The Newbie Peak – A Personal Story & Lessons Learned

When I first took up weight training it was to one end: gettin’ HOOGE!

Long story: I was a bean pole as a kid. When I was 14-ish I sat for 2 years on the couch, stopped playing sports, went through growth spurts, ate my mother’s and grandmother’s house out of every bowl of cereal possible and got chubby. My highest weight ever was 194lbs (at around 5’10”; hell, I still don’t even weight that much and I’m only a 1/2″ taller). That’s when my good buddy Ryan got me to play a season of community league football with him.

All the football padding is hiding my own “padding.” Me at my heaviest: 194lbs

While in high school, I would watch that weight plummet from 194lbs to 136lbs in the course of about 18 months. How? To be honest, I let my young metabolism do the work for me. I just stopped eating beyond dinner. Trust me it wasn’t easy. Starving oneself, especially admidst still being a growing young man, was probably not healthy but how can I argue with a 48lbs fat loss??  Every morning when I woke I would check my stomach with the infamous pinch test and sure enough, it kept getting smaller.

My grade 10-12 high school ID’s. Looks like I got younger, not older. And let it be known I was wearing Echo shirts before the Rhino logo and before the name change to the current Ecko! That’s just how gangster I was!

My first job outta high school was a cashier at Safeway ( I think I was 18). It’s there I first picked up a muscle magazine; this exact one in fact:

I’m pretty damn sure that was the exact moment my life began this path I’m living today

 To shorten this story I’ll say that when I first picked up a weight it took me about 3 months to put on nearly 30lbs of muscle (from 136lbs to 165lbs). Impossible you say? Ask any guy who’s been training 10 or more years and he’ll tell you a similar story of how the first response to hard weight training is beyond belief.

~3 months after I picked up my first weight: 165lbs (up from 136lbs).

Damn I miss those yellow pants!

To finish the story and get to the lessons, over the next 10 years I would see my weight fluctuate between that 165lbs-190lbs (soft but more muscle) and steady itself somewhere between it’s current 178-186lbs. So in the first 3 months I went from 136lbs to 165lbs (as you can see I’m not soft in that picture above) and yet it took me another 13 years to put on the next 10-12lbs of weight. This tells me two things: 1) I was never consistent enough for my own good and 2) That’s the difficulty level between the first 3 months and the next 3+ years. The only way I know to change that is to seek out someone who knows a great deal more than you and learn from them. Man, I wish I was exposed to a good personal trainer 10 years ago! Where were the internet, T-Nation, and awesome coaches like Christian Thibaudeau, Nick Tumminello, Mike Boyle and Scott Abel in my early 20’s?!?!

Now I already mentioned this 3 month theory before. Go back and read that

Today’s story – THE PEAK

I see it every single day. The stall, the plateau, the decline, the slow…the peak. Especially in women! When a person first takes up training, especially with a personal trainer in their arsenal, you see incredible changes to the body and to be fair, it probably has much more to do with blunt effort than methodical planning. You quite simply just do work!

I don’t even need to take a show of hands to ask how many of us once we’ve seen some good progress all of a sudden lose the hunger, the aggression, the motivation to keep pushing that hard. A guy starts beefing up to the point his friends are regularly commenting on his arms and chest getting big or a woman starts having her pants nearly fall off her because of the fat loss and BANG! we ease off the effort.

What we don’t focus on and is really the lesson for today is that the body is a system of adaptation. What you accomplished yesterday will most likely not create the same results tomorrow as your body learns, changes, grows, gets stronger, more resilient to the stress you’re throwing at its nervous system, cardiovascular system and skeletal muscle system. That’s why your arms and booty look better. That’s why walking quickly up a flight of stairs doesn’t leave you wheezing like a 3 pack-a-day smoker.

Sometimes this can happen

The Solution

Step it up. Again. Just like going from nothing to your first 3 months was a step up. There is no other solution. Period.

I’ve often said if guys trained with the zeal of women and women trained with the zeal of men that we’d accomplish a great deal with that alone. Meaning women usually over-target cardio, stomach and leg training; men usually over-target load increasing upper body exercises (meaning they always try to lift more on things like bench press).

“So you’re saying women should bench press and men should endlessly watch tv on the stair climber?”

No. Not at all. But target your weaknesses. For women that’s strength. For men that’s usually cardiovascular endurance as well as leg training. Guys, train legs three times a week with gusto and guaranteed your body will look WAY better even if you give up the bicep curls!

Women, trust me on this, you belong in the weight room. After your 3 month cardio stint and the initial weight loss talked about above: Get off the cardio floor. Get out of the Zumba classes. Start picking up heavy weight. Start doing incredibly challenging circuits or exercises like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm2Ot0iUVmI  this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X5IU6FtTKc or this:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhWb42RXA90

Men, cut the bullshit. You’re being a wussy at this point. Create some goals and hunt them down like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0edG07Vs-M or again, try out some challenging exercises or circuits like these gents have: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVOUiF0udLc and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc1_9ytKkGk (Matt is a young dude who’s only been at this ~4 months; you wait till we do a success story on him in the next couple of months! He’s gone from never deadlifting to hitting 300lbs since I started with him).

I know it’s not easy. I know it gets frustrating. I know we slip and beat ourselves up. I know what it’s like losing and gaining motivation. Step it up. Get a training partner who is stronger than you. Hire a personal trainer (via referral of a friend who you see getting results!).

What you accomplished yesterday will not produce the same positive results today. Let that sink in for a minute.

Step it up!

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