If you are not still learning -- no matter how long you have been in this game -- you should not be coaching.

Now that I have been back with the fire that I had when I was younger for these last 18 months, I can look back on this last phase and realize that I learned quite a bit about myself, how my body responds, and how the psychology of this game is incredibly important.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was that I had myself convinced that I could not make the comparable gains/progress as I did in my younger years.  It's an easy mistake to make in that as we grow older and get years or decades under our lifting belts, there are things that absolutely MUST change to avoid injury, be smarter about training and diet, etc.  However, I sold myself short -- big time.  I was fortunate to see it relatively early on and despite my poor psychological approach, I was able to overcome this negative attitude or "accepted fate" and take advantage of the fact that I could still make excellent progress.

Now, that is not to imply that my gains and progress was comparable to my first handful of years in the game.  Obviously, that is incredibly unlikely to happen simply because over the last 3 decades I have gotten closer to my genetic "limit," so-to-speak.  The problem is that we might THINK we know where that limit is but when we accept a limit, we them are limiting ourselves.  I had to change my perspective to basically say, "there is a limit but I am not there yet and I am going to push until I either am unable to push more or I stumble upon that limit."

When I was able to drop the "I'm an old guy" bullshit, I started accepting that I am going to continue to progress at least for right now.

There are still limits in other aspects of my training, though.  I can't just push my squat up another 200 pounds without knowing that my lower back is going to become an even larger liability/vulnerability.  I can't just start pushing my deads up thinking I'm going to be pulling 500 without consequence.  I have to employ a "train smarter, first, and then harder" type of mentality.  There just isn't wiggle room for mistakes like there used to be when I was younger.

I am going to approach this cutting phase in 2020 the same way.  At first, I was accepting of the fact that it is going to be incredibly difficult to get into the same condition I have always gotten into. I also accepted that my skin may not be as elastic and that might lead to loose skin in some areas.  I am shelving that for now and not even going to entertain this idea because I don't want to impose these self-limitations.  If I deal with them in the end, fine.  However, I am not going to go into this next phase anticipating all of these issues that I may not even have to deal with, after all.

Strictly from a metabolic standpoint, I am in a place where I have never been at any point in my lifting "career." I have never taken in this large of an amount of calories and been in this type of condition.  I have been bigger but fatter.  So, that is one more thing that has not ever happened until I am almost 50. That means there is a ton of room to manipulate calories and keep in mind that I have done zero cardio and I am incredibly sedentary, as well, for the last 18 months.

Some things I have learned this year:

*as stated above, I have built my metabolism over the last 18 months to a point that I have never seen before

*I have managed to be smart and not just error on the side of "when it doubt, do more work." This has been a problem over the last few years when trying to get very lean.  I know this time that this is a horrible approach and I just need to trust my process that has worked thousands of times over for clients for 20 years and for myself for even longer than that.

*I have managed to remain relatively injury free.  I have had minor issues like pings and tendonitis but not one issue with my lower back (which is going on over 4 years now) and I have had no minor issues that weren't able to be rectified in a few weeks of training around them.

*I have been able to notice when I am heading towards an overtrained state and adjust.  I know this one might seem like "why wouldn't you be able to see this?" The truth is that because I like to train so hard (to failure and beyond all the time), sometimes my psyche doesn't allow me to see that I am heading for overtraining until it's too late and then I have to take time to recover with more cruise weeks or taking a week or two off at a time to recover and catch up.

*About 6 weeks ago I dropped my volume by about 33% and my strength took off.  In turn, I am remaining much fuller from day to day and recovery is substantially better.  With the drop in volume, tendonitis has all but disappeared and I feel signficantly better, overall.

*I can't handle very frequent training sessions where I repeat muscle groups less than 6 or 7 days apart.  This is, again, primarily because I don't want to cut back my intensity so I then have to adjust to make sure that frequency isn't too high.  I know that I will not increase frequency as I get into this cut phase because if I struggle to recover on HUGE calories, it is much less likely (almost impossible) that I will recover as well while on restricted calories.

*I also learned that this journey is about me and about me enjoying the process.  There are many times in the last 20 years where I have felt that I HAVE to be lean, I HAVE to be in great shape, simply because it's my business.  In fact, sometimes that alone would make me approach the gym as more of a job or obligation than something I truly loved to do.  This has changed dramatically when I stepped away 18 months ago for almost 4 months and just took a break from all things bodybuilding.  Some people push through while others need to step back and take a break.  Taking a break works better for me than pushing through.

My point to all of this is very simple:
After doing this as long as I have, I am still learning and still progressing.  It is fun again and I am thoroughly enjoying the process.  It has been quite a while since I have been able to say that.

I am very much looking forward to this next phase for 2020 and taking some down time for almost 2 weeks while in Michigan for the holidays.  I will still train but it will be fun training to laugh and see some people in the gym that I haven't seen in a while.  When I get back, the peddle goes to the floor again.