A new addition to the family has meant that I have recently had several weeks away from work. Being around the house organising family stuff has given me a lot of free time, but time that I can only really spend around the house.
So I get to train in my carport gym. A lot.
Normally my training schedule is dictated by whatever spare time I have left over after attending to my family and work. That’s 3 x 1 hour sessions per week, at the most. Now, with loads of time I found I could train as often as I like.
I started by lifting according to my normal schedule, but the number of days gradually crept up. Training has always been fun for me, but I started lifting more as a way of getting out of babyland for a little while each day, which was good for everyone’s mental health.
Before I knew it, I was lifting around 6 days per week. Circumstances usually prevented the 7th day from happening, but that was probably fine. After 6 weeks of trial and error, I’ve learned a few things from this inadvertent experiment.
- Volume has to be reduced. Some people recover really well. I am not one of those people. High volume smashes me really quickly. Lifting every day means that the volume per day has to be reduced. This usually influences exercise selection as well, as squatting heavy day after day is no bueno. I’ve been doing at most three lifts per day – usually a press, squat or deadlift, and clean/jerk or snatch. Any more is asking for trouble.
- The rule of 10 is my north star. Renowned Renaissance strength coach Dan John talks about this at length, but essentially I’ve found that I only really have ten quality reps of any lift per session. I might push it up to 15 for the presses, but that’s plenty. Going higher than this on a daily basis leads to injuries for me.
- Injuries crop up and forced days off are… frustrating. I haven’t had anything particularly nasty happen, but my shoulders and upper back have taken a pounding. Once or twice I’ve taken a day off due to some painful niggle and it’s worked a treat. It’s been pretty annoying though! Once I’ve been in a rhythm of training, not training feels like punishment. It’s interesting how quickly I’ve adapted to daily heavy training. It’s almost like my body was meant to move…
- Exercise selection is organic. Most of the time I stick to my three-lift model. But I’ve followed my gut from day to day and moved them around a little. I’ve thrown in farmer’s walks, rows, and miscellaneous other set and rep schemes. I spent one day doing nothing but bench pressing. I suspect that desire for variation is probably my body’s way of telling me to take a break and do something different.
- A break from lifting doesn’t mean a break from training. On a couple of days I was fried in the gym or feeling stale, but I still wanted exercise. So I went for a run, a cycle, and even jumped and climbed on the parkour course at a local trampoline gym for an hour. These were a pleasant change of pace, and it was nice to do some training that felt a bit more general.
- Despite the reduction in volume, I’ve been getting stronger. In the last 6 weeks I’ve had lifetime PRs on the press, the front squat, the power clean and I’ve equalled my lifetime PR on the deadlift. I didn’t train specifically for any of these and decided to max them out on a whim. The consistent, low- level training seems to have done me loads of good. I’m also gaining weight again, which usually means good things for my “natural endurance athlete” body.
- I’ve also been walking a lot. I consider that locomotion rather than training, but since my kids’ school and the shops are less than 2 km from home, I’ve been getting up around 8-10 km per day. It feels really pleasant and seems to help to shake out some of the gym-related crinkles.
- Lifting in the carport gym means no guinea pig to train with. This is a blessing.
When I go back to work I doubt I’ll have the time to train daily. But I now know how much my body can tolerate without complaint. In the future I’m going to try to make it a more regular thing, even if that means shorter sessions.