Friday, April 2, 2010

The Goddess-In-Progress Training Plan

Okay, I'm already a goddess. And so are you. Unless of course you are a guy, in which case you are a god. Really. If you care about your health, if you eat right most of the time, if you exercise regularly and with some intensity and commitment, you are already as fabulous as you ever need to be.

But this isn't about that.

This is about taking it to that next level where even the people who don't particularly like you have to admit you look darned good. This is about sticking it to your evil ex and your catty sister-in-law and all those people in high school who used to kick sand in your face. This is about proving to the world that while fertility may decline with age hottness endures, and that just because you're over 45 it doesn't mean you're past your sell-by date.

Now for the specifics:

If, like me, you are a woman in mid-life who is in very good shape but not quite as lean and sculpted as she used to be, the problem very likely is hormones. I'm assuming, of course, that nothing else about your training regimen and diet has changed, which may not be the case. Mid-life women may be dealing with aging parents, teenage children, failing marriages, job stress ... all sorts of things that can impact a woman's time, energy and commitment to training. In my own case I've had some of that, but really not too much so I'm inclined to think feral hormones are the main reason for the upward creep in my body fat percentage

So what do you do when, like me, you've hit the hormonal wall? You commit to working harder. Sorry about that, folks. I wish there was another answer, I truly do. But there isn't. So deal with it. Really. There's no point in shaking your fist at the heavens and saying "It's not fair." It isn't, but lamenting the unfairness of it all gets you exactly nowhere. If, like me, you're a person of fairly average genetic gifts you've probably already figured that one out. Some people build muscle more easily than others, and some people lean out more easily. Some do both, and I hate them as much as you do :)

The good news is: a person of average genetic gifts who's on a good program can get results that equal or surpass those of a genetically gifted person who chooses to coast on his or her gifts. But what do I mean by "a good program"? It must include some intense resistance training and some high-intensity interval training. It must include a pretty strict diet with plenty of protein and very controlled carb intake. Beyond that, it's hard to be specific because what one individual needs to "take it to the next level" may not be the same as what another needs. So much of it depends on what you've been doing.

In my own case, I've been doing a lot of metabolic resistance training. Supersets and circuits and kettlebells, oh my. Great stuff, and for years it kept me as lean as I cared to be. But eventually it stopped working, as even an excellent training program will generally do if you don't change it up from time to time. Let me reiterate: there was nothing "wrong" with what I was doing. In fact, according to Alwyn Cosgrove's "hierarchy of fat loss," what I'd been doing was the best thing I could do for fat loss. But for ME it was no longer "best" because I'd been doing it for too darned long and my body had gotten used to it.

So I looked elsewhere on the hierarchy, and what I came up with is a regimen that combines more traditional bodybuilding-type resistance training, some high intensity interval cardio, and also a certain amount of steady state cardio at lower intensity. It's way more time consuming than what I'd been doing, but frankly that's what the situation calls for. Again, I'm not talking about what's necessary for basic health and fitness. I'm talking about taking it a step or three beyond that.

My diet hasn't changed too much, other than that I've cut my calories a bit and also begun paying even more attention to nutrient timing. The fact is, fat loss is a catabolic process while building muscle is anabolic, so you can't do both at once. But what you can do is try for microcycles where you flood your body with nutrients at a time when it's best positioned to take advantage of them, i.e, during and immediately following your workouts, then cut way back at other times so your body draws on its stores of excess fat for energy. In other words, at any given point during the day you're either burning fat or building muscle, but over the course of the day you're doing both. Theoretically, anyway :)

And again, none of this is worth bothering with unless you're already quite fit and lean. The further you are from your goal, the easier it is to get results. Just eat less and move more, and you'll be fine. Don't make yourself crazier than you must.

Regrettably, I myself would appear to be at a point in my training where I must become a raving lunatic to get the results I want. But I can do that. In all honesty I've never been all that disciplined about my training, but lunacy comes naturally to me :)