You know that whole “new me, new you, new us” declaration that floods the world every year around New Years? Not a fan. Don’t get me wrong – I support change and will always be a vehicle for people to better themselves through Power Athlete. It’s the lack of follow through on hollow promises that irks me. But I believe 2021 can be different. Let me explain.
Last January, before 2020 became 2020-mageddon (Tex, write that down!), I spoke at the NSCA’s Coaches Conference in San Antonio, TX. The subject was metabolic flexibility – one I had been working for about 10 years. This may sound crazy but when I first heard the term Metabolic Flexibility back in 2011, I thought that it might be the answer to health, performance and longevity.
During my NFL days, I realized early on that well-developed strength, speed, power mixed with a high level of conditioning were just the minimum requirements for success. To play at the highest level and be considered one of the best, I had to master other elements.
One them was flexibility, but not in the yoga sense. I’m talking Metabolic Flexibility.
Metabolic flexibility is an organism’s ability to respond and adapt to changes in metabolic or energy demand, prevailing conditions, or activity.
As a professional football player, if I could not adapt easily to the many demands in real time, I would fail, despite physical gifts. For example, we commonly went from playing in summertime 100+ degree heat with 80-99% humidity to negative Green Bay January temperatures per season. Players had to physically adapt to different environments while performing at a high level.
I had to adapt to various defenses and player styles, and again and again as demands changed. What if my opponent was a small, faster pass rusher instead of that 350-pound monster better suited as a road grader than a football player I saw daily in training camp? Adapt, or take an ass beating.
Exercise is a physiological condition requiring metabolic flexibility to match fuel availability with metabolic machinery to meet enormous increases in energy demands. Physical exercise and exertion place the largest demands on metabolic flexibility. The harder and more varied the exercise and physical requirements, the more metabolically flexible an individual must be.
That means if you are not following a training program that is constantly pushing you to be the best version of yourself, you must find a new program. Last year’s results won’t cut it this year. We constantly strive for improvement.
The greatest determining factor for metabolic flexibility is lean muscle mass. More muscle requires more metabolic flexibility to support it. Thus, the more muscle you carry and the leaner you are, the greater your metabolically flexibility.
Darwin said, “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to best adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.
Targeting metabolic flexibility as a goal for 2021, let’s focus on these 8 rules for success.
1. Be Flexible.
No, I’m not talking about Van Damme split kicks. I mean, adapt to environments and stresses as they present themselves. An example none more obvious was when gyms closed in March. In response, Power Athlete launched Third Monkey, a program executable with a few items found at your local Home Depot, Lowes, or Home Improvement Center to the tune of 50 bucks. Those that were flexible changed their training environment and used the resources we provided to keep crushing goals.
2. Exercise as a Driver
The neurological benefits of exercise are well established. Stronger, fitter people can endure greater hardship and pivot upon adversity. Actuary tables shows the probability by age for dying before their next birthday. Per these tables, the greatest determining factor for longevity is muscle mass. When muscle mass declines, we are approaching the end of the journey. Therefore, to stay in the fight for your next birthday, wake up with the singular focus on improving strength, increasing lean body mass, and possessing a large aerobic base, all of which in totality help avoid sickness and illness. I have created simple exercise solutions to assist in this process.
3. Eat Enough Protein for Muscle
If muscle is the primary driver for metabolic flexibility, we must eat to maintain (at minimum) and, ultimately, increase muscle. This means a high protein diet, 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Your daily total calories will depend on whether you are trying to gain or lose body weight, but regardless, you have to eat in a high protein diet if muscle is the goal. If you need help with your nutrition, hit us up!
4. Testing to Identify Problems
I always recommend blood and gut testing to my one on one clients. Since the early 2000’s, I have gotten my blood work done twice a year, as I have always wanted to be proactive about my health and address issues early.
I find that most people that have serious problems have hints beforehand. When the doctor asks, “Have you noticed any changes in your health?”, most answer “no” because they don’t know what to say. Be honest with your doctor even if it seems insignificant. Before my dad got sick, he suddenly couldn’t take a single pill – he just kept throwing them up. This went on for a few years and it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with stomach cancer that he realized this was an issue. I know this is extreme, but simple things like food intolerances, rashes, athlete’s foot, or poor sleep can lead to bigger problems if not addressed.
The research is pretty conclusive – those that sprint are stronger and leaner than those that do not.
Even if it just one day a week, go find a 30 to 50-yard slight grassy incline and sprint. I have yet in my training history to see anyone sprint uphill poorly. Give me 6-10 reps at a controlled intensity for your first day. Use the walk back down as recovery and push yourself. If you need more direction, you can check out Power Athlete’s Speed Kills.
6. Don’t Waste time
We don’t accomplish our tasks because we don’t budget time. I recommend you create a flexible daily plan with a mission statement of: what must I accomplish today to consider it a success? Allow moderate flexibility to accommodate day-to-day fires, but don’t get carried away with it – you’ll lose focus that way.
Develop a weekly plan, too. This plan is slightly more rigid than the daily plan since you have a week to get x number of tasks complete (i.e. assuming no hard deadline, it doesn’t matter if you get it done Tuesday or Wednesday, as long as it gets done).=
Finally, set up monthly and yearly plans. These are high level and rigid as these goals have hard-outs by January, February, summer, etc.
Be diligent, resilient, and unrelenting when attacking tasks. Nobody is coming to save you. Nobody will drag you to the gym. Nobody is spoon-feeding your pre-prepped meals. Own your goals, which includes owning your path to them.
7. Identify Weaknesses
Everyone must identify blind spots and weak points. With training, it is easy to find the physical ones. If I am squatting heavy and my back keeps breaking posture at the bottom, is it my technique or do I have a weak back? Probably both. Some quality coaching and smart programming is generally the fix here.
But what about those blind spots that are not easy to identify? These require self-discovery, usually with the help of a certified professional who can help you work through lingering, unresolved issues preventing you from being the best version of yourself.
Keep an eye on Power Athlete in 2021 for updates and recommendations on how to improve the realm outside of the training. Power Athlete has long survived on the Eat The Weak mantra – so much so it is one of our registered trademarks.
8. Build on Strengths
Fitness experts and Internet gurus talk weaknesses ad nauseam. While I believe you must identify weakness, you also must build upon your strengths for continuous improvement.
Every time I have tried to max my conditioning along with strength, I have seen a backwards slide. Personally, I have to find novel ways to push my conditioning and strength, usually by way of new stimuluses and skills to master.
To be completely honest, 2020 wasn’t my best year training wise. I had shoulder surgery last December to fix residual damage from my NFL days. Until then, I powered through my injury, as I believe surgery is the last resort after due diligence, but it got to the point where it became a limiting factor.
I spent the first part of 2020 rehabbing and making progress. Then the shutdown hit and the rehab folks were shut down. It wasn’t till a few months later when everything headed towards “normal” and I could restart my progression. At that point, I continued to train but with limited intensity. Now one year post-surgery, I’ve reached a point where I can step on the accelerator, fight for the best version of myself to be the HAMR.
I am excited for 2021 as I think we will rebound big from a strange year.
If you need help or recommendations on training, testing, identifying weakness and strengths and/or life, reach out via social media or on the Power Athlete Training feeds.