15 Apr The Five Phases Of A Transformation Journey: The Investment Phase – Continuum of Muscle Building & Lifestyle Solutions
When you reach your first transformation checkpoint at the end of the Process phase and you execute a safe Consolidation phase, you’re well primed for the next step of your journey – the Investment phase.
The Investment phase is exactly what the name suggests; it’s investing in yourself to achieve your ideal physique in the long term. It’s understanding that if you invest with a long-term mindset and let your money work hard for you, you can reap the real benefits of a lifestyle solution where you’re able to maintain your optimal shape, year-round.
This is the goal many of us are working towards. It’s the ability to have complete control of our bodies, and be able to make improvements at all times, whether it’s strength gain, muscle building, or even being able to ‘maintain easier’.
What typically happens after your first Process phase is while you may look great, you also begin to think:
- How do I maintain this beyond the Consolidation phase?
- How do I build some muscle to look even better?
- Do I have to always eat this strict and do this many steps everyday for the rest of my life?
- How do I sustain my physique while enjoying my food and life?
This is where the value of the Investment phase lies. If you want to build your nest egg, your engine and your body’s capacity to navigate around all of life’s challenges without breaking down, you need to invest with a long-term mindset.
The first step of this phase is determining how you want to invest, and we typically see the journey unravel in two different ways at this point, bringing two types of investors:
1. The Lifestyle Solution
This type of investor will typically be someone who’s always been overweight in the past, worked for years and years to get leaner, and now has a goal of learning how to maintain this for life. Remember, maintenance at this stage is a goal in itself. It’s one thing to get lean when you have it as a top priority, but when life happens, do you have the strategies and solutions in place to maintain?
Rebalancing of priorities is normal (and we’ll dive into this more in the Reward phase), but after you know the transformative and holistic benefits of a physical transformation, it’s highly unlikely you’ll want to lose this as it may (inevitably) become a slightly lower priority.
2. The Muscle Builder
After leaning down, this type of investor will want to be much stronger and fill out their T shirts more (males), or develop their curves better (females). These people will also understand that they carried far less muscle tissue and held far more body fat than they believed they had. In an Investment phase, this person will be all about PRs on the plate and PRs on the bar, embracing the fluff, and really thinking long term to lay down a bigger and better foundation for the future.
After reading the two types of investors, you may find yourself resonating with both. Both are inevitably linked and feed off each other, but how you determine where you fall on the continuum between the two will depend on your psychology, your background, and your long-term goal.
- If you’re a woman in your late 30s with kids, your goal may be now to stay in great shape, but get as strong as possible. You may be in the middle, and slightly to the right.
- If you’re a 28 year old guy who’s finished a leaning phase unhappy with their size, you’ll be on the far right of muscle building.
- If you’re 40 years old who’s in the shape of your life, you may be more focused on maintaining condition to optimise health, accept slower levels of muscle growth, and be more skewed to the left.
Where you fall on the continuum will continue to develop and change as you go through your journey. How you train won’t necessarily change, as you’ll always be focusing on improvement. What will change is how you manipulate your body composition, nutrition and approach your level of flexibility. The pure Muscle Builder will be happy to accept body fat as a side effect of a productive building phase, whereas a pure Lifestyle Solution will be entirely focused on staying in great shape throughout the year while navigating around life. Many of you reading this will be somewhere along this continuum.
As you dive into the Investment phase, there’ll be four key components you’ll be working on.
1. Lifestyle Management
2. Performance Indicator Targets
3. Health Optimisation
Let’s dive into each…
1. Lifestyle Management
The first part of the Investment phase that makes for a smooth follow on from the Consolidation phase is a focus on lifestyle management. Granted, this will always be there, but a real critical part of working towards your long term goal is setting up your lifestyle in a way that enables this.
You need to picture your ideal week with regards to social eating, alcohol, training and steps, and then reverse engineer the process to your daily routine, and various strategies you may want to implement regularly to make it easier. For example, if intermittent fasting helps you maintain your condition, this could be something you continue even as calories increase.
This part of the Investment phase is also about having rules to follow on a day to day basis. These rules could be as follows:
– Always eat a protein source with each meal
– Fast until 11am
– Drink four litres of water
– Eat the same thing Monday to Friday
It’ll be individual to you, but creating these rules will have a domino effect on how you live a healthier life in the long run. It also makes your journey more sustainable and flexible to different environments.
2. Performance Indicator Targets
An important shift when you move on from the Process phase is one from an aesthetic to a performance mindset. The best way to do this is to set targets with your performance indicators.
Pick four to six of your favourite compound lifts (mix of upper and lower ideally) and use 8 to 12 week blocks to really chase down some numbers. This is all about progressive overload with perfect form, and becoming as strong as possible. The dividends this can pay in the future can be exponential, and without this element, it’ll be difficult to make tangible improvements over time in your physique.
3. Health Optimisation
An overlooked area of the Investment phase is the practice of diving deep into specific areas of your health that can be optimised to create a cascading positive effect on your lifestyle and overall well-being. These may include:
– Food Choices. You may start paying closer attention to any trigger foods that either spark cravings or don’t sit too well with you. You may begin to look closely at your vitamin/mineral intake and micronutrient targets by ensuring you’re eating 5-6 different vegetables a day with 2-3 pieces of fruit a day, or if necessary, using supplementation to plug holes.
– Sleep. You may start exploring strategies to optimise the quality and quantity of your sleep, that in turn can help the rest of your life function significantly better, with feelings of less hunger, reduced cravings, more focus and greater energy.
– Stress. Taking time to look at your level of stress, and how you manage it can have a tremendous impact on everything you do in your life, so integrating effective stress management solutions is always worth delving further into.
– Cardiovascular. Using cardiovascular training as a method of increasing heart health (vs. fat loss) and being the healthiest version of yourself can help maintain the ‘new lease of life’ you’ll have from the earlier phases.
What you’ll notice is that none of these areas are new to the process per se, but what you can now do in the Investment phase is use periods of time to really go deep on one area, and find methods to best optimise it for your lifestyle.
You’ll find that the more your food choices are in sync with you, and the more your sleep, stress management and cardiovascular health are functioning maximally, the easier it’ll be to achieve your physique goals in turn.
Of the four components, this is the toughest one to accomplish. It’s the real money maker for a lifestyle solution, and a critical skill to learn over the years to have the master key to your physique. Being able to heighten your level of self awareness so that you’re able to manipulate your training, nutrition and activity based on your biofeedback is something few are able to put the work in to accomplish. It’s not a quick solution, and it’s one that only our longest term clients achieve. It requires coaching, objective feedback, education, self awareness, and an ability to communicate so that you can learn exactly what makes you tick.
Personal Investment Anecdotes
To gain more perspective of what an Investment phase can look like, here are some personal anecdotes from us…
As a skinny fat kid growing up, I’ve spent more time figuring out how to build muscle than any other goal, so I’ve been in many lengthy periods where the focus has been on nothing else but to get bigger (in a good way). I’ve always preferred and seen benefits from very long periods of staying in a calorie surplus, and know that for maximum results, it’s certainly the way to go for natural muscle building.
My best periods of Investment have come in two forms.
The first was in ‘off season’ before my 2017 bodybuilding prep, where I spent close to 2 years solely focused on pushing calories higher and higher, embracing the fluff, and getting as strong as I possibly could. The patience paid off, and in 2017 I was in the shape of my life. I was way more conditioned than in 2014, and with more muscle to show for it. The investment paid massive dividends!
The second has been in the latter end of 2018, where I decided to take more of a Lifestyle Solution approach and tweak my daily nutrition to optimise my work productivity while also staying progressive on my training. It’s been an experimental phase where instead of pushing purely for growth like I’ve done before, I’m figuring out what my body likes best in order to stay in good shape year round, without making it difficult. It’s the complete opposite end of the spectrum, but one that’s slowly beginning to pay dividends almost a year later!
The Investment phase is where physiques and lifestyles are built. A period of fat loss is only there to show off your hard work after!
As per what you’d expect with my history as a chubby kid, my Investment phases have always been on the shorter side. Over the 10 years I’ve had small / sharp bursts of investment that have allowed me to grow effectively for my own body. However, I’d always wish I could go longer for 9-12 months in a row without blowing out on condition, as there are tremendous benefits in doing so.
My best phase of muscle building was in Dubai. I hired a coach and I wanted to push purely for growth with the long-term reward of a photoshoot later in the year. During this phase, I strung 5 months of solid consistency with training and a calorie surplus that led for me to push from 73kg to 80kg. It wasn’t pretty, but my strength levels were through the roof. At 73kg I was pushing 100kg for 3 on the overhead press and DB pressing 50s for 6! I was progressing week on week until about month 4, where my old habits crept back in and got the better of me. I thought because I had 3500 calories to play with I could eat whatever I wanted and not get caught out. How wrong I was! Ideally I would have stopped at the 78kg as the stairs at the apartment block got a little too hard for my liking, and my performance actually started going down after I’d reached that tipping point.
I used that phase to build whatever muscle I had, and in my later prep for the photoshoot I felt it really had a positive outcome. I had more muscle, I was stronger for longer, and I’d built a better foundation.
I’d always recommend longer periods of building, but my psychology can only handle short sharp bursts before I need pull back. That’s personal to me, and it works very well!
Minimum Investment Periods
When you’re investing in mutual funds, you’re told to wait a minimum five years before you see any tangible results.
When you’re investing in your body, we’d argue it takes a similar amount of time to really master the four components of an Investment phase.
If we use our personal anecdotes as an example, you can see how so much time in our journeys have been spent in the Investment phase, and how we’re now only able to be in the Reward phase as a result of it.
In our work, we’ve noticed the following short-term timelines to work well to see any tangible results in your physique before requiring a shift in focus:
5-6 months = small return; absolute minimum length required, although likely not going to see noticeable difference
9-12 months = moderate return; good timeframe to see changes in your physique
18-24 months = big returns; a real life changing difference
Speaking on the latter, this article, ‘How To Invest In Your Ultimate Physique’ is one we’d consider critical reading. We go through examples of people who’ve cashed out big, and now live large enjoying the fruits of their labour.
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