One Deep Thought: Iron Culture Podcast Ep. 123: Retiring Early From Natural Bodybuilding

This week the Iron Culture folks are interviewing Sam Okunola, and it’s great to hear from such a serious pro! His attitude and approach are enviable–“if it’s something I don’t have control over, I put it out of my mind.” Well, I wish. I’m not nearly that chill, but it’s something I can aspire to!

Leg day without squats?! At about 1:07:00ish, the gents get into a great conversation about not putting any exercise on a pedestal. The gist is that there isn’t one way to do the work. We’re all learning to work around our own needs and preferences. Me, for example, I hate split squats and lunges. They aren’t fun, they can hurt my knees, and they seem to accumulate more DOMS than other, similar movements. So, I only do them once a week, if at all. If my programming has them included more often than that, I sub in other exercises that do the same or similar job–strict step-ups or step-downs, (assisted) pistol squats or pistol squat eccentrics to a box. There’s even more options when I’m lifting at a gym. The point being, there isn’t only one way, and the more we learn about our options, the better.

This flexible mindset around training isn’t just “nice,” it’s essential to continue progressing. Every athlete will have little injuries they need to work around, challenging times in their lives, periods when they don’t get enough sleep, whatever. Also, what is seen as effective training changes over time, with different perspectives dominating as training styles go in and out of fashion. But what if what is fashionable isn’t working for you? The usual fitness industry bullshit messaging is to say that we just need to go hard, “beast mode,” push through and stay pure to the programming. And maybe that works for us for a while. But eventually, problems will pop up that we can’t ignore. We end up like Omar, so injured, our mom has to help us with everyday tasks. We can avoid these kinds of challenges, or at least reduce their frequency, by being more flexible in how we approach our training. There are almost no universal truths to lifting. There are many ways to reach our goals, and what seems like “optimal” may only be truly optimal when everything else in our lives is going smoothly. For me, knowing I have options makes training more fun. I appreciate that I can trust that I can change things up, keep doing the work, and it still “counts.” I’m in this for the long game, and staying flexible with my training helps me to keep going and to keep it in my life, even when faced with inevitable challenges.

How do you approach your training? Do you give yourself permission to switch up movements when they aren’t working for you, or do you feel strongly about sticking with the programming?

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