Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Seasonal Variations in training

I forgot to mention one important way to mix up your training in the last blog post: make your training seasonal.  What do I mean?  Well, depending on where you live and your personal health situation, you should spend some part of your training life outdoors.  This can be your backyard, a playground or park, the beach, or any open field.  I do less of this than I should, both because I'm lazy and because I have some pretty serious allergies that make exercise on a grassy field pretty hazardous.  But do as I say, not as I do!

During whatever season you can exercise outside (probably summer if you live in Buffalo, NY but winter if you live in Ft. Myers, FL) work sprints, kettlebell juggling, and general outdoor training into your routine.  Throw your kettlebell into your car and hit the playground - preferably one with those cool new wave monkey bar setups with parallel bars and chinup bars and so forth.  You can get a fantastic workout with just those - there are a couple of groups out of New York that put up great videos on YouTube with bodyweight workouts done on playgrounds (I can't remember the name...  sorry).  Do some sprint workouts - keep your distance to under 100 yard, maybe even under 50.  You'll get a nice variety in your training, some stress relief from being in the great outdoors, and a little boost of Vitamin D while you're at it.

Some people use the seasons to periodize the overall goals of their training and nutrition as well.  Suppose you have a long term goal of adding more muscle mass - not just a few pounds, but a substantial amount of lean bodyweight.  You can try to stay very lean while adding that muscle, but many (if not most) people find it hard to add any appreciable muscle without adding a little bit of fat along with it.  In other words, you have to go through cycles - add weight (hopefully mostly, but not all, muscle), then lean out (hopefully losing mostly, but probably not only, fat).  Over time your lean body mass should spiral upwards while your bodyfat should stay relatively low, at least on average.

When should you do this?  I don't know if there's any overriding physiological reason to do this, but a popular method is to "bulk up" over the winter months and then "lean out" in the spring.  Why?  Well, it's so you'll look good with your shirt off.  Not exactly rocket science, but unless you're completely immune to the effects of vanity you'll enjoy being lean during swimsuit season, adn being happy with yourself is motivation.  Then bulk up over the winter, when everything is covered up anyway.  You'd modify your training as well as your diet - perhaps doing more heavy, barbell oriented lifting during the bulking phase and more endurance training and GPP (general physical preparedness) work while leaning out.

By the way, I'm not a big fan of the serious bulking phases that some people advocate, where they eat everything under the sun and put on huge amounts of weight.  It's one thing if you're looking to move up a weight class as a powerlifter or compete in strongman events, but as a martial artist you should never gain a really large amount of weight in a short time.  It's not healthy and it's not conducive to your art. 

Take home message: change things up in your training every six to eight weeks, and take advantage of whatever is available to you when you do it, which means that at some times of year the whole world can be your gym!

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