Week 3: The key to success

I’M in the business of producing results. That’s what separates something that works from something that does not. In the fitness industry, people want results and more often than not in an unreasonably short time.

The Amazing 12 goes beyond fitness because it develops strength, conditioning, mindset, technique, discipline, confidence and a host of other attributes. However, the main reason the Amazing 12 has a stellar reputation is from the results that have consistently been achieved by its trainers on individuals of all shapes and sizes and athletic backgrounds from around the world.

Aside from the Amazing 12 program itself, what, though, is the key ingredient for success?

I’ll tell you: consistency. And to have consistency, you have to show up. Every day – or however many times the program you are on demands that you attend. In the case of the Amazing 12 it is five times each week on consecutive days.

One of the main reasons I have observed for why fitness goals are not achieved is that people don’t see through to the end whatever program they start and/or that they don’t follow a program precisely as it was written.

Inevitably, there will be days when you simply don’t feel like training. There will be days when it’s cold or raining outside and you have to get up early to run. There will be days when you feel below par. There will be days when you feel run down and stressed. There will be days when you feel emotionally drained. There will be days when you lack confidence, self-worth and strength…

But training – and following a program like the Amazing 12 – is an opportunity to develop the resolute mindset that, come what may, you’ll be there. Don’t let the little voice in your head that’s good at talking you out of things prevail. Showing up is an ability that not only can be learned and cultivated and yields results from training, but it also spills over into all other fields of life.

Being consistent effectively means you never stop trying and it’s through trying – practice – that we improve and make progress. If you keep showing up, no matter what, I know you have a far greater chance of succeeding than if you don’t. That’s a stone-cold fact.

Stacey on one of her more energised days

Every time you summon the strength or drive or courage to overcome the obstacle in your way, you make yourself stronger, more determined and self-driven.

However, there are some instances when it’s better to take a day off training and this can be difficult for many people. You may be exhausted or injured or sleep-deprived. In those circumstances you have to learn to listen to your body – become good at identifying when it’s better to ease off or push on.

Reasons for not showing up are not the same as excuses. Reasons are legitimate. Excuses, though, get in the way of succeeding.

I ask a lot from my clients on the Amazing 12. After all, they want results and I am as invested as they are in achieving them. If they don’t succeed, then neither do I. We are, effectively, a team.

Stacey gets a bit of massage therapy to ease her neck pain

This week, Stacey sent me a message one morning complaining she’d slept awkwardly and hurt her neck. I told her to come in anyway and that I’d get my wife, Jamie, who practices Thai Yoga Massage amongst other things, to work on the tender area. Stacey got through the session without difficulty.

“Normally, I’d have just not come in with something like that,” Stacey told me. “But, actually, it was fine.”

Good squat form

By the end of the week, though, following two nights where she didn’t sleep at all after a week of looking after her six-month-old son by herself, Stacey was completely shattered and understandably so. Reading the situation, she had a day off to recover.

Ben and Jo hard at it, but concentrating on technique

Ben’s had a lot going on in his personal life and admitted there have been some nights he’s felt worn down. But on those evenings he drags himself in for training regardless.

“I know I really enjoy it [the training],” he said. “I’m not the type of person who gives up. I intend to see this through. I can feel the changes. It’s given me a lot of focus when I’ve needed it.”

Getting your food organised…the most important workout of the week!

Jo’s been on-song this week. At the weekend she sent me a photo (above) of her food prep. I was most impressed. She spent a few hours cooking for the week ahead and then divided all her food into containers. Job done.

“It’s made such a difference and saved me so much time,” admitted Jo, who confesses she’s not the cooking type.

Her consistency is working. Her fitness and strength is improving. She is changing shape. Her recovery from strenuous activity is much better. And we are only a quarter of the way through the program.

No time to waste, Adriano flew in for the final session of the week

Adriano was away most of the week working in Africa. It’s not ideal for following the program, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. He fitted in a few training sessions while he was away. He returned to Heathrow airport Friday morning and, though a little tired, was in for training later that evening.

It would have been easy for Adriano to have taken the night off, but instead he was committed. And he did well.

As I said, if you don’t show up, you can’t make progress. It’s that simple.

Think you have in you the commitment to complete the Amazing 12 program and achieve extraordinary physical results? If you do or want to know more about the program and what it entails, send me a message to Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk


Week 2: Why muscles aren’t just for show

Stacey’s biceps coming back to life

WE need muscle. There can be no disputing that. The amount of muscle, however, is more open to debate.

When it comes to losing excess fat, which all of my current Amazing 12 Chichester crew are striving for, developing muscle is king. 

We are led to believe is that if we exercise/train more and eat less we will lose weight. And to some extent it is true. But what often happens is that while we may shift some poundage, we also strip away muscle as well as fat and, more importantly, screw up our metabolism in the process (I’ll go into this in more detail later). Long-term, that’s a disaster.

Having muscle is therefore critical in the process of fat-burning. It is also vital for other functions, too.

Muscle enables us to express bodily strength and so much more. We have about 600 skeletal muscles. They help make us functional and efficient, to stay healthy and pull blood into the tissues that need it. Without movement, which requires muscular action, our hearts wind up doing too much work and, over time, become strained. Without movement, our cells starve, affecting our cardiovascular system, and the distribution of oxygen in our body falters.

Jo setting up for the back squat

When muscles are weak and injured and don’t work well, our joints become compromised.

Having too much body fat makes us more physically and mentally tired, releasing inflammatory hormones that cause us to want more food, which is why we get cravings. Fat wants to be fed.

The goal for everyone interested in being healthy should be to have and maintain lean muscle mass for as long as possible. Genetics and age will play a part, but much more so our lifestyle and dietary choices.

Josh Hillis, a respected and experienced nutrition and fitness coach who co-wrote Fat Loss Happens on Monday, said: “People who are lean are in the habit of being lean. They’ve practised eating lean – like a skill.”

We can’t do a great deal about our age and genetics, but we can about how we choose to live and what we eat.

The older we get, the harder it is for our bodies to retain muscle. Therefore, more effort needs to be put into holding on to it. What can we do? Choose to live in a way that helps support that.

Did you know that those who train or exercise for one hour daily but spend the rest of their time sitting and not moving are only 4% better off physically than those who lead a sedentary life?

“The research shows that you can stay younger, longer if you have more lean muscle on your body,” said Shawn Stevenson, an expert on sleep and fitness and author of Sleep Smarter.

Adriano hard at it on his final session of the week

“Lifting weights enables you to express your genetic potential. Your genes expect you to lift heavy things.”

That’s why on the Amazing 12 we do a lot of lifting.

Lifting and moving weights combined with eating the right foods, consuming sufficient protein and, critically, getting enough recovery and quality sleep is the path to success for my dedicated quartet.

Early riser Ben puts in another good evening shift

All of them want to get fitter and stronger – and they already are just two weeks into the program.

However, each of them is facing his or her own challenges. For Ben, Adriano and Stacey it’s sleep. For Jo it’s trying to avoid falling sick.

Jo had to skip several days training. On a few days Adriano and Stacey (who have a young baby) and Ben, who gets up for work each day at 5am, have been tired from not sleeping well enough. Lack of sleep not only makes finding the energy for training harder, but losing the all-important recovery time will reduce the chances of obtaining the best results and weaken the immune system.

There are measures we can take to help improve sleep, but you have to be prepared to implement them. What value is knowledge without application?

Muscle doesn’t repair and grow without quality sleep. Seeing as muscle makes us healthier and it’s opposite is fat, you don’t need to me to spell out what fat does.

What we need to ask ourselves is whether the choices (food, exercise/activity, sleep) we make each day are feeding our muscles or fat?

Willis added, “If you don’t constantly feed fat, you’ll lose it. If you keep feeding it, it will stick around forever.”

Crash diets don’t work! Let me repeat that: CRASH DIETS DON’T WORK! At least not in the long term, which is what matters.

Calorie-restricted diet v Amazing 12, aged 47, several years later

I’ve done crash diets. Actually, I’ve done what might seem an extreme crash diet – fasting for three weeks. I lost weight, but most of it muscle. Let me tell you, I felt as weak as a kitten. But when I started nourishing myself again, almost immediately my strength quickly returned. You can see the difference from the photos above. One is of me not eating or resistance training and the other, several years later, after completing the Amazing 12, aged 47.

Notice I said “nourish” and not “eating”? What we put into our bodies makes a massive difference. So on the Amazing 12, my team are not just training, but following a fitness and strength program that works in tandem with a healthy eating plan. I’m always on at them to eat foods that have nutritional value.

While crash diets nearly all work initially – our bodies inevitably adapt and, consequently, hit a plateau. And what can happen is that our metabolism becomes slower than it was before we started. The weight goes back on and often in excess of what was lost.

As a coach, I am always banging on about how each of us must take ownership of the problem – understand what you are putting into your body and, maybe most importantly, plan your meals ahead of time.

Learning about food and how to prepare it is a skill worth acquiring as it could greatly enhance the quality of your life.

Second time on the Amazing 12, Adriano has learned to prepare his food in advance

Adriano, for instance, travels to London to work a few times each week. He takes with him his food. When he gets hungry, he eats it. If he didn’t have everything organised, he’d be at the mercy of what’s available and that could compromise his results. Next week he has to travel to Africa for his job. If he doesn’t think ahead he will struggle to stick to the eating plan.

Committed Ben dialling in his lifting technique

Luckily for Ben, he has a mother who has his food prepared in advance for him. But, ultimately, Ben needs to take control of his own food. I’m trying to get him to drink more water, too. The more reliant you are on others, the greater the chances of slipping to failure.

As Hillis says, “Until you make the switch in your head that food preparation is the most important workout of the week, you’ll forever be caught in the trap of trying to get your results through workouts.”

Keep reading that paragraph until it sinks in!

So, to recap, muscles aren’t for show. And to develop lean muscle we need to train regularly and smartly, eat a nourishing diet and get sufficient rest.

Battle ropes: not Adriano’s favourite, but effective

Make gaining lean muscle a goal because muscle marshals our metabolism, which is critical in regulating our body weight.

Muscle, however, is high maintenance for our bodies. That means it’s the first thing the body releases whenever we follow eat-less-exercise-more diet plans. It also weighs more than fat, which is why the scales will often tell you lies. Don’t rely on bodyweight numbers as a marker for health, fitness and well-being.

Getting to grip with the ropes

More significant is what you can do with your body. I record the achievements of all the participants each week so I can monitor their progress. There will be some days and weeks that are tougher than others. That’s normal and to be expected. This is a journey that has its share of pot-holes. Reaching the end and learning enough from the experience to venture onwards better equipped is what it should be about.

All four of my prospective graduates were tired by the end of this week. When it’s cold outside – as it has been – and your body feels like it needs a rest it’s easy to want to put your feet up. But they all turned up and put in a brilliant final shift.

Worth remembering is a quote by Jason Lewis, the first man to circumnavigate the planet (over 13 years) by human power (walking, cycling, inline skating, kayaking, rowing and swimming).

He said, “Our bodies are capable of amazing feats if our minds agree to cooperate.”

Doing the Amazing 12 isn’t reserved for the elite. You just have to get your mind to cooperate. If you are interested in being a part of the next wave of the Amazing 12 Chichester or would like to know more about it, send me a message – Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk


Week 1: If you don’t use it, you lose it

There’s nothing like the prowler

TWO days into the first week of another wave of the Amazing 12 Chichester and Stacey Satta turned to me after I had her do a series of lifts and said, “I’m shocked. I can’t believe how much strength I have lost!”

In fairness to Stacey, she’s spent the best part of the last 18 months in pregnancy and, after a C-section, focusing on being mother to her child, now just seven months.

Therefore, the journey back to regaining fitness can be a long one. But the most important part is that Stacey is doing something about it, realising fully that when you stop using your body fully or become less active, those parts of the body will adapt to a more sedentary lifestyle.

The road back isn’t an easy one.

Stacey’s husband, Adriano, who graduated on the Amazing 12 nearly two years ago, is also on this wave. They are supporting each other through the experience.

Digging deep when required

Adriano, 41, continued to train after his graduation, working out a couple of times each week in London. He’s moved around to a few different gyms, but admits his diet hasn’t been strict and he’s lost some strength. He’s aiming to shed some weight, get fitter and regain the look he had in 2015. He knows, from experience, that the Amazing 12 works.

For Stacey, 37, it’s less about the aesthetics and more to do with regaining strength. She’s someone who not too long ago, when training regularly, was able to deadlift close to 90kgs for reps, power clean around 60kgs and always had a good squat.

Solid back squatting form

It can be a tough mental space to be in at (what feels like) ground zero. But, on the positive side, there is only one direction to go – up.

“I’m not that bothered by my appearance,” said Stacey before she started the program. “I’m not happy about my physical fitness. I want it back. It’s a bonus if I look good at the end. I’m more unfit now than ever.”

Stacey and Jo Walsh, the third member of the group, used to train together in their CrossFit days. They were also part of a women’s lifting group. That’s what they each enjoy most.

Keeping it steady

I’ve worked with them both previously. Jo, a physio who specialises in older persons, has always been tenacious when training, but somewhat erratic in attendance – and she would be the first to admit it. Jo’s an all-or-nothing type.

“There’s two parts to me,” she explained. “There’s the very motivated and the one that hates myself and says, ‘why did I do that?’

“In the past I’d lose motivation and one day then goes to another.”

Jo’s not a morning person either and what I’ve prescribed her has meant rising while it’s dark. It will be a true test in developing her fortitude and discipline.

“As long as I’m up I’m fine, but it’s getting up that’s hard,” she said. I’m sure a lot of people can identify with that.

Having fun with battle ropes, though they won’t admit it

Jo, 32, hasn’t done any training for over a year, but she was always a good lifter. She’s 5st overweight according to the BMI (although I’m not a big fan of the BMI).

Jo wants to shed 2st as her goal. She also knows the benefits of training regularly.

“My mood becomes more regulated and I have more energy,” she said.

Diet is also a critical factor in achieving results. I don’t prescribe anything radical – it’s mostly about eating whole foods – but if your diet isn’t great and crammed with processed junk it can feel extreme.

“I’ll miss chocolate, pizza, ice cream, cookies and baked food,” admitted Jo before we started.

For me, as the coach, I want my group to experience and see for themselves how eating a healthier diet and combining it with training regularly, smartly and progressively can impact their lives.

So it’s vital on the Amazing 12 to stick to the script – not only for the best results, but to give themselves a fighting chance of succeeding and attaining the best possible results and getting value for their investment.

Unlike the others, Ben Brundle, a digger driver, has practically never set foot inside a gym in his life. He also loves his sugar, like Stacey loves her cakes.

But the results he’s achieved in a week are quite startling.

Getting fitter by the session

I gave Ben a few extra sessions the week before we started, to ensure his technique was where it needed to be and to allow his body to adjust to the sheer shock of training. Sure enough, he was sore. That was going to be unavoidable. But he now understands more how the process of adaptation works. Ben’s ability to learn and process new movements has been admirable and remarkable.

“My fitness was always letting me down,” said Ben, 31. “I was feeling a bit self-conscious about my belly, unhealthy and lacking stamina.

“I didn’t want to get to an age where I said, ‘I’m past it’ or say ‘I should have done that’, but didn’t.”

Since turning 30, Ben said he’s noticed himself standing out in the crowd as ‘the unfit one’. He does motocross and want to get fitter and stronger for that.

“Motocross made me realise just how unfit I am,” he admitted.

The deadlift set-up

Ben’s been a revelation so far in the gym. He’s focused, turns up on time every day and is good at paying attention and understanding movements. The test week he couldn’t deadlift at all or perform a push-up. This week he’s nailed it.

The advantage Ben had as a complete novice was there were no poor habits to change.

So that’s my introduction to this current wave: four starters, all here in different circumstances but shooting for a goal and using programmed training and healthy eating to achieve it.

Check in next week to see how they’re getting on.

And if the Amazing 12 is something you’d be interested in signing up for, drop me a line at Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk. I am aiming to run another wave in April or May.