It is easy to forget that training is not just a two hour process in the weight room. Training is not just about making a post workout shake and training is not just about making sure you hit your sets and reps. Too often we look at training and adaptation as two separate entities. We see our performance in the weight room as a result of the work we have put in the weight room and nothing else. However, training is a stimulus and adaptation is the process of our body responding to the stimulus. Who cares how great a stimulus is if we never adapt from it?
Training –> stimulus –> adaptation –> performance.
We are often great about causing a stimulus, but horrible about facilitating adaptation.
Is There Such A Thing As Maintenance?
You are either facilitating a adaptation or you are hindering it. Our body is not very good maintaining. As a matter of fact, I don’t think anything in our body is maintained (at least no without effort). “Maintaining” is merely a reflection of positive changes canceling out the negative changes. Think of it in terms of making a sandcastle…
If you were ever a kid and went to the beach you probably attempted to make a sandcastle. Like most first time sandcastlers, you probably made it way to close to the ocean. As you built your sandcastle up, waves would come by break part of it down and force you to rebuild. After about an hour, you realize your sandcastle is no bigger than it was when you first started. The issue was that as you added more sand, the waves would come by and takeaway that same amount of sand from another portion of youe structure. So, it may appear that you “maintained” the height of your sand castle, but in all reality your maintenance was just the lack of ability to out build the waves. The body works in a similar way. As cells die, more are built and eventually we “maintain”, but not without an active effort. I have never met anyone who could not eat food and maintain the same body weight.
The Other 22 Hours
Now that we know our body is always trying to change, like the waves acting on the sandcastle, we have to find ways to outwork it. The answer to outworking doesn’t come in the form of more gym time. It comes in the form of taking advantage of the other 22 hours in a day. In order to get the most out of adaptation, we have the find ways to make it more effective (Adding more sand to the castle). This is in part why steroids work so well, its like bringing a backhoe to build your sandcastle. You don’t need to constantly attend to it when you can cheat the system (hormones). However, athletes don’t have that as an option. So, instead of brining a backhoe, we have to find ways to be more productive.
We have to make the other 22 hours count. The first step we need to do is takeaway the big negatives. No, no one is going to be perfect and I am not advocating for someone to be obsessive about their performance. However, if we get rid of some of the big negatives and replace them with positives (there are no such thing as neutrals) then we can really help facilitate adaptation. One of these big changes people can make is improving their sleep time and sleep quality. Is it fun to stay up late with your friends on the weekend? Sure. Does lack of sleep hurt our recovery? Yes. Does getting more sleep increase your recovery? Yes. So, sounds like a simple fix… go to bed on time.
Another big negative is malnutrition. If you are trying to adapt, you need building blocks. These building blocks come in the form of nutrients. If you want to get the most out of your training, make sure you are getting enough food. Now, to take it one step further, make sure you are getting the right foods. There is no excuse to not turn these possible negatives into positives.
Control What You Can
You are not going to be able to control every aspect of your life. Yes, you might have outside obligations and yes, training may not be the only thing that is important to you. However, you tend to have the choice as to whether or not you go to bed on time. You tend to have the choice whether or not you are getting enough food. Make the 22 hours outside of training count. Remember, your body is like a sand castle versus the waves. Making progress is hard and there is no such thing as maintenance (just lack of progress). Take the right steps to help your body adapt