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.

 

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