I reached my final two personal milestones last week. I was both accused of using steroids, and asked how I look like I'm 30 at 50. Well, it's not steroids. It is a combination of a lot of things, but if I had to pinpoint just one thing I would say my morning ritual is the key. We all have morning rituals whether you call it that or not. Chances are you do the same things every morning with only slight variations. So whatever you usually do when you get out of bed is your morning ritual. For the past five or so years my morning ritual has been Bible reading, prayer, and then some form of exercise. By setting the course and the tone for each day this way, I have been totally transformed physically, mentally, and spiritually. There is power in this morning ritual for all who are willing to grasp it.
It feels good to be home. I left a couple of weeks ago prepared for the worst. It turn out not to be so bad at all. This was far from what I expected. It was more like a civilian camp out than it was an army field exercise. We pitched in money for food. We grilled all kinds of stuff and no one was hungry the entire time. There was plenty of food.
I did have to sleep on the ground in my little tent, but I got used to that within a few days. I slept pretty good expect for the two nights I was awaken out of a sound sleep by a tick crawling on neck.
I also planned to use the TRX that I bought before I left. I really like fitness gadgets, but I just couldn't bring myself to open the box of that TRX. I have no doubt that the suspension trainer is an effective form of resistance training. What was bothering me was the price. If I was going for 6 months or more, and had zero availability of any other equipment, the expense of a TRX would be justified. I was only going for two weeks though. After which I would again have access to several gyms on Fort Bragg full of all kinds of equipment. Too much to pay for only two weeks of use, so I returned the TRX to the store unopened.
To my surprise I actually had access to a bench, a bar, a couple of sets of dumbbells, and nearly 300 pounds of plates while I was gone. Less than idea, but still sufficient for a decent workout. I choose not to use them. Sure it was hot. I had limit access to shower, and a limited supply of clean clothes. I could have work around all this and normally I would have. Something led me not to though. I hardly ever take more than one day off from training. I've been training six days a week now for what, two or three years? I just felt like I had more to gain by taking the full two weeks of rest from training, than I could gain by whatever workout I could get in for the same two week period. How did it work? Too early to tell just yet.
This morning I stepped on the scale and weighed two pounds heavier than when I left. Considering my diet and zero workouts, only two pounds is not too bad. I feel strong, but the lack of stretching has me feeling a little stiff. I will spend the next couple of days working on my flexibility. Should be ready to go back to working hard on Monday. Going to start a whole new workout program.
I'm so excited! Last day on my old job was yesterday. New job starts this Saturday. Times are hard, any honest work is a blessing these days. So I'm off to the woods to support an Army training exercise. Its been a long time. A really long time since I've spent a couple of weeks sleeping under the stars and digging holes to poop in, but I'm thinking it's a lot like riding a bike. Trying my best to remember all the things I used to pack about 20 years ago.
Physically I'm not too worried about carrying heavy loads and moving long distances in the North Carolina heat. I feel up to the challenge, and besides I can always flip that Ranger switch and go until I drop. I don't think that will be necessary. I have decided to add some running back into my workout routine though. I haven't run more than 100 meters at a time since I retired like five years ago. I promised myself that once I hung up my uniform I was not going to run again. I was never very good at running. It seemed like I was always struggling to keep up with guys who could run a lot faster and easier than me. So when I no longer had to run, I stopped. I'm far enough removed from all that now though. A little running won't sacrifice my muscle and it will enhance my overall endurance. I will look to make this adjustment as soon as possible.
As far as my resistance work while I'm in the woods, yesterday I purchased a TRX suspension trainer. I've never used one, but the TRX has been around long enough now not to be all marketing hype. I'm thinking of doing a video review when I get back.
As far as supplements, none are allowed. Except for protein. I'm actually looking forward to getting rid of all pre-work supplements anyway. And I don't think a short break from creatine will hurt me much. I did get enough protein bars to have one a day, but my calorie and protein intake are about to get seriously reduced. I also bought a case of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). The military brown bag with everything a growing boy needs for one whole meal. I used to get these things for free...now that I'm buying them, I will pack 1 per day. I don't know what else I will have available for food. One protein bar and one MRE a day probably isn't enough food to make me completely happy, but I won't die.
Among the other things on the prohibited list are all electronic devices. No phones, cameras, computers, and all the rest. Cutting all electronic cords for the first time since I purchase my first phone. That's been so long ago some of you won't remember. It came in a bag a little smaller than a shoe box.
This new job will be a huge change. It is not totally unfamiliar, but it does mark the beginning of a whole new chapter in my life.
I just received this video footage yesterday. It took seventeen text messages and four months to get it. It was just mailed a few days ago. If I had only sent sixteen text messages, chances are it would never have been mailed at all. Many of these text messages I sent didn't get a response. Finally the response came back with the 17th message that it had been sent. I replied back something like "great, thanks."
As soon as I sent that reply my mind immediately flashed to the parable Jesus told His disciples about the persistent widow (see Luke 18:1-8). I always thought I knew what this parable was saying, but the experience with getting this video was like going from black and white to HD techno color. Just like the persistent widow, I hounded the guy until he sent me what I wanted. The brightness came from deep inside when I suddenly became aware that one of the keys to prevailing prayer is persistence. How simple and powerful! I can't even remember how many times I've prayed for something only one time and then forgot all about it. In hindsight this seems like such a silly thing to do (how can we remember God answering a prayer, if we don't even remember what we asked?). I won't be making this mistake any longer though. I will pray with the same hound dog persistence that got me this video. The same pit bull, not let it go until it comes persistence, to "always pray and never give up."
The persistence of prevailing prayer is not as much about continually asking as it is about continually believing you will receive it. Once it is in the mail, you no longer have to ask for it to be sent. Be joyful like Abraham, and give God the praise. Be thankful for it while you wait to receive it (see Romans 4 20-21).
I have this vision of me standing on the 2014 Bodyspace Spokesmodel Competition stage at 200 pounds of perfection. Some will say this is impossible. There are just way too many variables that cannot possibly be controlled. I agree. They are right and it is impossible for me. What they refuse to believe though, is that all variables are under God's control. He who stretches out the heavens and calls each star by name. He who laid the foundations of the earth. He who numbers each hair on our head. He who clothes the lilies of the field and holds each sparrow in the palm of His hand. All things are possible to Him because He is the Most High and nothing is beyond His control. Let them put that in their scientific method and try to deal with it.
This past week has been filled with ups and downs. After sporting a six pack 24/7 for the past year and a half, it is a little unsettling to see my waist line thickening. I'm up another pound our two this week. My pants are now tight. I do like the fact that I am starting to fill out my shirts better though. The disgusted look on my wife's face when she looked at my midsection, and her comment to be careful about what kind of weight I was putting on didn't help. I know she was not being malicious in any way. The comment did get me thinking about stopping the bulk and ripping it up again. Too soon though. I need to get up pass 200 before leaning out again.
I still haven't set foot in the gym in weeks. I miss the scenery, but I've been getting more than enough work right here at home. In fact, I've had some of the best workouts this year at home this week. I'll go back to the gym for sure. Right now though I'm going to stick with my home grown workout.
Faith is just like a muscle. It takes consistent effort over time to make it stronger. Seems like every time I looked in the mirror this week was another opportunity to exercise my faith. I plant and I water, but it is God who makes me grow. What's more I've come to realize that it is also God who enables me to plant and water. Truly I have nothing to boast about. It all comes from Him, therefore to Him belongs all the glory.
The fire still waits in heaven for the faith that can call it down. The mountain stands listening for the faith that bids it to move. By faith I'm already there. I just need to keep on working until the promise comes.
That burning sensation in your muscles is just your body's way of testing your mind's desire to get bigger and stronger. The body doesn't care if you want to pump up your guns or tighten up your booty to look good. The body's number one concern is survival. It will adapt to most anything to do just that. A stimulus that is beyond your body's current capabilities will cause discomfort, or pain if you prefer. The pain is the body's signal to the mind to avoid whatever is causing the pain. Learn to find comfort in the discomfort of lifting weights and the body's survival mechanism will cause adaptation. It adapts by getting bigger and/or stronger to enhance it survivability under this continued stress. It is overloading, the continual pusing the body slightly pass its current capability over a period of years that produces the beautiful weight trained body that we all want.
Some days it is easier than others. Today was one of those "other" days for me. I haven't been in the gym since my last contest almost 4 weeks ago now. I've been working out at home. Bringing out a lot of my non-standard toys like my weight vest and Indian Clubs. Today I strapped on 2 1/2 pound wrist weights to each arm. That doesn't sound like much, but it was enough to produce a significant overload. Of course I was determined to keep my rep count the same as it was before adding the wrist weights. After my first couple of sets, I began to wonder if I could complete the rest of the workout with these little additions. I've been here plenty of times before. Arms are hurting and there are still three more sets to do. Sweating profusely, breathing hard, and the thought of just running away to fight another day keeps coming to mind. When this happens I force myself to think no further than the next set. I stop looking at the finish line in the distance, and just concentrate on taking the next step in front of me. This doesn't make it any easier, but it has always allowed me to get it done.
I do plenty of other exercise that doesn't hurt at all. They are energy building and mobility enhancing. They are not weight training though. The benefits of weight training come from progressive overloading. Make it brief, hard, recover, and repeat. Keep it simple and give it time.
Time to put the "eat big to be big" bodybuilding maxim to the test. I've been a big fat guy, and a small lean guy, now it's time to reach for my ideal of mass and cuts. I am beginning to believe the standard about to build muscle you need an excess of calories. I plan to fully test this in the upcoming months.
This week I added ON Serious Mass weight gainer after my morning ritual. That's a whopping 1245 calories. I'm also eating lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner. I'm not really counting anything. Just concerned with eating a protein source with every meal and not getting too crazy with the sugar consumption. Other than that it's all about getting as many calories as possible. So far so good. Up about 14 pounds since the contest two weeks ago and I can still see my abs. I'm going to try to keep the top two in sight by adjusting my sugar intake only. Vamos a ver. We will just have to see how it works.
The end of a physique contest brings two things for me. The first is a lot of soul searching. Especially if the final result is a little below what I expected. Third place in any national show in the NPC is by no means an easy mark to achieve, but because there is room above, it is not a mark that easily satisfies the soul. Hindsight is 20/20 if you don't allow negativity to poison your objectivity. After much consideration, I'm pleased with my 3rd place finish. My decision to stand with my abs relaxed was a big mistake. I don't know what the judges saw, but when I saw the pictures I thought it made me look flat and smooth. I won't make that mistake again.
The other thing that I've come to realize is that I've been in denial about my size. A few people have been telling me that I've gotten too small, but I simply dismissed these comments as fast as they came to me. Looking at the contest pictures I can no longer deny it though. Intermittent fasting (IF) has gotten me leaner than I've ever been before. After practicing IF for more than a year now, I've come to the conclusion that there is a point of diminishing returns. You can only under eat for so long before you start to shrink all over. Time for me to feed this mean machine and put some beef back on my bones. Looking to be about 205 walking around, and cut down using IF to 185 - 190 for contest day. This I think will be me at my best.
The other thing that I always seem to have to deal with after a contest is a loss of traction. After months of being super focused with contest prep for that one day on stage, when it comes and goes there is a huge vacuum left. Without checking yourself the diet spins out of control. The loss of the goal leads to ineffective training in the gym. It is a constant fight to prevent an overall feeling of malaise. I've been in enough contests now that I know to expect these after contest challenges. I've learned to limit the binge eating, and to settle on a purpose for resuming my workouts as quickly as possible. It took me a week this time around to get back on track. Lessons learned, new course set, and getting busy once again with putting in the work.
It's been a pretty long day. I recached Pittsburgh around 3:30 pm. I ate half the food I brought with me, grabbed a shower, and headed to the event hotel. Checking into the contest was pretty quick. Signed a wavier, got a number, the free event t-shirt, and a participation medal. Really, a medal just for showing up. Then it was upstairs to get a spray tan. As I was waiting for my turn, out walks #2 from last year. He looks good and I'm glad to see him back. So now I'm all painted up and ready to go.
When I got back to the hotel where I'm staying I ate a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. That is without the jelly. And without the bread. Okay, so maybe it was more like peanut butter spread on a rice cake, but hey, still tastes like a crunchy pbj sandwich to me.
I also ate a couple of sweet potatoes. I've been restricting my carbs for the past week, and yesterday's workout was really tough. Sure sign that I had depleted my muscle glycogen. Got the workout done on the reserve batteries. Felt like a new man when I went to sign into the contest after having some good carbs.
Well, I'll be sleeping in a long sleeve t-shirt and pants tonight. I don't want to get tanning product all over the sheets. I will head back over to the event around 8 am tomorrow to get a touch up on the spray tan. Then the competitors' meeting is at 10, and pre-judging at 11. The evening show starts at 5 pm. Its a little after 8 pm now, and I'm going to bed. I've got a big day planned tomorrow.
Only three days out now. Things are different this time. I understand why Moses said "if you don't come with us then don't bring us up from this place" (see Exodus 33). All of this world's treasures, including the 1st place trophy, mean nothing if they can't be used to bring glory to God. God is my portion, my exceedingly great reward. Him only will I exalt. Lord be Thou exalted. Not just over the heavens and all the earth, but be thou exalted over all of me as well. Be Thou exalted now and forever more. Amen.
I don't cook. There is certainly nothing wrong with cooking, its just not something I ever wanted to do. Not only don't I cook, but to counting calories is about as thrilling to me as watching the grass grow. So it probably comes as no surprise that my diet was the ball and chain limiting my fitness gains for years.
Lots of trial and error. What they say about once you've found all the ways that don't work you will only be left with what does work, is right. For me what has worked is intermittent fasting (IF). It was a last resort because I was afraid that I would lose muscle mass. I'm older and natural, so I don't want to lose even an once of muscle. The first technique I tried was protein IF. The basic concept here is that every couple of hours while fasting you take protein shake of about 25 gm. The theory being that the frequent protein will prevent muscle loss. What I found out after a couple of months is that it also prevented fat loss and was causing a small fortune in protein powder. This forced me to go to the more traditional IF.
I've been doing IF for a little over a year now. Two things to keep from burning your hard earn muscle while doing IF. First, go no longer than 24 hours. Second, continue to lift heavy. You simply have to give your body a reason for holding on to your muscle mass. Otherwise it will be considered excess and burned in favor of hanging onto the fat stores in preparation for the next famine. This is how the body is hardwired to function.
Learning how the body thinks has really taken me to a level I could only dream about a few short years ago. In a nut shell, it is designed for only two things, to survive and to reproduce. In that order. It wants to keep muscle mass to the level that is absolutely necessary and to keep body fat in preparation for times when food is in short supply. Muscle mass depends on activity, and body fat depends on diet. Not only has IF enable my body to burn the excess body fat under my skin, but it also got rid of my visceral fat. This is the super dangerous to your health type of fat that clings to your internal organs. It comes from years of excess calories. This is why it is more common to see smaller torsos on the young, and thick ones on the middle age.
Another huge tip I will give you concerning the anabolic properties of insulin. It is a natural hormone that puts the body in storage mode. This can be very useful for building muscle. I workout in a fasted state. My body burns through muscle glycogen and body fat for energy. After my workout I take protein along with pure honey. The honey causes a insulin spike which puts me in storage mode. My muscles are already hungry and in need of protein for repair because of my workout. Now the spike in blood sugar speeds the protein right where it is need most. The muscles, not body fat. Not only have I stripped off the unwanted body fat with this, but I believe I have actually put on a few pounds of muscle in the process.
I really do like bodyspace. When I joined about five years ago, the blogs of other people on a similar quest were motivating and inspiring. That hasn't changed for me. Perhaps my oldest friend on bodyspace is . Every time I read one of his blogs it's like a kick in the pants. His message to me is always the same. Work hard and be consistent. Countless times I've read on of his blogs and thought to myself, "man, I need to quit slacking." For helping to keep me on point I am grateful to you Andrew. And there are many others whose input over the years here have been invaluable to me.
One of my more recent bodyspace friends wrote something in his fit status that really caused me to reflect on what I'm doing in the final few days leading up to the contest. made me see that the way forward was to back up and re-look at what I was doing on the most basic level. It is okay Paul if this is other than what you intended. I have come to realize that God uses a variety of people in our lives to speak to us. We just have to be willing to listen. If a believer needs patience for example, God will send him or her lots of annoying people and difficult situations that require patience. Not to harasses, but to discipline. This is explained in Proverbs 3:11-12. Okay, back to the basics of my diet I went.
I have long since learned that it is all the sugar that makes and keeps us fat. We consume so much of it, because it tastes good. Because it takes good they put it in everything. Even products that don't taste sweet. Somehow though, I had let my sugar intake creep up on me. So going back to basics was looking at the sugar intake of what I was eating. Especially the fructose. A sugar molecule has to parts, a glucose and a froctose. The glucose is readily useable for energy for the brain, muscles, and all cells of the body. The fructose on the other hand can only be metabolized by the liver. Just like alcohol. The liver converts the fructose to liver glycogen. Here's the important part to remember. After the liver glycogen reaches max capacity, all the excess is sent immediately to fat storage. To lose body fat not only do you need to create a calorie deficit (eat less than your body needs to maintain it's current weight), but you also need to keep your liver glycogen low to avoid putting your body into fat storage mode while you are on limited calories.
This is my understanding of the science involved, and by reducing my fructose consumption this week I weighed 173 pounds this morning. I don't even remember the last time I've weighted 173 pounds. Maybe when I was like 20? And I have never had as much muscle mass as I have now. I challenge you to prove the truth of this for yourself. Especially if your weight loss has stalled. Look at what you are eating. Read labels and cut your sugar intake by 50%. Not zero. Zero is not maintainable and is likely to cause you to binge. Start with cutting your sugar intake to half before you think about going any lower.
Replace high sugar foods with low sugar carbs like vegetables and sweet potatoes. Increase your protein and healthily fats. This way you can keep your calorie intake roughly the same, but the fat will come off without you making any other drastic changes. Try this for month and come back and let me know how it works for you.