Before I got into shape I was the typical post-college male. I had what seemed to be a never ending job right out of school that I hated, ate like crap and never worked out.
Once I left that job, I had some free time after work with my dad in the city. My friends were all signing up to do Tough Mudder in April of the following year, and I said "I could do it too!" So I quit smoking and signed up; boy was I in for it.
I still knew nothing of nutrition or proper workouts since all I had were a few adjustable dumbbells (up to 45 pounds) and a Bowflex to utilize. So I created a plan (which I laugh at now) where I would work out before dinner and eat a giant meal afterwards. Needless to say, my weight went nowhere.
Follow this up with an accident at work that left me with stitches in my hand, and I had every excuse in the book to not work out. I was tired, my friends were going out for beers, it was the weekend and I slept too long and had too much to do, the Holidays, and before you know it,
April was here and Tough Mudder was around the corner. 10 of us stayed at my friend's parents' house in the Poconos and we feasted on pasta and meatballs, pancakes, and pizza for two days before the race. Before the race, I felt confident I would be able to keep up with my friends as some of them weren't in great shape either. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Please Detail Your Turning Point
My first Tough Mudder experience was extremely embarrassing and also extremely humbling. Twelve miles of freezing water, climbing hills, traversing monkey bars and balance beams, and running to the top of a full size quarterpipe left me cramped and unable to run by the end of the race.
I was stunned.
I was the last of my friends to finish, and it took almost five and a half hours! I remember the ride home with my girlfriend (now fiancée) like it was yesterday. I made her drive as I could barely move, nor could I sleep because I was in so much pain.
The following day I told myself that I would never allow myself to feel that physically incapable again. A friend of mine recommended I try out Insanity. Since my cardio was awful, I thought this would help best prepare me for another run at the bastard that is Tough Mudder.
I set a goal that I would complete Insanity, and during the 9 weeks I would lose 40 pounds to get me from 238 to 198. I used Weight Watchers as my diet guide (which looking back on, was probably a terrible idea). After my final workout I weighed myself and sure enough I had lost my 40 pounds. However, I looked like a mini version of my fat self and therefore I knew more changes needed to be made.
I eventually made it to a gym in my town and started following guides on lifting sites as far as exercising and nutrition. My body composition changed, but it wasn't until Summer of 2014 where my body really changed to what it is closest to now.
What Were Your Major Struggles or Challenges?
My major struggles involved the actual creating of an exercise and nutrition plan. I had parents who had little to no knowledge of how to break down proteins, fats, and carbs and create a macro-based plan. Nor did my family have any real idea of weight training or training to lose fat and gain muscle.
My mother does cardio 5 days a week along with a circuit workout to maintain, and my dad cycles on the weekends because he enjoys it. I had no friends who had a background in what I needed, until I met a coworker who was a big gym rat. Him and I used to talk all sorts of topics, and he helped me create my first successful nutrition program to feel better, eat more without gaining weight, and eat to where I felt full and not constantly starving because I was eating diet foods.
I chatted with him one day about doing a boot camp exercise program that utilized My boot camp program was broken down into 6 days on, one day off in a nice bro split. Each day was either a large body part, such as back, or it was a smaller body part along with abs.
Because of the length of the program, abs were trained three times per week to have maximum stimulation. Every workout was pushed to the limit, using heavy weights, variable rep ranges, progressive overload, drop sets, supersets, giant sets, 8x8s, 10x10s, 100 reps for some exercises (using as few sets as possible), and rest only as long as a minute per set. Some days there were over 50 sets per workout.
Also, every workout day there was cardio involved. On one of the larger body part days, either HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or LISS (Low-Intensity Steady State) cardio was to be done after weight training or as a separate workout from the weights (say cardio in the a.m. with weights in the p.m.) I chose to do cardio following weights.
The High Intensity cardio ranged from deadmill sprints (running as hard as you can on a treadmill that was off for 20 seconds) to burpees to box jumps to intervals on a stairmaster, rower or bike to track sprinting (using the nice weather of summer). LISS could be performed on any cardio machine.
The weekly breakdown was as follows:
- Back/HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
- Total body circuit
My macros for this plan were 230g protein, 200g carbs, and 64g fat. This was done by using 1.15g/lb for protein, .35g/lb for fat, and the rest were carbs. I was eating 2300 calories per day, which is when I started reading that most people in contest prep suffer from hunger pangs (which I definitely had). A typical day was as follows:
- 6 egg whites (3 cracked and 3 liquid)
- 2 slices Ezekiel cinnamon raising bread
- 2 Tbsp Nuts N More regular or chocolate peanut butter
- Liquid multivitamin
- 2 fish oils
- 1 Greek yogurt
- 6 brazil nuts
- 5 oz. chicken breast or lean steak
- Either spinach salad or grilled veggies
- 5 oz. chicken
- 6 oz. sweet potato
- 2 scoops whey isolate
- 1-2 scoops waxy maize (depending on the day)
- 5-6 oz. chicken or steak
- Spinach salad with tomato, cucumber, black olives, and a splash of olive oil
- An apple
Detail Your Supplement Plan During Your Transformation
Every workout day I had a post-workout shake of usually 2 scoops whey or whey isolate and a scoop or two of waxy maize, depending on the day (usually leg days called for two).
I also used BCAAs intra-workout, a pre-workout, and a scoop of glutamine was thrown in my post workout shake.
I also used fish oil for breakfast and dinner, and a liquid multivitamin was my drink for breakfast (Anavite from Gaspari).
What Was Your Major Accomplishment, or Major Milestones?
My major accomplishment was winning one of the weekly challenges. Every week for the month we had to send in a progress photo to keep us honest. My second week I won a free container of Amino-X by BSN!
The major milestone I hit was the fact that I had single digit body fat for the first time in my life (measured by caliper by an exercise physiologist), as well as visible abs. Quite a long time coming for someone whose only six pack in the past was one of beer!
The other major accomplishment was the fact that I now felt comfortable in my own skin. I knew that I had put in the work I needed to break walls down and push through barriers. Was I contest ready? No. However, it was my best body and I had worked my ass off to hit that point.
Detail Your 3 Biggest Mistakes
First, not doing the research sooner. I could have reached my goal a year earlier if I had created a plan that balanced nutrition and weight training instead of what seemed like endless cardio (I guess it's called Insanity for a reason) and essentially starving myself.
There were times after workouts where I wouldn't eat because I had used all of Weight Watchers points. I robbed myself of ALL THE GAINZ!
Second, listening to the details of what others have done and not adjusting to what I needed. Just because someone on the cover of a magazine does workouts in a certain way, doesn't mean it will work for you. Maybesomeone does tons of supersets and dropsets, yet you grow best with straight sets.
Do what is best for you. I learned that my body grows best under stress from lots of different rep schemes and changing resistances. I incorporate supersets and drops everyday because its what works for me.
Lastly, not changing your attitude and facing things negatively. I was the guy who busted on people for working out so much. Then I was the guy who bitched about form and detail without seeing what worked for me.
Then I was the guy who complained about people curling in the squat rack (wait.... I still do). I also would constantly tell myself, "I can't do another rep. I can't do this. I can't do that." Erase that mentality. That doesn't help anyone, including yourself.
As I once heard Sean Connery say, "Losers always whine about their best... Winners go home and f--k the prom queen!"
3 Biggest Things You Learned During Your Transformation?
I learned so much that it's hard to narrow it to three, but these are the three most important:
First, believe in yourself. If I could tell my fat self now that a few years later I would be in the gym 6 days a week and have run 5 Tough Mudders, my fat a$$ would laugh at me and then chug a beer.
All you have to do is tell yourself that you're going to do something, and put your focus on it, and surely enough, it will be done.
Second, trust the process. There were too many times where I program hopped because I didn't think it was working. I'd be three weeks into a 12 week program and I'd say, "I'm not seeing anything different, let's try something else." If I had tracked what I was doing correctly, I would have probably seen my results!
Take pictures and try to notice the little things; are your arms getting bigger, shoulders or back broader, abs showing signs of progress; anything like that means its working.
Third, know your goals! So often I was a mixed bag. I would follow a workout plan for someone looking to bulk, yet have poverty macros because I was trying to cut fat. I'd follow a cutting plan trying to eat more so I had the energy to put in (See why I couldn't trust the process?).
I never had clear goals. I wanted to get as ripped as possible while putting on sheer size. Once I committed to shredding, it happened. Once I committed to putting on size, it happened (while keeping slightly shredded). Pick a goal, stick with it, and only re-evaluate when you believe you've changed for the better.
Final Works of Advice for Others Looking to Make a Change?
If you want to make a change, do your research, pick a goal, and get your ass to work! The only one who can change is you. The only one who controls your attitude is you. It all comes down to how you treat it and how you move forward in your changes.
Can't gain weight? Can't get ripped? Set your mind to the task and make it happen. As much advice as you can receive, sometimes it can be too much; just go work and have a positive mindset and you'll be able to do anything.
If you are looking for help putting together the right type of program and setting your goals in motion, I am a certified personal trainer and can help you. Any contact can be sent to email@example.com.