Sometimes we just need to jump

FOR all of us there will be situations and actions that make us anxious and uncomfortable. Some things we’re better at than others

However, I understand also that I, like you, CAN do anything, that my potential is great. I believe that to be true for everyone.

Often, though, something is holding us back from moving towards that great thing we are capable of or the goal we want to achieve or the change we want to create. That something is usually fear or doubt or uncertainty.

TWO-TIMER: Adriano Satta after his second round of the Amazing 12

It’s like a wall that stands between where we are and where we want to be and, unfortunately, we can’t go around it.

When it comes to getting in shape and fit, many of us have the best intentions, especially at this time of year. Some of us don’t even make it to the starting blocks, while many will begin and then quickly fall back into old patterns of behaviour (habits).

SHORT VERSION: But Catriona, at 50 and new to weight-training, still made tremendous progress

It’s easier to stay in the relative comfort of what we know, even if it doesn’t serve us well.

But sometimes you have to look yourself in the eye, have that hard conversation and ask, ‘what’s going to happen if I do nothing or continue as I’ve been doing?’

With the Amazing 12 Chichester program, I help people get into better shape – shape their bodies, minds and the way their bodies can function by increasing strength, stability, flexibility, fitness and movement and, consequently, there’s a lot more that comes with it.

FIRST TIME: Jon, a father and business owner, has since gone on to the A12 Chichester another time

I’m advertising my next round of the Amazing 12 Chichester program for February 2018. For those who don’t know, it’s an outstanding training program.

There aren’t, to my knowledge, too many programs out there that can do so much in one hit and I’ve been training for more than 35 years.

You’ll learn about training, how to lift, how to eat optimally, the potential of your body and the workings of your mind. You’ll discover a lot more about yourself than you bargained for. And I think that’s a good thing.

TURNAROUND: Jemma lost 32lbs, gained confidence and strength and a new body

I love seeing the transformations happen. Sometimes it’s purely physical and at other times it’s everything. But it gives me massive satisfaction. I relish working with people and helping them to improve, develop and, ultimately, flourish.

Training – or working out – is my game. It’s what I love. I don’t require motivating. I’m driven every day to do it. Nutrition isn’t an obstacle for me either. I’ve been committed to lead by example most of my life. I find those habits simple to master. 

I don’t say it to brag that, at 50, I’m in better shape than I was at 20.  I’m stronger and fitter, too. I’m just consistent and have continued to make better lifestyle choices and habits. 

But there are other areas of life that I’m hopeless at and challenge me more and where I’m not as motivated or committed or enthusiastic or confident. Sometimes I fail miserably.

We all favour doing what we excel at, but it’s the other stuff that we really need to focus our attention on.

DISAPPOINTED: This was Rich, a 49-year-old, who wanted to get leaner, but felt as if he didn’t

As a seeker – a seeker of self-development and constantly evolving – I seldom rest in my desire to go to the next level, but I play the avoidance game, too, and it’s usually when I face my old adversaries, fear and uncertainty.

And though I know on the other side of fear is all that is preventing us from staying small, I can be like anyone else and cower in the face of taking that step forwards.

I know the challenging stuff gets uncomfortable. I know it’s going to test me and that it could prove to be inconvenient. I know I may not even like the process. But I also recognise that once I get to the other side, I’m going to be much better for it – that the riches are in the experience and the relationships and the overcoming of doubts. And that is the nugget that helps me bite the bullet.

I recognise and respect also that sometimes I need help getting to the other side. I require the accountability that I provide to my clients on the Amazing 12. That help can be in the form of a nudge or encouragement or a kick up the backside or having to report to or work alongside someone. Whatever works.

MARVEL: Since having a son 18 months ago, Stacey has done the Amazing 12 twice

So this is where I am now. I’ve just finished taking Stacey Satta and Rich Evans through the Amazing 12 and am encouraging others who want to get into the best possible shape to sign up with me for the next one. At the same time, coincidentally or not, I had someone else (I won’t reveal who) banging in my ear, waving at me to sign up with them for an undisputedly world class program, like the Amazing 12 (though not fitness-related), that could, potentially, help me to conquer many of the inhibitions that for years have held me back.

Guess what? I started having the same insecurities that infect many of those who desperately would like to try the Amazing 12, but back off and can’t pull the trigger. 

I kept putting it off, saying I’m not ready or that it would cost too much or questioning whether I could succeed. I basically started listing excuses.

The more I did so, the more I said to myself: “How can I expect people to commit to me on the Amazing 12 if I won’t take a chance on myself?”

I mulled this over for weeks, literally. I felt like a hypocrite. I reached a point where I believed that, to be fair, I couldn’t ask someone to take a step I wasn’t prepared to take myself.

GUILT: Sue, a mother of two, had to overcome the guilt of taking time out for herself

I asked myself also whether I wanted to be a 50 per cent version of myself. We only live once. I knew that I deserved better, my children deserved better, my clients deserved better…

“Do not die with the music still inside you!” is a quote that reverberated inside of me.

So what did I do?

Even without being properly able to afford it, I took the plunge. I thought, ‘this is an investment. This isn’t about money. This is about life. This is about freedom. This is about being yourself. This is about realising potential. This is about life experience, good or bad. This is about going to the next level, evolving. This is about living without regret, walking with your head held high. This is about eliminating what ifs. This is about speculating to accumulate’.

So I did it. I signed up. Done. I’m in. I’m going to do it. I made it happen. In an instant I made a decision. I took action. No turning back. 

I jumped! 

If you’re thinking about the Amazing 12, don’t think. Just do it. Get it done. Close your eyes, leap towards it, enjoy the ride, experience the change and, like all the graduates photographed on this page, realise what was always possible. 

Contact me NOW – claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk – schedule a free consultation and let’s get the wheels in motion and transform you into that spectacular physical being you were born to be.

I’ve decided 2018 is going to be a year of change and massive progress. I’m tired of waiting because, to be blunt, waiting brings nothing. Just seize the opportunity!

Are you IN or are you not?

 

Rich (December 2017)

END PRODUCT: 12 weeks of hard training that were far from straightforward

IT’S not every day you get to work with a former secret agent. Jokes aside, Mr. Brosnan-lookalike, Rich Evans, signed up for the Amazing 12 Chichester on a specific mission: to beat the fat loss conundrum.

Irrespective of anything else he achieved on the program over what was, in fact, nearly 13 weeks training at Core Results, his definition of success or failure would rest on one thing only, fat loss.

As a personal trainer and avid skier, he kept himself active and fit. As a vegan of many years, Rich took care as to what he put into his body. As someone who would frequently joke about himself being a “freak” in reference to what typically worked on others had no effect on him, Rich had tried everything.

Comprehensive DNA profiling revealed the extent of the challenge. His report indicated: “a severe potential for poor fat release”. This means “a tendency to put on weight via abdominal fat” and “a susceptibility to carry more weight and a struggle to lose weight easily with exercise.”

So it certainly sounded like the odds were stacked against Rich from the get-go. He’s not the type to do things half-heartedly, though. Rich is all-in. There are few people I’ve met as organised, thorough, diligent and structured as Rich. I knew he would be totally committed.

And so, several years after first hearing about the Amazing 12, he decided to go for it.

“I had tried all sorts and been told by nutritionists and others that what I
was eating was good [80 per cent whole foods, organic with some
processed foods at weekends],” said Rich.

“I had done different levels of exercise over the years – mainly bodyweight but some weights and other cardio work as well, but not shifted body fat.”

But if the task wasn’t already a testing one, Rich had more to contend with that was totally unexpected and beyond anyone’s control.

At the end of week two his mother passed away and then at the end of week nine he injured his left knee badly: a classic wear-and-tear injury. Subsequent scans revealed the cartilage had worn away.

Rich, who turned 49 during the program, limped out of the gym that day, disheartened having put so much into the training and thinking it was over. He was in pain, unable to bend his leg.

Effective and immediate treatment, a positive attitude and determination got Rich back in the game quickly. However, the consequences of the injury meant I’d lost my two strength-building big guns: the back squat and deadlift. Also, equipment like the prowler, a great conditioner, was out, too. Rich would continue, but training his upper body only.

Rich also had to stop a crawling program I had him on which, interestingly, elevated his heart rate more than anything else. Up until week nine, it was worth noting, too, how his average and peak heartrate during crawling started to decrease even though the challenge I set him each week was, on paper, harder.

Because of his mother’s funeral arrangements and taking the time to be with family as well as a few other previous commitments that meant he would be away for a short time, Rich opted to add on an extra week to the program. This decision was taken before the knee injury.

BEFORE: Rich wasn’t in bad shape and certainly had a broad back
AFTER: Definitely leaner and more muscular

However, it meant four weeks of mostly upper body training and it was around this time, coincidentally or not, that I noticed the weight beginning to come off him.

Usually, when you see someone more or less every day, it’s hard to spot the changes. But with Rich it was apparent and Stacey Satta, his occasional training partner, noticed it, too. Still, Rich’s scales were telling a slightly different story and he wasn’t fully buying into the success. 

The passing of his mother was obviously a difficult time and coincided with when Rich struggled most, around weeks five-seven.

“Mum died at the end of week two and we had the funeral during week four. My mind was, for obvious reasons, elsewhere,” admitted Rich.

Until then, though, Rich, being as meticulous as he is, had taken notes from when he started the program.

At the end of week one he wrote, “I’ve had the of the worst nights sleep I can remember for months – I feel battered and am today [Saturday] feeling tired after not sleeping well last night.

“But I am pleased to be doing the A12 and with two days off am, in a
strange way, looking forward to training again on Monday.”

Rich’s sleep patterns soon returned to normal, but he also had difficulty with the nutrition side of things. Being someone who weighed and measured his food with precision, changing to a different system that was less than surgically precise in terms of calculations was difficult for him. But he went along with it.

“I was so used to eating low carb and not much [in total] and was being told to eat much more, and more carbs,” he explained.

“But my body doesn’t like them [carbs] – I know that through trial and error. I feel sluggish and am wanting more food than I have done for ages. Is this the training or the carbs that my body isn’t used to?” he wrote in his diary.

After the first week, Rich had put on 2lbs. “It’s nothing,” he wrote. “It’s a snapshot. I need longer to see a trend and most of that is muscle, but that bloody fat % is the same! Grrrrr….

“Trust the system. Trust Claude. I do, but I have a small nagging doubt
in my mind will it work with me?  I hope so – I’m investing lots of
money, time and effort in this after all.”

So you can see where Rich was coming from. In week six his weight reached a peak of 12st 8lbs. His muscle mass was highest in week five. It was in week five that Rich felt most tired and found it tough, at one point being unable to comprehend how, if things didn’t improve, he would make it to the finish.

In week six he had a particularly frustrating session trying to find his technique with the deadlift and by week seven he was back to being tired and exhausted.

But then I sensed he was turning a corner – until his knee ‘went’ in week nine and we had to consider how to best proceed.

OVERHEAD PRESSING: the toughest part of the training for Rich

A solution was found and, again, Rich turned up and gave it all he had. In week 10, he took off a few days to ‘celebrate’ his birthday and it probably came at a good time as he was nursing his leg and the rest most likely did some good because from week 11 until the finish Rich was sailing.

I think you can tell clearly from the photos, even if the numbers on the scales aren’t significantly different, that Rich leaned out, especially around the waist, and packed on size to his arms, shoulders and chest.

His overall weight went from 12st 4lbs 6oz at the beginning to 11st 12lbs 2oz (a drop of around half a stone). His body fat percentage began at 22.7 and fell to 20.9. His muscle mass started at 9.0.8, peaked in week five at 9.5.6, fell to its lowest in week 12 at 8.13.2 and finished at 9.0.2.

It’s fairly typical, though, if you are carrying extra body fat to have to get leaner first before you can build muscle. All the numbers, however, point towards Rich moving in the right direction except for the reduction in muscle mass. We had many conversations about this and, not being a big eater, Rich probably didn’t consume enough calories to retain and build further muscle, although the priority was always fat loss. Getting that balance right was the tricky part. 

PERCEPTION: Even though he looks leaner, Rich doesn’t ‘feel’ lean

“I really hoped that this [the A12] would shift the body fat and I’d look leaner,” he said.

“I have never been what you’d call body-confident, so was hoping that at last I’d shed the fat, look and feel leaner and with that be less self-conscious of my lack of leanness. Maybe that should be my self-perceived lack of being in shape, as I’m probably not as bad as I think!”

Rich, though, went into the program with the understanding that – based on past experience, testing and DNA reports – his body would not respond to the training in the same way as thousands of others who’ve been through the Amazing 12.

But he was hoping it wouldn’t be the case and maybe what this proves, in Rich’s case and at least for now, is that any loss of body fat is not influenced by training and diet alone. There’s maybe a missing factor – something not working as it should – and to get the results he wants will take longer than it would for the average person.

If 12 weeks of training on the Amazing 12 and eating well failed to reduce his fat levels massively (other factors like sleep and stress didn’t seem poor), I firmly believe no amount of training with any other system over the same time period would have provided better results.

“Now I know I wasn’t deluding myself, living a lie and making excuses that I struggled to lose body fat,” he said.

“Whilst I desperately wanted it to work – to get to the end with all the
exercise and eating according to an incredible plan that has been
carefully worked out and gets incredible results – to find that it didn’t
work for me maybe proved that I don’t react like normal people.”

There wasn’t a shred of doubt he became much stronger. Here a some examples. In week 10, I had him try some pull-ups and he managed a few and then, quickly, hit a wall and couldn’t lift himself at all.

In the final week, Rich was able to do 45 bodweight chin-ups in 15 minutes. A week after the program, he completed a chin-up from a dead-hang position with 14kgs attached!

I started him with 15kgs doing the Military Press, the exercise he found the hardest. I recall how tough he found it when the weight got to 19kgs (week two), 22kgs (week three) and 27kgs (week six), yet at the finish he was pumping out reps using 41kgs!

Similarly, doing incline dumbbell bench presses, he went from completing a set of 15 reps with a 17.5kg in week five to 19 reps with 20kg in week 10.

Across the board, Rich increased his strength, as did the quality of his movement. Even Rich could see and feel the changes happening – but not significantly enough.

COMMITTED: Rich’s attitude to training and nutrition couldn’t be faulted

“I’m delighted with my strength and fitness levels,” he said, admitting he’s never been this strong in his life.

“I knew I would get stronger – having read blogs from Claude’s and other A12 trainers.  All the results from the A12 show this that really was
a given and, yes, would be good,” said Rich.

“I’ve never been keen on weights, so haven’t really done them.
This was going to be a good challenge – I’d get stronger, which as I get
older is important. That was going to be a postive.

“And I believe that doing something you aren’t ‘good at’ is always a
good thing as it challenges you and can only improve you.”

I found that Rich’s technique on most movements was spotless and, consequently, he grew in strength. I kept adding weight and Rich continued meeting my targets.

And a week following the program, I had Rich back in the squat rack with a weight on his back doing reps not only without any discomfort to his knee, but with better technique than I’ve seen from him before!

He completed every session he turned up for (missing six of a possible 63 for the reasons I explained earlier), the only exception being one afternoon when, suddenly, he had to take off because he’d remembered he’d left something cooking on the stove. Rich was relieved to find his house hadn’t burned down, but the sweet potatoes were beyond saving – unless you like them looking and tasting like charcoal!

He can be excused for that. Fact is, he gave it everything. I can’t deny that. Rich carried himself with integrity, which I respect greatly.

“I struggle to understand why anyone can’t commit to this or why it would be difficult,” he said. “Yes, it takes time out of your day, but it is so structured and we always find time to do what we want to.”

Rich, though, would probably admit he’s hard on himself. “I hoped that with the strength improvements my self-confidence would return –
most people wouldn’t think that I lack this but we all have a mask –
a different mask for different people,” he said.

“Working part-time as a PT, I want to look the part as well as act it. Whilst most of my clients seem to think I am fit -and I probably am compared with them and almost certainly am compared with your average male in his late 40s – I don’t want to compare myself to this.

“I look at people at least 10 or 20 years younger than me and see no reason why I can’t be that fit, lean and in shape?

“Who am I kidding? Being completely honest, most of this is
personal! I clearly have ‘issues’, but then don’t we all? We do…..don’t
we…….?”

Ultimately, he was disappointed. I’m not used to hearing that. But I gave my best and Rich gave his best, albeit under at times trying circumstances. We knew from the beginning that, with Rich’s knee history, he wouldn’t be able to do the Amazing 12 exactly as prescribed. And from week 10 it was a more modified version because of the injury. But I constructed the program in the best way possible given the limitations.

You, the reader, may look at Rich’s results and see what he achieved and disagree with his evaluation. But I respect his honesty.

“Yes, I know I have changed shape and am stronger than I probably
ever have been [fitness is relative – sport specific so I am not
going to say fitter] and should really focus on the positives.

“Whilst I have changed shape and know that it is not all about the numbers, I do not feel lean.”

Asked what he’d say to someone contemplating the program, Rich replied: “Do it. It gets results. It’s an incredible program and, yes, it can be a challenge,but it really is easy to do – turn up, do what Claude tells you to and go home. Get results! What’s not to like?

“Stronger, healthier, fitter – where else can you get results like this? Why
wouldn’t you?”

He added: “The best thing about the program is the support Claude gives you. He is always there to answer questions [and I had a lot!] whether by email, text, WhatsApp or phone – you never feel alone through the whole program.”

 

Stacey (December 2017)

DEFYING ALL LOGIC: Stacey achieved amazing results in spite of the many hurdles in her way Photos: Sue Saunders Photography

IF you look at Stacey Satta and haven’t read one of my blogs during the 12 weeks of her training on the Amazing 12 Chichester, you could be forgiven for thinking everything went precisely to plan. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

Stacey, now one of only four people to have completed the Amazing 12 Chichester twice, is quite a remarkable woman and you’ll find out why.

Her reason for doing it a second time was simple: to build upon the massive achievements she made during her first 12 weeks.

“I knew I’d get results,” she explained of her decision.

LEANER AND STRONGER: more than happy with her results

You can see from her impressive photos that she was successful. But the striking images do not tell the background story.

As was the case with her first Amazing 12 that ended in April, Stacey completed the program on little sleep, which for most people simply would not have been manageable.

But that wasn’t the full extent of what she had to contend with. In fact, I’d say this most recent Amazing 12 was tougher than the first (which wasn’t easy) even though when she started in September, Stacey was in better shape and condition.

“It was a little different [second time] because I knew what to expect,” said Stacey. “I found that it [the 12 weeks] went much quicker, but it was more challenging. I was struggling with sleep and the weights were getting heavier.”

TURNING BACK THE CLOCK: Stacey’s now as light as she was in her teenage days

Stacey also had an injury to contend with. As early as week two, she started having issues with the rotator cuff on her right shoulder and by week five I not only had to remove bench-pressing all together, but had to practically redesign her shoulder program.

Yet, despite not having done bench press from before the halfway mark of the program, by the end her shoulder issues had practically cleared up (I partly put it down to rest and lots of Turkish Get-ups) and when I retested her bench press a week after she had finished the A12, Stacey managed to lift more (50kg for one rep) than ever before!

That’s not an isolated strength improvement. Her back squat went from a 77.5kg struggle (in April) to a technically spot-on 95kg – at 54kg bodyweight!

WRITING ON THE LEGGINGS: as determined as she is strong

Her deadlift went from 87.5kg to 92.5kg, although during the program her working weight peaked at 80kg for reps and sets compared with 72.5kg in the spring.

I still think Stacey could have topped that deadlift weight, but it’s an exercise where, if her mind isn’t right, she falls to bits.

I tried getting Stacey to lift without telling her how much was on the bar (so she wouldn’t psyche herself out), but she couldn’t resist taking a peak. And that was that.

But she admitted: “I learned that I can do most things if I can get into the right mindset.”

TOP GUNS: she worked hard for those muscles

In fact, she made improvements across the board. For example, doing the Military Press she finished in April getting 27 reps with 30kg whereas second time round she hit 40 reps with 32kg in the same time period.

Doing chin-ups, in April she managed 38 bodyweight in a set time, whereas most recently Stacey nailed 49 in the same time frame with an additional 1kg attached and looked as fresh as a daisy when she was finished!

“The most satisfying part was seeing my body getting leaner while also feeling stronger and lifting weights I didn’t think it would be possible for me to lift – EVER!” she said.

In terms of body composition, her weight loss went like this: first Amazing 12 – 10st 2lbs to 8st 10lbs; second Amazing 12 – 9st 2 1/4lbs to 8st 6 1/2lbs, which is the lightest she has been since her teenage days. But this mother is now 38 and I bet she has more muscle and can lift plenty more than she could back then.

Stacey’s main obsession was with lowering her body fat and after dropping from 26% to 21% in April, she came into the second Amazing 12 at 23.6% and by the end was exactly 20%

In essence, she dropped weight, lost fat and gained in strength, muscle and fitness all in spite of her continual struggle to sleep and more. 

Miraculously, she missed only six of the 60 training sessions (one more than on the first Amazing 12). In eight sessions she did attend I had to amend the workouts or cut them short because Stacey was simply too exhausted to take on the added stress of any hard training.

Had she been well rested after every session, attended all the workouts and been able to test herself fully (she always gave 100 per cent), I shudder to imagine what she would have accomplished.

“My lack of sleep was the most challenging part,” she admitted. “It affected my rest and recovery. I missed a few sessions because of it and couldn’t always perform as well as I would have liked.”

There wasn’t a single week when she didn’t come in for at least one training session feeling either run down or shattered. Usually, Stacey still looks remarkable on a few hours sleep, but I started to get concerned when she turned up on a few occasions barely able to keep her eyes open.

“The hardest part was around weeks eight and nine when the diet and training, for some reason, became really challenging,” she recalled. “I had to really dig deep and stay focused.”

That Stacey was so determined to keep going proves she was never short of commitment. She never found that to be a problem except on the days when she felt so depleted. I can count on one hand maybe the amount of training sessions at Core Results gym we had when she was full of beans and operating on all cylinders.

If anything, I’d say the final four weeks were probably the worst (in terms of exhaustion) and those are the critical stages when, generally, the most ground is made.

Somehow, though, she came through it and was delighted with the outcome.

“It was remarkable given everything I went through and I feel I achieved more than I thought I would,” she said. “I’m very happy with the results.”

Obviously, it was far from an easy ride for Stacey. She had a lot to contend with.

“Dedication and commitment are the keys to success on the program,” she said. “If you’re up for a challenge, want to look great and feel great, just go for it,” she said. “You won’t regret it.”

Just make sure you’ve got your sleeping sorted first!

If you want to become an Amazing 12 Chichester graduate like Stacey or find out more about the program, contact Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk. We are taking applications for the next round in 2018. 

 

 

 

Week 11 & 12: When life doesn’t go according to plan

RAISING THE BAR: Rich and Stacey, in their own way, have made impressive progress

ANOTHER Amazing 12 Chichester is nearly complete. Stacey Satta, on her second circuit of the Amazing 12, completed her final week. Rich Evans has a few more days to go.

There’s a reason for the different schedule: Rich, 49, knew before he started that he was going to miss a few days here and there because of prior commitments and then he lost more days when his mother passed away, so we agreed to continue into another week to try to make up the difference.

It’s certainly been an extraordinary experience for me as a coach. Even the weeks passed by incredibly fast, I had a feeling it was going to be challenging and it proved to be so – in a good way.

As a coach, you have to think on your feet sometimes. Seldom does everything go exactly to plan and it’s how you respond in those instances that matters most. 

GETTING A GRIP: it’s been tough-going for Stacey at times

My goal, as always with the Amazing 12, is to guide the participant to the finish. We can only do our utmost in the circumstances we are presented with. The finish is the destination and the program is the way. But this time we had to take many detours.

I wish I could say Rich and Stacey completed the program precisely how Paul McIlroy had designed it. But it didn’t go that way.

Things happen and over the past 12 weeks many things happened. I’ll perhaps elaborate more in future posts. 

GUN TRAINING: Rich feeling the burn

However, they each made it. And though finishing was never in doubt for either Stacey or Rich and they each modestly dilute the merits of staying the course, I consider it an achievement worth validating.

It requires commitment, discipline and dedication to apply oneself for three months straight as they have. And, particularly given the obstacles they each faced, the achievement is made more praiseworthy (in my opinion). It says a lot about their character that in the face of trying conditions they never bailed out.

As I’ve detailed practically every week for the past three months, Stacey coped with disturbed sleep to turn up at Core Results for training five days a week. She did miss a few sessions here and there. And some workouts were never fully completed because I had to scale her workouts appropriately. To push someone when they are obviously fatigued simply isn’t sensible and nor is it commendable.

It was always a case of trying to make progress while not adding to her exhaustion.

If anything, it highlights the importance of sleep for recovery and human function. That may sound obvious, but Stacey has simply got used to operating at a lower level than most of us would be prepared to tolerate or capable of dealing with. That doesn’t make it right or, more importantly, in any way healthy.

SLEEK AND SLENDER: Stacey hasn’t lost any strength

It’s partly because Stacey for so long has soldiered on through life half-awake that she often doesn’t bat a tired eyelid at training when her system is clearly running near to empty.

She had a good run through weeks 10 and 11 and then I jinxed her one night on week 12, saying how impressive it had been that she hadn’t missed a session for about two weeks straight. That night she came down with a sore throat and in the morning woke up feeling terrible.

But she was determined, being so close to the finish, not to be derailed. Somehow she recovered enough to train that evening and, as was often the case on nights like that, we played it by ear.

GET UP AND GO: some days have been better than others

Typically, Stacey performed. Sometimes she just defies logic or biological science. “Even when I feel terrible, I never feel worse by training,” she said.

In spite of the sleep problem, Stacey has made incredible progress. Looking so slender that some of the ladies in the gym were enviously eyeing her up, she stacked a heavy barbell on her back this week and squatted for reps beyond what I tested her as a maximum a week after her first Amazing 12.

The difference is that Stacey, a few days ago, was only warming up rather than trying to explore what her limits were!

And then on the deadlift, which had thwarted her on week 11 when her technique went awry and she lost confidence, Stacey nailed it relatively comfortably.

She admitted as she approached the bar for the first set that half her head was saying it was going to be hard, while the other half was urging her on and saying she could do it.

The weight went up quite effortlessly and I could see the expression on her face – that look of ‘that was easier than I thought it was going to be’.

WALKING A FINE LINE: it’s been a case of seeking progress without adding to Stacey’s tiredness

The next day, though, Stacey had hit rock bottom again. Again, there was no point pushing the envelope when what she needed – if she insisted on training (as she did) – was a session that helped her to tick over and nothing more.

Even in her depleted state, saying she was feeling weak, there were some positives to be found. She could still complete 47 bodyweight chin-ups in 15 minutes compared to the 38 she did at this very stage on her first Amazing 12 experience when feeling much better.

The next day, in what was her final session, Stacey again came in on only a few hours proper sleep and not having eaten well (feeling a little sick), but was able to grind her way through another session that I calculated wasn’t going to break her.

GAINS: injury has added focus to the upper body

For Rich it’s been a different story. He hasn’t been able to squat or deadlift from week 9, when he injured his knee. He also had to stop a crawling program I had him on. He’s moving much better now compared to when he sustained the injury, but we didn’t want to risk making it worse.

Not one to sit around and wait for miracles to happen, he got the knee checked out. He’s seen acupuncturist and specialists and physios, had scans etc. He has cartilage damage in one knee and, most likely, faces an operation sometime in the future.

From a training and results perspective, though, it wasn’t the best outcome. There’s no better total-body muscle-builder (in my opinion) than the back squat and no greater strength-builder than the deadlift.

But the show has to go on – even without my two trump cards. And, if there’s a silver lining in this dark cloud, Rich has consequently worked a lot more on his upper body and can at least still train.  

DREADED: Rich didn’t enjoy this movement much

While it was clear from week to week (especially from the halfway stage) he was looking different – and Rich acknowledged the changes – his scales still recorded his overall body fat and muscle mass as the same!

“I know – I’m a freak,” he said.

There is no question he is stronger. Much stronger. For example, by the end of this week he was bench-pressing for repetitions more than he was back squatting at week 9. I keep upping the weight and Rich continues to hit the targets I have in mind for him.

“I’m streets ahead of where I’ve ever been, strength-wise,” he admitted. “I’ve never been this strong in my life.”

LOADED: time for the bigger dumbbells

Of course, it’s easy to ask what difference it would have made had he not got injured, but in reality there’s no point. You can’t change what’s happened and, as in life, it’s about making the best of what you have at your disposal. 

Rich knew going into the program that his body, for whatever reason, held on to body fat even when exposed to physical training. What we wanted to discover is how his body would respond to the Amazing 12.

Sure enough, the fat wasn’t dropping off him like it does for most on the program even though his strength and fitness was elevating. It was frustrating for him to see Stacey shrinking week by week while his fat loss remained consistent.

“What I need to find is someone who studies people like me,” said Rich. Trouble is, I’m not convinced there is anyone else like Rich.

NO ESCAPE: circuit day tests Rich’s resolve

Only part of the way through the program did we consider a visit to an acupuncturist Rich had visited previously for his knee and held in high regard. He diagnosed an issue with a valve that wasn’t functioning optimally and possibly held the key to the fat loss.

It certainly seems that since this treatment, Rich’s shape has changed more significantly, which bodes well for the future. 

He now goes into the final week, which is all about reaching a peak. The protocol is different and especially for a vegan as compared to a meat-eater. And with Rich being Rich, it will be fascinating to discover what happens next with him in the remaining days. 

Find out how Stacey and Rich finished by subscribing to these blog posts. And if you’d like to be next on the Amazing 12 – and think you have the commitment and drive to take yourself to the next level – apply by contacting Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk.

 

Week 10: The CANs and CAN’Ts


BACK TO LIFE: Stacey during one of her more high-spirited sessions this week

MY best friend and I, when we were much younger, used to play this game when things didn’t go according to plan. It was called “10 good things”.

How it went is that no matter how bad the situation or circumstance, we had to come up with 10 good things about it.

This game used to annoy the hell out of a girl I was seeing at the time. But in spite of the eye-rolling glances she used to give me, I’m grateful we discovered it. Yes, I could come up with 10 good reasons why!

It could be my friend’s influence or that game that’s helped me to see the proverbial cup more as half full than half empty.

ANOTHER GEAR: Turning it on

Like anyone, I have my moments when the world seems bleak, but, thankfully, most of the time I’m optimistic rather than pessimistic, hopeful rather than in despair, searching for solutions rather than fixated with the problem.

The fact is that in life we’re going to be served with curve balls and sometimes demolition balls and we need to know how to deal with them. Avoiding or running away from them just isn’t always possible, realistic or even productive.

As I mentioned in my last blog on the Amazing 12 Chichester, Rich Evans suffered a knee injury in practically the last exercise he did during that week’s training at Core Results. He’s had surgery on the knee twice, first from when he played football over 20 years ago and then from playing tennis. He’s had to give up both.

Periodically, the knee has flared up and caused niggles here and there. But last week, as he started pushing the prowler, it ‘went’. He was stopped in his tracks and couldn’t continue, grimacing.

He had it checked out. It got better after a few days’ rest, but then Rich inadvertently caught his foot while walking and the sharp pain instantly returned. He felt as if he was back to square one.

TWISTS AND TURNS: injured Rich having to adapt

Determined as he is, Rich still came to train as week 10 commenced. We did what we could. He could barely bend the left knee or put much weight on it. That’s a massive limiting factor. So he and I had to adapt.

It would be easy – and understandable – to want to give up. Rich admitted those thoughts ran through his mind. He had a mini-slump, when he felt the world on his shoulders.

But Rich is a resourceful guy. He’s a creative rather than reactive man. So he quickly pulled himself together, contacted people who could help diagnose the problem and started mapping out a road to recovery.

BALANCING ACT: finding a way to continue getting fitter and stronger without worsening his injury

We continued training, modifying the program almost exclusively for the upper body. After his final session of the week, early in the morning on his 49th birthday, Rich said: “I actually feel really good after that. It was so good to know I could get a good workout without using my legs.”

The crux of the story is that we focus on what we CAN do rather than what we CANNOT. It’s the underlying thought that drives all these incredible athletes who compete in the Paralympics and events of that ilk. They can take on the role of victim or decide to make the best of what they have.

It’s like owning two pairs of glasses. Through one we see everything as impossible (can’t) and the other everything appears possible (can). The question is which glasses do we choose to wear.

Again, as I’ve written about a lot on this blog on the Amazing 12 Chichester, it’s a mindset thing. Yes, Rich’s injury is physical. But how we best cope with it is mental. Where we place our attention is mental.

WHERE THERE’S A WILL…early morning training this week

Rich’s injury looks like cartilage wear. Until we have a clearer idea to the extent of the injury, Rich will be training mostly upper body from here on. We have no option.

It wasn’t a smooth week for Stacey Satta either. At least not to begin with. Her lack of sleep has continued to plague her. She missed two days training on week 9 and still looked shattered at the beginning of this week. I had to scale back parts of the program to compensate for her lack of recovery, meaning she’s not progressing as well as she could.

For two weeks her weight or body fat percentage hadn’t shifted much. And while Stacey has made massive progress from day 1, those numbers not changing has bothered her. The data is not surprising when you consider an estimated 60 per cent of our fat-burning occurs when we sleep and Stacey barely sleeps.

LOADED: Stacey during warm-up for her squats

However, by the end of week 9 she was the same weight and body fat percentage as when she finished her first Amazing 12. The difference is that she’s much stronger. And that’s where she could place her attention.

Rich looks at her in amazement sometimes because shifting fat is his primary goal. However, as Dr Jade Teta, who specialises in knowing about metabolism, points out, women have an advantage. They burn 65 per cent more fat during exercise than men; they can process carbs by between 50-100 per cent times better than men and, finally, they produce almost double the fat-burning hormones than men do.

But Stacey’s fat-burning potential is reduced by (a) her lack of sleep and (b) potential to train optimally through being tired.

NIGHT SHIFT: full of bounce, somehow

Nonetheless, just as we can focus what we can do rather than what we cannot, we can also reflect on what have HAVE achieved rather than what we HAVEN’T. Thus far, Stacey has accomplished a lot – in fact, an incredible amount considering her circumstances.

By the end of this week Stacey had rebounded from her slump. She admitted, “I’m really pleased with where I am so far, considering the sessions I’ve missed the the sleep problems.”

She put in two great sessions this week, in one back-squatting during a warm-up more weight for reps than she could manage as a maximum after the first Amazing 12! Then, when deadlifting, she topped what she achieved on the first Amazing 12 and, on a few occasions when she found her groove, looked at me in astonishment, saying, “that felt so easy.”

IN THE SWING: making up for lost time

That was a lightbulb moment for Stacey – the realisation that with the right technique she could make deadlifting – or any other movement – feel simple and, because it appeared so effortless, she now knows her potential is much greater.

What we’re really talking about here is the difference between efficiency and inefficiency and the secret is to be consistently efficient. 

In what was an up-and-down week for her, Stacey can either reflect on the tougher moments or her successes. I think I know which I’d go for.

Rich, for example, half-joked this week that when he said to me earlier in the program that his weight was going up, I replied that it was good as it signified he was putting on muscle. This week he said his weight was going down and I replied that it was good, because he was getting leaner.

HANGING IN THERE: often times you have to in order to see the gains

“How can it be good when it’s going up and good when it’s going down?” he said.

My answer is that it’s always good, meaning that you have to find the good (or the positive) in everything. It’s about feeding ourselves with information that’s going to nourish and grow our confidence and not deplete it. It’s also about receiving feedback and using that feedback to improve us, not destroy us.

I could see Rich’s spirit was lower than usual after the injury. That was understandable. He’d invested a lot in his training. And, sure, getting injured is annoying, especially at this stage. But it’s not the end.

You know I like a mountain analogy, so here’s another. Climbing a mountain, you hurt yourself as you near the peak. Do you turn back and return to base camp or find a way to reach the summit?

DETERMINED: can’t keep a good man down

If you turn back, you face frustration and disappointment. If you soldier on, finding a way to safely continue, you achieve a sense of accomplishment and sometimes even a greater sense of accomplishment from having overcome an impediment.

Life is going to continually present us with hurdles and unexpected challenges and we have to be ready for them. We need to be trained for them. Every time we soldier on, we are teaching and reminding ourselves that we CAN. We’re strengthening our resolve. We’re creating a habit. That’s progress.

Yes, the Amazing 12 Chichester is primarily about physical change. It’s about gaining strength, developing fitness, creating an optimal physique, but in reality, as Rich and Stacey are discovering, it is more far-reaching if we recognise all the opportunities for growth that come on the path to completing a dedicated program like this.

 

Week 8: Over the hump

BREAKTHROUGH: progress comes with patience

SEVERAL weeks ago, almost at the beginning of the Amazing 12 Chichester and after Rich Evans had completed a set of back squats, I scribbled down a note that it was “challenging”.

Later, throughout weeks five, six and seven, Rich felt depleted, mentally and physically. Stacey Satta hit a wall during the same period.

We’re now at the end of week 8 at Core Results – three-quarters of the way through – and Rich and Stacey each appear to have gone over the hump.

How, you might ask, if the program is progressively more demanding, can they now feel better?

It’s called adaptation.

SKIP IN HER STEP: it’s amazing what Stacey can do with some sleep

Stacey even managed this week to get some sleep on successive nights – four hours or thereabouts – and it made the world of difference to her workout. For any normal person, that would be a crisis point. But for Stacey it was cause for celebration. She had bundles of energy.

Rich has had an added bounce to his step, too. When he did his squats, he looked as if he completed them more easily in week 8 than in week 2, when he felt it was testing. But now he has more weight on the bar. And there’s much more to come.

The signs of progress keep coming. Stacey has already equalled her deadlift weight from the first trip around the Amazing 12. In fact, when she did it in June, I recall the weight she is at now being significantly tougher. I remember how she couldn’t complete the workout as prescribed and we had to back-track to enable her to regain her confidence, which she quickly did.

LOADED: walking the weights

Similarly, her back squat is now near to where she ended the first A12. Stacey can also walk lengths of the gym carrying a weight she once found difficult to deadlift for a single rep (on the first Amazing 12).

Stacey this week comfortably performed multiple Turkish Get-ups with a kettlebell she couldn’t complete a single rep with only a few weeks ago. And on one particular exercise she achieved a level beyond anyone I’ve previously taken through the program. 

Yet by the final session of this week, with a few more sleepless nights thrown in and life being a little more stressful than usual away from the gym, Stacey was ready for some reprieve and much-needed recovery.

ENERGY: there was a noticeable difference in Rich

Rich, by contrast, was back to his normal self. “Generally, I feel so much better,” he said. He’d also dropped 5lbs in weight and was looking leaner. His recovery has improved. And, as someone who tracks everything, he observed how his heartrate had gone down, too – both when resting and training hard – indications his conditioning is getting better.

It’s always a nice feeling to get over the sticking points as they can cause a lot of self-doubt and knock confidence. But with experience, patience and know-how, you can break through.

FRIENDLY COMPETITION: bringing the best out of each other

As you go through a process like this, you come to understand just how magnificent the human body is and how limitless, when challenged intelligently, our potential for growth is.

Rich and Stacey have worked well alongside each other, too. You can see how one spurs on the other. Even though I don’t purposely make the Amazing 12 competitive, some personalities are that way inclined.

WORKING HARD: there’s a time and a place

If Rich achieves a certain amount of reps, Stacey will sometimes try to match or better it and vice versa. That’s all fine in my book, so long as quality of movement isn’t sacrificed. But it does reveal how our limitations are often a mental construct – that if training alone, perhaps Stacey or Rich, without a number to chase or standard to match, would possibly produce or settle for less.

As a coach, I’m always looking for the combination that brings out the best in people. If competition does that, I encourage it. If it doesn’t, I’ll say it doesn’t matter and to focus on themselves.

GETTING STARTED: Stacey warming up

The conversations we have during training – when Rich and Stacey are resting (I don’t advocate talking while working) – are often on how much psychology plays a part in human performance. They’ve come to understand better that this is an area which requires as much attention as the training itself. And the same can be said for rest and recovery.

It’s easy to understand why the latter – the recovery – is underestimated and overlooked when the spotlight is always so brightly fixed on the training.

ADAPTING: getting used to his new rope

The emphasis these days is on the workout and the reps and the pain and the weight and the fancy gear or equipment that makes us look better. But none of it matters if our recovery isn’t sufficient to promote growth and repair. The adaptation happens when we stop training.

As respected and accomplished American strength and conditioning trainer Dan John said in his book Intervention, “We have this work ethic that somehow we are sinning unless we train at maximal effort each and every workout. That’s simply not how the body works.”

It’s not only about muscular recovery. Even when our muscles feel pain-free, continued stress from training coupled with a stressful lifestyle and poor food choices takes a wicked toll on the nervous system.

FOCUS: the TGU is a great way to slow down

The beauty of the Amazing 12 is that the program, when properly administered, has a defence system built into it. It’s designed in such a way that the participant often recovers at the rate needed in which to take on the next challenge.

It didn’t surprise me to see Rich and Stacey bounce back this week. And there may be another hump to navigate before the finish. But when all the boxes are ticked – training, rest, nutrition, stress, technique – it’s easier to succeed.

REFLECTION: finishing a more enduring workout

For some of us, the idea that physical success can be “easy” goes against what we’ve been led to believe or contradicts the commonly-marketed image – that results come purely from increased effort and repeatedly knocking through the pain barrier. 

I’m not knocking effort. But I do question effort for the sake of effort and intensity to cause pain and exhaustion. I value efficiency over effort. Training smarter trumps training harder – in most cases. 

The Amazing 12 requires hard work on many levels. But the goal is to make you greater, not weaker. The aim is to develop, not crush. The intention is to make you cleverer in your approach. The desired outcome is to create progress, not puddles of sweat.

If my training philosophy resonates with you and you have targets you want to achieve and need guidance on how to make it happen, why not sign up for some personal training? Alternatively, I run a boxing fitness class for women every Tuesday from 1-2pm at Core Results. From next January I start another round of the Amazing 12 and a women’s weight-lifting program on Sunday mornings. Email me at Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk for more information or any questions. 

 

Week 6: The Inner Game

GRAINY: when our thoughts lack clarity, like this picture of Rich, the body can become confused

IN the world of high-level sports the difference between first and second is often what takes place between your ears.

The inner game – that ability to stay calm and focused amidst chaos; to put out of our minds a mistake; to rebound from a lost opportunity; to forgive ourselves; to overcome failing to meet an expectation, to cast aside doubt when times are troublesome; to deal with pain or discomfort or injury; to cope with pressure; to ride in the face of fear…

However, when it comes to skill and mastery – and this may sound like a contradiction – often the execution of a given movement or skill to a high standard doesn’t involve much thought at all. It’s instinctive. It’s reactive. It’s something that has been practised so frequently that it just happens. The mind is off. The timing is exquisite. The body knows what it needs to do.

There are two entities: the body and the mind. When working together, they can be formidable. When there is friction, progress or function seems sticky or stationary even.

Just like our muscles have to dance between tension and relaxation to enable us to operate at our highest, our mind has a yin and yang of its own, too.

In terms of lifting weights, for instance, we take in the information, process it, instruct and remind our bodies what to do and, using our senses, practice until we get better and it becomes easier.

There comes a point when we do more feeling and less thinking. This is having the intuition to know when everything is positioned as it should be and then it just flows perfectly. That takes repetition. Lots and lots of repetition.

REPETITION: that’s how improvement is achieved

The inner game also takes years to tame for most of us. Maybe ‘tame’ isn’t the right word, because I’m not sure we ever fully tame our minds. But we can definitely train our thoughts. As I wrote in my Week 5 blog of the Amazing 12 Chichester, we are all programmed uniquely, be it athletically or academically or creatively, and it is this that gives us an advantage or puts us at a disadvantage depending on our circumstances. 

To change and improve is a process – a process that is as applicable to the mind as it is the body.

As coach Vic Braden wrote in Mental Tennis, a book I read many moons ago, “You should approach the process [of change] with the understanding that the brain does not change a software package quickly.”

Some of us, when learning a new or unfamiliar task, have to work harder and think harder, too. That point was highlighted this week on the Amazing 12 Chichester, as Rich and Stacey reached the halfway mark.

Midway, Rich had a frustrating night when practising the deadlift, a movement that has confounded him for many years. He was so consumed by frustration that it left him more listless than normal for the exercises that followed even though he was determined to make amends.

And the next day, when we resumed training, he was still mulling over the events from the night before, perplexed by how he just ‘couldn’t get it’.

BETTER SPIRITS: Rich getting back into full flow

As a questioner, Rich wanted to know ‘why?’ Was it a lack of mobility? Was it a lack of strength? Was it poor balance? Was it a weak core? Was it because he doubted himself?

What made it more frustrating was that the previous week Rich had made sizeable strides in the right direction and so he felt like he’d taken a massive backwards step.

As Braden explains, “in motor learning you might know what you want to do, but the brain replies, ‘Well, that’s fine, but I’ve still got a package up here and I’m hanging on to it’.”

Braden adds: “We get accustomed to functioning in a certain way and, psychologically, that way becomes very comfortable for us…bear in mind that psychological comfort is a very powerful quality for all of us. You might have to get a little uncomfortable before you can make the change you are after.”

There are several more tiers to Rich’s situation. (a) The expectation of thinking that we should be able to accomplish something in a given time when often our forecasts are unreasonable. How can we know how long it takes to learn or improve something when we are all so different?

(b) Sometimes we have to accept we can’t always have our questions answered or that we can’t have them answered in the way we want. There are times when we just have to let go – take the situation for what it is, move forwards and keep practicing, knowing the next day provides a new opportunity and that, with persistent effort, the breakthrough moment will come.

(c) We can view setbacks as positive and as learning and defining moments in our development. As I wrote in week 3, the path for progress is seldom linear. Often we take two steps forwards and one step back. We shouldn’t be disappointed on the occasions we don’t feel as if we are advancing.

(d) Each setback provides the opportunity to change a pattern of thinking: to bring awareness to a response or reaction that doesn’t enhance our experience. From there we can work towards introducing a new pattern/way of thinking – overwrite the old software, so to speak.

(e) There’s the overthinking. We can try so hard to work it out that, with too many thoughts flooding our brains, nothing works at all.

(f) Injury prevention. Rich has hurt his back in the past. When our body senses a threat or fears danger or the brain is sending a message of concern, the Central Nervous System goes into preservation mode and the body can tighten up to protect itself and thus make it harder to follow instructions or perform.  

Rich can see how the ‘inner game’ plays a critical role when the stakes are high in top level sports, but what about the everyday athlete?

MOVING UPWARDS: every opportunity and experience provides learning

Put it this way: every top athlete was once an everyday athlete and the ‘inner game’ of a champion had to be cultivated from early on. He or she, using experience, had to train his or her  thinking, just like muscles.

We need the inner game for everyday life, too. The gym is a place, like many, that allows us the opportunity to get better at it.

Having one ‘bad’ session on the Amazing 12 is like losing a point in a game of tennis. Don’t let that point lose you the match.

What determines the healthfulness of our bodies and minds is what we put in our mouths and heads respectively. 

With Rich’s head in a muddle, I decided to take a gamble midweek. At Core Results, where we train, there is always a monthly gym challenge and I had Rich do it a few weeks ago as a finisher and as a marker to see where he was, fitness-wise, so I could have him try it again later. It involved goblet squats and heavy ball slams. It was a relatively short but high-intensity workout with low risk for those who aren’t so technically blessed.

BALANCE: we can train the mind as we can the body

I had Stacey do it as well a few weeks back. Typically, Rich attacked it with everything he had, finishing in 5 mins 48 seconds and, given how he went at it, I thought it would be a challenging time to beat.

Low and behold, someone came in the next day and knocked a good chunk off it, reducing the leading time to 4 mins 21. And then it went down further, to 3 mins 28.

Stacey also went for it with all she had at the end of one of our normal sessions and got the job done in an impressive 4 mins 58, but it took everything out of her.

This week, without prior warning, I had them both retry. Stacey didn’t want to. She said her legs were aching from the night before and that there was ‘no way’ she’d better her time. I just told her to do her best.

LEADERBOARD: A12 duo doing well in first and third

Even with a couple of no-reps, which she had to repeat, she registered an emphatic 4 mins 33 (25 seconds improvement in 13 days).

To sum up just how her mindset had shifted afterwards, Stacey, who doubted herself beforehand, said confidently, “I think I can do it faster.”

My ‘gamble’ on Rich was in order to lift his spirits. I felt, in spite of his funk over the deadlifts, that he could beat his goblet squat/ball slam time to at least remind him he was getting fitter and stronger. I was confident he could do it. If he didn’t, though, he might beat himself up further and conclude he was going backwards rather than forwards.

“I’ll give it a go,” he said. And he did, finishing in 4 mins 53, which is a staggering 55 seconds quicker than his first attempt two weeks previously, the one I thought would take some beating!

DRILLED: Stacey on her back squats

These are just little finishers, but they reveal progress. They tell me if someone is getting fitter and they can also help form a stronger mindset. In training, there are small victories to be had all the time if you are prepared to see them.

Battles are won this way. Change is difficult, but takes place incrementally. However, we need to know how to handle the moments that don’t go as anticipated or desired. Failure only exists when we fail to learn from our setbacks. Nothing is a waste of time, because every situation offers an opportunity to learn and develop.

To be at our best, we should perhaps take a leaf out of the book of the finest. Braden explains that the great tennis players (and this applies to most top athletes) “respond to their momentary failures and mistakes on court by pushing and willing themselves toward mental recovery. They never submit to their cycle of self-doubt, the cycle that starts with the silent cry, ‘I’m finished’.”

You’re only finished if you believe you are finished. Belief is a thought about something. And we can always change our beliefs if we permit ourselves to.  

So here are a few questions to ponder: what beliefs do you hold about yourself that aren’t true? How do you respond to setbacks and what language do you use with yourself in those instances? Is your attitude to change and transformation a positive one and, if not, what can you do to improve it?

 

Week 5: Why repetition is so crucial

SECOND NATURE: Rich and Stacey can skip on auto pilot because they’ve done it so often

HAVE you ever tried learning something – it could be anything – and it just seems an endless struggle? Or have you noticed how some of us pick up new skills or perform tasks far easier than others?

We’re all different. We learn in different ways. Physically, mentally and emotionally, we are hard-wired differently.

It doesn’t mean we are better or worse than the next person. Only different. And if we want to improve or change, we can. But the way we are programmed means that change is often slow and only those who persevere with the process reach their destination.

The people I’ve worked with on the Amazing 12 Chichester transformation program have all had contrasting strengths and weaknesses.

My current pair, Rich and Stacey, now at the end of week 5, are no exceptions.

PRACTICING: Rich working on the hinge pattern

Rich, for example, has always found it hard to get the hang of the hinge technique which is essential for the deadlift and kettlebell swings, whereas, by contrast, Stacey finds it almost effortless. There could be anatomical reasons for this also.

“I just don’t understand why I find some things so hard and Stacey makes it look so easy,” said Rich this week.

But what may explain how some of us take more easily to certain tasks and challenges than others is that we are all programmed uniquely.

Our programming covers everything, from the way we think to how we move to our beliefs and desires.

I’ve noticed how there are things Rich has adapted to much better than Stacey, again highlighting how each of us is unique.

UNIQUE: some movements are easier for us than others

Crucially, Bruce Lipton, a cellular biologist and an expert on this subject, explains how most of our programming is done during the first seven years of life and some of it pre-birth.

By the age of seven we are very much set in the way we do things, hence the expression about “show me the boy at seven and I will show you the man”.

It may explain also how some of us seem so naturally talented. This ‘talent’ is programming that’s either inherited or learned during those seven years.

Our programming is stored in our subconscious, which is where habits reside. According to Lipton, we operate from the subconscious 95 per cent of the time.

“The subconscious mind is like a machine,” explains Lipton. “It records, pushes a button, plays back.”

SPEED WORK: sprinting with the prowler

Everything we do is being recorded, whether we like it or not. For example, the person who comes home from work, plonks himself on a couch, watches television and doesn’t move for the next four hours each day is recording a pattern he or she may not even realise is being recorded.

Or, as I have written about previously, the person who complains repeatedly is re-recording the same pattern. Or the individual who automatically reaches for their phone upon waking is reinforcing a pattern…

Lipton says the process for changing habits shouldn’t be rushed because it takes time, which, of course, conflicts with our impatience for results.

“You don’t want it to change very quickly, because otherwise habits fall apart,” says Lipton. “Habits are resistant to change.”

MODIFICATION: Stacey pressing with a football bar

The good news is that the programming can be changed. The bad news is that it requires work, action, discipline, commitment and patience.

Some challenges may seem impossible. But remember that on the other side of impossible is the possible.

So what is the best way to change this programming that is within each of us?

According to Lipton, there are three main ways. One is hypnosis, because, as Lipton explains, for the first seven years of life our minds operate at a low vibrational frequency. Many athletes successfully use forms of hypnosis to improve their performances.

The second – and more common method – is repetition: doing something over and over. “Practice, repeat, practice,” says Lipton, which is how it works often in the gym with developing and honing techniques and skills. It’s why, for the best results, training needs to be repetitive.

“It’s about habituation,” says Lipton. “Where you make a practice out of something every day and repeat it over and over again.”

GROWING: Rich’s strength is on the increase

However, the process starts with awareness – recognition of our behaviour. To change something, we need to be conscious of what’s going on. But, as Lipton explains, the conscious and subconscious mind operate differently.

Our thoughts are hugely important in this respect. Earl Nightingale, the famous American author who studied human behaviour, once wrote: “Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition will one day become our reality.”

Lipton adds to this that “the picture you hold in your mind creates the behaviours and biology you express in life. Take fear, for example. Fear causes 90 per cent of illnesses on the planet. It’s all generated by the perception of the mind.”

Therefore, a vital cog in the wheel of change is the belief that you can change. Practice and repetition in the right way can help to foster confidence that encourages belief that leads to change.

Energy grows where energy goes, so to speak.

HARD WORK: week 5 must go down as the toughest so far

Belief is something that can ebb and flow. I notice with Rich and Stacey how on some days and weeks they are more focused and confident than others.

This week at the Core Results Gym was particularly hard for them both, especially Stacey. She took a day off on the final day. I don’t encourage skipping training sessions, but there are times when it’s the best course of action. With the training getting harder and her continued lack of sleep, Stacey’s body badly needed some reprieve.

Stacey’s finding her journey through the Amazing 12 much tougher second time around, mainly because she’s stronger and therefore the loads she is having to lift and move are greater.  

Rich, too, felt it was a grind after flying through the first four weeks. He works tremendously hard in every session. But he admitted he had to dig especially deep this week and felt depleted by the end of it.

It won’t remain that way. That’s the magnificence of the human body (if treated respectfully). With sufficient rest, it recovers, adapts and comes back stronger than before. This is physical change.

ONE MORE REP: Rich is not one to give up easily

Remember the graph I used in my Week 3 blog illustrating a typical path of progress? It doesn’t always take a straight line, but the overall trend is upwards. This was one of those weeks where the line of progress was flatter.

Physical change can be a lot easier to alter than habitual change. For instance, Rich drives himself to the limit all the time and there are occasions where I don’t want him to (for good reason). He has had to learn to control that habit.

In fact, when you watch people train, as I do every day, you can see how the vast majority of actions and thoughts are dictated by habitual behaviour.

William James, the American philosopher, wrote in 1892 that “all our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.”

TESTER: crawling can challenge the brain as well as the body

According to Charles Duhigg’s excellent book The Power of Habit, “habits never disappear. They are encoded into the structures of the brain.”

It explains how and why we can slip back into old habits. To change means overwriting one program with another.

“Habits, though, are as much a curse as they are a benefit,” says Duhigg. In training, someone who has a habit of losing concentration can cause themselves injury, while someone whose habit is to never give up won’t ever need motivating.

With regards to food and eating, bad habits, we know, can undermine our best intentions. Good habits keep us on track.

Therefore we need to identify (awareness) the habits that are holding us back and work on re-patterning and replacing them.

When I coach Rich and Stacey, I look to how they move and breath and think and respond to different stressors and cues to identify habits. If they need modifying, I remind them, sometimes repeatedly. Consciously, they will then try to perform or think differently until the action becomes subconscious and doesn’t require much or any thought.

SMILING: it doesn’t matter how difficult it gets, Stacey tries to grin through it

Whether or not 12 weeks is long enough to bring about lasting changes depends on the individual and how committed they are to the process of change and how deeply ingrained the original patterns are.

“Habits, as much as memory or reason, are the root of how we behave,” wrote Duhigg. “Once they are lodged within our brains they influence how we act – often without realization.

“They shape our lives far more than we realise – they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.”

Here’s the challenge for this week: try to identify the habits in your behaviour and thinking and decide whether they are in alignment with your best intentions and beliefs.

 

Week 4: Why muscles are a life-saver

BENEFITS: not many exercises can beat the Farmer’s Carry

IF you really knew and understood fully the purpose, function and importance of muscles, you might not be afraid of them. You’d probably re-evaluate your thinking or maybe even consider lifting weights or explore how to begin a resistance training protocol.

I have written about muscle before, but it never hurts to revisit a subject or expand on it or write about it from a different angle.

When people see the Amazing 12 Transformation program, it is commonly assumed that the process is purely in search of vanity – that the training and lifting weights and attention to nutrition is only to reshape our bodies so we look and feel better.

There is nothing wrong with that, of course. I’m all for improving the way we look and feel. Who isn’t? It’s the most common reason people go to the gym. But it’s the add-ons and where having muscle us useful that often gets ignored.

I shared a short video clip this week on my Intelligent Strength Facebook page that outlined the importance of muscle and how the latest research supports this (not that it was ever in doubt).

MOBILITY: I get shoulder envy watching Rich do these

We are usually at our muscular peak around the age of 30 and thereafter it becomes more difficult to retain. We start to lose more than we gain and this process of atrophy accelerates between the ages of 50 and 60.

But rather than resign ourselves to becoming week and frail, we CAN do something about it. According to the film clip, researchers have discovered that “as long as we keep challenging our muscles, we can hold on to and even increase mass into old age.”

I’ve found this to be true not only personally but also in people I coach. The problem is that as we age, we tend to reduce our activity levels and shy away from demanding jobs or tasks, when we actually need to work harder and manage our diets more smartly in order to retain the muscle that’s going to be essential for old age.

“A lack of muscle mass causes a lot of deaths in old people because they can’t prevent themselves from falling over and they struggle to look after themselves,” the film said.

Muscle helps preserve and maintain bone density. In the absence of muscle your bones become frail.

NEVER TOO LATE: Extraordinary Ann, 77 years young

I currently have a 77-year-old training with me and learning to lift weights. She’s incredible. It’s never too late to start!

Rich and Stacey, now at the end of week 4 on the Amazing 12 Chichester, are 48 and 38 respectively. Hardly old, but on the other side of 30.

Each has a clear understanding of the benefits of weight-training. They know also that while the program is designed to improve their appearance, it will boost their strength and fitness significantly, too. Stacey, after all, has done it before.

More importantly, they each comprehend that the journey doesn’t end after 12 weeks – that this needs to be a life-long commitment because that’s how long we are going to require our muscles to be strong and useful.

GROWING: Rich’s strength keeps increasing

“Having muscle is an essential part of growing old gracefully,” said Stacey. “It will enable me to move and function the way I want to.

“I want to be as strong as possible and if that means looking muscular, which some may not find attractive, then so be it.”

If you’ve not exercised in a long time and are overweight or out of shape, the idea of getting fit and strong can be a daunting one.

That’s why a program such as the Amazing 12 works so well. It can help someone go from next to nothing to making ‘amazing’ progress in a relatively short period whilst also providing a clearer understanding of what it takes – in terms of nutrition and lifestyle – to sustain it. It also teaches and drills important lifting techniques that can be adapted for everyday life.

Weight-lifting is effective because the demand on the muscles is greater (provided you know what you’re doing) than other forms of exercise. Rich, for instance, was doing a lot of training pre-Amazing 12, but found he was burning muscle and not building it.

In the short time he’s been on the Amazing 12, it’s clear, just by looking at him each day, he is starting to develop muscle, which was one of his objectives.

Stacey, too, has a healthy and practical view of what having muscles is about, but finds it frustrating that some can’t see how the benefits outweigh the aesthetics.

“I’d rather have larger muscle mass – and improve the functionality and health of my body – than not,” she said.

AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Stacey’s more advanced in her progress second time around

“I think it’s a bit of a myth anyway that women bulk up from lifting weights as we’re built so differently to men.

“Muscles are sexy. They show strength. How can someone who is strong, in whatever form, be regarded as unattractive?”

For Rich, part of this process is to become more ‘body confident’. “I’ve never felt happy with carrying a bit of fat. That’s why I’ve done all sorts in the past to find out why I can’t shift it – for both looks, vanity, self-confidence, but also long-term health benefits.”

Results are never instant, though. It’s important when embarking on a training program to be realistic about what you can achieve and how long it will take.

VARIATION: Practicing the Turkish Get-up

Rich and Stacey know the way I work. I’m continually reminding them of the need for patience, taking each step as it comes, enjoying the process, turning perceived setbacks into positives etc.

This week Stacey had to miss one session, her first, as she was so run down and Rich skipped three in order to attend his mother’s funeral. Yet he still did some training I set for him on the days he couldn’t get to the gym.

RAISING THE BAR: Stacey’s paying more attention to technique

There’s a level of commitment needed to accomplish a task or achieve goals or become successful or just stay the course and I’m more than happy with the progress Stacey and Rich have made so far.

To embark on the Amazing 12 or any other dedicated training program is sending a message that you place a high value on your wellness and physical performance. It means you are prioritising yourself and yet it’s something many us have difficulty accepting.

For some this will evoke a feeling of guilt. But is it wrong to want to take care of or take time out for yourself? And, as I often say to my clients, should you feel guilty if you’ve done nothing wrong?

As far as I am concerned, we are all ‘worth it’. Building muscle is one of the greatest investments you will ever make. In fact, in many cases it could be a life-saver.

If results, guidance and a tried-and-tested program is what you are seeking, why not sign up for the next Amazing 12 Chichester, which starts in January 2018? For ladies interested in learning lifting basics in a non-threatening atmosphere, I run a Sunday morning program. And if 1:1 or small group personal training is what you are after, I’m happy to help you achieve your goals. All enquiries to Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk

 

Week 3: Too much information?

STRAPPED IN: under that shirt Rich has on his heart rate monitor

TO track or not track? That is the question.

We live in a highly technological age where gadgets abound. It is estimated that by 2018 there will be in the region of 250 million tracking devices in circulation globally. Some are more sophisticated than others. But are they beneficial or not?

There are positives and negatives, of course. Take, for example, Stacey, who has now completed three weeks of the Amazing 12 Chichester at the Core Results Gym – her second journey through the transformation program.

She weighs herself weekly, though sometimes more frequently. Before she started the program, she took body measurements and she will do so again at the end to measure any change.

When we track, we are gathering information. Her scales tell her about her weight and body fat percentage. When it goes up, she is likely to feel disappointed and when it goes down, she is delighted or feels she is moving in the right direction or what she is doing is working.

OFF THE PRESS: getting stronger by the week

Similarly, Rich, also on the 12-week program, does his own tracking. Every Friday, he weighs himself and tests for body fat, muscle mass and water retention. With each workout, he checks his heartrate. Daily, he logs his steps. The data is useful for charting progress and can also be motivating. For example, I notice that Rich pushes himself hard in training to see if he can take his heartrate to certain levels. You could say then that his monitoring improves his physical output if nothing else. It all makes for interesting feedback.

Gathering information for the sake of it is pointless, though. It’s what we do with it that matters.

My concern is that sometimes it can get in the way – that all the information can, if you allow it to, play with your mind and interfere with the experience.

With data overload we can end up over-analysing and in training we need to make space for our intuition. The more time we spend in our heads, the less we use our intuition, which is the ability to feel what is right and what isn’t.

When I did the Amazing 12 several years ago, I never weighed myself once. I took no measurements at all. Never stepped on a scale. All I did was train, eat and notice how I looked in a mirror and, if not more importantly, felt in my body.

In the absence of all the figures, maybe I had less to be anxious about and my ability to sense what was working and not working improved. I didn’t have statistics that could, potentially, derail my focus and cause any highs and lows.

CHANGE OF SCENERY: outdoors for some smashing

So, really, the answer to my initial question of whether tracking or not tracking is worthwhile comes down to the individual and what type of person you are. It also depends on what you are doing and attempting to achieve.

Rich, for example, has an enquiring mind. He wants to know the answer to most things. So the information, to some degree, keeps him satisfied.

Stacey, however, has a tendency to worry. I know from experience that if I put a weight on a bar and tell her to lift it, she is more likely to succeed not knowing how much she is lifting than if I were to tell her. Yet she still wants to know.

Therefore, the question to ask is if the tracking works to your advantage or disadvantage. If you know you do better without, then surely it makes sense to not track.

PATTERN OF PROGRESS: Notice it doesn’t typically go in a straight line

One thing we should be aware of when it comes to tracking is that what matters is the pattern over the long haul and not a matter of days. Our bodyweight, for instance, can shift from day to day and even during the course of a day. If you’re going to weigh yourself, do it on the same scales, at the same time and on the same day of the week. But not every day and multiple times on the same day!

More important is knowing what are we tracking and why? If your objective is to become stronger, knowing your bodyweight isn’t necessarily important. If part of your goal requires you to perform at a certain weight – like a fighter – checking the scales and controlling what you eat and drink is key. If you’re an athlete who needs to improve his recovery, checking your heartrate becomes almost vital. And if you are a top level athlete and looking to fractionally improve performance, the information from tracking can often be the difference between winning and losing.

Recognise that progress isn’t always linear, though. The path to change is full of ups and downs and plateaus, therefore, someone who monitors their performance closely and frequently or obsessively can easily become demoralised as they ride the roller coaster towards completing their objective.

Compare this approach with a more intuitive one that is to turn up, do your work, enjoy the experience, give your best each time, feel what is effective and not worry so much about the outcome. The latter, for me, has an essence of adventure that can be lost when too much emphasis is placed on details and numbers. But there’s a balance between the two approaches that works best. 

HAVING A BALL: Stacey’s getting down to business

As a coach, I record the details of every workout on the Amazing 12 and it’s essential for guiding an individual through the program safely as well as charting progress. However, I also rely on my experience and knowledge to know how to encourage progress.

Often you can just sense when something is working and when it is not without even having to refer to the data.

After three weeks on the Amazing 12, Rich commented to Stacey, “you’re looking a lot leaner,” and she replied, “I feel much leaner.”

Stacey said to Rich – and not out of politeness either – “you’re looking more hench,” and Rich admitted he was experiencing and seeing physical changes even though his body fat measurements were not necessarily budging much. And, as we joke, how on earth can he put on muscle when eating only a vegan diet? 

Without seeing any numbers, I can see clearly how Rich is recovering so well from workout to workout – despite putting in a good shift every day. It’s something he had struggled with when I worked with him several years ago.

Sometimes, though, what we see and feel can be undermined by what is shown on the scales or whatever apps we may be using.

STAYING FOCUSED: Rich doing his circuits

Understand that there will always be good weeks – and we should enjoy them – and tougher weeks – and we should appreciate them, too. Why? Because it’s often during our setbacks and when we are being challenged and feel as if we are struggling that the potential for change can be greatest.

As a coach, managing these moments is critical to progress – ensuring the overload is just right makes all the difference.

This week was especially tough on Rich, whose mother sadly and unexpectedly passed away. He had to miss a day of training and will have to skip more next week, but he wanted to get back in the gym. Under the circumstances, he did tremendously well.

STRAIGHT BACK: Ball slams with good form

For Stacey, who is still struggling to consistently get restful sleep, her body is not recovering as well as it could. She’s getting lasting aches and pains. Therefore, she needs to make sleep a priority.

There are apps that can assist with sleep and assessing how well we sleep, too. The same rule should apply: if they help, use them. If they don’t, ditch them. But try to avoid relying on them.

If you’re interested in the next wave of the Amazing 12 (starting January 2018), some personal training in small groups or 1:1, women’s weight-lifting or women’s boxing for fitness, send me a message at Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk. I don’t bite, but I am dedicated towards producing results. 

.