Monday, April 30, 2012

Principles and Habits for Effective Physical Fitness Training

Before I get into the meat of this post I'm going to start by mentioning that I've been reading a lot of stuff from Precision Nutrition, and have liked it a lot. I had read John Berardi's T-Nation article on Intermittent Fasting a while ago, and had started to implement the fasts here and there, usually doing the 16 hour fasts on my non-training days. I dropped IF when I started my polyphasic sleep experiment. I had read that it can be too much stress when you're not getting enough sleep. So, I started to eat more regular meals with some carb cycling. I've since dropped polyphasic sleep, and have been looking ahead to my next training block.

Yesterday, while digging through my inbox, I found an e-mail from Nate Green promoting the latest edition of the Scrawny to Brawny coaching program. I had just gotten through PN's IF e-book, and loved it, so I dove right into the Scrawny to Brawny readings. I ended up signing up for the 5-day e-mail course, and just tore through day 1. The main thing that I took away from both the IF e-book and the Scrawny to Brawny readings is that the programs are principle and habit based. There are no quick fixes, it's about building good, sustainable habits and adhering to principles that work. This fits in to my current personal development path quite nicely. I've been reading (and re-reading, and going through the workbook for) the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for the past couple of months now, and it's changed the way I look at things, and increased my effectiveness quite a bit.

One thing that really stood out for my from the IF guide, and something that I feel will help me take my effectiveness to the next level in terms of long-term goals, is JB's process of "outcome-based decision making":

  1. Try something that makes sense, is simple, and that you can do every day.
  2. Commit to doing this one action every day for a reasonable period of time, usually a few weeks.
  3. Measure the things that’ll give you objective feedback on how it’s going.
  4. Stick with the intervention until your pre-determined time is up, even if your measures go up and down.
  5. Assess the success of your actions based on the overall measures – the general trend over time.
  6. At the end of the predetermined period, if the intervention’s working, keep doing it.
  7. If it’s not working, or stops working, make a small change, one you’re confident you can do.
  8. Keep repeating until you reach your goal.
(You can find this list with JB's commentary on the topic in PN's IF guide, page 44)

For my diet, I'm going to do a once-per-week 24 hour fast. The other days I'm going to try and eat as much as possible, mostly whole food, with a few basic rules:

  1. Training days will be high-carb
  2. Non-training days will be low-carb (only breakfast will contain starch and/or fruit, the rest of the day will be meat and green veggies only)
Now, for me, eat as much as possible is a good guideline because my goal is to gain muscle, and I tend to under-eat. If you've been overweight in the past and you're trying to lose or maintain weight, this would be a terrible idea. You need to tailor your rules to your own needs, goals, and tendencies.

My basic rules for training are:
  1. Focus on the big basics - compound movements
  2. Training all muscles in one day, 3 days/week resistance training
  3. 2x per day resistance training (upper/lower split)
  4. Daily mobility/flexibility and soft tissue work
  5. 30-60 minutes of aerobic work 3x per week on non resistance training days
Now, this may seem like a lot. But number 1 I've been doing for years. For number 2, I've dabbled with body-training splits, but I've been training full body almost exclusively for the past year and a half or so. I've also been doing 2-a-days for the past 2 months (number 3). So numbers 4 and 5 are the only new things. In keeping with the outcome-based decision making plan I'll start with number 4, and start 5 in 3 weeks, which fits well with my periodization plan for my resistance training. On a side note: numbers 1 and 2 are a good idea for pretty much everyone, especially people new to resistance training. You can check out my principles for newbie training here, and I'll publish a full program with mobility and stability work, progressions and regressions in the near future. In terms of nutrition, the numbers one and two I've been doing for a while now, the 24-hour fast is the new thing which I'll do for 3 weeks.

I'm also going to start using a training log and food journal again, which I haven't done in about a year, and closer to a year and a half respectively. This will be a big part in helping me to apply the outcome-based decision making model effectively.

In my next post, I'll talk about my progress since the beginning of my training journey.

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