The pandemic and ensuing lockdown has been a period of growth, mentally and physically.
My perspectives on life have been challenged and the forced disruptions it has placed upon my routines have been a reckoning.
Ever since I started martial arts, I have never stopped training for more than one to two weeks.
Then the pandemic hit and the sweeping lockdown measures brought life to a standstill.
Not only did my ironman streak come to an untimely end, worse yet, my progress in the weight room had slowed to a crawl.
The temporary closure of gyms, parks and dojos all speak to the unusual circumstances I had to confront in lockdown for three months while trying to maintain my fitness levels.
WORKING OUT AT HOME
Trapped in the confines of my small apartment, I certainly wasn’t content with twiddling my thumbs.
I filled a tactical backpack with rice bags and water bottles, a makeshift weight if you will. Together with my trusty pull-up bar and some resistance bands, it made for some sweat work but was still an inadequate replacement for the raw power of weightlifting.
Physiologically I also began experiencing several changes.
Because I wasn’t walking to the office any longer, my physical output for the day was mostly constant shuffles between my kitchen, desk and couch.
VARYING MY NUTRITIONAL INTAKE
Stripped of the regular physical activity I was accustomed to, my natural calorie burn during the day dipped and my body fat levels climbed ever so slightly.
In lieu of this, I adjusted my nutritional intake. I removed major sources of carbohydrates (starches) and upped my consumption of fats all while maintaining my calories, essentially leaning towards a ketogenic style diet.
Since carbohydrates are used as fuel for the body and my daily energy expenditure during lockdown had drastically decreased, I didn’t need as much of them, if at all.
BUSTING THE PLATEAU
When the lockdown lifted and I hit the gym for the first time in three months, my body was in for a total shock.
However, a key catalyst for growth is stress. In particular, muscle growth occurs when the body is subjected to a load of stress greater than what it had previously adapted to.
This is also why most muscle building programs recommend lifting progressively heavier weights.
To fuel my body during this phase, I resumed my regular intake of carbohydrates, going from a 50-60% fat , 30% protein and 10% carbohydrates mix to 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 10% fat diet.
So while there was a slight adjustment period, I was pleasantly surprised to learn I had gained about seven to eight pounds of solid muscle.
As they often say, progress isn’t linear. Sometimes taking a step backwards now is actually setting you up to take two steps forward later.