Firstly I would like to start this entry by saying thank you to those of you who have read not only my diary posts but also the other write-ups on my site. I would also like to thank those who messaged/inboxed me directly or on comments. I am glad that you have been touched by my story and that it has inspired you to action. I would just like to raise something at this point. There is inspiration all around you. I know of people who weren’t as lucky as I am and are fighting to come back at the moment, as well as those who overcome difficulties each day to get what they want. It doesn’t have to be a broken neck or some sought of injury. Limitations can vary from addictions, to overcoming depression to the extreme of metabolic issues or disease and all those who triumph over their challenges are heroes in my eyes.
I see my training lifestyle as a metaphor for life. Overcoming pain, practising positive habits and building will power should filter into your daily life. After all what is a weight/physical limitation if not but an obstacle to your goal? If you can’t lift, move or perform a task in the gym this week you do not give up. You try again the next day or the next week till you achieve your goal. And so it should be in life. Sometimes we need to make corrections or think of things in a different light. I am glad that my words have helped some of you step back, reassess and find new fervour to chase what you want in terms of fitness goals. BUT ultimately my hopes for all of you who read either my story or anyone else is that the lessons learnt can filter to your everyday lives. After all to conquer oneself is the greatest triumph of all.
To the business though. In this entry I am giving you an idea of my goals, some info on the person helping me to try and achieve them as well as some of my limitations and how I manage them.
My Coach Earl Abrahams:
I first saw my coach on stage at the first Amateur Mr Olympia Africa in 2014. He competed in the Mens Bodybuilding up to and including 100kg category. You can check out that article here but this is what I wrote about him.
“Men’s Bodybuilding up to and including 100kg
- Earl Abrahams*
Earl definitely brought a great package to the stage in this class. I would say his strength is definitely his back poses. With lats that looked like they could provide shade to small child in the heat of the Cape. What’s more was that those lats tapered to a freakin tiny waist! This definitely gave him a look that to be honest not a lot of bodybuilders have these days in modern bodybuilding. I would like to see him standing a bit more upright though on a relaxed front pose to accentuate them.”
After the Olympia as one does I added him on Facebook. Here and there I would comment on pics and I think he read my review on the show so he would reply and so on. I was with a different coach at the time who instructed me to lean up which I had been doing. One fateful day I decided to put myself out there with progress pics as we narcissist fitness people often do and tagged a few high level SA bodybuilders for some opinions. Unfortunately only one other person commented who was not a bodybuilder but I received an inbox message from Earl telling me that everything is there and that I just need to put on size. We got talking about what I was trying to achieve and got on to the subject how I was going about it. I told him that I get advice from my coach but I generally do my own diet and training since he felt that I know what I need to do. It had been frustrating me to that point that I hadn’t been getting more guidance from my coach because in my belief you consult with a coach because you want to take the guess work out of your plan. I went to someone highly experienced who I thought would have a wealth of knowledge to share with me and make things a breeze with regard to getting me in shape. After 3 months though I realised that I was coaching myself and getting minimal guidance.
Having explained this to Earl he asked me a simple question; “If you’re doing all your planning and stuff, why do you have a coach?” We concluded our conversation but it left me thinking. Up till that point I had basically applied my knowledge mostly with the exception of a little input.
I called Earl the next day and told him I was moving over to him and so began our relationship. He isn’t the type of coach that will spoon feed you but he will never let you do all your thinking yourself. Up till then I had actually been with 2 other high profile coaches but I felt that the coaching style annoyed me and that we weren’t a good match. I had been asked by previous coaches when it came time for review “What are you eating?” Are you kidding me? Shouldn’t a coach be able to tell you what you are eating? Do coaches not keep a record of their client’s food, supps and gear? Any how the bottom line is that the service levels I had received up till that point were dismal.
These days I don’t check in, I get checked in on. The conversations aren’t about how much food I’m eating they are about what the plan is and where we are going to next. All this by the way is a 2 way street based on my input and goals. Sometimes I get to the end of the week and realise I haven’t spoken to Earl but before I can send a message I get one to check in. I am no longer running after a coach and neither is he running after me. I would say we have built somewhat of a friendship and sometimes conversations are centred more round something other than gym and in between coaching happens. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t afraid to crack the whip but it’s nice to know that you are not talking to a robot on the other end of the line.
In the end I can tell you we suit each other and my advice to you out there who feel they would like to get a coach is go through a few. Don’t be afraid to put them on probation and see how it goes. Don’t be afraid to move because at the end of the day you are not only trusting your coach with your hopes, dreams and goals but also your health.
Ok so here goes.
- Compete in a bodybuilding competition in the Bodybuilding class.
- Present a balanced classically sculpted physique along the line of Frank Zane, Francis Benfatto or Shawn Ray. I am a fan of mass yes, but mass without thought for me is not what bodybuilding is about. I’m going out on a limb here but Big Ramy’s physique is not for me. The lines are interrupted by his sheer mass and I feel like his body doesn’t flow as much as a Shaun Rhoden or Cedric MacMillan. I admire that he can step on stage outweighing everyone though.
- Come in as lean and as hard as humanly possible with condition. To me these are all separate concepts i.e. lean means as little bodyfat as possible (none), hard means full and solid looking and condition I would liken to Dorian or Branch separated and grainy.
- Compete to win the class as well as the overall. (We never compete just to take part right?)
To get there we plan to take the following path:
- Bulk up to 105kgs but if I can push beyond that I will, while maintaining as low levels of bodyfat as possible. I started with Earl at 82kgs I am now 90kgs.
- We have the “Obstacle” of Ramadaan which is our fasting month to get through but that plan is already formulated and I’m ready to jump in head on. I will be eating through the night. Then going to work for a full day, coming home napping till it’s time to break our fast then train eat again, attend night time prayers then eat again, then hit the hay and wake up 2 more times to eat before actually waking up for breakfast(Suhur). So while you guys are sleeping making gains think of me in the cold JHB night trying to make calories. As if bodybuilding wasn’t hard enough already hey?
- The hope is to maintain muscle mass through the fast with this strategy.
- Thereafter we will be falling back into full on bulk mode till the end of January 2016, give or take.
- Start the diet down and prep most likely for IFBB Gauteng Central Novice show which is generally around April.
- Lastly be in great shape for Arnolds. I won’t be competing since its invite only but hey it will help to look good right? Especially if there’s a possibility of meeting Arnold!!!
Ok so you have some info on my inspiration i.e. My Coach! You have some info on my goals and now you have information on a rough outline of the milestones we aim to hit to get there.
Now let me give you an idea of my “Limitations”. You have some idea if you have read the previous 2 diary posts, but let me tell you what I have to overcome on a daily basis in and out the gym to stay on track with this.
- My Mind
- Over the years I have had to teach myself that even though I have inherent weaknesses in my spine, I can do a little more than I realise. There is a point which if I push beyond has a bit of a dire impact with regard to my training.
- My Body
- In the past on the leg press machine I have slipped my disc landing me in hospital for a few days on traction. This has kept me out of training for weeks.
- As mentioned before I have 2 vertebrae in the cervical region of my spine that rotate which can cause neck issues as well as nerve issues.
- The worn disc in my lumbar spine causes a bit less nutrient delivery to my lower body than a normal person as well as extreme pain when training calves. Before where I used to easily be able to calf raise 250kgs for 25 reps and build a pump, these days I have to start out heavy but each set my range and contraction is limited more and more as the nerves come under increased pressure. As a result at the end of a calf session I could be raising 40kgs for 10 to 12 reps. But I do make sure to try and get in a certain amount of overall reps and optimal contraction.
- An “added bonus” for me is when I do train calves due to the restriction – and I don’t know how this works but is a testament to the interconnected nature of the human body – my neck and rhomboids will be triggered to spasm. This took a while to figure out but I know the calf is the trigger since when I go for physio the moment my calves are released my neck loosens up.
- Both my hands struggle with grip when training especially when I train biceps. As with calves I will build a pump to the point where I am in excruciating pain. I have learned to overcome this though by simply blocking it out and positioning my hands slightly differently.
- Lastly, limited mobility in my spine. This varies from day to day with the impact varying from limited shoulder range to the inability to squat. Once again over the years I can say I have learned to get it done with limited pain and spasm.
3. How do I manage my limitations?
Essentially all my limitations are related to core weaknesses. The core weakness stems from the damaged disc and scar tissue in my neck. This means that I have had to rebuild my core stability in order to support my spine and pelvic girdle. A few years ago you might have asked me if i even squatted since my glutes had atrophied where they were more of a pancake rather than top round buns.
I am proud to say that these days my pants and jeans fit pretty snug round them. BUT the core is not only about glutes there are many more muscles that make up this vital area in our bodies. Essentially everything from your hamstrings through to trapezius muscles make up your core as well as the supporting stabilizers that contribute to core stability. To simplify this remove your arms, remove your head remove the legs at the knees and what you’re left with is your core.
My issue is that where a normal functioning person may be able to start at lets say point A on a core strength graph and progress to point B, C and D and beyond. For me its a constant battle to stay at B or C. If i neglect core work of compound movements of squat and deadlifts I get pushed back to point A.
Taking this into account one may wonder why on earth I would put myself through the rigours of competitive training and eating. To be honest there is no logical answer. I could only tell you that I do it because it is part of who I am and I absolutely love it. I feel as though without bodybuilding there would be no me.
I have other aspects of my life that make me happy and bring me joy. But the joy, sense of intrinsic fulfillment and achievement I obtain from seeing results and conquering my physical and psychological limitations… well it’s a different kind of joy.
Till next time… keep grinding!
Your Brother in Iron