The Dark Secret of Fitness (shhhh)

I write a lot about momentum, sometimes more and sometimes less explicitly. Momentum is something I take for granted a lot of the time, even though there are those times I set down my flag and say, “Yes! Nothing is more important!” And that’s largely true. At the same time, nothing is more difficult to maintain unless you plan on maintaining it. (A failure to plan…)

This musing about momentum arises from me having not written anything here in several weeks. I lost my momentum – through both external stresses as well as just my failure to plan ahead – and so this fell off my radar. It shouldn’t have and I’m returning to it to attempt to rebuild that.

So, a little story about momentum:

I have some good news and bad news here along with my little story. First the bad news: the dark secret lying at the heart of health and fitness. There is no resting on your laurels. Ever. There is no point where you look at yourself and say, “OMG Finally that’s over. I can stop now.” There’s no stopping. There’s no finish line. There’s no top to this mountain.

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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).

she hulk

Lets talk a little about why these fears are unfounded.

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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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The Bottom Line: Insulin

Aaaand I’m back. Reconnected to the interwebz after a while moving from one house to another. Been hard not having access to the net, even beyond not being able to put down my thoughts on my blog and such, but now I’m back and I have a lot to catch up on!

We’ll start with what’s freshest in my mind – since it came up yesterday and it comes up fairly often for me. Yesterday I was at the gym and ran into an old friend who was getting ready for his personal training session. His trainer – also a friend of mine – had told him that he needs to reexamine his eating because they had been working together for a while and he still basically looked the same. I asked, “Well you’re stronger, right?” and he said, “I’m definitely stronger. I am, I guess, more able to perform duties at the gym…” We both laughed. “That’s not why any of us is at the gym though,” I said with a smile, and he nodded. So I asked him how he was eating. “Well for breakfast I had a Nutrigrain bar and some almonds…” I stopped him right there (since if that was breakfast, then the rest of the day was probably not making up for it). The answer wasn’t surprising necessarily… I used to eat similarly, thinking it would make me lose weight. But looking back at the conversation I realize that this eating style is endemic: people still eat that way thinking it’s healthy. The truth is that they’re sabotaging themselves.

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Handling Stress: A Learning Experience

So I’ve been kinda stressed the last week or so, which largely explains my intermittent posting. I’m sorry about that, honestly: I mean for this to be a daily exercise. In fact, I need it to be a daily exercise. Not just so I have a body of work – which is important for any writer – but also because I need the discipline. I enjoy writing, I’m good at it, and I need it to become second nature to me. Even if I produce something stupid and useless, it’s still production! It’s similar to what I’ve been talking about with fitness: just do better than what you did yesterday.

That’s not to say that this post is useless, just kind of airing out my thoughts as a preamble! This post is about stress and how I handle it.

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Changing Perspectives

For the last few weeks I’ve obviously been doing my bodybuilder challenge. Part of the challenge is to get my bodyfat percentage to an athletic level and that struggle isn’t just a physical one for me. It’s largely a psychological one that requires me to really change the way I looked at weight for most of my life.


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Bodybuilding: Week 3

(Previous week: 1, 2)

Week 2 was a little rough, of course. My best plans notwithstanding, I didn’t get as much done while on vacation in Chicago as I’d hoped, but also about the same as I expected if we’re all being honest. Still, I made some progress in certain areas even as some stagnated, so any progress is still progress, especially considering that I was gone for 5 days in Chicago and could have made no progress.

So let’s recap.

Long Term Goals:

  • Increase my Squat, Bench, Deadlift, and Shoulder Press by 30%.
  • Lean down to an athletic bodyfat %
  • Qualify for a show

Near Term Goals:

  • Increase my Squat, Bench, Deadlift, and Shoulder Press each week.
  • Clean up my diet and maintain a very clear, very clean carb cycling regimen.
  • Increase my cardiovascular endurance each week.
  • Find myself a coach.

Like I said, some goals got met and some didn’t. Namely, my bodyfat goal suffered mainly because I couldn’t control my eating the way I’d need to in order to make progress there. But my lifting actually went really well!

Bodyfat: My weight stayed the same: I’m holding steady at 224.4. But I also increased my strength, which would seem to indicate that I changed some fat weight to muscle weight.

Strength: I made some impressive gains in my support exercises last week, which surprised me, but even more satisfying is the fact that I increased my strength in my four main target motions: bench, squat, deadlift, and shoulder press. My squat, shoulder press, and deadlift increased by 20%, which is pretty astonishing to me not just because the weight increase was so big but because I maintained my form through it. I’m doing a squat correctly and increasing my strength… which really shouldn’t surprise my I guess. Doing things correctly in the gym tends to improve gains. My bench press increased by 7% and while not as impressive as the others is still a pretty solid gain in one week. As far as strength goes, last week was really productive!

Diet: This part was a total collapse haha. Like I said, my food was hard to control in Chicago even though I tried planning ahead, but thankfully my weight didn’t fluctuate. Which actually really surprises me because normally my weight would shoot up from any deviation from the norm.

Cardiovascular Endurance: I didn’t get to do much Insanity in my hotel room, but I did do it each morning before I left and the morning I got back. I’m happy to say that my endurance is now up to about 80%-90% of my target (my target being “get through Insanity without stopping”). Again, sort of surprising considering that as an endomorph my cardio endurance is usually first thing to decay if I’m not consistent with it. So again, pretty happy!

Next Week:

With nothing surprising on the horizon, let’s see if I can get up to 100% with all my goals. This will mean focusing on healthy carbs on Saturday for my “refeed” as well as getting all of my cardio into the program. If I can get things to 100% this week, I’ll add some new goals!