The storm blew your roof off, now what?

The storm blew your roof off, now what?

Don’t worry, this is not a post about the weather or tornadoes, but bear with me a little.

“If it were this easy, everyone would look perfect”.

I’m referring to the exercise-nutrition-weightloss equation here.

Because of our human nature, we all fall into the trap of: “I’m not training enough and I’m eating too much, so if I exercise MORE and eat LESS, I will lose weight”.

It seems like a pretty straightforward solution, but once again: “If it were this easy, everyone would look perfect”.

And no, the reason for failure is not because of lack of discipline: even among ultra-disciplined athletes (like the endurance athletes / triathletes in my own circles), this formula doesn't work.

While there are exceptions of course, there are some common trends in the fitness community:

  • You’re overweight, so you get into triathlon and start training for long hours

  • You lose a decent amount of weight

  • Then things stall, and you can’t shift the final few Kgs

  • So you train MORE and eat LESS

  • That doesn't work either! Not only do you not lose weight, but you start falling ill more often, your consistency in training starts to suffer, etc.

So what’s going on?

Let me try to explain it in simple terms.

Imagine that your body is a farm. It’s a strong and healthy farm.

Then a tornado comes and blows the roof off the farm!

So the farmer quickly orders building materials and starts repairing the roof. Only this time, he’s learned his lesson, and he builds a STRONGER roof, so the next tornado cannot do this much damage.

It takes him 2 days to build this strong roof. The farmer (your body) is pretty smart this way.

Then another tornado comes! This time it only damages a small side of the roof because the roof is stronger! So the farmer orders more materials, and 2 days later that weaker side of the roof is now even stronger!

And so on… the cycle keeps repeating itself until a year down the road, the farmer’s roof is super strong and able to withstand any tornado.

You see the tornado is a "stressor" (any form of training, work stress, flying, etc). It can cause damage when it happens, but then your body rebuilds itself STRONGER to deal with it if it happens again.

Now imagine a slightly different scenario.

It starts the same way. Tornado hits, roof flies off, farmer orders supplies to rebuild, but the next morning (in the middle of construction), ANOTHER TORNADO HITS AGAIN! This time it doesn't only damage the roof, but it rips some of the walls and destroys the furniture! The farmer was lucky to get out of this one alive!

So he orders more supplies to rebuild the walls and roof. But guess what!? The third morning, ANOTHER TORNADO HITS! Walls ripped, building materials fly off, furniture destroyed… the farmer is exhausted, broke and can’t survive anymore… he files for bankruptcy…

Ok let’s bring the discussion back to training and fitness.

In the first scenario: you train, you bring in supplies (nutrition), your rebuild (recovery) and 2 days later you’re ready to train again even harder.

In the second scenario: you train, you bring in supplies (nutrition), then you train again (no recovery), and again… until your body says: enough! I’m shutting down.

Shutting down means: lower metabolism, more fat storage, lower hormones, higher cortisol, weaker immune system, elevated inflammation, etc.

THAT is why I schedule a 30min training session on some days: you’re rebuilding your roof, otherwise you can’t handle the tornado coming on the 3rd day!

Over time, your roof will get stronger and stronger, and your ability to resist tornadoes will get stronger: you will be able to train harder more frequently as time goes by.

But what about elite amateur athletes or professional athletes? They don’t seem to need “recovery”

Let’s go back to the farmer again. There are 2 difference here.

You see the bodies of these elite athletes are different. They are a RICH farmer:

Difference #1: their roof and walls are already stronger, they can resist the tornado more (less damage)

Difference #2: well, they’re rich!

How does being rich make a difference? Here’s how:

  • The tornado hits this rich farmer’s farm, and does some damage to the roof.
  • The farmer picks up the phone, hires and army of repairmen, buys tons of supplies, and 3 hours later the roof is fixed and even stronger than before!

So EVEN if a tornado hits again ON THE SAME DAY, the roof is already repaired!

How does that translate to athletes?

Difference #1: these athletes are genetically gifted with more resilient bodies, which can take more abuse and take less damage as a result.

Difference #2: they have TIME and RESOURCES:

  • They get sports massages on a regular basis
  • They can rest and recover after ever workout (no “day job”)
  • They get the best nutrition products (many for “free”)
  • They use electro-stimulation and Compex-like products to enhance recovery
  • Hot-cold contrast treatments
  • And so on…

Bottom Line

If you want to train and become strong and lean, you need to give your body what it needs to recover: recovery and good nutrition.

And remember, a tornado that lasts 30min but is VERY strong will do as much damage as a medium-strength tornado that lasts for 1 hour or more… why? well even though your muscles might not be sore after a long easy bike ride, your nervous and immune systems would be working overtime during and afterwards, and they need a break too…

A couple of clarifications:

Recovery days are NOT “off” days. You can still train, but in a less stressful way

A tornado can be a hard training session, but can equally be a long flight, a stressful day at work, etc. so take those into account

Types of training tornadoes:

  • High Intensity Interval Training
  • Long endurance session: 2-5 hours on the bike, a 90min run, etc.
  • Crossfit
  • Circuit training
  • Heavy resistance training
  • A hard game of football, rugby, etc.
  • Hard swims (e.g. 50s or 100s)

Types of “recovery” training:

  • Balance exercises
  • Mobility exercises
  • Core exercises
  • Triggerpoint
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Easy paddle boarding
  • Recovery run or bike
  • Easy swim

Types of non-training tornadoes (not comprehensive):

  • Flying (the longer the flight the bigger/stronger the tornado)
  • Foods containing pesticides or Omega 6 inflammatory FA (corn-fed meat/chicken)
  • Sugar
  • Dairy: low-fat or dairy from corn-fed cows
  • Un-sprouted Grains (wheat, corn, etc.) and Legumes
  • Soy
  • Mental / emotional stress
  • Pollution, toxic mold, etc
  • Viruses & bacteria

As usual, feel free to drop questions or thoughts in the comments below.