So… I Wake Up and I’m Massive

I was about to have a meta-discussion right here about my reasoning for writing a post like this, but I stopped caring half way through… meaning I’m sure readers don’t care either. Bottom line: it’s my party and I’ll write what I want to.

So I’m massive now. In a very literal sense massive. I’ve shot up to 255 lbs. I had no idea I’d gotten so large and really didn’t believe it except that I kept hearing from people, “Dude you’re huge. Looking swole.” I’d brush it off but people seemed to insist… I was visibly bigger. So I hopped on the scale to discover, lo and behold, I’m bigger. Much bigger. 12-15 lbs bigger in fact. Another instance, I guess, of not seeing progress in your own self.

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I’m Colossal… And it’s actually kind of alarming. You may recall I discussed some of my goals in previous posts (here and here), and while my coverage of my bodybuilding schedule has become embarrassingly lax – a problem I’m seeking to fix, I promise! – my goals are the same: roughly 260 lbs and I’d like to level out under 10% bodyfat. I haven’t checked my bodyfat recently. 2 weeks ago it was 9.5%, but I was also 242 lbs so there’s no rational universe in which all this weight is muscle (or is there…?). I’ll check my bodyfat in a week just disabuse myself of the idea that this is all good weight. For now, I’m kinda happy.

The thing is, though, I wasn’t trying to gain weight. I’ve been hoping to cut weight. I realize that I’m shockingly endomorphic and can eat barely anything and still put on muscle – my buddy Aaron balked and said he hated me when I mentioned my weight haha – but I try to bake that into the cake when managing my body.

I’ve obviously failed pretty spectacularly on that front if I’ve accidentally gained in the neighborhood of 25 pounds this spring. So it’s time to face fact and have a little Come to Jesus meeting with myself.

There are two main failures I think: one about orthodoxy (right belief) and one about orthopraxis (right action)… (behold my literary-historical nerd peeking out haha). My failure of orthopraxis is going about this process basically wrong from the get-go… and may be partially because I’m working with a training partner, weirdly enough. My buddy’s goal is to get hugely strong and enter a strongman type competition. Fine: excellent goal. What it requires, though, is slow, heavy lifting to build the body and increase power. And while that’s generally a great way to go, it isn’t exactly a cutting program. So I’ve been lifting with him and doing basically a routine I designed to get him huge… and, surprise surprise, I’m getting huge. (He is too, incidentally. He’s visibly bigger than when he started lifting with me)

What I need to do is find a way to go through a much higher volume routine and stop lifting in the 6-8 range that he needs. I really shouldn’t be surprised if I gain a ton of weight by lifting in a way that gains a ton of weight, but I guess I wasn’t paying too close attention! The fix is to change to higher volumes of exercise and not as much weight. My bridges and pyramids routine will be good for this, but I’ll modify the pyramid part to shave down the weight a bit.

My failure of Orthodoxy is more stinging… I need to just face the music and realize that I can’t be social in the same way I’ve been used to being social. I love going out with my friends, I love going out to restaurants and movies and bars and everything else. But pizza and popcorn and candy and especially booze are not going to get me where I want to go. Even in my already limited way, those things are holding me back. (This past week is a poor example probably… went to New York and clicked “vacation mode” in my brain, which meant “gorge yourself”…) So what to do?

I think I’ll basically just have to reevaluate how I’m social. I won’t be eating the same things as other people and I won’t be drinking at all. So much of being social involves these two things that it’s kind of a hard task I’ve set before me, but at the end of the day I have to decide it’s worth it. I’ll just be sober. And clean. And kinda boring.

1011091_10100841916384883_837518423_nBut as with most things, it just takes a change in attitude. The goal is worth it… and I need more discipline to get there.

Pyramids and Bridges: My Lean-Bulking Spring Workout

Part of this blog is a meandering discussion of body image and all that, but part of it is fitness based because a great many people ask me for fitness advice: either specific to their own bodies or just curious to know what I do myself. So I thought I’d describe my current routine for Spring.

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Do I Really Need Weights?

I was contacted recently by more than one person asking about weight loss. They were now as I had been years ago: very overweight and searching for solutions to their obesity. A question that keeps coming up for people – men usually contact me, but it’s also especially prevalent among women trying to lose weight – is whether or not they should even be lifting weights. For women, there is this fear that lifting weights will turn her into She Hulk in no time, and for both men and women there is a fear that somehow lifting weights will be a waste of time inasmuch as it distracts from the person’s primary goal of losing weight (presumably through a few hours of mind-killing cardio).

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Lets talk a little about why these fears are unfounded.

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My Super Secret Bulking Technique! (Shhh)

You know, I feel like I’ve said this before, but maybe I’ve talked around this issue specifically without actually hitting it. It ties into the things I’ve already said about bodytypes, about my own struggle with losing weight and discovering my strengths, and into my discussions about eating. I think of it recently because I’ve been out lightly advertising for my personal training business in Chicago and I’ve been asked several times about bulking. Guys see my recent pictures and say something to the effect of “Oh man, what did you do to get so big? Can you tell me what you do when you’re bulking??”

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My secret is this guys: the body you see here is me having never bulked on purpose. I’m always, always, always doing something to cut weight. Here’s how this works.

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Self-Selecting Beautiful People

I was thinking about this the other day in connection with my last post about Cheat Days, but also because I had been browsing the magazine rack at the grocery store and saw Adam Levine on the cover of Men’s Health and got irritated that the feature article was about torching fat. The fitness industry, like many groups and professional spheres, has a pretty steep selection and confirmation bias. Which normally wouldn’t be a big deal except that in fitness, this bias will keep people who need the most help from getting it. Let’s walk through what I mean.

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For Everything a Season

I was talking recently to a friend of mine who wanted some advice about supplements to take. Actually, about 4 friends asked me in the span of a couple days the same kind of question about supplementation. So while I do want to talk some more about supplementation and specifically what I do and why – and some of the science behind it – but first a kind of general overview of how I’ve come to see fitness in general: from supplementation to weight training to eating and everything surrounding those. In short: the body craves variety.

My friends’ questions usually had something to do with them being dissatisfied with their current supplements – in most cases a pre-workout – and they wanted advice about what to change to. When I get this kind of question, my answer is usually that what you change to is not as important as that you change to something. The idea behind the question is that they must be using the wrong product or an inferior product. Well that could be true – there’s nothing to say that all pre-workout supplements are always effective for everyone or are even very good as a rule – but sometimes they just need to change products.

The secret of the body is that it is very efficient at not doing much work. The scientific description of this is “the body is always moving toward equilibrium” but that’s a fancy way of saying that the body gets bored and stops changing. This is true for a wide range of stimuli.

Have you ever noticed that as you sit wherever you are sitting reading this that you aren’t “hearing” every sound that goes on around you? You may only hear the humm of your computer or the click of your mouse. But if you stop you can probably pick out the whirr of appliances, the subtle buzz of light bulbs, the creak of the building, your own breathing and heartbeat. All these stimuli get filtered out, though, and you only really register unusual sounds. For a long list of sensations, the body has a way of pushing them to the background and only responding to the new.

Now my friends all were using different kinds of pre-workout supplements (a pre-workout, for those who don’t know, is basically a stimulant to give you more energy to work out, though some of them have other effects as well) but in most cases they had been using them for a few months. After a while, though, the body can get used to a regular diet of supplements like these. They lose their effectiveness as the body begins to expect, then ignore, the stimulant. Any of you coffee drinkers may recognize this from your daily coffee. It’s always best the first time! So when people ask about a pre-workout supplement I’ll give my own recommendation (I have favorites for reasons I’ll discuss elsewhere) but also say that they can’t really go too wrong by just switching. They’ve become immune to the effect and need to cycle to something else.

gym-workoutThis is just like what I said about weight lifting. In order to be growing, you have to have variety at every level. People lifting weights will hit a plateau usually because they have been doing the same thing for too long. The body gets used to it, expects it, then ignores it. It’s why I always change what I’m doing in some way every 6-8 weeks. Longer than that and the body just stops working.

So if you find yourself sitting in place but working incredibly hard – be it with supplements or with weight training or even with eating – you may ask yourself how long you have been doing things the same way. Usually if you’ve been at it more than 2 months, then your body has adapted. Changing – almost in any direction, honestly – will jar the body out of its stasis and get it growing again.