24 Apr The Five Phases Of A Transformation Journey: The Reward Phase – Enjoying the Fruits Of Your Labour
The holy grail. The promised land. The final piece of the puzzle. The Reward phase is where everyone would like to skip to from the beginning, but very few actually end up here due a failed Consolidation phase, or an insufficient time spent in the Investment phase.
The best analogy again comes from investing. No one ever goes into investing their money and thinks they’ll be able to cash out in 6 months time with significant returns and interest on top. Unless you’re a highly skilled trader, which would be the equivalent of the genetic freak, it never happens.
Instead, playing the long game and investing over time to seek the power of compound interest is where the money is to be made. It’s the same when it comes to building your ideal physique, and the ideal lifestyle solution that goes with it.
What Exactly is the Reward Phase?
Typically this phase involves a repeat of phases two to four, albeit with a different mindset and far greater outcomes.
When you first embark on your initial fat loss phase, you spend a significant time building strategies, structures and systems that the whole process can feel very tough, require extreme planning, and feel like less of a lifestyle.
After work in the Consolidation and Investment periods, where you create lifestyle solutions and build more muscle mass, your opportunity to achieve something even greater in your next fat loss phase is going to be much higher.
The overarching goal of a Reward phase is much bigger, and more testing than the first initial fat loss period. It’s when you’ll try to push your condition harder than ever with another photoshoot, or you might just aim to reach a specific weight lower than before and with more muscle mass.
The reason for this ability to push more is because the processes required are already instilled into you, and you spend less time forming habits. Instead, your main focus can be entirely on seeing how hard you can go. This freed up bandwidth, and the ability to now push on cue, as opposed to with extreme planning and precursors, is a real sign you’re in the Reward phase. The goals you’re working to can be varied, but this is all about showing the fruits of your labour.
The direction you steer this phase will depend on where on the Investment continuum you are.
If you were skewed heavily towards being the Muscle Builder, then your goal in this phase will be to reveal the new physique you’ve built underneath.
This is exactly what Akash did:
Back in 2017 for my last bodybuilding prep, I got into the shape of my life and beat all my previous conditions. In order to do this though, I spent two years straight in an Investment phase focusing purely on building muscle. I’d done long building phases in the past, but never had I done it with as much focus, intensity and deliberation as this one. I was investing heavily, and playing high risk! After 21 weeks of dieting, I ended up with striated glutes, feathered triceps, and I was completely shredded all round. I also did this while maintaining my social life as normal and embracing a lifestyle approach. Two real game changers, and essentially the fruits of my labour.
Since then, I’ve shifted on the Investment continuum to a Lifestyle Designer. I now maintain good condition year round with a decent amount of muscle mass. This combination is typically where most people want to be, and it’s taken me 10 years to get there. For myself, aggressive building phases are a thing of the past. I’ve paid my dues and deposited the pennies over the years, and since my last lengthy diet, it’s been all about enjoying the dividends.
If you read the case study on Tom Hollis, you’ll notice the same. After over 3 years being aggressive in the Investment phase, he’s now reaping the rewards of being lean year-round while holding a good amount of size.
For the Lifestyle Designer, their Reward phase will be a little different. For most here, it’ll be about staying in the shape of their life for life, effortlessly. It’ll be to have their cake and eat it. It’ll be to be able to intuitively eat, stay lean, and have an extreme level of consciousness so that they never go off track. The Lifestyle Designer will likely never embark on a hard muscle building phase again; instead, they will have reached their ideal physique, and now spend more time ‘refining their system’ so their lifestyle solutions are more and more automatic.
This is a difficult place to reach, but for many of you reading this, this will be the ultimate end goal. The work required to get here is significant, and with the right education, it’s certainly possible.
An important part of the Reward phase to consider is you’ll experience a continuous shift and rebalancing of your priorities here with regards to your fitness.
What was once top three may now be a top five. That’s completely normal, and to be expected. It’ll bounce around in your priority list depending on your goal in the Reward phase.
The differentiator here is that no matter where it might be in your priority list, it’s so engrained into your lifestyle, and you know the benefits of staying in shape so deeply that you’ll never completely lose the positive habits.
This is a very important part of the journey, because now there’s little willpower needed to train, eat protein at meals and eat fruits and veggies. It’s part of day to day life. It’s a lifestyle, and whether the next part of your Reward phase is to aggressively build again, or if it’s strive for maintenance, it’s all the same.
What’s Next After the Reward Phase?
The timeline on the Reward phase as a ‘macro phase’ is indefinite. If you reach here, you’re here for life. That being said, there is an initial timeframe of 8 to 20 weeks to consolidate your position here, whether that’s through a dieting phase, or through rebalancing your priorities while maintaining shape.
Once you’ve done this though, the next steps can be anything you fancy. That’s the beauty of this! Examples include:
– Embark on another aggressive muscle building phase to try and build on your physique even more.
– Go on a slow build approach where you stay lean and accept gains may come slower, but you’d rather stay leaner (popular for those who’ve done 1-2 cycles of long aggressive builds).
– Maintain condition and continue to build more flexibility into your lifestyle and refine the systems you’re already using.
– Maintain condition and bodyweight while aiming to increase relative strength.
– Maintain condition while aiming to work towards the minimum effective dose of training, nutrition rigidity and general activity (popular for those who experience a real shift in priorities)
– Explore new sports, types of fitness, and channel energy into new skills, e.g. gymnastics, rock climbing, powerlifting.
The goals are endless. The Reward phase is a platform to go in any direction you like, and there is no right or wrong. The most popular options are the first three on the list, and it’s essentially bouncing between the muscle building and fat loss to continue making improvements to your physique in the long run. The extent you take each part of the equation will depend on where you fall on the Investment continuum, how lean you want to stay, and how much muscle you still have to build.
One feeling many people experience after their fat loss phase at the start of their journey is being ‘skinny lean’. This all comes back to underestimating how much muscle you actually carry, and how much body fat you hold at the start. If you can relate, then a lengthy Investment phase is absolutely critical, and you’ll likely need a few cycles of it to really fill the gaps and build your ideal physique.
Pay Your Dues
The reward will only be as good as your investment. The longer you invest in the goal, the bigger and better the reward will be. If your goal is to build 5 to 10 kg of muscle, the Investment phase required may be five years. That’s the truth about building a physique, and it’s difficult to accept for many. Which is why breaking it down into cycles of 6 to 12 months of muscle building, following by regular diets to show your rewards, can keep you motivated and striving towards the goal in the long run.
Similarly, if your goal is to simply be able to eat on intuition, always hold a similar bodyweight, and never have to worry about ‘dieting’, the more you invest in creating lifestyle solutions, improving your self awareness, and understanding what works for you, the easier it’ll be to reap the rewards in the future.
As always, how you approach the Reward phase, as a continuation of the Investment phase, will be interlinked. It’ll always be on a continuum and dependent on your individual requirements and needs.
In the meantime, those of you working towards this phase, keep investing. And if you’re here, enjoy it. You’ve reached a critical checkpoint of your journey, and it’s time to reap the rewards of your investments.
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