Category Archives: entropy

Checks and balances

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I’ve been told “work like no one else so you can live like no one else”. That message is meant to have a lucrative and freeing end result. “The only risk is to not take one” is another lofty one.

I think “ignorance is bliss” is more accurate of the entrepreneurial process. If I knew what it takes to do what I have attacked a few years ago, I probably would have given up. At the same time, I am not one to go down without a fight, without the knowledge that I pushed with every ounce of my being. Quitting is not an option, but adapting and switching course is the nuance to get your head out of the sand.

“It’s not the journey, but the destination” is another cliché. True, though. You learn things about yourself and others. Your intuition usually gets verified, the lesson being “trust your gut” sooner to save time and money. There are many other lessons, but let’s stay focused on the “journey” part.

The title of this post is “checks and balances”, because in the end, everything has to even out. In business, it’s your cash flow, and when that doesn’t, the business ends. Someone screwed up somewhere, or something went awry. While you can foresee most things, you take that chance, that risk. It is the same in fitness.

Here’s how the latter applies to yours truly: I sleep very little, which affects my performance, and my hours in the car or training clients prevent a proper ingestion of nutrients, or restful digestion. Between a start-up company and its perfect storm of activity and a teething baby (who just got to sleeping through the night and night it’s back to being up after each incomplete sleep cycle), undertaking a strength focused or hypertrophy focused program design is essentially doomed to not achieve quite the results I set out for myself.

But I don’t quit, I adapt. There is progress. Repetition is a form of change (“do more reps”). Lifting only the same load but having dropped 8 pounds of bodyweight is progress (stronger pound for pound, and it appears to be fat loss, with a visual check). OK, so I won’t work as a bouncer anytime soon (I’m more like Dalton…) or scare someone into crossing the street when they see me, they’ll rather ask me for directions. My body reverts to what it knows, or has to do it with the best technique available. No one enters a fight 100%. Every fiber of my body is responding, without the benefits of the optimal conditions I encourage everyone to create. I am not a hypocrite, I am just not necessarily achieving the end goal results I set out for, but it remains a matter of perception too. A program for strength, or hypertrophy, without the matching rest requirements or nutritional intake is still a training program. As a matter of fact, it’s great for weight loss! A recent genetic testing procedure showed that my genomes are those that require little sleep. Unsure if it’s me or a statistic, but caloric reduction, moderated fatigue and frequency of training with load variations led to a stronger body pound for pound, some balance for the brain, and a lithe agile body. Win. The drills are performed within the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) or percentage of effort required with whatever “money is left in the bank” or “fuel in the tank”. Inevitably, a variable will change.

And that’s what I believe is the most important factor in being a successful trainer, or at anything: the road map. It gives you a starting point, a baseline. Follow it, things will change. Lack of change is change, usually not for the better. And “better is the enemy of good”, better is always better.

I make the time, sacrifice, compromise and sometimes have to also let go. I write checks my body can cash, and it keeps it balanced. So long as I incorporate quality movement daily, there is progress. What’s your story? I’d love to hear it 🙂

 

Navigating the seas of strength.

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It is by knowledge and experience that I navigate the oft tumultuous seas of fitness.

Defeating physical pain, conquering mental anguish and surmounting performance plateaus, I pilot the only vessel I’ll ever carry from the pre-dawn of my life till the lights go out at dusk.
I seek uncharted biological territories, but heed the warnings of captains before me. I’ve sailed the planet through peaks, valleys and oceans, successfully challenged monsters and battled with wits and brawn at my side. Some beasts I haven’t tamed, others are emblazoned on my crest.
“Be water, my friend”. Sometimes, I resist its currents and fight its tempestuous nature, other times I let it guide me through its channels to where I ought to be.
With the realization that it is sometimes beyond me, survival comes from accepting its beauty. You can depart from any port, circumnavigate the globe and find yourself in the very place you left physically, but have you embraced the journey?
You can Powerlift, Oly lift, body lift.
You can machine press, dumbbell press, barbell press, kettlebell press.
Upright row, seated row, bent-0ver row, renegade row.
Pull-up or pull-down.
Bench press or push press.
Relax to the point of tension.
Slow grind or fast & loose.
Clash with Titans or defeat Goliath, for sometimes, a well aimed little metaphoric pebble can take you down for the count. Even the greatest warrior Achilles had a weakness.
Search your golden fleece, find your golden goose. Your journey awaits you, but you must prepare for it.
Embark with me, join the ranks.
Soon, the Actionaut will leave these banks!

Theory and Practice: a philosophical essay on progress.

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I just read a good quote that an RKC comrade uses as his signature: In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

In theory, if you gradually add a couple of pounds every week to your bench press, you should be able to press a thousand pounds over time. In practice, it doesn’t happen…
In theory, trapping an opponent’s right cross, breaking his right elbow and then twisting his right wrist into a half nelson works. In practice, it’s a lot more challenging (or in a real fight, that is, as you can practice the sequence successfully).
Should we throw out theory? Absolutely not. Theory is the foundation of philosophy, be it of the mind or of the body. Experimenting, applying the theory, which stems from a hypothesis, validates the theory, at least until proven wrong.
All things work till they don’t work anymore. The question is, why don’t they work anymore?
If you follow a certain diet and it’s working for you, then you stop losing fat or gaining muscle, whatever your goal, is the theory behind no longer valid? Has your body reached homeostasis?
Is it a matter of entropy? “An object in an unnatural state always returns to its natural state”?
The jury’s still out on this one (by jury, I mean my brain). I believe it is the change in acute variables. You may be following a strict powerlifting routine to bench press, but maybe you’ve changed the time of day for your training (the body actually likes routine, one theory implies, and you need to wave your loads in a micro, meso or macro cycle rather than “shock your muscles”, which confuses them and results in them underperforming). Or you’re sleeping pattern changed. Maybe your diet is not supporting your body’s increased caloric demand.
Unless you can isolate any given factor, or acute variable, as the culprit for your lack of continued progress (or plateau), you cannot claim with certainty that the system you’ve been using no longer works, that the theory is obsolete because it no longer works in practice.
This transitions my thought to another point: too much of your training regimen is left to chance.
Unless you categorically and systematically log your training and your nutritional intake, you are unable to analyze what needs to be modified in your training to break through your plateau. You may very well follow a certain protocol without changing its theoretical approach, because it will yield results in practice, without worrying about periodizing. For instance, I train heavy on Monday, light on Wednesday, moderate on Friday, with a couple of optional “variety” days. The drills are the same on MFW, the weight is the same but the volume differs (less reps, or sets) and I increase the load every 5-6 weeks. However, on any given day, my balance may be off. My stress level makes me less focused or I may be at 100% and perform like a champ. I log everything, every detail, observation, technique modification. I leave nothing to chance.
So, empirical evidence doesn’t disprove a theory. It may very well reinforce it if you are able to identify and isolate any given factor. A mishmash of factors creates confusion and you cannot state with certainty that this or that prevented you from reaching your goal. Address one thing, and one thing only, and see how it affects your training by keeping everything else the same. If that didn’t solve it, address a different variable.
In theory, it should work 🙂