Sunday 3 June 2018

Resistance - 10 Weeks Later

   For the past 10 weeks I've been following a fairly solid training program that focused in on resistance training - reps and weight over time and speed. It's been tough, to say the least, but it's also easily the most rewarding workout I've done in a long, long time.
   When I used to do HIIT, circuit training and cardio, it was so grueling. I hated it. I would dedicate myself to a workout for 4-5 weeks and after 2 or 3 I would be sick of it, even dreading it sometimes. And I would rarely see results. I would doubt myself, I'd lose hope, I'd phone it in sometimes, and I would feel disappointed at the end of it all because I'd not gotten anywhere, and when I started something new I always started with hope, but also with the underlying thought that I wouldn't get anywhere with it. But I couldn't let up, especially when you hear left, right and centre that HIIT is the best way to go to burn fat. I wouldn't dare try anything else. Of course, all the while I was also terrified of eating too much and often under-ate to protect against it. I was always weak and it took a lot for me to finally start eating more, after which I started to feel better and didn't gain weight like I'd thought I would. Even so, I'd lost a lot of heart.
   So when I made the decision to change it up, to focus on resistance, which I love, rather than exclusively high-impact HIIT and cardio, I was scared, but so excited. And it turned out to be the best thing ever.

   Every day, I've been sure of myself. Because it's not jumping around, I've been able to really throw myself into every rep and make sure I do it perfectly, focusing on the quality - depth and control - rather than on speed, and because speed hasn't been important beyond keeping to appropriate rest intervals, I've been able to maintain effort from start to finish on every 45-minute session. My form has improved, my strength and control. When I started I was using a 12.5kg barbell and 10 reps of each move. I'm now at 17.5kg and 14 reps. As a rule, you get familiar with the weight, then increase the reps. When that begins to get easier, increase the weight - dropping the reps back if need be. When it gets easier, up the reps, then the weight, then the reps, and so on. As long as you maintain form and hit muscle fatigue, you're good. Fewer reps with heavy weights and lots of reps with little weights will yield the same results, but heavier weights are more time-efficient (and empowering) I feel so strong.
   And not just physically. Knowing that with every session - every perfectly-controlled, sweat-drenched rep - I was getting something out of it helped me to keep going. And after 2 months, I could certainly keep going. I've had difficulties with motivation at certain points, it is true, and more lately than earlier in the program, but I've kept going with certainty. And being able to change the music day to day depending on my mood rather than sticking to the same DVDs and so on helps motivation move a little easier. Some times I didn't bother with music and just put the TV on instead. Word to the wise: Growing Up Wild is not a suitable documentary to watch while working out. Your breath control shatters whenever there's a baby animal on screen.

   And despite the difficulty, I really, honestly, truly have seen results.
   After four weeks I started to see a change in my skin. It looked and felt healthier, smoother and firmer, and it wasn't fat loss or muscle gain. I'm pretty sure it was a result of blood circulation and lymphatic movement, the way my body was responding to the exercise and the nutrients I was giving it. And those nutrients improved, too, because I felt that I needed the fuel more than I used to, so I started eating a little more again. Where I used to be around 1,300 calories a day, I'm up around 1,650 - and, again, I've not gained any weight like I was afraid of, and I've been feeling better still. And aside from BCAAs, I've not been taking any supplements beyond my usual multi-vitamin, magnesium and vitamin D, so I can't see how anything else could be responsible.

   After 8-9 weeks, I'm seeing definition in my shoulders and my bum has gotten bigger, but above all else my shoulder blades are more prominent and my upper back more toned. These are the results I was sure I was going to get. How could I not if I was working to muscle fatigue every day and moving the markers - increasing the reps, increasing the weight, and giving myself new goals when I met them every 2-3 weeks. I've had no doubt throughout these past 10 weeks that I've been steadily moving forwards, and that is such an incredible feeling. And among the muscle gains, toning and definition, the fat-loss is and always will be a side-effect. As long as the rest is happening and you're not eating too much or too little, fat-loss will follow.

   All this said, I'm choosing to take a 2-week break from my barbell. I'm taking a step back from resistance and turning to kickboxing instead, which I love just as much. But I'm not using my usual kickboxing DVDs. I was given Core de Force for Christmas and I have yet to try it, and I know it's intense and very involved, so I know it's going to be worthy of my time. And, I hope, it will also postpone my weariness and remind me why I love resistance so much.
   While using Core de Force, I'm going to put together another resistance program to use afterwards. I want to replace all four of my workouts - new moves, new sequences - and use them for another 9-12 weeks, lowering the weights a little if I have to.

   I'll update, of course, in two weeks' time, and review the DVD if I get enough use out of it to be feasible. Otherwise, wish me luck!


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