Psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi researches a phenomenon he has coined as “flow”. Flow is a state of performance, where the persons entire being is focused and energized, experiencing pure joy and actualization within the movement or a task. Flow is often harnessed by people who are performing activities that have clear goals and an evolving but reasonable rate of challenge. Mountain climbers, surfers, chess players are amongst those who report feelings of flow. They all have clear cut goals – reaching the peak, catching the wave and winning the game. By choosing the right mountain, wave and chess opponent, they know that the level of intensity is reasonable but still challenging, requiring complete focus and yet keeping the goal attainable. How do we do this with exercise and with a goal for weight loss? We change our focus by changing our goal.
As stated in Part 1, finding your fighting weight means focusing on performance rather than weight loss. This focus brings our attention from the long term to the right now. So what kind of methods can we use to do this? There are several, but here are a few training ideas we use at B-Fit.
Ranking – Most exercises have a progression, they start with a very simple movement or even just holding a specific position. From there we can add movements or postural changes that make it difficult to varying degrees. By ranking your exercises you can keep track of which progression you are able to perform.
Measurements – a lot of plyometric exercises lend themselves to direct measurement. How high can you jump? How far jump? How far can you throw a medicine ball? All of these things can be measured and improved on through practice or through employing harder progressions in your ranked exercises.
Weight – a lot of people simply don’t take note of there strength training programs. Its a great way to measure improvement. Build a 6 week program, one that intensifies with small increments of weight or reps. Each week or so you should be able to measure clear improvements.
Intervals – Take a number of exercises (all of which should be ranked already) and perform them for a set amount of time, be it 20 seconds or 1 minute. Mark down the number of reps you were able to perform for each exercise at that interval. Hold on to your results and attempt to repeat it in a week or so. Measure your ability through the reps and increase the challenge by increasing your set intervals. You can also set your reps but time the entire workout. How long does it take you to complete every rep for every exercise with perfect form? Mark it down and try it again in a couple weeks.
Time/distance – for endurance exercises – keep track of the time it took and the space you covered (if applicable). Set a goal for the next time you perform it. Keep it low but still challenging. If you can, keep track of distances achieved at regular intervals so that when you attempt it again, you can have an idea as to whether you’re keeping up a good pace or not.
There are so many ways to focus on ability and it takes very little effort for you or your trainer to keep track of improvement. Outside of the gym you can rate your ability against another competitor in a game of tennis, or you can time your runs or swimming laps, etc. Imagine how much more focused you will need to be to achieve goals that require attention of each second you are moving. And imagine how much more fulfillment you will have during each session when you overcome challenges on a regular basis.
On to the nutrition side of things…
In part 1 I introduced Dr. John Berardi’s idea of energy flux (G-Flux) , and why this approach to increasing food intake could benefit a performance based training program. Let’s try and put it into practice.
When focused on losing weight, your instincts are to cut calories, because in one way or another that is what we have heard works best. Does it work? Yep, at least at first but it is hard and potentially disadvantageous to keep up. When you simply cut calories, without changing what you eat or how much you exercise, your metabolism takes a beating, making it much easier to gain weight when you stop dieting. It also does nothing to improve muscle mass and bone density, two things you are going to need if you want to stay healthy as you age. Again, we are trying to change your thinking from weight loss to performance. from short term gains to longevity. Maybe you can run in your 30s but we want you to be able to walk in your 90s.
When you cut calories, you cut the nutrition, or at least the potential for nutrition. By increasing the amount of food you eat you increase your body’s capacity to make muscle, balance hormones, fight illness, regulate digestion, improve mood and increase your metabolic rate. The changes seen in the sympathetic nervous system and metabolic rate from eating more and training more now become a tool that will work for you to further perpetuate body re-composition. This is happening even though you have reached an energy balance, where the amount of calories you eat vs the ones you burn are equal. Equal!
So, how do you employ energy flux? Slowly.
Berardi suggests a minimum of 5 hours of training per week with the potential to gradually increase to about 8 hours. If you are just starting out, I would begin with half of that and work your way up to 5 hours. Once you have reached this level of training output you can now figure out if you want to increase your rate of weight loss by training more or you can try and increase lean muscle mass and metabolic rate by increasing your food intake. This is where some math comes in handy and if you want to apply the G-Flux method with some detail you can follow the next few steps.
First, figure out what basal metabolic rate is, you can do so here. This is good to know for rest days. Now calculate your active metabolic rate, you can find a calculator for that here. Now calculate how many calories you tend to consume every week (a week is a much better representation than a day. You will need to do this using a food journal, you can use an on line one that calculates everything for you – myfitnesspal.com is a great one.
If you did the math, a simple way to reach energy balance is to divide your missing calories by 7, find a healthy snack/meal that equals those calories and have it every day. If you are missing a lot of calories each day, then add 2 snacks but start with just 1. No major increases should be employed at once.
Obviously, we want to consume only the best kinds of foods, making sure that your energy influx is nutrient dense and serving your body well. Your performance in the gym or on the field (and on the scale) depends highly on your nutrition, it is so much more complicated than calories in vs calories out, but for the purpose of this article, we are keeping it to simple math.
Though your focus should not be on the scale, it is ideal to have as much data as possible to record your progress. On a weekly basis you should take measurements of your biceps (relaxed and flexed), chest, waist hips, and mid thigh. Body fat,water and muscle percentages should be taken as well as your over all body weight. If all you look at is total body weight, all you are getting is a snapshot of a complicated cycle. The scale is a blunt tool, and you shouldn’t put too much importance on it. Would you rate a car on its weight? I hope not!
Take note of how you feel too. It’s important to stop and realize what kind of physical changes you feel as well as any mental improvements as well. Longevity is achieved through the challenges of consistency. Staying consistent requires a lot of self motivation, more than can be found in the quest of weight management. If you can find focused enjoyment of movement through the pursuit of performance you will have found flow and all the benefits that come with it, including strength, energy, clear mindedness, oh and weight loss too.
Enjoy the path,
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