I have never been a fan of the whole “new me, new you, new us” mindset that takes hold every year around New Years. Always marked by endless resolutions and vows to make the new year different than the years in the past.
While I always support change and will always be a vehicle for people to better themselves through my many Power Athlete training programs and education, it is the lack of follow through on hollow promises that irks me.
But I believe 2021 could be different. Let me explain.
2020 was in an interesting year to say the least. For me personally, it started out pretty well intended. I spoke at the NSCA’s Coaches Conference down in San Antonio, TX in January. And got a chance to give a talk on metabolic flexibility – one I had been working for about 10 years. I know that sounds crazy but I first heard the term Metabolic Flexibility back in 2011, I thought that it might be the answer to health, performance and longevity.
When I played in the NFL, I realized early on that well-developed strength, speed, power mixed with a high level of conditioning were just the minimum requirements for me to be successful as a player. But if I wanted to play at the highest level and be considered one of the best to do my job there had to master other elements.
One them was flexibility. But not in the yoga sense. I was using flexibility in a way that relates itself to Metabolic Flexibility.
Metabolic flexibility is defined as the ability of an organism to respond or adapt according to changes in metabolic or energy demand as well as prevailing conditions or activity.
As a professional football player with many physical gifts, if I could not adapt easily to the many demands place on me in real time, I would fail. For example, we would go from playing football in 100+ degree heat in 80-99% humidity in the summer to playing in Green Bay in January in negative degree weather. You had to physically adapt to the different environments all the while performing at a high level.
If I was conditioned to play against a certain defense and style of player, I would need to adapt quickly if those demands changed. What if the player was a small faster pass rusher opposed to a 350-pound monster better suited to a road grader than a football player I saw every day in training camp? I would have to adapt to that style in real time or risk taking an ass beating.
Exercise is a physiological condition requiring metabolic flexibility in order to match fuel availability with the metabolic machinery to meet enormous increases in energy demands.
Physical exercise and exertion place the largest demands on metabolic flexibility. The harder and more varied the exercise and physical requirements, the more metabolic flexible an individual must be effective.
That means if you are not doing a training program that is constantly pushing to be the best version of yourself, you need to find a new program. The results we got last year will not sufficient this year. We have to constantly strive for improvement.
The ability to carry & support large amounts of skeletal muscle depends on being metabolic flexible. The greatest determining factor for metabolic flexibility is lean muscle mass. The greater the amount of muscle, the more metabolically flexible you must be to support it.
Simply, the more muscle you carry and the leaner you are, the greater your metabolically flexibility.
Darwin said, “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to best adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.
Going into 2021 I want you to focus on these 8 rules for success.
1. Be Flexible.
This means you are able to adapt to environments and stresses as they present themselves. This was never more apparent when the lockdown happened in March and gyms closed. Power Athlete launched our Third Monkey program that can executed with a simple few items found at your local Home Depot, Lowes or Home Improvement Center to the tune of 50 bucks. Those that were flexible could change their training environment and use the resources we provided to keep crushing your goals.
2. Exercise as a Driver
The neurological of effects of exercise are well established for mental and physical health. Stronger people who are more fit are able to endure greater hardship and make changes when adversity comes their way. Actuary tables shows the probability of a person at a certain age dying before their next birthday. The greatest determining factor for longevity is muscle mass. When muscle mass starts to decline we are approaching the end of journey. Therefore, to stay in the fight and make sure you see your next birthday, you need to wake up with the singular focus in improving strength, increase lean body mass and having a large aerobic base a way to fight sickness and illness.
3. Eat Enough Protein for Muscle
Like I said earlier, muscle is the primary driver for metabolic flexibility. Therefore, we have to eat a diet that allows us to maintain at the least, but ultimately, increase muscle. This requires a high protein diet. Something to the tune of 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. The total calories you consume daily will depend on whether you are trying to gain or lose body weight. Whether you are trying to lose or gain weight, you have to eat in a high protein diet if muscle is the goal. If you help with nutrition, checkout our nutrition protocols and coaching.
4. Testing to Identify Problems
I recommend anyone I work with one on one with should get regular blood and gut testing. I have gotten my blood work done twice a year since the early 2000s as I have always wanted to be proactive about my health and address any problems that might arise before they become an issue. I find that most people that have serious problems have hints beforehand. The reason when you get a checkup with your doctor they ask, “Have you noticed any changes in your health?”
Most people answer “No” just because we don’t know what to say. But be honest with your doctor even if it seemed insignificant. My dad before he got sick all of sudden couldn’t take a single pill. He was taking some supplements and kept throwing them up. This went on for a few years and wasn’t till he got diagnosed with stomach cancer did he realize this was an issue. I know this is extreme, but simple things like not tolerating certain foods, rashes, athlete’s foot or poor sleep can lead to bigger problems if not dealt with.
The research is pretty conclusive – those that sprint are stronger and leaner than those that do not.
Even if it is one day a week and you are a bit nervous because you haven’t sprinted in a while, go find a 30 to 50 yard slight grassy incline and sprint up it. I have yet in my training history to see anyone sprint up hill poorly. Give me 6-10 reps at a controlled intensity for your first day. Use the walk back down as recovery and push yourself. If you need some direction check out Speed Kills.
6. Don’t Waste time
I find all too often we don’t accomplish what we want because we don’t budget our time. I recommend you create a daily plan that is flexible. What do you want to accomplish today to consider it a success?
When it comes to a weekly plan take a look at what you want to accomplish over the course of a week. The weekly plan is slightly more rigid than the daily plan as things pop and you have to flex.
The monthly plan and yearly plans are more high level and rigid as these are the things you want to accomplish by the end of March, going into summer and where you want to be by the end of 2021.
Be rigid. Be demanding. Place the emphasis on executing your goals and be unrelenting in meeting them. Nobody is coming to save you. Nobody is coming to drag you to the gym. Nobody is prepping your meals to be spoon fed to you. You have to set the end goal then work each day, each week and each month to stack these goals.
7. Identify Weaknesses
Everyone needs to identify your blind spots and weak points. When you train it is easy to find the physical ones. What can I do well and what can I not do well? If I am squatting heavy and my back keeps breaking at the bottom is my technique the issue or do I have a weak back? The answer is probably both. If you can improve upon technique and get some quality coaching while bringing your back strength up, we usually have a solid fix.
But what about those blind spots that are not easy to identify? That requires self-discovery and doing some work on yourself. This usually involves the help of a certified professional to help you work through any unresolved issues that are lingering and preventing you from being the best version of yourself.
Keep an eye on Power Athlete in 2021 for some updates and recommendations on how to improve the realm outside of the training.
And remember to EAT THE WEAK.
8. Build Strengths
If you listen to fitness experts and Internet gurus they take about weaknesses ad nauseam. While I believe you have to identify weakness, you have to build upon your strengths. You have to find what you do well and work to do it better.
Every time I have tried to maintain my conditioning and maintain my strength, I have seen a backwards slide. I find for myself, I have to continue to challenge myself and find new ways to push my conditioning and strength. I have to find new stimuluses and new things to master.
I have to be honest, 2020 wasn’t my best year training wise. I had shoulder surgery last December to fix a lot of damage lingering from 10 years in the NFL. I powered through my injury and kept training as I believe surgery is the last resort after all other avenues are explored. I spent too many years training around my shoulder till I got to the point it was limiting.
I spent the first part of 2020 rehabbing and making progress. Then the shutdown hit and the people I was visiting to help work my rehab were shut down. It wasn’t till a few months later that everything got back to some slice of normal where I could start my progression again. I continued to train but not with the same intensity and focus I had in years past just because I was limited. Now that I am a year out from surgery and things are progressing I need to put my foot back on the accelerator and fight for the best version of myself.
I am excited for 2021 as I think this the year where we make a big rebound after a strange year.
If you need help or recommendations on training, testing, identifying weakness and strengths and/or life, reach out. I am easy to connect with via social media or on the Power Athlete Training feeds.
EDU: Power Athlete Academy
PODCAST: Power Athlete Radio 365 – Man of Reason, Andy Stumpf
BLOG: Top 10 Hardest CrossFit Football Workouts by John Welbourn
BLOG: John’s 6 Rules for Strength & Muscle by John Welbourn
BLOG:The Essential Equipment for Your Home Gym by Tex McQuilkin
John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.
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