5 Surefire Ways To Ace Your Summer Shred
The work you do between your ears is just as important as what you do at the gym. Here's how to exercise your motivational muscle during your summer shred!
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Your mindset isn't as tangible as the workouts you follow or the food you eat, but it's there all the time, in everything you do, for better or worse. With the right mindset, you can achieve the sort of triumphs that seem like clichés these days: Hunger can't stop you, pain won't hurt, and reps will pour out of your muscles. But without a healthy mental approach, a 30-day shred is not only likely to fail, it's likely to set you back for weeks or months down the road.
Even in the best of circumstances, getting as lean as possible after building your muscular foundation requires extreme dedication and persistence. So yes, you have to be willing to make sacrifices and endure a degree of discomfort. But there are certainly ways you can help yourself out on the front end!
Here are five surefire ways to make the mental part of this a little easier, so you can stay fired up until the mirror returns the image you're looking for.
Perfect the Progress Pic
There's a big difference between losing weight and getting shredded. With weight loss, the scale and body composition have a lot to say about your success. Shredding, however, is all about how you look—so you'd be crazy not to get a little visual perspective via the progress pic!
Seriously, you're never going to notice the incredibly small changes taking place in your physique from day to day. In fact, your eye is probably going to tell you that you look the same every day, even if you don't. But weekly progress pics are the best at showing you the evidence of bigger changes about to happen.
Why weekly? "When you stack weekly progress pics side by side, you'll be able to see progress in the details of your physique that have evolved along the way, especially when you string several together over time," says personal trainer and Cellucor athlete Jen Jewell. "Daily or every-once-in-a-while pics just can't compare. Take pics weekly, and you'll notice differences between the pics that you don't often notice just by looking in the mirror. Use these pics as motivation to keep kicking butt!"
Use Others for Inspiration, Not Comparison
If all of us were discouraged when we realized we'd never have Arnold's biceps peak, none of us would ever train arms. But Jewell points out that such comparisons are flawed from the get-go. Shredding is all about discovering and revealing your physique's strengths, not wishing you had the strengths of your favorite athlete or Instagram celebrity.
"The people you follow are almost definitely among the elite in fitness and physique, so there's no winning by comparing yourself to them," Jewell says. "And the majority of what people post on social media is only their highlight reel. When they're posting progress pics, there's no telling how many shots they've taken to get the right angle and the right lighting."
Deep down, we all know these truths—hopefully—but in our weaker moments, the allure of comparison is still irresistible. "I've had clients email me asking how so-and-so lost 15 pounds in five days or how this person stays so ripped year round. They can't help but compare their results to those highlighted on social media," Jewell says. "My advice is always the same: Focus on yourself, improving a bit each and every day, and celebrate the progress you've made.
"We are each on our own fitness journey, and we all have our own unique genetics and physique," she adds. "You'll never know your own potential until you work hard to discover it, and cutting can help you do that—but only if you focus on being your best you."
Resist Isolation and Obsession
It's not uncommon for a first-time competitor to disappear for a month or more in late spring and early summer. While their families and friends get excited about the season to come, this person retreats into a cave of two-a-day training sessions and declined invitations.
Some people consider this a necessary evil, but it's a dangerous road to go down. It sets up your fitness journey as a destination, leaving you to crash hard after you achieve your goal—if you achieve it at all.
"It's a hard balance at times, but we all have to learn how to hit our workouts and meals and still make time for family, friends, and loved ones," says Cellucor athlete and physique competitor Jay Zuccato. "Rest days and days away from the gym are just as important as the days you train, because they help recharge you both physically and mentally."
The other head of this monster, of course, is obsessive nutrition. Let's be straight; you really don't want to do long-term damage to your metabolism or begin to hate what you eat over the course of this simple cut. Preserving your nutritional sanity begins with saving room for foods you enjoy.
"Eating food you enjoy on occasion is essential if you want to stay healthy mentally and physically in the long term," Zuccato adds. "Eat these foods in moderation, and fit them into your macros for the day."
Take Notes on Everything
Many athletes aspire to reach that point in their training lives when they can just hit the gym and see it like Neo from "The Matrix"—instantly and instinctively knowing what to do. Legendary bodybuilders like Frank Zane likewise preach the utility of "instinctive training," insisting that your body will always know what's best. You just have to listen.
Well, assuming that you're currently neither Neo nor Zane, a good plan might come in handy until you are. And after you have one, journaling your workouts is a fantastic motivational tool that leads you toward your goal with measurable evidence of success.
What should you write down in that journal? I'm glad you asked:
- Exercises and order
- Sets and reps
- Weight used
- Rest periods
- Notes: What really sucked, what felt too easy, what was a PR
This info is always important, but it becomes especially so while you're shredding. The Cellucor Summer Shred training program will heavily tax your muscles and your resolve, and weights that might've felt light before will probably feel challenging now. You want to keep your eyes open for fast strength loss—a sure sign of under-recovery or being undernourished—but you also want to look for small areas to improve, such as completing just 1-2 more reps with the same weight, moving a little more weight, or taking a little time off of the rest periods.
Journaling prevents you from just going through the motions during each workout. By consistently trying to better your previous work, you'll keep yourself motivated and progressing toward your goal.
Get Enough Sleep
"I'll rest when I'm dead" is never a great approach to training, but when shredding is the goal, some people double down on effort and end up fried in a hurry. Unfortunately, more isn't always better. Often, it's just more.
Scheduling multiple workouts per day or failing to build recovery days into your split is a recipe for disaster. Aside from burnout or overtraining, it can lead to injuries, a crashing metabolism, drastic drops in strength, and simply feeling awful.
But a week of rest days won't do you a lick of good if you're not resting when it really counts: at night! Getting 7-9 hours of deep, restful sleep each night isn't just a suggestion. If you really want to get cut for summer, it's a command!
Sleep is one of the most powerful fat-burning tools at your disposal; it's when muscles repair and physique-friendly hormones like growth hormone are at their peak. Sleep allows you to recharge both physically and mentally as well.
If you've done your part in the gym and kitchen, do yourself a favor and power down at night. It's the one variable you don't want to shortchange. Knock out the lights, limit the use of electronics before bed, don't take any stimulants within several hours of sleep, and give your body the overnight recovery it deserves.