Guest blog post – Cesar Ayala

Change only comes to those that have no fear

Recently I started a new 3 month training cycle at hashtagbobsgarage  I train 9 times per week (could end being 10 if I make the Saturday a double). 5 Strength sessions and 4 Cardio sessions. 4 days of the week twice per day and one day only once (Saturday). Wednesday and Sunday are resting days, and hence, sacred. Maximum thing to do, go for a walk.

Why I’m doing this? There’s the obvious answers: losing weight and getting fitter, and I’ve to admit that I expect some of that.

But those are not the main reason, the main reason is, and always has been, the challenge itself. Will I be able to keep this for 12 weeks? The body seems to hold but will the mind be able to keep up? Right now I’m on the 4th week. A mixture of heavy weight training with finisher workouts and cardio sessions that are just that involve sweating alot.

And people ask me “How you do it?”

My answer is clear “Because I can”. There’s no cockiness there, simply my job allows me to do that, going to the gym twice a day (walking both times, adding around 40-50 min of walking to the day) The training built up with Bob over the last two years and the accompanied discipline has helped me do this. It hasn’t happened over night.

I like to dabble into stoicism and one of its core concepts is that you only have real control about the things you do, about yourself, most of the other things, you don’t have control about. Only with proper judgement and putting aside the base instincts we can understand and get ready for what the world will throw at us.

Just a few days after the beginning of the training my right shoulder got injured (still is). So one of my favourite exercises (and one that I’m decent at), the bench press got out. I can do everything else, but just the angle I used to put my shoulder was wrong and finally the shoulder gave up. It’s getting better, but still is what it is.

What can I do about it? Do my best to rehab it and keep with the program the best I can. There are millions of exercises you can do for your chest, so if I can’t do bench, I’ll do something else. I’ll bench much lower to relearn. Maybe tomorrow I’m going to the gym, a hipster hits me with his ironical Segway and hurts my leg. What I would do then? Keep going to the gym and keep with the program the best I can.

That’s the real challenge for me, that’s what I want to achieve. For me it’s been always of utmost importance crossing the door of the gym. Of course in the last four weeks there have been many, many times when I wanted to stop doing whatever I was doing. When going to the gym was a drag. When I wanted to cut the reps and do less sets. But then I remember that if I do it, if I stop, I’d fail. It doesn’t matter how much weight I had already lost or how good my squat is now or anything, stopping means failure. I don’t want to fail. I’ll stop if I feel pain, if something is not working properly, but I won’t stop because my mind surrendered to fear.

Why I chose that target? Because it is something that has nothing to do with absolutely anything else than my mind.

That doesn’t change the fact that when the other day I dropped below 115 kilos for the first time in a long long time I didn’t feel really proud. I did. I loved it. But it’s just a number. It’s just a measure. It’s not a target. I could be more proud about the fact that since I began at the gym I must have lost around a 10% of body fat. That’s even better than losing weight because that meant I have increased my muscle mass and decreased my body fat.

But I don’t let those numbers distract me, neither the amount of weight I can move. Yes, doing squats with 170 kilos felt good, but not because of the weight, but because of all the hard work behind those reps.

I also changed my diet, stopped doing a half hearted keto diet (which in the past worked really well for me, but not this time) to a proper balanced diet. With a calories deficit, of course, but with carbs and everything. It’s the only way I know to be able to keep up with all the extra exercise. Maybe others have other ways, this one is mine.

And let me be honest: I could do better at the diet, it’s still a work in progress and the problem of working at home is that you end eating a little more than expected. But I know that, and I let it pass most of the time because it’s not that much and also because it’s not the main thing: the main thing is being able to keep going to the gym those 9 sessions per week.

I nearly stopped smoking (I never smoked much anyway, 3-4 fags per day, 10 weekends), I only smoke Saturday night, when I go out (and obviously I smoke less), rest of the time I use a vaper with a very low nicotine liquid (I know it’s not perfect but…). Saturday night the only night I go out, and try to have diet cokes, at least a few of them instead of alcoholic drinks. It’s my “reward” for the week, or more or less the way I have to keep the monkey we all have in our brains quiet. I don’t order take away food or go to the chippy at all. I don’t drink alcohol in the house (well that was easy, I never had so…). To be able to go twice a day to the gym now I’m out of bed at 6 AM and I’m working at 6:20 AM. If I don’t have work to do, I study (I’m back studying coding, C++ to be precise). If I’m not busy, I’ll make myself busy. I go to bed around 10 PM.

And why I’m able to do all that? Because I can. I enjoy doing it, I have created a discipline that works for me, and that’s the most important thing. I don’t think much about what will happen when I finish this 3 month block of training or how much weight I’d lost by then. I focus on doing the 9 sessions of the week, and more specifically, the next one and once there, in doing the next rep or run the next minute. Whatever is in front of me, because is the thing that I can control. I can’t see the future nor change the past, I only have the now, so I will make good use of it to the best of my capabilities. I plan for the future, of course, but I know that many things could (and will) happen that can change those plans.

One of the things that really work to keep good habits is keeping a record of them. Whatever they are, make a cross on the calendar for every day that you kept that good habit. Could be drinking more water, going to the gym more, running for 5 minutes more, whatever. Keep the crosses coming and then you’ll be so determined to keep your streak that you won’t ever consider breaking it. For me the streak is keeping the sessions coming.

And maybe one day something happens and you break the streak. Well then, don’t despair. That there is your Personal Best. Think why it happened and how to fix it and go again. This time you don’t only have a challenge, you also have a target. Failure is a fact of life, accept that it will happen to you. Try to not fail as much as you can, but be ready if it happens.

One of the most common mistakes people do when they set targets for themselves is attaching those targets to things they don’t have any control about. For example: Training really hard to compete in an event. And they train super hard, but then the event is cancelled, or they can’t go because they are injured, or sick, or any of the thousands and thousands of reasons that can make it not happen. And then, they despair. Oh, I worked so hard. I trained so much, and all that for nothing. It wasn’t for nothing! You were training to be able to compete at  your very best, you got to your very best but you just didn’t do the test. The fact that you can’t go to a place with fancy lights and a guy talking to a microphone doesn’t change that! You were training to be able to, not to do.

Or maybe the training doesn’t go the way they wanted. Maybe their technique is still not good enough, maybe it’s simply because they are not good enough. Don’t despair then either. Now you know. You can analyse what happened. Get answers. Don’t fall to the easy traps of the mind of blaming whatever excuse you can think. Think really deep about why you failed. Try to fix it. If you reach the conclusion that you won’t never be able to achieve that, good, you have learnt a lot trying, use all the things you have learnt to try to achieve some other thing. Never become one of those persons that are only one thing.

As the title says, change only comes to those that have no fear, because if you are scared of failing then you won’t try. Don’t worry about that, worry about not learning, that’s the true failure.

When I go to high schools to talk to the students about coding, programming, languages and later on about life and the decisions we make, there’s something that I always say.

You’ll never be the person your parents want you to be. Or your friends, or your partner, hell, you’ll never even be the person your pet wants you to be. They will always have something to say about something that you have to change or whatever. If that’s impossible, what we have left? Being the person we want to be. So aim for that. And right now, I want to be the person that finishes a this intense 3 month training block. Because I know I can, and if I’m wrong, I’ll know that I did my best to try and will think about how make it better next time.


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