The aforementioned quote is one I often use when consulting clients and is a personal reminder to myself of the importance of recovery. A year ago, the term “over training” was one I had heard, but thought only applied to the novice undergoing a poorly programmed CrossFit workout. After all, I was a professional athlete and had different bodily requirements and limits. I was elite, and therefore my 3 training session a days and 1,800kcal (low carb) diet were just part of what made me different. Every weekday, I pushed my fatigued body through hour long workouts. Nightly, I would break my physical and mental limitations and move my aching joints through intense bouts of mma training on my road to greatness. I slept 4 to 5 hours a night, after television, and my morning clientele began at 6:00am. As a married, 25 year old, gym owning professional athlete, it would be an understatement to say my life was full of stress. I had complete and total control of my life.
I was also miserable. Despite my strict diet and adherence to low-carb living, I walked around about 10lbs heavier than necessary. My lifts were going nowhere and my body was constantly sore. I was wide awake when I was supposed to be asleep and half asleep when I was supposed to be awake. Coffee, my favorite drink, was no longer something I simply enjoyed, but rather a substance I needed to function. Despite my high activity level and low caloric intake I had little appetite, and any large meal would lead to stomach discomfort and often vomiting. I was constantly investing more and more, without seeing a return on my investment. Then, one day, it all came to a halt.
What started out as a routine weight cut for a high profile fight, became a fight for my life. Anyone familiar with weight cut sports understands the stress a weight cut puts on an athletes body. When done correctly, this minor stress has little effect on an athlete’s body. As previously made clear, my body was under a lot of stress. During my weight cut, my body began to shut down. The methods I had used numerous times before weren’t working. I began blacking out and waking up in the bathroom floor next to the bathtub filled with hot water I had been sweating in only moments before. I began losing eyesight and the ability to form words due to the dehydration of my mouth. My heart was racing and my insides hurt. Moments before weigh-ins, during the pre-fight physical, I was told by a doctor that I would be unable to compete due to my heart rate and blood pressure. In anger, I stood up with the intent to argue only to black out once more. I would later be diagnosed with severe adrenal and kidney fatigue and on the cusp of failure in both areas. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Here I was, the man with total control of his body, being told my kidneys and hormones were shot. After some time off, I returned back to my lifestyle only to suffer a terrible shoulder injury that threatened to end my fight career forever. I was shaken, angry, and knew I needed help.
I met Robb Wolf in 2008 at a CrossFit Nutrition Certification and had corresponded with him several times since the meeting. I knew Robb was a fan of mixed martial arts and had recently been writing some controversial articles on low-carb lifestyles and overtraining. After evaluating my training and nutrition history, Robb began working with me not only to change my habits, but also my entire mindset. It was as if everything I thought was overrated such as sleep and recovery were among the most important. Things I once thought were of the utmost importance such as my intense workouts were now seen as not only pointless, but downright dangerous. It was a renaissance of everything I thought I knew about the world I was so passionate about.
Much has changed within the last year and I can’t believe the return of investment I see in my efforts. My intense, 5 day a week workouts have now been switched to 2 days of basic, strength and gymnastic only workouts. My low calorie, low-carb diet has been revamped to include nearly triple the calories and my off days are now higher carb than my highest carb days once were. My four hour, poorly slept nights, are now a minimum of eight hours, and most often ten. I have found new ways to stress less and am letting go of responsibilities and distractions that I had allowed into my life that were damaging to my goals. My normal, 215lb walking weight is now 195lbs, and my training intensity has gone through the roof! I have followed a paleo style diet for years, but am now reaping the many benefits of adopting an entire paleo lifestyle.