Friday, September 28, 2012
Not sure if surrounded by people maintaining or if maintenance is getting a lot more attention these days, but I'd like to weigh in on the trending topic. I know I've been rather quiet lately and there are a lot of reasons for it, but none have to do with the fact that I haven't been thinking about maintenance and of course, doing a lot of experimenting. I've just spared you the boring details. Back to business ...
There are two basic premises to put forth. Maintenance is about doing less. Maintenance is about keeping your head in the game.
The first one may strike you as counterintuitive, but hear me out. Maintenance is about doing less. Probably a lot less than you're doing right now. My mission for the last 6-8 months has been figuring out what it takes to get by. I'm mostly referring to exercise, but this can also refer to diet to a smaller extent. Think of rate of return as a bell curve or an inverted U. You do 0, you get 0. But if you exercise 8 days a week, your rate of return declines sharply and risk of injury increases sharply. If exercising 5-7 days a week is your maintenance plan, you're destined to fail because mean ol' Mr. Injury will come get you … that is if mean ol' Mr. Motivation doesn't pack his bags and leave you first.
So lets find the sweet spot, the top part of the inverted U. What is the least amount I can do and still "maintain" my current level of fitness. In many cases, one heavy weight lifting session and one day of HIIT (sprints, hill runs, etc) is about enough to maintain. Two lift sessions and one HIIT session gets improvement (yes, one HIIT session per week has actually IMPROVED my aerobic capacity). I can complete a lift session in about 45 minutes, a HIIT session in about 20. So we're talking about strength and aerobic capacity maintenance in just over an hour a week. Nope, I'm not trying to sell you an infomercial product, just an hour, but it has to be effective exercise. I'm not talking about jogging, Jillian Michael videos or Zumba.
If you're in maintenance and you're not doing at least this much, you should be or I'd argue you're not in maintenance, you're in failure. If you're doing 5-7 days a week, I suggest you try working toward less because it's probably time for you to periodize anyway. You simply cannot do 5-7 days a week infinitum and you need to learn/understand a true maintenance routine that works for you. Of course, if you're training for something or you want a bit more than simple maintenance, turn it up. But to think maintenance means 5-7 days a week of intense exercise is a recipe for failure.
I saved the most important for last. Keeping your head in the game. Recently there have been all kinds of statistics related to maintenance. Maintenance folks watch less than 10 hours of TV, they have forbidden food, they track intake, they're invisible under ultraviolet light, etc. Well, that's all neat and everything but these really don't mean a thing. These wonderful stats are all byproducts of someone who has their head in the game. If your goals are byproducts, you will likely fail as most do. This is no different than folks who set a number on the scale as a goal. Weight is a byproduct of mental state, if your head is not in the game, you will fail.
So if you're still focused on the scale, setting random goals that are easy to jettison (because they don't have meaning), having constant "oopsies", your maintenance is likely in jeopardy.
Unfortunately, getting your head in the game is difficult. It is an individual and constantly evolving endeavor. You need to seriously discover what fuels your fire. I like excelling at team sports. I'm not good at them, but getting better at them fires me up. I play with a lot of 20 somethings and whipping their asses or even keeping up with them gives me pleasure. I also enjoy competing at various races and thoroughly enjoy spending time in the woods. Being weak and fat does not jibe with any of those goals. The thought of losing large amounts of strength and/or gaining large amounts of fat is scary. There is just no way I'm going back. The thought of it makes me ill. This level of disgust is my barometer for "head in the game". If I ever become ambivalent about being fat and weak, I need a head check. If your head check fails, get it back. That comes before anything else, ever. Without head in the game, you can watch less TV and still get hefty.
I will admit, this transition is very difficult. There are a lot of rewards and heartbreak on the scale. Getting away from the scale as a goal is very tough, but it is critical. It might be easier for the guys because we're not as emotionally attached to the scale and our seemingly natural wiring to be competitive with other cavemen helps us stay physically active. But it can be done. 4A-HEALTHY-BMI lurves her some kayaking. Being too fat to fit in the boat, not an option. Being too weak to where she cannot safely navigate the big boy class rapids, not acceptable. I may be wrong, but I don't think she particularly cares for lifting, but she does care to whoop some whitewater ass. 30-45 minutes 2 or 3 times a week is a small price to pay for excelling at her passion.
Maintenance has to last forever. I've received messages from people here that are truly inspiring. Folks in their 60's and 70's who still have fire and even started lifting again (and making gainz!). I aspire to this. Maintenance can be about improvement and can last a lifetime. You just have to be sensible and pay attention.
To summarize, maintenance is simple, but not easy. Head in the game, reasonable diet and exercise regimen that can be performed for life. The rest are byproducts.
Thanks for the feedback so far. I do appreciate it. I do want to clarify one point. I'm not saying that exercising 5-7 days a week is a strike against success, hell, I do it, but real life does not always permit it. Busy schedule, injuries, other commitments, emergencies, etc. can throw that routine off quickly. Learning to be efficient at exercise and maintain fitness levels when curveballs are thrown is a skill worth possessing. I know it took time for me to figure out what the minimum requirement was and it shocked me at how little I had to do.
Hope that makes sense.