The faint smell of metal and sweat, the clang of weights being moved with determination. The hum of cardio machines and the soft thud of it's dedicated riders, this has been my world for the last 3 months. I have found a new home, a place where the world in front of me is mine to control. My self image, inside and out, is at my command. i have found a new sense of confidence in not just my physical image, but more profoundly my will power and dedication. I have proven to myself that I can do anything I set my mind too. That sounds very cliche and "Halmark," but I think most people have lost the key to realizing how powerful that statement can be when it is truly a reality.
Lets start at the beginning with a little background of what my life has been like for the last couple years. In 2010, I had been graduated from college for a few years and emerged into a bad economy, which left me looking for employment in my chosen career path, which was marine biology. I was a bartender at a local restaurant in order to pay the bills. I enjoyed it but yearned for a chance to pursue my passion of studying the ocean. I was an average gym goer and usually worked out 3-4 times per week. I considered myself to be relatively healthy and in fair shape. I used my workout sessions as more of a therapeutic way to decompress, relax, reflect, and as a way to convince myself I had control of something. The gym was a space for me to display control over my life and body. I had never realized how truly profound my image of the gym actually was until the end of 2010 when I finally was given the opportunity I had been waiting for since graduation. A job had opened up with a marine environmental consulting firm working primarily with the BP oil spill. Immediately, I left for the panhandle of Florida to start my career. What I didn't realize was the amount of time required for such a job, and subsequently the scarcity of personal time. I did my best to find time for exercise, but as we all know, it tends to take a backseat to rest when there isn't time for both. At the beginning of 2011, I was promoted and asked to move to Louisiana to head up jobs working offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, which I enthusiastically accepted. It sounds strange, but when your hundreds of miles out at sea with only limited amenities, you start to realize how crucial certain, formally benign, activities really are. Like most people, I missed the normal everyday things that we as a society, have become accustomed to, such as internet, cell phones, cable, and the freedom of mobility. What surprised me most was of all the things not present in my offshore life, what I missed the most was being able to exercise. I had never realized just how much eating healthy and exercising actually effected my emotions, mind and body.
After working offshore for a little over a year, I decided that wasn't the type of life I wanted to live. Therefore, I resigned and come back to Tampa to start fresh. After the year of laying around on a boat for weeks at a time and eating heavy, fried Louisiana Cajun cooking, it will do something to a persons physique. It tends to get you into shape, and that shape my friends, is a circle. I had become quite a bit, shall I say, fuller. None of my clothes, that I had worn for years, fit me anymore. I found myself wanting to sleep all the time, I had no energy to do anything, and my brain felt tired and sluggish. The first thing I promised to myself was a new vigor and dedication to my health.
I know inspiration comes in many different ways to each individual, so i spent many nights mulling over what would inspire me to make this huge change. To take on such a large alteration in lifestyle and stick to it until it became part of day to day living again. I read numerous articles suggesting ways to physically motivate me such as looking at a picture of someone with the physique you would like, or reading an inspirational passage or saying. None of these methods rang true with me, and it wasn't until I began reading blogs that I found the key to what I needed to jump start my motivation. I read up on tons of blog sites, and quickly found that every topic I inquired about had multiple blog entries on Bodybuilding.com. This quickly became my golden ticket to my, as my father would say, "stick-to-it-ivness." I knew the moment that I read about the body transformation challenge that this would be my key to success.
I immediately, started my challenge, and thanks to all the user blogs, I had all the information and tips I needed. Like Dr. Frankenstein, I took my favorite pieces of information from multiple user blogs and built a personal diet and exercise plan that I knew would keep me focused and eager. At the beginning, as with all things that are new, it was easy to stay on my diet and keep my enthusiasm up during workouts. After a while though, the early mornings, sore joints, and reluctant muscles started to complain to my receptive and burnt out brain. This is usually where I am really good at justifying cheating on my goal, " I have worked so hard, I deserve it" or "One day off won't hurt, I owe it to myself." These are the tools of the evil little demon on my shoulder, but thanks to the easy access to Bodybuilding.com blogs, I was able to refocus and read that others were having the same issues. The bloggers have beaten their temptations, and I was focused on beating mine. It allowed me to tap into my competitive nature and silence those thoughts to the back of my mind.
As 1 month turned into 2, and 2 into 3, I started finding reasons to go do more active things on my days off. Instead of watching television, I yearned for physical activity such as kayaking, biking, and rock climbing. I started researching more healthy lifestyles and learning more about foods and nutrition. I have started incorporating juicing into my everyday diet along with more consumption of fresh raw vegetables and fruits. Over the last 3 months my body has changed profoundly and my pallet has changed as well. I no longer crave the fast foods, the sweats, or the deep fried foods. Instead, my mouth waters over healthier foods like a big sald with tons of veggies and grilled chicken or a sizzling stir fry with steak, carrots, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, and bamboo sprouts. Most importantly, I have proven to myself that I can set a large long term goal and reach it without a trainer or any other person keeping me accountable, and that has given my mind a new calm confidence that no matter what happens to me from this point on in my life I know I possess the power to do anything I set my mind to and now I can truly believe it.
You know it's weird when I first started to get into the gym and work out it wasn't because I wanted to make a lifestyle change or I was over weight. Actually, it was the exact opposite, I had just graduated highschool at 6' 1" and 155lbs, I wasn't very confident in myself and I wanted to do better with the ladies, pure and simple. In the first 6 months I put on 25lbs of pure muscle and then I was hooked! I always refused to take any illegal suppliment and that still holds true today. Back then my only goal was BIGGER, you know the same goal every testosterone driven college guy wants to do. But as I matured and got older (two completely seperate things mind you) I started to realize that I valued my workouts on a whole other level. They have become something that symbolizes will power, a form of therapy. A way to get away from all the stresses and complications of life and just do. I thought I know how much I appreciated my gym regime until last year when I accepted a job working offshore with the oil spill as collections scientist during this time I would spend 7 or more days off shore at any one time on a boat with no room big enough to even do push ups or sit ups. After doing this for over a year, working out whenever possible at the nearest gym in between runs I have begun to realize just how much a part of my life and my personality it is to me. I now understand why people that are over weight and seem so lethargic get that way and more importantly, stay that way.
Today is day 4 and I know realize why ppl say that you have to work your way back up to running long distances when switching from regular running shoes to the Vibram Five Finger shoes ("toe shoes". I ran 3 miles in them last night and my lower calves are so sore that I would just say that I am immobile lol. Don't get me wrong I love the shoes but who knew that the change was so significant.
I will tell you that I am still a huge advicate of the shoes 100%. They have many advantages such as:
-They feel as if your barefoot but protect your tender feet from being cut.
-They force you to land on your forefoot when running which is much better for your entire skeletal system (I am a heel striker). This means that I no longer have lower back pain during and after running.
-Because your heel is at the same level as your forefoot and your toes move independently, your balance increases profoundly. That translates in to a more solid base for compound, multimuscle building exercises such as dead lift, power cleans, squats, etc. Personally, my maxes went up 10% immediately.
-Lastly, they are the most comfortable shoes I have ever put on my feet.
They may look a little goofy but with all those benefits, who cares?