After a few days in New York / New Jersey I can truly attest that winter is well and truly here.
Walking around NYC in just a T-shirt and a fairly thing coat was definitely one of the worst decisions I could've made. Stepping out of Penn Station I should have been amazed by the sights in front of me. Yet all I could think about was making a beeline for the nearest store where I could buy a decent jacket and gloves.
Now, I'm sure for the average New Yorker that wasn't a particularly cold day, but for me, it felt like deepest, darkest Siberia.
I felt like Luke in the Wampa ice cave. Hands turning to ice blocks and low level numbness spreading throughout my body. I would've given anything to curl up inside the warm belly of a Tauntaun even if they do smell bad on the inside.
Now that I'm back in the UK things are a little bit warmer, but those cold, dark mornings have set in and are now the norm.
If you're like me and train first thing in the morning, your daily routine starts 10 minutes earlier than normal to get the car warmed up, defrosted and ready to roll. Sitting in the car waiting for the screen to clear you pray for your bones to stop shaking in their frame.
This is the true definition of dedication. Finding the motivation to lifts weights in the gym when you'd much prefer to be curled up under your thick duvet with an extra hour on the alarm clock before you have to muster the effort to drag yourself out of bed and go to work.
It'd just be easier to train in the evening, surely?
I'm a man of routine. It seems weird to a lot of people that I lack flexibility in what I do on a daily basis, but I find that it grounds me. It's what I can rely to keep me honest to my goals and make sure that I get stuff done.
I don't want to be a slave to procrastination. Putting things off to later in the day or even tomorrow is not my style. If it can be done today, let's get it done, and FAST. I won't allow myself to have any excuses.
A mate of mine summed me up when he sent me this message...
"...I like the fact that you're autistically focused on your goals - when you've decided on something, it happens."
Apparently that was a compliment. But he's spot on. If I set my mind to something I have an unwavering focus on getting it done. Sometimes that's to the detriment of other things going on in life, but I seem to always have to be the best I can be at something. The thought of making a half-assed attempt at a task or objective simply doesn't sit right with me. It would be nagging in the back of my mind constantly. I have to give it my all.
My gym sessions seem to transcend the simple physical improvements and aesthetic changes in how I look. Hitting the gym in the morning is now as much a mental thing as it is a physical one.
That 60 minute blast of aggression and pushing myself to my limits gets me focused and ready to take down the tasks of the day that stand in my way. Without it, I can still work hard, but I seem to lose that laser focus and blinkered approach.
So where's this blog post leading? What's the point I'm trying to make?
While I was in NYC I had planned to meet up with online fitness coach and vlogger, Mike Vacanti. I love watching his YouTube series and I'd definitely recommend you checking it out if you haven't already. Here's a link... The best thing I like about Mike's approach is that he makes fitness fun and tells it how it is.
He steers away from dull, instructional videos and makes content that's genuinely inspirational and that ordinary people will enjoy.
And this is a similar approach to me. I want to make my coaching programmes accessible by everyday people. Not everyone has fitness goals that see them developing 20 inch bicep and grunting their way through hours and hours of training sessions.
So that's what I hope you get out of reading my blogs. I bit of fun, a bit of humour, and some useful information along the way.
Anyway, I digress (again).
I was meeting up with Mike to talk about all things fitness. I wanted to pick his brains about loads of different things. It's important to keep on learning and enriching your experiences. There's only so much you can learn from textbooks. Getting out there and speaking to real people with real experiences is often far more beneficial.
Stood under Madison Square Garden, I dropped Mike a quick text to say I'd arrived. He was looking at some apartments that day, so he said we should meet up in the afternoon. Fine by me. Just enough time to take in some sights and buy that all important jacket!
So for a few hours I did my best tourist thing. Macy's, Empire State, Flat Iron building, Times Square. Here's the evidence...
After hitting Time Square Mike text to say he could meet me just North of Central Park. Cool. Another quick selfie in the centre of Time Square and I'll be on my way. But NO!
At the most inopportune moment my phone decided to switch itself off, even though it had over half the battery left. What proceeded next was a panicked dash into every coffee shope, restaurant and McDonalds I could find to try and find a plug socket that wasn't occupied. Needless to say, the charging Gods were working against me and I couldn't find one, so that resulted in a trek across town to the Apple Store.
Phone seemingly repaired we were back on track and moving to the meeting point.
Then, it happened again. Phone dead. Seemingly it wasn't just my feet that didn't appear to like the cold of NYC.
A made a trip to the nearest Starbucks to see if getting some charge would help. By the time it had charged and sprung back into life I'd ran out of time and had to get the train back to the hotel, because I was due to go and see the Giants Vs Cowboys game.
But the story doesn't end there.
I missed my train stop (my fault for not figuring out how US train doors work). And then to top it all off, the Uber driver refused to pick me up from the station, so I had to walk 4 miles to the hotel in the snow!
Despite all that. I see yesterday saw the day as positive one. I proved to myself that I was determined and wasn't going to be deterred by all this first world problems.
I didn't let the issues stop me. I kept trying and kept pushing on. Whatever the obstacle I dealt with it and moved on.
Ok. I may not have gotten to meet up with Mike, but on the bright side, they were just pretty insignificant first world problems and I covered 10 miles of walking in the day and still got to see some sites!
Reminiscing about the whole experience on the flight home, I decided to set myself a new goal.
I'd been umming and ahhing about what to do with my training now that I finished my cut, reverse dieted and was back at maintenance levels.
I thought about sticking at maintenance and enjoying having abs year round and not really worry about cutting in the summer. I can pretty much stick to my maintenance calories with my eyes shut. Calorie intake has become second nature now and I could easily be flexible with my diet to stay consistently around 9-10% body fat.
The other benefit would be that I'd have more time to focus on growing Iron Paradise Fitness. More blog content, articles, and exploring some new and exciting adventures.
But that all felt like a bit of a cop out. It felt like that was the half-assed approach to my training. There would be no challenge. I wouldn't be pushing myself. It just didn't feel like I was being ambitious enough.
So that idea was scrapped and it's been replaced with a new goal and a new focus for 2017.
2017 is going to be about growth. Growth in my physique and growth in my business. This is going to be the year where I make a real difference. A real step change in all aspects of my life. There'll be no half-measures and no holding back.
And one thing's for sure, Im not going to wait until the 1st January to start making it happen. The change starts TODAY! In fact, by the time you read this article the wheels will already be in motion and I'll be pushing forward like never before.
What Does This Mean For My Training & Nutrition?
Bulking. Simple as that. I'm going to zero my focus and attention on building muscle throughout the year. Trust me this isn't going to be the easiest option I could've picked. Those abs I worked so hard to sculpt will disappear and in reality, I'm at the stage now where the year on year gains are likely to be relatively small.
In effect, I'm going to work super hard for what will amount to small amount of muscle growth. But it WILL be worth it. I'll be sticking true to my principles and pushing the limits of what I think is achievable and making the best version of me possible.
What does bulking mean for me?
As you can imagine there's lots of theory and bro-science around what the best strategy is for bulking. Lift big and eat big is one such "theory" that I keep hearing a lot in the last few days. Scour any forum and you'll see various threads awash with different people dispensing their own brand of advice and guidance. The Iron Paradise Fitness approach is a little more scientific and calculated as you can no doubt guess.
At IPF, I don't do bro-science. For me, the guy with the biggest ego doesn't usually give the best advice. And let's face it what works for ego-guy won't necessarily work for you or I.
So where do you start when planning a bulk?
Like any good training programme, you need to start with the the solid foundation of good nutrition. Getting your nutrition on point is equally important when you're trying to pack on muscle as it is when you're trying to shed that body fat for the summer beach body.
If you overshoot your calories too much, then you're going to put on an unnecessary amount of body fat that you'll have to work much harder to shed when it finally comes to your cut.
By the very nature of bulking, you're going to put of some body fat. There's simply no avoiding it. Unless you're brand new to weight lifting, you're going to need to be in a calorie surplus to put on a decent amount of muscle. But you can control how much.
You don't need to scoff tubs of ice cream, McDonalds, pizza, and junk food to bulk up. That's not what it's all about. The old theories and approach of purely focusing on calorie consumption are outdated and a thing of the past. Macros are still vitally important to getting the right body composition whether you're bulking or cutting.
I'll be aiming to hit a 10% calorie surplus on a day to day basis.
I find this has worked for me really well in the past and it's generally the start point for my clients. Everyone is different and in some cases 10% surplus won't be enough. You need to monitor and listen to your body to cut your nutrition set up just right.
All calculations like Katch-McArdle are great to get you there or thereabouts, but you do need to take into account that these are averages of averages, so be prepared to adjust and flex your calorie consumption as needed.
Meal timing isn't really a factor when you're bulking. In my experience you'll have to eat fairly regularly to simply get the calories in during the day. Leaving them all to your main meals is likely to leave you with an uncomfortable feeling on a daily basis. Focus on good pre and post workout nutrition and work the rest around your lifestyle.
I talk more about these aspects of nutrition in my eBook, which you can download for free here if you want more information.
How is my training going to change?
In the main, my training won't really change from where it is right now.
Heavy compound weight lifting is the most effective way to train, so that will always be at the core of what I do in the gym. What I have decided to do this time around is to focus on specific body parts that I feel could do with some extra growth.
I'm at the stage in my training now where my overall development is good and it's now about honing in on specific areas and weak points. If you're considering a bulk right about now, I'd still recommend putting your attention towards an overall muscle development programme until you have about 2 years of solid training of this nature under your belt. It's this foundation that will be the spring board for your future physique development, so be patient and take the time to get those building blocks in place.
The specific parts I'll be training this time around are Chest and Legs. I feel like my arm development is outstripping my chest and I really want to keep everything in good proportion.
In terms of legs, I'm always a bit self-conscious about legs. I get paranoid that they're not developed enough because I can't push as hard due to my hip injury. So, I'm devoting some attention to them over the next few months.
At the bottom of this article I've detailed out what that new training split is going to look like, so scroll down to see the punishment I've chosen to inflict on myself for at least the next 6 months...
The moral of this story...
Thinking about it there's several messages I'm trying to get across to you in this post...
Be Tenacious - Chase your goals and don't let obstacles and procrastination stand in your way. You are the person that can make the difference and only you can make the positive change a reality. As The Rock would say, "Chase your greatness".
Don't Settle - Never settle for second best. Give things your all and never be satisfied. There's always ways to improve and get better at whatever it is you put your mind to.
Plan - 2017 isn't that far away, so start planning what your goals and objectives will be. And more importantly come up with a plan for how you're going to tackle them.
Don't wait - Why wait until January 1st to get started on making that transformation? If you can do something today that edges you towards your ultimate goal, then do it. Don't sit on your ass for the next week.
Remember, the easiest option isn't always the best option.
Stay hungry, keep grinding, and keep hustling every day!
p.s. here's a couple of pics from the Giants game. I had an awesome time despite the fact I'm a die-hard Broncos fan!
Helping you achieve your goals in 2017...
Hey, before you leave can I ask you a quick question? "How would achieving your dream body in 2017 make you feel?"
Do you long for biceps like the peak of Mount Everest, a chest like Batman's armour, cannonball shoulders, steel thighs, and shredded abs? Maybe you want to get that toned look and get rid of excess body fat.
If you've been struggling in the past, following all manner of training programmes and diets and never seen much progress, you could be forgiven for thinking that it's just not possible for someone like you to achieve that cover model physique.
But the great news is YOU CAN. And it doesn't have to be as difficult as you might think.
Yes, you'll have to put in the hard yards at the gym and be measured with your diet. But I'd love to work with you to remove all the complexity and frustration you've been feeling in the past.
I want to do all the planning, research and programme set up for you, so you have a truly effective training & nutrition programme from day 1. Your training and nutrition plan will be 100% personalised for your goals, your needs, and YOUR lifestyle.
I'll provide you with a nutrition plan you'll actually enjoy following and a training plan that won't have you spending hours in the gym.
And you WILL get results. GUARANTEED. That's right. I'll put my money where my mouth is. I'm all about results and if I can't get you the results you want and you're not entirely satisfied then you can have your money back.
Doesn't that sound great?
I'll also want to be there to motivate and support you along the way, so you'll never go off track and you'll always be progressing.
With the New Year just around the corner, now is the perfect time to get your training and nutrition set up perfectly to make fast progress. End the year with a bang and get a head start on 2017.
Make 2017 YOUR year and the year of BIG changes. Kick-start YOUR transformation today.
Click here to head over to the Online Coaching section of the website where you'll get all the detail on the 3 programmes I offer. And if you like what you see, get in touch. You can even request a free 1:1 consultation with me to talk about your fitness goals and what you want to achieve in 2017. This is an opportunity for you to have a chat with me and decide if I'm the right coach for you.
I'm looking forward to hearing from you and helping you make your fitness goals a reality!
Oh. And here's my new training split for those of you that might want to follow a similar programme...
New training Split.
A new 6 day training split is going to be tested out with double doses of chest and legs. It's not something I've tried before, so I'm keen to see if the extra volume has a significant impact on muscle growth. If it does, it will be an approach I'll weave in to client programmes in the future.
This is the programme I've designed...
Day 1 - Chest (Workout #1)
Incline Barbell Bench Press
Flat Bench Press
Incline DB Press
Over the course of the week there will be a slight variation between the exercises performed in each of the chest sessions. This workout mirrors what I've been doing over the last few months. I've removed the cable crossovers that I was doing to bring out the striations in my chest prior to my recent photo-shoot. I will replace these with 1-2 extra sets on the first couple of exercises.
Day 2 - Legs (Workout #1)
Lying Leg Curls
Leg Press Calf Raises
Seated Calf Raises
Again, similarly to the first chest workout, this leg session is pretty much a carbon copy of what I'm doing right now. The leg press is a great exercise for me as I can load up the machine with heavy weights and I'm not particularly restricted by flexibility concerns. I wouldn't normally do leg extensions, but as I have a second session later in the week, I've added this isolation exercise so that I can hit the quad from a different angle.
Day 3 - Back
Single Arm Row
My back workout is totally unchanged from what it is today. I'll still be working on heavy weights and improving one rep at a time. Depending on time, I'll throw in 1 or 2 bicep exercises, just to keep the guns working hard.
Day 4 - Chest (Workout #2)
Incline Barbell Press
Flat Bench Press
Close-Grip Bench Press
Decline Barbell Press
Workout number 2 of the week for chest sees a little variation creeping in. The close-grip bench presses will target the chest from a different angle whilst also heavily working the triceps. The decline presses will work on the lower portion of the chest muscle. Something that I've never really bothered with in the past, but I'm willing to use this time to experiment a little bit and see what generates the most growth.
Day 5 - Legs (Workout #2)
Leg Press Calf Raises
Seated Calf Raises
This is quite simply going to be a brutal day in the gym. Kicking off with 2 forms of squats is going to be tough. It might be tough, but it's what I need to maximise leg development during this bulk. The Romanian Deadlifts are always a a great exercise for the hamstrings and glutes, which I feel I neglect a bit in my training.
Day 6 - Shoulders
Overhead Barbell Press
Shoulders is unchanged from my current routine. Again, it'll be a case of heavy weights and improving one rep at a time. I'll be switching from DB shrugs to barbell. Mainly because I can load the bar up with more weight and give the traps a bit more of a pounding. During my cut, I'd eased off trap exercises as having that no neck look wasn't high on my priority list.