Intuitive training - thinking out of the box

Submitted by Scott on Wed, 20/11/2019 - 14:40

So you have set all your training goals. You are really focused on what you want to achieve. Things are going very well , your health issues are no longer consuming your thoughts or  actions. 

Then it happens .. something totally unexpected, unwanted and unplanned crashes like a stray meteorite right in the middle of the goals you are working with. 

In many ways life has that habit on an all too familiar basis. 

You have now got to re-evaluate how you can move things forward to mitigate the effects of whatever has caused you to have the problem. 

That is where getting creative with your training diary and goal setting takes you into the realms of intuitive training. 

I was introduced to the concept some thirty odd years ago at the gym I used to go to as an young teenager, just wanting to get bigger as a way of reducing the severe bullying and name calling I was experiencing in the school environment. 

I had been training following a standard routine , doing a one day on, one day off schedule. Each  major muscle group got trained every four days . It also allowed rest time in between sessions to recover. I guess I had been doing that for about six months. The results were variable to say the least. 

A chat with a fellow gym goer one cold winter Saturday morning changed my views on training and actually shaped my life in general, although I didn’t realise it at the time. 

The gym I went to was a full on hardcore bodybuilding facility, a distinct lack of chrome and pot plants, just tons of free weights, lots of racks and machines ,a vibrancy came from the collective roar of guys pumping iron as if their lives depended on it, a heady mix of testosterone and the unmistakable stench of  sweat permeating the air . I absolutely loved it in all its glory, and stayed for the duration of the Eighties and well into the 1990’s .. I belonged . 

Winners Gym , Roden Street was a place were dreams were created and bodies sculptured from the iron that filled the place.The views across the city from its top floor location were inspiring to say the least. 

In the winter months the communal water tap always froze , the single shower wouldn’t be available for members to use until the spring thaw. 

It was the place I first met the biggest, most enthusiastic and motivated person I had ever crossed paths with in my life. 

Owen Neil was the current Mr Europe and had placed well in the last few Mr Universe contests. The bodybuilding scene in Nottingham in those times was a fantastic place to be , we had some serious contenders for many national and international titles, most of the guys trained at Winners Gym either on a regular or occasional basis. 

Owen Neil was at the hub of that environment, I had seen him in the magazines a few times , in the days before the internet it was literally about buying bodybuilding publications to try and learn about training and dieting , the guy was a star and his trajectory only went one way ! 

He was doing a leg training session when he needed to be watched , which basically meant standing behind him, in this case doing the squat exercise, to make  sure he was safe and got the weight replaced  back into the rack at the end of the set .

He shouted across the gym to see if I could assist him ! I was terrified, I weighed about a hundred and twenty pounds of stringy spaghetti.. the weight on Owens bar was about six hundred pounds .. in all honesty if he had a problem I really wouldn’t have been the best person to help. 

Thankfully all went well and after a genuine ten reps we replaced the weight safely. 

I cant remember how the conversation went  but we got chatting about legs and training like you do ! I didn’t want to ask too many questions then as he was preparing for another upcoming contest , however over the coming weeks we exchanged views on many aspects of musculoskeletal development..

I happened to mention one day about how the routine I was on wasn’t giving me the results I thought it should.

Owen suggested a principle that was really about listening to how your body feels and trying out different exercises and frequency to work different aspects of the muscle in different ways . The idea was to keep the body guessing as to what was coming next with the point being to speed up strength and development as the body continually adapts to new stresses , which is essentially the art of building muscle. 

I began to experiment with training intuitively along the lines of in gym stuff , but also incorporating the principal into other exercises I spent time doing , such as walking and cycling . 

Ironically as my strength and development increased ,along with body weight, I spent less time doing anything that wasn’t gym related.. Riding a bike effectively at a touch over three hundred pounds creates its own problems .. 

As time has moved along, the illness I am recovering from involves using a brand new plan and goals to be achieved. 

Cycling is now my primary sport of choice. Using intuitive techniques usually revolves around when the weather is poor and I can’t get out for safety reasons. 

I would happily switch my short term goal to say increasing gym time .. A typical session might involve .. Free weights and machines to focus on upper body and core work .. then onto the static bike for an hour , increasing the distance and speed covered over time. 

This would be done at least three times a week whilst the weather remains poor , but then at anytime, a switch back to onroad activity would be accommodated when things changed. 

My training diary can and is frequently changed and content added to . 

The mnemonic which many people base a strategy around of making goals S.M.A.R.T. works very well . As long as a goal always remains Achievable Relevent and Timed it will help you achieve your personal ambitions. 

It’s easy to assume the winter brings a slow down in cycling miles , which it does, but it doesn’t need to reduce motivation to exercise and keep on track for aims and ambitions . 

In summary ,using intuitive training is really about not worrying about being ultra flexible with your activity levels and type of exercise choice. But more importantly the key is making sure you are thoughtful and creative in how you achieve those targets. 

When you feel positive and ready to train do it in whatever form you can accommodate at that moment. 

If I’m tired and sore when I should be training I don’t stress about taking a couple of extra rest days with corresponding increase in calorie intake based around higher protein meals to aid recovery.. 

All those years ago when my chats with Owen created an initial thought process about intuitive, thinking out of the box style training and recovery, I didn’t even for a second comprehend how useful the ideas would be for me in a post recovery from leukaemia life I am now living. 

One of my favourite quotes sums up the importance of challenging yourself in whatever way you see fit at the time. 

“ If you never go out of your comfort zone you never find out who you are and what you are about” 

David Walliams 


March 2016 

Diagnosed with Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.. 

Treatment 2016 

Chemotherapy , Radiotherapy and Bone marrow transplant. 

Relapse Feb 2018 

Treatment 2018 

CAR T-Cell therapy trial at UCLH 

In remission since July 31st 2018 

The journey continues: 

Currently training intuitively towards my next cycling goal of Lands End to John O’Groats in June 2020, keeping those pedals turning. 


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