Despite the fact that I am a total right-brain-make-a-list-for-everything-type-A-kind of gal, I was never great at following plans. No, correction. I was never great at following plans other people made for me, mostly because my pride would get in the way.
For example, when I decided to do my first marathon in Walt Disney World many moons ago, I signed up with Team in Training, an organization that provides athletes with a group and coach to work out with. Participants raise funds for cancer research throughout the course of the 3 month long training, and I quickly joined the team because my mom had recently passed away from the dreaded illness and I wanted to do SOMETHING grand in her memory. After the introductory group meeting when the coach described the set up of the running program, I soon realized that I was one of the faster runners (even though I’d never run more than 8 miles), the youngest person there by far, and could probably fare pretty well in the 26.2 mile race. But then I looked at the weekly training schedule, and internally scoffed at it.
Run only 3-4 times a week?
What is this “deload” thing for? Why do I need to let my body “rest”?
Why don’t we ever run a full 26.2? How will only going 20 miles prepare me for this monstrous race?
When the coach asked if I had any questions, I politely shook my head no, but inside I knew that an extra 20 minutes on the “easy” recovery run day or another extra 5 miler thrown in after the long run day probably wouldn’t hurt me. OF COURSE I knew better than the professional in charge of the training.
I soon realized how little I knew about running, and that my pride would get the best of me.
True to form, throughout the course of the three month training, I logged in a few more miles on Mondays and Wednesdays, re-ran the previous week’s mileage when I was supposed to deload, and added another mile to the long runs as a cool down. Flying to Florida for the race, I was a bit tired, but chalked it up to waking early to catch a long flight and the pre-race jitters that raged through my body. The marathon began on a Sunday at 6am, so I showed up to the start line at 5am. Just walking to the start, my legs felt like lead. I tried pushing the gnawing voice of “OH MY GOD YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!” out of my brain, and when the race began, I started out at a conservative pace, shuffling along with the other 10-minute milers. It was deathly cold (50 degrees for this Hawaii gal is freezing), and when mile three and four ticked by, my calves started to cramp a little. Mile ten came and went, and my knees ached. Mile fifteen signaled the point when I knew I had made a mistake adding in those extra miles: my feet were flat, my thighs felt jello-y, and I saw Jeff Galloway cruise right past me with a smile on his face like he had just started the race. Oof. The one positive take away from the marathon was that I accomplished my goal and finished in under five hours–sadly, the last 10k felt like it lasted forever and I mentally counted every step from mile 20 until the end, telling myself I could lay in a tub of bubbles after the ordeal was over. Thank goodness for the men and women dressed in Disney character costumes cheering us runners on towards the end, otherwise I probably would have dropped out.
I thought I knew better than the coach, who to his credit, was quite an accomplished long distance runner with numerous marathon and local race wins under his belt, and so did what I thought was best. Adding additional miles onto an already strenuous training regimen along with skipping rest weeks did not equate to marathon success. In my case, it resulted in marathon pain.
My pride got to me then, and as a result I’m always quite vigilant about my pride getting the best of me now. For example, take this last period when I saw a dietitian to help me gain weight. From the onset, this professional gave me a very regimented meal plan to follow which included daily Haagen Daas desserts, fries everyday if I wanted it, and full fat milk with every meal. I tried to push aside my “I think I know better” thoughts and followed her plan, yet as I documented in my previous post, there came a point when the structure of the meal plan left me feeling down right miserable. That feeling plus being away from my family to attend groups left me struggling with the prospect of stopping seeing her and finding guidance elsewhere. My biggest concern, however, was that I didn’t want my decision to leave be one sourced in pride.
Did I really not agree with her meal plan structure? Or was it that I thought I knew better than her and was projecting my own prideful views on her methods? After much prayer, deliberation, and talking it over with my husband, I realized that my desire to gain weight did not have to leave me feeling physically, emotionally, and psychologically drained. There are other options out there, and so I made the decision to find guidance with food and exercise elsewhere. I knew I needed someone to hold me accountable to gaining weight, and that same person also needed to be educated in nutrition so as to help me tinker with my food intake if I wasn’t gaining or, Heaven forbid, lost weight. On the flip side, what if I saw another professional for guidance and she gave me a lovely meal plan to follow, but I once again took the same “I know better” route and merely tinkered with the template until it was unrecognizable to the original?
That was where RP stepped in.
RP, or Renaissance Periodization, is a program I discovered while scouring Instagram about a year and a half ago. At the time, I was wanting to make gains with my weightlifting, and it seemed like EVERY SINGLE WEIGHTLIFTER was adhering to this company’s protocols of pre/post training eating. I hate to say that RP is a “program” because the facets of their approach to health, eating, and performance are purposeful and thoughtful lifestyle changes that many individuals need to make regardless if they are athletes or not. Some of the tenants most RP folks adhere to are as follows:
Eating every 3-4 hours so the body doesn’t go too long without fuel.
Eating whole foods whenever possible.
Including vegetables at (almost) every meal.
Making sure to include all three vital macronutrients throughout the day.
Eating/drinking carbohydrates and protein around training time so muscles are adequately fueled.
Making sure the body gets enough rest and deloads (ha ha, there’s that word again!) so it doesn’t stress itself out.
Eating/drinking casein before bed to help muscle repair.
These statements may seem like standard and common sense approaches to nutrition (well, maybe you may not have known the thing about casein), but with the onslaught of Atkins-Keto-Low Carb-Paleo-and-the-list-goes-on-diets, these aims of RP are (sadly) NOT the norm for some folks.
In my last foray with RP, I followed their massing template and put on around 10 pounds over the span of 3 weeks. I also PRd many of my lifts and felt energetic and fulfilled. After my 12 week massing season ended, however, I didn’t follow the RP maintenance protocol as I should have (once again, pride got in the way and I thought I knew how to handle weight maintenance, ha ha), and ended up losing the hard earned weight I had gained. Thus, months later, I ended up ten pounds down, staring at an Easter picture of a skinny-me, wondering what went wrong.
Ahh, that pride got in the way.
And so my journey to weight gain (which you are probably familiar with now after reading my posts) took a detour from RP as I started seeing my old eating disorder-specialized dietitian. After following her structure for a little less than a month, I regained all ten pounds. Wonderful, right? Well, in actuality I felt awfully lethargic and was on a constant diet of highly processed food and caffeine, which I knew was contributing to me feeling physically BLAH. I didn’t have energy or a spring in my step, even with the additional weight on my body–and sadly, these first ten pounds were only the starting point as I actually wanted to gain beyond that in order to help me increase my lifts in the gym. I was quite lost at this point as I couldn’t forsee myself following this dietitian’s structure for the next month or two or three. It wasn’t until talking to a gal from an RP online group about my situation that she suggested I go back to the templates, start off maintaining on those, and then attempt another weight gain cycle once my body was adjusted to eating more whole foods. My online friend is quite knowledgeable on the subject of weight gain and RP had worked in my situation before, so I dusted off the old templates I purchased almost a year ago and started once again at square 1. After a week or so of eating on the massing template, I found myself feeling a whole lot more energized–my lifts didn’t feel monstrously heavy like in the previous weeks, and I was able to go through a busy day on only 2 cups of coffee a day. My weight was stable, and eating peanut butter daily, making my own chicken for dinner, and preparing vegetables for our family felt exciting and new.
But like anything “new”, I anticipated the honeymoon phase to end. Because there was no person I could check in with like I did with my old dietitian, I COULD follow the template one day, I COULD NOT follow it another day. There was no person to hold me accountable and slap my hand to say, “No, you need 1/2 cup more of rice with that meal.” More importantly, I was afraid my pride would get to me, and that the massing diet would morph into a juggling of macronutrients so that my meals could fit what I thought was best for me at the time. James 4:10 says to “Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Well, I needed that humility in me. I needed to give the reigns over to someone else totally, a professional who could help me gain weight healthfully and with great intention.
And then the day came. I was browsing through Facebook one afternoon, thinking about my lack of humility and how I really needed outside help to get me where I wanted to go, when an ad for someone called the Nutrition Tactician popped up on my feed. I didn’t think much of his smiling face and was about to continue scrolling when I caught one of my friend’s comments under his photo.
“Paul is awesome. Listen to this video he just made.”
Maybe it was divine intervention–maybe Jesus knew I needed an answer to pop up right in front of me. Either way, I clicked on his video about dieting myths, and it was then that I knew. Paul Salter, a RP dietitian and founder of The Nutrition Tactician, was the professional I wanted to guide me in gaining weight. Needless to say, within minutes of messaging him, I was sent forms to fill out, and just like that, Paul became my accountability partner, the person who I trusted (and am still trusting) to get me where I want to be with my weight and lifting. What was it about Paul that I was drawn to? Well, despite the fact that he is a friendly and energetic person in general, I appreciated the way he was able to explain complex nutritional advice in an understandable way. Plus, when I initially talked with him about my history with anorexia, he immediately said that I wouldn’t have to weigh-in if I didn’t want to as seeing numbers on a scale may be triggering–for me, seeing how much pounds I am isn’t a source of negativity so I do weigh myself with Paul, but I appreciated that he was cognizant of the fact that seeing a number on a scale may cause unnecessary mental anguish. Furthermore, he laid out a plan that lasted beyond just a month–he took into consideration my goals and timed out appropriate massing and maintenance weight phases for the next year or so.
Paul prescribes a very detailed meal plan for me to follow–daily eating times are broken down according to what kind of training I’m doing when, and I email him my weights twice a week along with any other questions I may have. Here’s the thing though: it would be very easy for me to alter the templates he created for me or sub in this protein for this carb or not eat a fat serving now and save it for later. I could let my pride or “I know better” thinking affect my daily eating. But for what purpose? I’m investing in a professional’s guidance in helping me gain weight, and so far I have been faring well in following his plan and seeing results in the gym and out. The proof of his expertise (I am making personal bests in all my lifts, have increased energy so I’m only drinking 1/3 cup of coffee in the morning to wake up instead of multiple energy drinks throughout the day, and eating for a mass cycle that has me gaining steadily each week) makes it easy to know that the plan he has me on is GOLD. I don’t need to change anything because the results speak for themselves.
My decision to work with Paul, however, is quite individualized according to my physical and emotional needs. Would I have made the same choice if I were hovering at 90 pounds and running everyday? Probably not. Would I have made the same choice if I were at a similar weight to what I am now but mentally fearful of eating avocados and nuts and putting Vitargo in my intra-training shake? Probably not. The thing is, Paul gives me a plan and it is then up to me to follow through on it. Everyday when I wake up, I know that there is a template to adhere to, and so I push aside my pride and make my breakfast, prepare my after training meal, and devour my nighttime casein because I know that these actions are healthy for me.
I have goals to attain, and I’m not only referring to powerlifting totals. I want to be able to fuel myself throughout the day in a way that allows me the most flexibility to be a mom, teacher and wife. I want to be able to fuel myself so that I am able to get my kids ready for the school day, lecture to all my classes on Walden, and prepare dinner for my family without feeling physically spent. I want to live the life God intended me to live, and the only way to do that is if I’m physically, emotionally, and spiritually strong.
Some may say that following a regimented eating schedule like what I follow is no different than when I was restricting myself to one Subway sandwich a day or subsisting on vegetables and diet soda. There may be some truth in that both styles of eating require a person to have a certain type of meal at a certain time, but here’s the catch: the plan Paul has laid out for me was made with the intention to help me thrive in all of my daily activities. Unlike the rigid veggie-Subway-diet soda diet I adhered to for many years while in the thick of anorexia, there is no condemnation or feelings of dread if I eat more than prescribed. I know that I can go out with my family for dinner and the anxious pangs of “Oh no, what do I eat?!” are not ruminating in my thoughts like they would have many years ago. Paul and RP have given me accountability to maintain my health, a mindset of moderation in what to eat and how to train, and most importantly, a lifestyle change that has awarded me more freedom to live an energetic and freeing life in and out of the gym.
As always, I will keep you all updated on my progress with Paul and RP. For the first time in a long time, I feel comfortable with the weight I gained and HOW I gained said pounds. Rather than feel lethargic and conflicted about getting bigger legs and beefier arms, I am actually looking forward to making additional gains in the upcoming weeks. I am constantly reminded that like everything in life, there is a season for all things. Right now is the time for me to make strides in my physical strength and use those external gains to encourage and propel me to continue to improve my emotional and spiritual well being–and I couldn’t be more excited to see what transpires in the following weeks.