If you are like most gym rats, you probably push yourself hard.
You take satisfaction in the knowledge that you have achieved your hard earned gains in chalk, sweat and tears. Limits have been smashed, iron like muscle has been forged, mental boundaries have been broken.
But the chances are, at some point so too have you.
If not completely, then broken enough that you've had to take considerable time out from your training. You've watched as your strength evaporated from you like steam off hot water. What was once hard, rugged athletic muscle suddenly became soft and squidgy.
It was hard for you to even recognise your own body, as your herculean efforts to get back on track, were thwarted with set back after set back.
But was it a needless mistake? Could all of this been avoided if you had just stopped one rep early? In my experience, I think so in a lot of cases. Here's 3 reasons why.
1) Chronic Sleep Deprivation Leads To 32% Decrease In Mental Alertness
Michael Bonnet and Donna L. Erand who reviewed extensive literature on sleep deprivation and the impact of mental alertness, found that mental alertness was reduced by as much as 32% when sleep was reduced by as little as 1.3 - 1.5 hours a night over the course of a week. In one study on factory workers, they where more likely to experience injury or even death (let that sink in).
So let me ask you, the last time you were badly injured, how was your mental focus? Where you a bit distracted? Where you a little sleep deprived?
If you are sleep deprived and planning on going hard at the gym, before you slap that extra weight on the bar and crank out that extra rep you may want to reconsider before you regret it. Save yourself for another day.
2) As you Mature, Submaximal Training Is a Great Option
This one is for you if you are reading this, and in your thirties, forties and beyond. I'm sure you've noticed that while you can train with a similar intensity as you once could, it's taking you longer to recover.
Maybe you can't handle as much volume? The odd niggle here and there settles in, where before you would just shrug it off, and "go hard or go home."
This was a reality that crept up on me. Now don't get me wrong, my body can still do some amazing things and I can still put up some pretty good numbers by my standards. But here is what I have noticed.
Submaximal training allows me to train hard while making gains all year round, without needless injury or a regression in performance. It's not all about the 1RM or trying to achieve a personal best every session. Stimulate don't annihilate.
So even on a good day, I'll stop one rep early. Leave the gym feeling like a beast and psyched for your next session, knowing you've got plenty left in the tank (rather than broken and deflated).
3) You Are In The Red
No I don't mean financially (that's none of my business) I'm talking about your HRV score. If you have been following my weekly blog posts on Heart Rate Variability you will know that being in the red means that your body is in freak out mode and is in the process of deep healing.
It doesn't matter if you are red sympathetic or red parasympathetic (the two branches of your automatic nervous system), if you train in this state you are setting yourself up for a host of health problems when you continue to do so. My advice would be simply don't do it.
As a mature trainee, by stopping one rep early and taking care of your health, not only will you be able to stay physically active and do the things you love for longer, but you are setting yourself up for sustainable performance in your sport or hobby into your silver years and beyond.
Don't underestimate it. The difference between you happily lifting iron, and you having a major crash or burn out, is often just one rep.
This right here, is a Cj Swaby signature dish,
I don't know about you, but I love a thai green curry. The perfect blend of aromatic flavours to seduce you with a taste sensation, and just the right amount of kick to let your taste buds know whats up.
This recipe is a personal favourite of mine. Use this version as a base, but do feel free to add vegetables of your choice or remove any that don't work for you. You can even add cashew nuts for that extra protein content if you'd like. So lets jump to it.
Here's the Ingredients
Heat the oil and chuck in the carrots and the butternut squash. Sautee for 4 - 5 mins. Add the coconut milk. Stir in the thai green curry paste. Smash the lemon grass and cut into about 3 parts and throw it in the mix. Turn the heat down and leave to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes
Add the chopped mushrooms, sweet potato, courgettes, and pak choi to the pan. Stir in thoroughly. Cover the pan and leave to simmer for a further 15 - 20 minutes or until the butternut squash is now tender.
Take the lid off the pan and allow the curry to reduce to desired consistency (as the water content from the vegetable will have made the consistency thin).
Remove from the heat and serve. I like to eat the thai green curry by itself, but you can serve it with an accompanying dish of your choice. Jasmine or coconut rice, or even quinoa works well.
p.s you can find out more about my nutritional services.
Here it is, my week in numbers. This week has been an eye opener, only one red day, and one yellow.
So what happened? This week my sleep deprivation was on the menu. Everyday I was up between 3:15 am and 4:am. My commitments during the week also meant that I didn't finish my working day often until after 10am.
I knew that this would be temporary (just for this week). This was one variable beyond my control. After my red day, I decided to cut back training for the week, and focus on getting nutrient dense food in me.
Surprisingly, I was able to maintain a high green score by making those two adjustments, and the sleep deprivation didn't have as much of an impact. I also ensured that I meditated to help negate environmental stress.
So this week I have begun training again, at reduced volume and at reduced intensity. The plan is that by the beginning of next week I will be set to start my new Strength training/ power program based on a modified version of Brandon Lilly's Cube method (of which I am a big fan).
Last week I also had the chance to speak to sports scientist Greg Elliot who lectures for Elite HRV and Jason Moore who is the founder and creator of EliteHRV. We had some fascinating conversations, which I will be dropping on the podcast in the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.
When people ask me "But what do I eat?!" when they talk on cutting back meat in their diet, I am quick to point out that there are probably loads of dishes that they eat which don't contain meat, but they don't consider them "vegetarian" or "vegan" and you know what?
They are absolutely right, it's just food people. Just food. So here is another example, now as delicious as they are, if you are on a FODMAP diet this may not be the best for you.
While I am sensitive to chick peas, I find that I can handle them in moderation as long as they are not a staple in my diet, so I include them on rotation (as I love falafels, burgers, wraps the whole kit and kaboodle.).
This particular falafel recipe I got from my new yoga teacher Becky Szczypka who is also a Chef.
Wait no more, here is that falafel recipe.
Coconut oil x 2 tablespoons
Small onion chopped x 1
Garlic cloves minced x 2
120g cooked chickpeas
Ground cumin x 1/2 tablespoon
Ground coriander x 1/2 tablespoon
Black pepper x 1 teaspoon
Fresh chopped parsley (none of this dried stuff you hear?) x 3 tablespoons
Fresh chopped coriander (I think you know the drill) x 3 tablespoons
Salt to taste
Bicarbonate of soda/baking power x 1/2 tablespoon
Breadcrumbs or equivalent substitute (optional)
seasame seeds to coat (optional)
Oil - to fry or you can try and bake them too.
How to make it...
Here's what you do,
Put the oil, onion, garlic, chickpeas, black pepper, cumin and ground coriander into a food processor (use the bowl). Blitz until you have a smooth and thick paste. Remember not to over do the processing.(we're not making soup!)
Put the mixture into a bowl, add the chopped parsley, coriander, salt and baking powder .
Time to get involved! With your hands turn the mixture, adding the breadcrumbs if it's too wet. You should easily be able to bind the mixture without it being too sticky.
Once you feel you have the right consistency, roll the mixture into about 8 - 10 balls. Then set aside onto a plate lightly dusted with flour (of your choice). Cover these bad boys and refrigerate up to about an hour (depending on time available).
In a medium sized saucepan heat some oil (enough to deep fry but not to drown!). Coconut oil is a great choice here.
When the oil is hot enough drop the falafels in and cook until golden brown. This should be 3 - 4 minutes but keep an eye on them.
Drain on some paper towel. These can be enjoyed hot or cold.
Alternatively you could bake them and then toast them under the grill. I haven't tried it that way, so let me know how you get on if you decide to try it.
Serve them with some hummus, salad, or whatever your heart desires!
Looks good right?
p.s Just to let you know, if you are interested in "pre-allergy" and "food intolerance" screening you can now get this done as one of my nutrition coaching services.