The first day I walked into CoreXcellence was the summer of 2014. At that point in the year, the athletic development program is in full effect. I was stunned by the culture, discipline, competitiveness, level of focus and drive in all the athletes. I remember going home that night and telling myself “I need to do that; I want to be a part of that!”
Yes, I am a very disciplined individual but nothing I have accomplished thus far, came by luck. Since day one I’ve had a vision, an end goal and my drive to get there never stops.
When I was surrounded by the atmosphere and energy in CoreXcellence, I knew I was in the right place. I was in a place where I would be pushed outside my comfort zone and a place that can help me advance to the next level. It did not take long for me to see that in this facility, it doesn’t matter what sport you play; how old you are or your gender – you will become better athletically!
Every off-season I take a step back from Powerlifting (the classic lifts) and I touch upon all the other components of strength, power and speed. I can go months without performing a typical squat, bench press or deadlift. When Canadian Nationals ends in March, my off-season begins. From March til about September, I enter a whole different realm of training.
Improved athleticism and becoming diverse in the all facets, whether it’s Olympic Lifts, Plyometrics, Sprinting, Movement or Strength training; can only make you better at your specific sport. So that is what I did, I became stronger as an all-around athlete!
This year would be my third Summer partaking in the CoreXcellence Athletic Development program. Except this time around there was one small additional adjustment and that was adapting to the Ketogenic lifestyle as I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog. It was not simple. It took time for my body to adjust to the new fuel source and still be able to optimally perform in training. That is what off-seasons are for, to experiment. So, let me tell you what happened over the course of my Summer…
For those who don’t know, the athletic development program at CoreXcellence runs for sixteen weeks. It consists of five phases, training four days a week at high intensity and high volume; including movement prep, sprint work, plyometrics, Olympic lifts, strength lifts, conditioning and much more. To put this into perspective, I will show you the slight difference.
In-season, as a Powerlifter, I consistently cycle through the same phases leading up to competitions. I perform a select few lifts and I am usually given a 3-minute rest time. The system works, so we let it be. When I compete, I perform 9 lifts spread over the course of five hours give or take. In between each attempt there is a 5-10-minute break and in between each lift, it can range from 20-45 minutes. That is the typical timeline for competitions. It doesn’t seem like a lot of physical effort but rather mental fortitude to stay dialed in for so long. I can conquer that there is quit a bit of sitting with a stopwatch, waiting for my next set.
On the contrary, the Athletic Development program consists of four training days, each lasting about 2 hours in length. And when I say 2 hours in length; there is no time to sit with a stopwatch because you are either jumping, running, lifting, pushing sled or just trying to get through the workout with some sort of momentum. It is not easy. Comparing the two training regimes, it is just a slight change in pace from what I am used to doing the other half of the year.
When starting out the Ketogenic lifestyle, I went very low carb, moderate to high protein and high fat. I was experiencing nausea when training and slight brain fog/lethargy through the day. Over the course of a couple of weeks, it did not seem to improve. At that point I needed a change, I needed to see some sort of positive progress to keep pushing through.
My body took time to adapt/adjust to the new fuel source and was still fighting to survive on the sugars versus transitioning to the fats. My coach then realized the struggle and instructed me to do a metabolic workout to deplete all glucose stores in the body. A way I can describe this is; have you ever had such a demanding training that you feel a major crash when done, either from not eating enough prior or just having exerted all your energy that you get faintish? This is when your glucose stores have been depleted and your body now is seeking to find a fuel source. So that is what I did.
I jumped into a phase five of the Athletic Development program, which is the most demanding conditioning wise to the body. It is compromised of three rounds of a 12-exercise circuit with little to no breaks. The first round, the nausea came…I pushed through. The second round, my strength was being compromised as lifting the weights became more and more difficult. My breathing was getting heavy and the dizziness was real, but I refused to quit on something that I knew would make me better. Once I complete round three, I wanted to faint, and I was seeing spots. Mission accomplished! I knew then that my sugar stores were fully depleted. From that day on, I never experience the “Keto Flu” again.
At this point, I had cut my carbohydrates, I was sticking strictly to a lifestyle regime that is supposed to work but wasn’t… Where was I going wrong?
I decided I wanted to know what was going on internally in my body to better understand the bumps in the road. I went to see Iridologist and Naturopath, Gino Bellinfante*. Iridology is the analysis of the iris of the human eye to better understand preconceived notions and/or the effects of lifestyle habits that may be contributing to your body’s current health state. It did not take long for him to notice my new nutritional lifestyle change. In communication with my coach, we came to realize that my body needed more quality vegetables in order to properly balance and absorb the high fat intake.
One thing that I have been taught is that quality of food is always better than quantity when fueling for performance. We had upped my intake in nutrient dense veggies by consuming more sprouts versus generalized vegetables. Sprouts are a lot higher in nutrient value and lower in carbs, therefore you get a better bang for your buck.
Another nutritional adjustment was increasing my sodium, potassium and magnesium consumption. This is a very important part of the Ketogenic lifestyle. When you decreased your carbohydrate intake, your insulin levels drop. Insulin is what helps sodium to absorb in the body. When you have low insulin levels, your body expels sodium at a much higher rate than normal. Therefore, it is very important to stay hydrated with a pinch of salt – natural electrolytes. My coach learnt about Elemental Labs at the Metabolic Health Summit. It is a reputable company that sells premade packages for your daily water consumption or if needed to fuel during a workout. It is the essential electrolyte for the active, low carb or keto athlete. I’ve been hooked ever since!
It has been quite some time that my coach has been advising me to share my experiences, my efforts and to tell my stories over social media. It took time for me to be comfortable enough to do so but I am happy that I listened! In telling my story and sharing my experiences, I now see the outreach it has given me to help others, and/or educate individuals on the process – a process of continuous learning.
With the help of my support system, I am proud to announce that in the past two days I joined the Salty family and now am an Ambassador for Elemental Labs.
Stay tuned for more!
Those two changes are what got my body weight from 142lbs to 130lbs. You would think being twelve pounds lighter that my strength would have gone down but on the contrary, it has gone up. It was not a matter of finding that quick fix or looking for the set-in stone answer, but rather experimenting with the trial and errors to discover what works for your body. I now walk around at the lighter weight and yet feel stronger than ever. My energy throughout the day has never been better and I recover like a champ from my training.
As I stated in my recent social media post, trainings are only as productive as how well you can recover from them. You can have the best training but if you do not recuperate optimally, it will take so long before your performance is affected and/or something gives out; whether it be an injury, fatigue, lack of drive, soreness, decrease in strength, mental clarity, etc.
Recovery does not just come from stretching or having a large meal post training but rather recovering from both the physical and mental demands. This consists of adjusting your lifestyle and personal outlook. Recovery is not only to be done on days of training and should be part of your daily lifestyle.
Optimal recovery is crucial in order to perform the next day. I take this very seriously in-season. I make sure to get 8-9 hours of sleep every night, I track my sleep cycles with the Oura ring, I use Power Dot (muscle stim) right before bed and after heavy lift days to ensure muscle regeneration, I wear blue light blocking glasses two hours prior to sleep to remove visual light stimulation and I regularly do hot/cold contrast spa days for lymphatic system flushes.
I wasn’t kidding when I said I “dot the I’s and cross the T’s” in terms of recovery. All I know is that by covering all bases there is no reason for me to say, “what IF” and I can rather say with certainty, that “I did everything I could.” I will dive into more details about my recovery tactics in another blog to come.
This summer has been my best summer yet in terms of energy, focus and performance. Although I was juggling two jobs while still training, it is the discipline and consistency in terms of nutrition and recovery that has allowed everything to excel despite the external factors. Hmm, weren’t those two words mentioned in my previous blog?
If I can leave you with three takeaways from this blog, they are:
My 3rd and final blog of this series will be the Transition to Competition.
After Quebec Provincials next weekend, I will share with you how I transitioned back to Powerlifting, the mental game that needed fine tuning, my experiences the day of competition and how the nutritional adjustments came into effect.