Hacking Your Off Season: Check Your Vanity at the Door

Posted: October 1, 2013 by aferreira in General
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Note: This is the first installment in our Hacking Your Off Season series.  We will cover training, nutrition, and everything in between so you can optimize your time in the off-season.  As current off-season athletes ourselves, much of what we talk about will stem from personal experience and how we’ve learned to optimize our own off seasons for optimal performance come season time.  Let us begin:

I wanted pipes.  No, not the kind of arms that earn you respect in Planet Fitness.  I wanted pythons.  The kind that people saw and started to ask Arnold who?  I wanted to be carved out of stone and be a god among men. 

Have you seen The Rock recently?  That’s a titan.  The silverback.  The alpha.  He was the goal.


Full disclosure:  That wasn’t just some carefully crafted short stream of consciousness.  I didn’t just make that up. That was real.  I’ve thought those very things on many occasions in the past.  If you’re thinking that I’m a real narcissistic vain son of a bitch, I can’t say that you’re wrong because at times in the past I have been.  Maybe my own vanity stems from being picked on as a kid.  I saw the iron as my opportunity, my escape to get lost in something.  That if I got big and strong all the bullying would stop because the first rule in the playground is that you don’t pick on someone who’s bigger than you.  Or maybe it’s rooted in our biological nature that predisposes us to these things.  After all, what’s the easiest way to be the man?  Be bigger than everyone else.  It’s a primitive form of dominance rooted in our evolutionary history.  Any testosterone filled man will chase that at some point in his life. 

Learn From Me

Whatever the cause, I’ve been through it all. I unnecessarily dieted down and chased the six-pack.  I know what it’s like to eat like a glutton for six months and try and get as big as possible.  Chasing aesthetics and performance goals simultaneously is a dangerous game and it almost destroyed me as an athlete. 

You see the weight room can be a beautiful place.  Given the right guidance, it can be an iron house that puts appropriate systems in place to build and breed athletes.  Fueled by the wrong mindset, however, and the weight room can become a prison that perpetually fuels athletes own vain desires ultimately leading to their own very destruction.  Broken through strength.  The irony is profound to me. 


                       Get strong, look good

As athletes, optimizing your off season training is critical for your development.  Those who will be most successful will be able to check their vanity at the door.  They will be able to distance themselves from any narcissistic desires that may have fueled their time with the iron in the past.  Learn to disengage yourself from any thought process that prioritizes looking good in the mirror or impressing your friends at the beach. 

Rather, begin to critically evaluate your off season program based on a different set of metrics: Is it going to address my weaknesses?  Is it going to increase my peak power potential?  Will I become a better athlete because of it?  Eliminate thoughts of “oh there’s not enough bench or chest, or what ab exercises will give me a six pack?”  Instead, begin dissecting movements and asking which pushup variation will create the optimal balance of anterior shoulder stability, stabilization of your rotator cuff, and activating your serratus anterior not which one will build the best pectoral. Core exercises for better abs?  How about what exercises will train my “core” to produce the optimal stabilization patterns and eliminate any energy leaks in order to produce the greatest amount of force.  Prioritize performance. 

I understand the pressures at hand.  I understand the often-subconscious lens through which we sometimes view our training programs.  Learn from my mistakes in the past.  Don’t train for performance and concern yourself with aesthetics because you will get hurt and you, as an athlete, will suffer.  Trust the training program, optimize your diet, and let the aesthetics take care of itself.  You’ll have plenty of time to chase your “beach body” once you retire.  For now, this off-season, solely ask yourself how can I become the best athlete I can.  By doing so, you’ll optimize performance and I guarantee you’ll start looking the part as well. 


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