It’s All About the “C” Word

by Angelo Gala on June 19, 2013


Have you ever looked at a professional athlete in total amazement as they gracefully move through the air in a gravity-defying move to score a game winning goal?

Scratched your head in total confusion wondering how that weightlifter in your box just dropped under a barbell to catch a snatch with 225 pounds when you are struggling to secure the bar overhead with just 135 pounds?

How about those bikini and figure models strutting around showing off their beautifully sculpted 6-pack of abs?

Its all too easy to sit back and cop out an excuse that these individuals are just gifted. To say that they are “freaks of nature,” or accuse them of having way more time available to train. The truth is that we all are capable of amazing ourselves with personal accomplishment. Maybe our window of opportunity to become a pro ball player has closed a little earlier than we would have hoped, but don’t throw in the towel just yet. You still have plenty of time to achieve great things.

What builds great athletes happens behind closed doors when no one is watching. Everyone struggles when they have goals that scare the sh*t out of them. The secret to success is persistence through the tough times and consistently working to move forward no matter the resistance that is faced.

It is too easy to watch any athlete on a National or International stage and overlook the work it took to get there. Of course I have to acknowledge that many athletes do possess a genetic predisposition to be great at what they do. Some endurance athletes are blessed with an astronomical lung capacity (think Lance Armstrong), perfectly shaped musculo-skeletal system for their given activity (Michael Phelp’s wing span and hand size) or even fiber typing within the muscle itself that can predispose someone to naturally be more explosive (Pyrros Dimas). Please don’t let this discourage you in your journey to crush personal records in training whether you compete or are simply a fitness enthusiast.

It’s funny how many things come in 3’s. A sneeze frequently is followed by a second and third subsequent blast out of the nose. Tibetan Buddhism prayer verse is typically repeated in three’s.  Traffic lights in the United States have 3 signals.  Traditional nutrition tells us to eat a protein and two sources of vegetables (that’s a combination of 3) and we all know that it takes at least three months of effort to make noticeable change to the body. So what does this tell us? We need to be patient and persistent to accumulate enough volume to make the desired change we seek.

Lets break this down specifically to fitness. Say you have a weight-loss goal. It takes three weeks to make a habit stick.  So in the course of those initial three weeks you may focus on making small changes. Initially frequency and timing of food may be the top concern. Once you have adjusted to eating regularly you may begin to add in more fresh produce. Before you know it, those initial three weeks have ended and you are starting to get frustrated with a lack of results or even an increase in total body weight. Don’t worry because we still have plenty of room for improvement. Now that we know you are proactively battling the blood-sugar regulation game we can pull out all grains and starchy foods. Sorry man, that means no more bread, rice or pasta and white potatoes. All of a sudden, BOOM! Some of that extra padding begins to melt away.

When it comes to resistance training and even flexibility (shout out to my fellow Yogis out there!) we need to see the same persistence and consistency. Strength training should be performed on 3 or MORE days a week if you would like to make gains. Now if you are like me, over 30 and slowly losing peak hormone levels, then a greater priority on frequency should be observed otherwise you may find yourself treading water at best. In the yoga community we have a saying that goes something along he lines of “stretch once a week to feel better, stretch twice a week to maintain your current flexibility, stretch 3 times a week to make a change.”

Now general rules of physiology apply to flexibility just as much as they do to strength. In a given strength session, a minimum of three sets of a given exercise are needed to provide enough stimulus to improve strength or promote hypertrophy.

Accumulated volume towards the improvement of muscle length and specific flexibility should be noted as well. If you are working on improving your backbend in a bridge posture, just hitting your maximal global spinal extension for one uncomfortable hold or repetition isn’t going to cut it.

First you should prep your body by opening your hip flexors, thoracic spine and throw in a shoulder stretch or two. Now that your body is ready to bend, try setting up your bridge for a solid 5 slow breaths or thirty seconds, lower to a resting position for a few breaths and repeat the exact same posture for at least two more sets. It’s never enough to just go through the motions one time and expect great change. Don’t forget that to improve your bridge it should be performed with the same care on two other training days that same week!

In regards to all aspects of the body we need to understand that it takes consistent and repeated practice to make change. For some enthusiasts the change may come as fast as a few days or weeks and for others it may take months or even years. As long as we keep chipping away at our goals by taking small bites at a time, success is as sure to come, as the seasons are sure to change. I challenge you to stay present and be mindful during your journey as you very well may learn something new about yourself along the way.

About Angelo Gala, RKC Team Leader: Angelo Gala has been a fitness professional in the Boston area for greater than 11 years. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NCSA, has studied the Pranavayu system of yoga under David Magone and he is a Dharma friend at the Sakya Center of Buddhist Studies in Cambridge, MA where he completed a 1 year intensive study of Mangalam Yantra Yoga Under the guidance of Lama Migmar Tseten.
 He considers himself an all-around fitness nerd and endurance junkie who refuses to fall under the category of a one-trick pony.  Gala continually works to better himself and inspire others by leading a lifestyle conducive to physical, emotional, and spiritual development. He believes that no one should focus too much time and energy on a single dimension of fitness. The body craves all different types of movement that is not limited to just running, jumping, swimming, biking or lifting things up and putting them down again and again. He teaches clients to train with intention progressively, intelligently and with as many different modalities as the heart desires. Do this and the body and mind will be forever grateful.

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