Train Smart

Alarm clock rings on my phone, 3.15am on the screen. Jumping out of bed, grabbing Vitamin C powder and running straight to the toilet. Early start, only a few hours before the shoot starts and few hours left until I will be pumping up for the shoot. To get the last few stages of preparation wrong could undo a lot of hard work over the last 3-4 months, so every little detail in the last few hours is vital.

Three months earlier, I made the decision to book a photo shoot. I wanted a goal, a target. I wanted something to work towards. Too long had I been going to the gym with no real aim? Don’t get me wrong I always trained hard. I always gave 110% in the gym, but with no real purpose. It was time for me to make a change. I needed that extra push, that incentive, that focus. It was only towards the end of last year (October 2013) that I moved from Ireland to London to do a PhD in Cancer Research in the University of Surrey when I began to take my training more seriously.

Science has always been a passion for me. Trying to question how things work, why things are the way they are, what goes on inside our bodies and how we can use this knowledge to our benefit? This is exactly how I approach training.

Over the last 12 weeks or so, I’ve definitely approached my training, nutrition and everything involved in preparing for a photo-shoot with a science head. I have always coached myself and trained myself. I find it easier, more flexible. Even from a semi-pro rugby and a national level athletics background I very much learned to train myself or do what extras I felt needed to be done. Yes, it can be more stressful, thinking for yourself, especially when I know only a certain amount of information and may be relatively new to the fitness industry. I have a limited amount of information compared to a lot of Personal Trainers, however nobody knows my body better than I do. This doesn’t mean that I don’t listen or get information from the people around me. I’m extremely lucky to be surrounded by a lot of knowledgeable people whose opinions I listen to and take on board.

Due to my job, science is everything to me. How we are able to utilize modern day science to become smarter about the way we train, recover and our nutrition is becoming more and more important. On a cellular level or nutritional level, literature is paramount. However, I’m also more aware of how easy it is to manipulate and/or fabricate data. I see it all day, every day. Literature be it cancer related or fitness related surrounds my day. Knowing how to interpret data is key. Taking “science” or “literature” with a pinch of salt to me is the biggest take home point here. How my body might react to a specific stress or stimulant might vary hugely compared to yours, whether this is on a genetic, epigenetic or environmental level. Listening to our bodies after having opened our minds to the literature, physiology, mechanistic pathways and various other factors involved is where you get that edge. Gone are the days where you do something because “some guy” at the gym said it. If you’re not questioning what you do, then you don’t think about it enough, and if you don’t think about it enough then you’re not going to progress. “Blood sweat and tears” and “110% dedication” alone won’t get you very far in our ever evolving world. You go ahead and give 110%, but when a smarter more intelligent person gives 75% you’re going to be in trouble.

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