs for hours a day and eating like crap. You cannot out workout a bad diet, let me say that again, you cannot out workout a bad diet. That’s not to say if you work out 5 times a day you can’t get away with eating a little sugar, this means you Rich but if you’re not a 2 time CrossFit champion working out at high intensity 5 times a day all that sugar, starch, and grains, are stabbing you in the back. Find your goal, build your plan, adopt a good diet and stick to it like it was a life raft floating in the ocean because it will save your life.