Tracking your progress is crucial to you being successful in your health and fitness journey. This also means understanding what methods and metrics of measurement apply best to you and your goals.
Revisiting an old blog here, but as I see many guys getting disgruntled with their lack of progress so far in 2017, I wanted to put this out again to give some perspective if you're starting to wonder whether steroids are the answer...
There's two ends of the spectrum here.
On one end, you might make bit of a meh decision to to jump on a quick cycle of gear. You think popping a few pills and a handful of semi structured, mediocre workouts are going to do the trick and have you ripped for ibiza in a few months. Nothing much happens in the first few weeks so you fob the idea off and think no more of it.
You decide to do it 'properly', but just one cycle right? What harm can that do.. You're willing to use whatever drug it takes but you're going to follow the recommended doses right? You train like an animal and weigh your white fish and oats to the gram. You see some results.
But you want more. And because more is better you up your dosage, perhaps you bring in another drug to help 'get rid of that last bit of fat' or 'give you that hard 3D shouldered, Instagram filtered look'.
So you go on holiday and look/feel better than ever have before. You thrive on the compliments and love the attention. You figure you've done a great job and decide when you get home you'll come off the gear and just maintain your shape. Cool.
But a few weeks down the line you feel small, weak and soft. F*&k it, jumping on one more cycle should do the trick.
That right there is the slippery slope of steroid use.
If you get the desired result from taking something, you will go back to it to regain the results you lose coming off it and the further down the path you get, the harder it is to find your way back..
You've not just built a physique with drugs, your mind is now at the mercy of them too.
It's now a part of who you are. You feel the desire to keep up this reputation of being the guy everyone looks at in the gym and asks for advice.
Dysmorphia kicks in. You become increasingly dissatisfied with where your physique is at. Thus more drugs. More drastic measures.
The negative physiological effects have now hit really hard. Unbeknown to you your natural testosterone production is shutting down. Your liver is starting to wane and your nuts are shrinking.
So where does it stop?
Worst case scenario... Your body says enough is enough. Heart attack. Done. You're out. Dead.
Still worth cracking on with a quick course for your holiday?
If you want a physique like the guy in this picture, please believe me that you DO NOT need to take drugs. Is that kind of physique easy to achieve? No. But is it achievable.. For absolute sure.
If you want to be Mr Olympia then yes, at some point drugs will have to come into the equation. But if like most of us guys you're after that lean, men's heathesque kind of look you really do not need to be anywhere near drugs.
Gyms this day and age are littered with guys using performance enhancers and that's their body and their choice, no judgement on them.
But it pains me to see so many young guys resorting to such drastic measures because they feel it's the only way to get the results they want or the easier/quicker way to make it happen.
I urge you to look at the bigger picture and consider your decision on this kind of stuff very, very seriously.
Lets cut to the chase. It's YOU. You genuinely are the only person stopping yourself from achieving fantastic results. You're also the only person that can make it happen. Powerful position right?
Truth is many people would sooner create 100 excuses than find a single solution. What I want to get at in this post is that getting results requires you to take action. You'll have to do some stuff you're not doing currently and probably cut out/adapt some stuff you are doing.
This inevitably means you're going to have to change some habits, which often isn't easy or comfortable. But I can promise you that this is where your results are hiding.
I'm going to give you a couple of case studies from just today coaching my 121 clients:
0900am My first clients walk in the door. A Husband and wife ready to crush a leg session. Husband has been out of training for the last 6 weeks and Wife originally came to me post stomach op a couple of years back and has been working closely with me or my co-trainer ever since. Husband knows he's going to struggle to keep up with her but gives it 110% to keep the pace giving an awesome account of himself showing some real grit in his first leg session of 2017. Wife is also a Mum and juggles a hectic homelife with coming to see me x 3 a week. Coming to me originally post op with apprehension and plenty of work to she has now carved out an envied physique that 95% of women would kill for.
1000am My next guy rolls up as he does every Saturday morning with a smile on his face and ready for action. This guy's a city boy with a demanding career as well as a happy home and social life. Despite this he's managed to adapt his weekly routine in a way that he gets his 3-4 training sessions in which has seen him progress every single month. To the point we even worked towards a successful photoshoot a couple of months back to showcase his fantastic results so far.
1130am It's time for one of my newest recruits to get involved. Heading into week 3 of working together and I'm starting to see the first glimmers of progress. He has been willing to strip back the weight on a lot of movements and start from scratch to relearn techniques with superior execution than previous. He has also made conscious decisions nutritionally detailing to me how his day pans out and the new informed choices he is making rather than just opting for what is easy and convenient. I'm excited to see where he is in a few months time.
All three of those above have the same thing in common. They haven't just voiced their desire to change, they've consciously made decisions followed by positive actions and a willingness to learn and embrace feeling uncomfortable.
Research as much as you want, spend as much money as you can and take all the most cutting edge 'fat loss' supplements you can, but I promise you NOTHING will change until you start acting in a way thats conducive to change. Thoughts are great, but they don't change anything. Actions do.
For anyone who is at the start of their health and fitness journey I can completely understand if you're a little puzzled as to what direction to turn when it comes to building muscle. Just google "how to build muscle" and you'll be bombarded with over 8 million search results! So here's a couple of key things that in hindsight I wish I had got to grips with sooner when I made my start.
1/ CALORIE SURPLUS - Without this you won't build muscle. It's as simple as that. What this means is you need to be eating more calories than you are burning for a sustained period of time. It works a little like this... Imagine a house (your body right now) and it's made of a certain amount of bricks (calories). If you want to build a bigger house, you're going to need more bricks right? Very simplistic analogy but you get the picture.
2/ MUSCULAR DAMAGE - This is something you're looking to create through training. Not in the same way that you would tear a muscle and end up with an injury, we're talking about tiny micro tears within the muscle tissue. Causing these microscopic tears is one of the goals of weight training when trying to build muscle. Again, lets use the above analogy... If you're going to build your bigger house, you're going to need to chip away a few bricks and cement (muscle damage) to be able to add on more bricks (new lean muscle tissue).
3/ PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD - This is crucial for making progress in whatever the aspect of fitness and building muscle is no exception. The term progressive overload simply means progressing your training over time. This might mean adding extra weight on certain movements or maybe more total reps and sets of specific exercises. The key is to log your training so you know your numbers to then push forward on as the weeks move on.
4/ PROTEIN - Being in a calorie surplus is important but if you don't have an adequate amount of protein in your diet then it's all for a lost cause. Aiming for 2/2.5g protein per kg of bodyweight puts you in a great position. If you don't want to get lost in the maths of it, another good gauge is to include a palm sized protein source in every meal (based on three meals a day) and then supplement with a standard whey protein shake once a day too.
5/ FEEL THE BURN - If it ain't hurting it ain't working. You need to understand that the dull ache you get towards the end of an exercise, that's important! I'm not saying you need to yourself into the ground killing yourself 7 days a week, especially in the early days, but you do need to get your game face on and get comfortable being uncomfortable. It isn't a social event and it will require effort.
6/ IT TAKES TIME - Building muscle is a long steady process. There is absolutely zero chance of you waking up and seeing superman's torso after a week of bench pressing. If only it were that simple! One week you might notice your a couple of pounds up on the scales, the next month you might notice your t-shirt sleeves getting a little snug and next year you might be looking back at holiday pictures and getting some clean cut perspective of the gains you have made over the year.
Building muscle isn't easy, if it was everyone would be walking round looking enviably good! But the benefits of carrying a little extra muscle mass than the average guy or girl definitely make it worthwhile. In fact, they deserve a post all of their own, so i'll leave this one here for now!
Online health and fitness coaching has surged over this past few years. The development of relevant apps, software and communication technology had made online coaching a legitimate service than can help you along your health and fitness journey. That being said, it doesn't come without it's drawbacks too.
WHAT IS IT?
Well this can vary. There are many different models of online coaching out there but generally ranging from the low budget model which will involve equally low input from the coach. My honest advice is to avoid the cheapest services out there. You won't get any individualisation or contact time with your coach as the business model involves bringing in a high number of clients to make any kind of profit. You are for the most part treated as just a number.
Move across to the other end of the spectrum where you will have to part with a more chunky investment and you should find yourself in the hands of a coach that truly customises your training, nutrition and lifestyle plan to help you obtain the results you want. This means bespoke training, a nutrition plan that is tailored to you (this could be macronutrient based or more meal specific) and the guidance you need to help address the 23 hours outside of the gym, not just the 1 in it. They should also hold you accountable and regularly evaluate progress, whether that be email check ins, weekly calls, weigh ins, photo updates etc.
WHO IS IT FOR?
Online coaching works best for those with a good basic understanding of training who aren't fearful of walking into a gym environment. Those with little to no experience of training should seek a 121 Trainer first ideally. As an online client it's up to you to shoulder a lot of responsibility, you need to make sure the workouts get done and you must be honest with the Coach. They cannot pick the weights up or eat the food for you. If you find it tough to fit allocated slots with a 121 Trainer into your hectic schedule then Online Coaching might be great for you. You get all the structure of working 121 but get to train when it fits in best for you.
HOW I DO IT?
My online approach has evolved over time and still does much like my approach with each of my 121 clients. Some of the common components my online coaching involve are:
- Access to the Brisbournefit app where you can access and log your specific workouts.
- Weekly check ins evaluating the week previous and pre-empting the hurdles in week coming up.
- Initial diet diary assessment and relevant guidance moving forward (Myfitnesspal set up/meal plan templates etc).
- Detailed check in calls/Skypes/Facetimes varying from weekly to monthly.
- A number of 121 sessions if geographically viable (e.g. day one, half way point, completion date).
- 1/2 day workshops where I set aside time to go through specific, relevant content as well as spending some extra time getting to know one another.
- Nutritional sensitivity testing via blood draw.
- Basic supplemental set up.
- Hormonal assessment and custom supplemental protocol following this.
- Email/Whatsapp support as required within guide times.
If you're considering hiring the services of an Online Coach, do your research first. Run a google search, read some reviews, even speak to some of their current/previous clients if possible to get some insight first hand into what it's like to work with them. The fitness industry comes in all shapes and sizes and finding not just a coach who is knowledgable, but a coach that you get on well with and respect is massively important. Use the beer test. If you can imagine going out for a beer with them, chances are you will work well together. Well maybe, not a beer, but you catch my drift!
With London setting the standard with it's huge influx of health and fitness based facilities over the past few years, the surrounding counties are starting to catch up. The following are a few of my top picks you should make an effort to visit if you're Essex based like myself.
1/ ABSALUTE GYM - Over the past 5/6 years the guys at Absalute have built an empire of the best equipped gyms in the county. With gyms in Brentwood, Romford, Thurrock and Chelmsford, Absalute has managed to strike just the right balance of 'spit and sawdust' with extensive high grade equipment. Not only that, all four gyms have multiple personal trainers who work independently in their own specialist disciplines, which means you'll never be far from a helping hand if you need it in any area of fitness. If you want to take your training to the next level and surround yourself with other people hungry for results, these gyms are where you need to be.
Find out more about all four gyms at absalutegym.co.uk
2/ HEALTHY ROOTS - This is exactly what every high street needs. An eatery that prides itself on providing quality, tasty food with both eat in or take out dining options. A varied menu comprised of the best quality ingredients makes this place a 'must visit' if you're passing through. Based in Upminster, Healthy Roots is the only place of it's kind in the local vicinity, although given their massive popularity I'm sure we'll see other start ups come in to try to replicate.
Check out Healthy Roots at facebook.com/healhtyrootslondon
3/ ESSEX BOOTCAMP - If the gym isn't for you or you simply prefer to get yourself outdoors and you want to get fitter, stronger and leaner you need to check these guys out. With thousands of members enjoying their bootcamp based training every week from over 20 locations, the Essex Bootcamp movement has grown through a combination of effective but fun and engaging sessions paired with an awesome sense of team spirit. The trainers love what they do and care about every member's personal fitness journey.
Visit essexbootcamp.co.uk to sign up for your free 7-day trial.
1/ ARE YOUR REST PERIODS TIMED? - Speaking generally, anything more than 90 seconds rest isn't doing you any favours for building muscle.
2/ DO YOU HAVE A PLAN? - If you go into the session without a plan, odds are you'll lean towards the exercises you want to do but chances are there's a lot of gains being left on the table in the stuff you don't like doing!
3/ ARE YOU PROGRESSING? - Aiming to improve your numbers week in week out is vital to laying down new muscle tissue. Be it more reps, more weight, more sets.. there must be a step up in stimulus. We've all seen the guy that trains the same way with the same routine, week in week out. Cool if he's maintaining where he's at, not if he wants to keep progressing.
4/ DO YOU FEEL LIKE AN IPHONE BATTERY? - You want to be coming into the session fully charged but training at an intensity that cuts into your battery pretty damn quick. Don't turn power save mode on when it starts getting tough and pussy out of reps. Don't take extra rest unnecessarily. You should be finishing the session well and truly in the red.
5/ HAVE YOU GOT SOMEONE IN YOUR CORNER? - Be it a coach or a training partner, that person will be the difference in getting the extra 10% out of you. For myself I have just started getting put through my paces by another trainer once a week and train with a partner on average twice a week. It will also allow you to utilise advanced training techniques like negatives, forced reps etc.
6/ CHILL OUT WITH THE FRILLY STUFF - Mobility, warming up, intra-set stretching.. All cool but don't let it take over your session. Yes it should be involved where required but if you spend 5 minutes or 50 minutes on a foam roller, it's not making the world of difference to slapping on another 10lb of muscle.
7/ FOCUS - If you are to attack a session with some serious intensity your focus needs to be on point. Use your phone strictly for timing, music or following a program. Leave the 9 that's squatting alone, if she wants a spot she'll ask. Try to train outside of peak hours, you're far less likely to get caught in convo and have your rhythm disrupted
These are the three absolute essentials you need to be successful in your health and fitness endeavours this year.
Not a juice cleanse.
Not a perfectly periodised training program.
Not magic supplements.
Not a most swanky gym.
Focus on eating more real food. Focus on getting a proper sweat on at least 3 times a week. Focus on being disciplined enough to carry on committment to achieving your goal, even after the initial motivation to do it has passed you by.
Set your foundations here and build from there.
Right now we live in a forever changing world that seems to be picking up pace by the day. Pretty exciting for all kinds of reasons. But there's a problem. It's probably the biggest problem I come across in what I do.
The world we live in is becoming more instant, materialistic, monetised, digital and technological all the time.
So why is this a problem for getting in shape?
We as people have become so damn conditioned to thinking every problem we have can be solved with a click, app, swipe or google search that we struggle to comprehend when a problem can't be solved this way.
What about if we just throw a lot of money at it? That's got to solve it right?
Nope. Money can't do it for you either.
When it comes to improving your health and fitness you have to get your hands dirty and work hard at it over time. There is no secret hack. No magic pills. No shortcuts.
Yeh you can work smart and be as clever as you like about your training program, diet etc. In fact I urge you to do just that. But this isn't and never will be an alternative to hard, sweaty, tiresome work and some conscious habit changes.
So no more looking for an easy way out. If being the best version of you in a health and fitness sense is something you truly want, get to work you will reap the rewards.