T Nation

Unavoidable interruptions to Starting Strength

Hey guys,

I’m a novice lifter and a college rower, been doing various “routines” in the gym over the last year with breaks here and there, but nothing serious, been mainly focussing on cardio for the rowing.

I’m planning on taking lifting more seriously from now on (end of rowing season) and will be dedicating myself to the Starting Strength program over the coming months. My aim is to gain strength and size so I will have a caloric surplus, but don’t want the fat gain to be too excessive. So I’m going to start with a 500 calorie surplus on training days and 200 calorie surplus on rest days, with lower carbs on the rest days. I will see how this works for 2 weeks then adjust.

My concern is that over the next 3 months I will have no access to the gym once for a period of a week and once for a period of 2 weeks due to family holidays to pretty remote areas that have no gyms. Given how the program emphasises continued progress and not skipping sessions, what would be the best way to strategise my nutrition and cardio on those holidays?

I will have no access to a gym for 1 week, in the 3rd week of the program, but can go for runs/sprints. And then no access to the gym for 2 weeks in the 11th week of the program, however I will be swimming daily during this holiday, so will be doing cardio.

So for those 2 periods I’d like to maintain muscle strength and size as much as possible, and prevent fat gain. Ideally I’d even maybe use those periods to burn off a bit of the fat. I accept I will lose some strength/size, but i want to minimise this.

Whilst I know skipping sessions isn’t ideal, it’s unavoidable. So should I take advantage of those periods to do cardio, get a moderate caloric deficit and burn the added fat? Or just stick to maintenance calories? What should my nutrition and cardio be like when not lifting?

Also, should I maybe go harder than the program says on the 1-2 workouts before I go for my holiday (say extra reps/sets or exercises), as I will then have a lot of recovery time.

FYI, I am 6ft0, 157 pounds. Although relatively “skinny” right now with some ab definition, i gain fat quite easily and it took some dieting to get down to this weight and a lot of cardio (rowing) to get there.

As soon as I come back from both holidays I aim to resume the program by the next day.

Thanks in advance!

you will be fine as far as keeping muscle as long as you stay active during the one and two week periods. i don’t gain fat easily so i don’t know about your nutrition questions.

I don’t think it’s possible to gain any appreciable amount of fat within a week unless you’re eating grossly over your required amount on a daily basis.

It is possible to lose muscle mass though, especially if your body isn’t used to carrying them around.

So probably just eat at a moderate surplus while you do activities?

And how can you be fat when you’re 6ft and 157lb? Are you sure it’s not because you just don’t have any muscle mass at all, and as such you just look fat?

How far along are you in the program? What are your current working sets?

If you’ll be towards the end of the cycle… a week off might do you some good. 2 weeks is a bit much, though. Either way, if you can see abs on SS, you probably need to eat more.

[quote]bouncyball wrote:
My aim is to gain strength and size so I will have a caloric surplus, but don’t want the fat gain to be too excessive.[/quote]
Two things: First, the majority of “bulks” or periods of intentional weight gain, will add muscle and fat. The general ratios of each are determined mostly by your lifting routine and your overall nutrition.

Second and more importantly, at your current size, you’re almost definitely going to have minimal fat gain for the few dozen pounds because you’re underweight.

For the week break, be normal and enjoy things. For the two week break, try being active with push-ups/pull-ups and basic stuff a few days a week. Cardio will not help you gain muscle in either case. Swimming laps for an hour is a bad idea. Splashing around in the lake with a cute girl… good idea.

No. Not only will you burn minimal fat in just a week or two, but it just makes no sense to change focus like that. When you’re driving and you come to a speedbump, you slow down and go over it. You don’t hit reverse and head back the way you came.

Keep eating plenty of protein, maybe cut your carbs later in the day, and scale back a little on the portions. That should be plenty. Really though, the fact that you’re not lifting means you’re not having your workout shake, so that automatically cuts out a few hundred calories right there. Problem almost-solved already.

Pushing the envelope prior to a break is one common methods, sure. It just doesn’t really jive with the way Starting Strength is laid out since it’s intentionally fairly lower volume already. I guess you could, like, try extra hard or something the week before your break.

Nothing relative about it, you’re skinny by any use of the term. No offense intended though. I do understand it can be a part of your sport, but check out this old thread about rowing and muscle:


LiquidMercury, in particular, is a very experienced rower and trainer. I think he currently has a log somewhere here. Maybe track him down and pick his brain for general tips.

Again, fat gain is a combination of training and nutrition. A good program and smart nutrition will minimize “excessive” fat gain.

For a general nutrition plan, I really like this “Athlete Diet” article for some very solid guidelines:

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:

[quote]bouncyball wrote:
My aim is to gain strength and size so I will have a caloric surplus, but don’t want the fat gain to be too excessive.[/quote]
Two things: First, the majority of “bulks” or periods of intentional weight gain, will add muscle and fat. The general ratios of each are determined mostly by your lifting routine and your overall nutrition.

Second and more importantly, at your current size, you’re almost definitely going to have minimal fat gain for the few dozen pounds because you’re underweight.

For the week break, be normal and enjoy things. For the two week break, try being active with push-ups/pull-ups and basic stuff a few days a week. Cardio will not help you gain muscle in either case. Swimming laps for an hour is a bad idea. Splashing around in the lake with a cute girl… good idea.

No. Not only will you burn minimal fat in just a week or two, but it just makes no sense to change focus like that. When you’re driving and you come to a speedbump, you slow down and go over it. You don’t hit reverse and head back the way you came.

Keep eating plenty of protein, maybe cut your carbs later in the day, and scale back a little on the portions. That should be plenty. Really though, the fact that you’re not lifting means you’re not having your workout shake, so that automatically cuts out a few hundred calories right there. Problem almost-solved already.

Pushing the envelope prior to a break is one common methods, sure. It just doesn’t really jive with the way Starting Strength is laid out since it’s intentionally fairly lower volume already. I guess you could, like, try extra hard or something the week before your break.

Nothing relative about it, you’re skinny by any use of the term. No offense intended though. I do understand it can be a part of your sport, but check out this old thread about rowing and muscle:


LiquidMercury, in particular, is a very experienced rower and trainer. I think he currently has a log somewhere here. Maybe track him down and pick his brain for general tips.

Again, fat gain is a combination of training and nutrition. A good program and smart nutrition will minimize “excessive” fat gain.

For a general nutrition plan, I really like this “Athlete Diet” article for some very solid guidelines:


[/quote]

Thanks for the very thorough answer!

I appreciate I’m underweight and I guess it’s a psychological issue. Until I was 17/18 and started rowing I was quite fat so I do want to avoid returning to those days. However, the weight is particularly low now as I was really ill for 2-3 weeks last month (even ending up in hospital for a few days), and during that period I lost a lot of weight. Don’t get me wrong, I have done a lot of reading and research and I know to expect some fat, I just don’t want it to be at a ratio of say 60:40 as Mark Rippeto said his 4000-6000 calorie day would do.

But yes, my rowing coach never really emphasised weights, and in addition to the 8-9 rowing sessions we had during the week, I had to fit in 2 sessions of weights in my own time, after having had morning practise on both those days, so progress was very slow, despite eating a lot of carbs and protein, and what little progress I had made, it was undone by the illness.

I’ll do as you recommended, I’ll just slightly scale back my calories during the holidays and try and do bodyweight stuff. Out of interest, for the actual program, what should my caloric surplus be do you think? 20% or more, if i don’t want excessive fat gain (I’m very very good at eating only clean foods)? And should i keep it constant or lower on rest days?

Real basic idea for weight/mass gain is 500 calorie surplus. Just strength (probably not optimal though) is 200-300, while staying at the same weight/losing weight is just your daily requirement.

There is absolutely no reason for you to eat less on rest days. You sort of need to gain weight. I’m five inches shorter than you, weight two-three more pounds, and I look skinny…