Life in the weight pit: recovering from sickness.

Blitz Conditioning Halloween Howl Group

About two weeks ago our amazing Blitz community went out and ran the Halloween Howl together raising funds for the Alberta Diabetes Foundation.  It was an absolute blast and unofficially I think we were the largest group that ran either the 5 km and 10 km distances.  Pat yourselves on the back Blitzfit community, you kick serious ass! I made a commitment to do the 10 km distance so I managed to complete it even though it’s been about a year since I ran anything more than a 5 km distance or stairs… I finished it… we’re just going to leave it at that.  So we all high fived and celebrated after the run but I ended up getting sick on the chilly walk back to my car.  I should’ve listened to that inner dialogue of my mother telling me to dress warm when it’s cold out…. I’m too old to be rebellious anymore.

The flu knocked me flat on my butt for a few days but also had the byproduct of killing my metabolism for about two weeks.  There were days where keeping 500 calories down was a challenge.  If you saw me in the past two weeks and I was looking like a dishevelled pale wreck I apologize. When my body is used to 4,000 calories just to maintain the muscle mass dropping the calories to 1/8 the amount means that the body starts eat itself both in fat reserves and muscle mass.  I lost upwards of 10 lbs in the span of the two weeks which, if you’re looking for weight loss, is amazing but from in bodybuilding is concerning since a lot of that is muscle.  My body isn’t meant to be at 158 lbs and especially not at the projected 165 lbs that I’m hoping in the next few months so when the nutrition is slightly off, the weight drops dramatically.  The biggest challenge for most bodybuilders isn’t getting the workouts in, if you’re wrestling with that issue then you need to change your priorities or look at a different sport, it’s actually the nutrition.  My eating schedule is every two hours during the day starting at around 5 am and ending at about 9:00pm.  These aren’t snacks, they’re full out meals. That’s a lot of food and even then it’s not enough sometimes to handle the amount of exercise I do and how active I am during the day.

But I took this situation in stride for the first week.  My body was telling me that I needed to slow things down a little.  I didn’t workout for a week and rested, which is honestly what most people should do.  Don’t be a hero and go to the gym because you think you’re hardcore.  Give it a rest. During your rest time don’t look at the scale or the mirror, listen to what you’re body is saying and stop worrying!  Trust me for most people your results won’t abruptly come to an end if you take a few days off.  After the first week I then started back into training but eased back into it.  I knew my body was pretty depleted so I went back and did more endurance workouts with lighter weights and just focusing on muscular activation.  Working out brings the metabolism back up since it burns energy but it has to be done slowly.  Ramping back up is a smart idea in order to prevent a relapse into sickness or injury since the body isn’t ready for high intensity or lots of weight.

The lesson I really learned in the past two week is not to panic or stress about getting sick.  Yes it’s a setback, but I’ll gain the muscle mass back and then some.  Illness won’t resolve itself any faster if I’m overly worrying about it or if I’m fixated on how much progress I’m going to lose.  It only creates more stress which worsens the situation.  The following statement reigns true:

in training listen to your body in competition tell your body to shut up

Most of us, including myself, need to learn to differentiate training from competition.  No you’re fitness life isn’t a constant personal best day nor are you competing in some epic challenge to rule the world every time you step in the gym.  Training prepares us mentally for challenges in life like competition. Hardcore statements and slogans about “No days off” or slogans that tell you to ignore what your limits are false.  We need to spend some time and understand what our bodies are TRULY saying to us.  I’m emphasizing the word TRULY because in order to understand our limits we must first push past our mental blocks and find where those physical limits exist.  Experiment with your own fitness levels to find out where these limits are.  I believe that we have to expose ourselves to the harsh challenges in order to change ourselves for the better.  But I also take the statement:

Stimulate, don’t annihilate

 To be true too.  We need to push hard to change but also listen to our bodies and understand that limits are meant to be broken but that is over a progression of time and discovery.  The amazing paradox of fitness, health, and life is that in order to become healthier, we first must break ourselves down just enough to encourage physical and mental change but not so much that it causes injury or negative damage.  In life, we grow in the same way and live by letting go of  the old constructs of ourselves so that we can adopt new ones; but this doesn’t happen overnight, we make small adjustments every day, change a few things while still retaining others, in order to become better.

Life is challenging but we are never given something we can’t handle nor anything that we can’t learn from.  This week is all about getting the nutrition back in order and being thankful for the challenge through the sickness that happened over the past few weeks.

About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned owner of Blitz Conditioning, a Fitness Columnist at CBC Radio on Thursdays at 8:20 am, and owner of Tse Social Strategy. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.

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