Wow, what a week it has been.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Olympia last weekend in Vegas as a member of the Fokken Nuts team (if you like peanut butter, you NEED to check them out at www.fokkennuts.com). It was a great time with a good company and even better people but nonetheless, travel is travel and is always a bit stressful and challenging to stay on top of a routine. I was able to stick to my macros while away, but I did put my gym routine on hold for the most part. Since returning, my sleep hasn't been at the quality and quantity that is ideal for me and it has been a bit of a challenge to jump back to my normal routine.
In addition, I had an higher stress week than normal with work, my car broke down unexpectedly and the reality of being so close to show finally set in as I felt the rush to get everything (from tanning appointments, hotel bookings, hair/makeup appointment, suit/dress fittings, buying shoes, etc.) set up before it was too late.
None of this is to complain as there are certainly worse and more stressful situations I could be in, but that is just to give some context as to the slight increase in stress this week. With this additional stress of course comes an increase in cortisol. During high stress times, I often neglect to consider how this will affect my training in the gym.
I felt the need to 'hit it hard' after returning from the Olympia, and jumped right back in with some pretty intense workouts all week and a bit of an increased training volume (which is already pretty high for me at any given time).
I was feeling slightly 'off' all week. I was overly fatigued outside of the gym, irritable, my workouts weren't feeling as strong as they usually do, my appetite decreased, my scale weight was dropping drastically after each training day despite me looking a bit softer, I was experiencing insomnia and I was feeling overall unmotivated and discouraged (which is unlike me). It wasn't until a co-worker of mine made the remark that 'nobody is going to outwork me, that's for sure' (in regard to my show) that it clicked. I am always determined to be a hard worker and tend to always feel like if things aren't going as I want them to, I just need to work harder until they do. Once somebody else who is not unaccustomed to hard work classified me as a 'hard worker', I realized I may actually be working too hard, thus driving myself into a state of overreaching.
What is overreaching? To break it down simply, overreaching syndrome is a condition of excessive training without adequate recovery resulting in a decline in performance (and often decrease in muscle mass and/or increase in body-fat). If unaddressed, overreaching can turn into a more serious condition classified as overtraining which comes with a host of more serious side effects. It is a multi-system disorder that can affect hormones, resting heart rate and blood pressure, the neuroendocrine system and more. The main difference between overreaching and overtraining is the length of the conditions. Overreaching is usually the result of a short period of overtraining which can be recovered from in a matter of days to weeks. Overtraining, on the other hand, is typically a more chronic condition that results from a prolonged period of overtraining and under recovering (typically for months on end). Overtraining also takes much longer to recover from and can leave athletes sidelined for a number of months.
It's important to realize that true overtraining is actually very rare. It is a condition that is typically only experienced by elite athletes with aggressive training regimens and is unlikely to occur in the average recreational gym-goer or active individual. To put it into perspective, it has been reported in less than 10% of elite endurance athletes (and this is even at a very high level).
To clarify, I don't think that I am in a state of overtraining (yet), but do think it's highly likely that I am entering into overreaching. Thus, it's time to tap the breaks and work smarter, not just harder.
After this realization, I took a full rest day on Friday. I didn't do any cardio besides some relaxing walking, I didn't weight train, and I tried to engage in some activities that typically bring me some stress relief. Instead of reaching for another energy drink or cup of coffee upon fatiguing, I allowed myself to nap when I felt the urge. I ended up taking TWO 45 minute naps and booking an hour massage. The good news is that by the end of the day and the next morning, I felt much better.
With this feedback, I will be taking a few days off before I return to training this upcoming week, and upon returning to the gym, I will be easing back in with a de-load week where I will cut down my training volume and frequency. Depending on how I am feeling, I will probably end up working out 2-3 times as opposed to my usual 5-6 this week, and cutting my volume during each session by about 30%.
Although it is against the grain to stop training as intensely at just two weeks out and many athletes may be tempted to 'push through', I don't see that panning out in my favor and I would much rather rest now without putting myself at an increased risk of entering overtraining. If this means I may come into my show a bit softer than I would like, then so be it. This is what's necessary for my long-term health and performance and to maintain a good quality of life both before and after I hit the stage.
My hope is that this reduction in volume and additional days of rest will allow me to go into next week stronger and more motivated in the gym as I approach show day.
Now that I have bored you with that mini novel of an explanation of where I am at, here is where my physique is sitting at 2 weeks out:
Weight: 114.4 weekly average (4 weeks out), 114.5 weekly average (3 weeks out)
Waist: 23 in
Hips: 35 in
I usually take my progress photos first thing in the morning after a hard training day. These were taken after completely resting for one day and coming off of a pretty stressful week which likely resulted in increased cortisol and possibly water retention and decreased muscle volume. I also allowed myself to eat a bit more (25 additional grams of carbs, 5 additional grams of fat) for recovery sake. On the plus side, I feel much better and am optimistic that a few additional days of recovery is just what the doctor ordered. On the downside, there is part of me that has the urge to continue pushing harder and wants to see a leaner physique at this point, but I know that is not what I need to do right now and is more likely to hurt me than help me.
Diet (for the past 2 weeks)
Upper Body Days (3x/wk): 40F/300C/160P
Lower Body Days (3x/wk): 40F/375C/160P
Rest Days (1x/wk): 40F/225C/160P
Re-feed (1x/wk on a lower body day): 40F/425C/160P
Since my last update and concluding that I wanted to continue filling out, I did increase my carbs by about 25 grams per day. Although I did fill out some days, I would drop most of my fullness after a hard training day which indicates I need more recovery and/or less training volume.
Mon: Full Leg Day
Tues: Full Upper Body Day
Weds: Rest Day
Thurs: Full Leg Day
Fri: Full Upper Body Day
Sat: Leg Day (Glute Focus)
Sun: Full Upper Body Day
Cardio: 12-15k steps/day. I still don't engage in any cardio activity outside of walking. This won't change going into the next few weeks although I may add in some yoga (for relaxation, NOT as a form of cardio or for an additional 'workout').
My calories are now just about where they were when I started prep and I will keep them here at least for this upcoming week, still with a slightly lower carb intake on rest days (which will increase in frequency this week). If I need to change things slightly for peak week, I will (I will write another post on my peak week protocol next week).
3-5 grams creatine/day
Pre-workout: (most) lower body days only
1300mg Ashwagandha Root
I still aim to pose at least 10-15 minutes a day. I finally purchased the shoes that I will hit the stage in just in time to start breaking them in, and my suit is ready to begin posing practice in as well!
My knee pain is still feeling pretty good which I am ecstatic about. It's still there, but not nearly as persistent as it has been in the past, and nothing I am doing is making it feel worse which is great.
In summary, this week will be focused on doing what I need to do to lower my stress levels and listen to my body as much as needed to bring my best mindset and health to the stage (along with what I hope will be my best physique!).