When motivation lacks

As far as training goes, this year has been all over the place!  Most of it has to do with the fact that I built a home fitness studio in one of my guest bedrooms and it is still taking me some time to get adjusted to not having the convenience of machines.  Another factor is that I started training for my first strongman competition, at the beginning of the year, leading up to my competition that took place in August.  Oh, and if that wasn’t taxing enough, I decided to do a full raw powerlifting meet 6 weeks after the SM competition!  I survived the SM competition and placed 1st in the powerlifting competition, so it’s safe to say I did well.  I didn’t blow anything or anybody out of the water, but I did well for what was expected of me.  After the powerlifting competition, I took a week off to visit family in Texas.  After not hitting the gym for a full week, I returned feeling like Golem.  Trying to squat 225 lbs.  for two reps took everything I had!  Oh, and don’t get me started on how much 185 lbs. on the bench felt like.  Truly a humbling and sad moment.

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Anyways, a few weeks have passed and I find myself competition-less and lacking of motivation.  I figured the time off would have me itching to tackle the gym with a dangerous ferocity, but that’s simply not the case.  I’ve tried to chalk it up to the fact that it’s getting darker earlier and that the cold weather’s creeping in, but I’m fully aware that I’m lying to myself.  The fact is, I’ve lost motivation.  As ridiculous as it sounds, that’s what has happened.  With that being said, what ever shall I do to regain my motivation?  Exactly what I’ve done every other time this has happened to me, in the past.

Watch as many action movies as possible.

Now, I’m not talking about any of the new movies. I’m talking “Commando” and “Predator”.  I’m going back to the 80’s where the sun’s out and guns are out.  I need pure testosterone with terrible punch lines and things exploding all over the place.  Why?  Because, why not?

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Start tracking my diet.

I stepped on the scale, this morning, and found my sorry self sitting at roughly 177 lbs.  I normally sit pretty at 185 lbs.  What has happened?  Well, I’ve been traveling A LOT and my diet has been pure garbage.  While traveling I’ll maybe get 3 large meals in, versus my usual small to moderate 6 meals a day.  I am an organism that needs to eat constantly and as clean as possible.  Any deviations to this approach can cause me to lose weight, mainly in the form of water, really fast.  I feel fine at 177 lbs., but feel incredible at 185.  Other than traveling, I find it easy to forget to eat when I am super busy at work or home.  One way I remind myself is by setting a series of phone alarms, on the weekends, for every two hours.  When they go off, I eat a small source of carbs and protein.  That, or simply eat a meal.  Tracking it helps me to ensure I stay constant and in a caloric surplus.

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Stick to a basic program.  Sort of.

I’ve been guilty of being a program hopper, but feel there’s nothing wrong with that. How are you supposed to know what works for you if you don’t experiment; like most things in life?  I took a strongman approach, throughout the year, and then switched gears to a more powerlifting focused approach towards the end of Summer.  Leading into Fall, I’ve been doing a bit of a hybrid program where I perform the core lifts, along with some accessory work, in the gym and perform an event day on a random Saturday to work the implements.  Unfortunately, this isn’t working for me.  I have no rhyme or reason to how I’ve been training and it kinda sucks.  I feel the major factor in this is that I have no true goal for why I’m lifting; I’m just lifting.  That’s cool when your 15 years old and have no idea what you are doing; but not so cool with the little time you have to your adult self is spent on training.  So, I’ve decided to focus strictly on my weakest links in a DUP style approach.  I’ll write about that program, later.  The goal being to get stronger and improve my conditioning in order to compete in a strongman competition sometime next year.

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Pick a competition.

I had a ton of fun training for my last strongman competition, so my main focus will be to train for one that takes place in Spring or early Summer.  Of course, I’ll do the annual Battle of the Beasts powerlifting competition that takes place later in year.  Powerlifting is fun to train for, as well, but I feel more “functional” when I train for Strongman.  Plus, if I do it right, my strength will easily transfer when I peak for a powerlifting meet.  We’ll see!  Picking a competition will keep me focused and on top of my game.  I feel competition is the best form of motivation, even if it’s just one you hold with yourself.

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I’m positive this endeavor will pay off, simply because it always has.  Sometimes, you simply need to reset yourself on the path you decided to follow and/or rediscover what motivated you to set foot on that path to begin with.  Hopefully my lack of motivation will serve as motivation for you!

From Skinny to Built: Part 3

Eat, eat, and eat some more.

When I first started lifting weights, the only sources I had for any information were a couple of mainstream bodybuilding magazines.  I actually still have the first one I ever bought!  These monthly magazines were great inspiration and were filled with useful information for an aspiring lifter such as myself.  The problem with these magazines, however, was that they never spoke much about how to eat properly.  Today, all of the popular magazines seem to cover all of the bases when it comes to training and proper diet.

Since proper diet was never something I thought about until way further down the road in my lifting path, I never gained the muscle I worked so hard to obtain.  From 15 to 19 years old, I pretty much ate everything.  Sadly, I never gained the quality mass I was working so hard for. This was due to a few reasons:

  • I wasn’t timing my snacks and meals as I should’ve.
  • The majority of my meals consisted of bad sugars and carbs.
  • I didn’t take in enough protein and vegetables.
  • Though I felt I ate enough calories, I truly didn’t.

At 20 years old, I was still eating this way.  I had, however, started supplementing with protein powders because I had joined the military and could finally afford to buy them.  This was after boot camp, though.  I had a terrible experience in how a major lack of nutrients and calories can destroy muscle mass, while in boot camp.  I walked into basic training weighing 175 lbs. and walked out 155 lbs., a few months later.  All of the guys that walked in fat and soft came out lean and hard.  There were a handful of guys, like me, that had some decent muscle mass; but lost a majority of it due to the lack of food provided while in training.  Not to mention all of the friggin running they had us doing!  Luckily, shortly after exiting boot camp, I gained most of that weight back with proper nutrition.  I’ll never forget how weak and small I got during that time.

It was also at 20 years old that I got the heaviest I have ever been.  I was training at an Air Force technical facility out in Texas that had a killer gym.  My days consisted of job training during the day and weightlifting in the evening.  The squadron provided a buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I would combine those wonderful (free) meals with weight gain powders; creating a temporary anabolic environment within my body.  I got my weight up to 193 lbs., though much of it was fat.

This was a bummer to me, honestly, because I still believed that I could get as muscular as the guys in all of the bodybuilding magazines if I ate a lot and trained hard.  That approach indeed made me big, but I was an unhealthy big.  I felt sluggish and looked terrible with my shirt off.  I bet I would’ve looked much better had I thrown in some cardio, but I felt all of the running we did was enough cardio.  In all reality, I should’ve been doing a TON of cardio!  I held that amount of weight for a couple of months, only to get back down to 174 lbs. when I returned home from technical training.  Returning home, I started back to eating three times a day with some minor protein supplementation thrown into the mix.

For the next 10 years I pretty much stuck to eating 3 meals a day with a little protein supplementation thrown in the mix.  No matter what phase of training I was in, I ate the same way.  This caused me to basically maintain all that I had.  My weight would yo-yo between 170 and 180 lbs., depending on the time of year or current life circumstance, but I never felt truly happy with the way I looked.  I had become a typical “permabulker”.

At 30 years old, I finally landed a job that didn’t require such laborious conditions that I lost my appetite.  Also, I was at a financial level that allowed me to purchase all the food and supplements I wanted.  All I basically did was add more supplements to the mix and healthier snacks (almonds vs peanut butter crackers).  This helped add a small amount of mass to my frame, but the progress was slower than expected.

Over the next two years, I spent a great amount of time researching and trying different diets: low carb, Paleo, Keto, etc.  Finally, I ran across a pot of gold.  I found an article that was full of information on how to use the correct ratio of macro-nutrients to reach one’s fitness goal.  This method of eating is what finally made it all happen for me.  It allows me to manipulate my diet in such a way that I can get shredded, while still holding on to the precious muscle I work so hard for, or bulk up with minimal fat gain.

Before moving forward, I really feel the need to express some thoughts on IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros).  This approach has people believing that the body treats all calories and carbs the same.   It’s been my experience that the body does not treat the calories from a candy bar the same way it would a grilled chicken tender.  This is a terrible way of approaching nutrition, if approached poorly, and I do not recommend it.  I was doing this, in my early days, way before it was popular and I ended up a bit soft.  Not all of my daily calories come from ultra-healthy sources, but I promise you I’m not downing cake and ice cream to reach my macros for the day.  The buff bros on social media stay ripped by eating this way because they are on loads of steroids.  They will never admit this because they would lose their legions of sheeple and endorsements.

DO NOT LISTEN TO THE SOCIAL MEDIA BROS CONCERNING YOUR DIET.

If you decide to go the flexible dieting route, learn how to do it correctly.  I’m a flexible dieter, but I choose my calories wisely.

It’s not rocket science.  It’s just a matter of finding your numbers and then finding the right foods to eat.  I use MyFitnessPal to track all of my food, and love it!

Protein (4 calories per gram)

Take in one gram per pound of your desired body-weight, every day. This means that if you want to weigh 190 lbs. and want to be 200 lbs., your intake will be 200 grams per day.  I’ve had success adding more than a gram of protein per pound of body-weight; but each person is designed differently – figure out what works for you.  Below, a graph is provided displaying information on protein requirements.  

DO NOT GO LOWER THAN 1 GRAM PER POUND OF DESIRED BODY-WEIGHT.

Good protein options include:

  • Eggs
  • Liquid Egg Whites
  • Skinless Chicken Breast or Cutlets
  • Lean Ground Turkey
  • Top Round Steak
  • Filet Mignon
  • Fish (Salmon, Tuna, Cod, etc.)
  • Turkey Bacon
  • Lean Ground Beef
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Pork Tenderloin

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Photo Credit: www.nutritionexpress.com

Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)

Carbs will need to be adjusted to fine tune whatever your current goal may be.  Ours is to put on some mass, so we will aim for 3 grams of carbs per pound of body-weight.  If you find yourself getting chubby, swap to maintenance mode for a couple of weeks and see how that treats you.  Make sure the carbs you eat are complex in nature (rice, oats, potatoes, vegetables, fruits).

Fat loss: 1 gram of carbohydrate per pound of desired body-weight.

Maintenance: 2 grams of carbohydrate per pound of desired body-weight.

Mass: 3 grams of carbohydrate per pound of desired body-weight.

Good carb options include:

  • Steel Cut Oats
  • Fruit
  • Oatmeal
  • Vegetables
  • Sweet Potatoes/Yams
  • Brown Rice
  • White Rice
  • Whole Wheat Bread
  • Cream Of Wheat
  • Cream of Rice

Bad carb options include:

  • Cereal
  • Candy
  • Chips
  • Ice Cream
  • Soda
  • Sugary Juice
  • Anything delicious, honestly

Fat (9 calories per gram)

Healthy fats (Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats) are set at .5 grams per pound of desired body-weight. So, if you are the above individual and striving to be 200 lbs., you’ll need to take in 100 grams of healthy fat per day.

Good Fat options include:

  • Olive Oil/Flaxseed Oil
  • Fish Oil
  • Almond Butter/Cashew Butter
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Natural Peanut Butter
  • Avocados

Bad Fat options include:

  • Anything fried
  • Butter and Margarine
  • Palm Oil and Coconut Oil
  • Vegetable Shortening

These calories can be split amongst 3 – 6 meals per day. Devise a plan and stick with it for 4-6 weeks.  Make adjustments after you have assessed the results delivered during this time frame.  A cheat meal is acceptable, every now and then.  Do not eat crap to get your caloric intake up!  With proper planning, you can hit your daily numbers with ease.

Quick Example

190 pound individual wants to be 200 pounds.

Protein = 200 grams (x 4 = 800 calories)

Fats = 100 grams (x 9 = 900 calories)

Carbs = 600 grams (x 4 = 2400 calories)

Total calories = 4100 calories

Moving Forward…

Make sure you weigh yourself every other week and make any needed adjustments to these numbers. Your weight may fluctuate every few weeks, prompting you to adjust your macro-nutrient and caloric numbers.

Also, PLEASE make sure you are following a sound training plan.  If not, you will only put on a ton of unwanted fat with very little muscle.  Most importantly, understand that it will take a while to put on 10 solid pounds of muscle.  It’s normal to only gain a pound or two, of lean mass, a month.

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From Skinny to Built: Part 2

One of the first pieces of fitness advice that I wish someone told me was that no matter how bad I wanted to be as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger, it was never going to happen.  Not in a million years of training and eating would I ever be able to be as big as that man, even with some “assistance”.  I honestly thought that if I religiously ate and trained right, I could get on Arnold’s level.

As the years passed by, I slowly began to realize that God hadn’t created me to be a big fella like Arnold.  At some point, in my early 20s, I came to the final realization that I would be doing great to hit 190 lbs. of solid muscle.  This realization was a bummer, but it didn’t stop me from training hard and eating right.  I stayed in the 170 to 180 lbs. range for YEARS!  The heavier I got, the softer I looked, so I would shred back down to 170 lbs. when spring and summer rolled around.  This vicious cycle went on for a good long time.

Shortly after this realization, and during my short college stint, I ran across an Anatomy and Physiology teacher that put everything into proper perspective.  He taught me that every person is of a specific body type and pretty much predestined to be a certain size, unless chemically enhanced.  I also learned that even if a person is chemically enhanced, that doesn’t necessarily equate to them packing on muscle mass.  I was mind blown with those little tid bits, to say the least.  These 3 body types are: Ectomorph, Mesomorph, and Endomorph.

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Photo Credit: http://www.menstylefashion.com

ECTOMORPH

  • Narrow hips and clavicles
  • Small joints (wrist/ankles)
  • Thin build
  • Stringy muscle bellies
  • Long limbs

MESOMORPH

  • Wide clavicles
  • Narrow waist
  • Thinner joints
  • Long and round muscle bellies

ENDOMORPH

  •  Blocky
  •  Thick rib cage
  •  Wide/thicker joints
  •  Hips as wide (or wider) than clavicles
  •  Shorter limbs

To be honest with you, I was a bit relieved to hear that I had not been doing it wrong and that my anatomy was what was holding me back from being the next Mr. Olympia (never really a goal of mine).  For the next few years, if I wasn’t working my tail off trying to earn a dollar, I worked on determining what type of training and diet worked for me.  I tried everything from low carb to high carb diets and everything in between.  Concerning training, I tried everything from traditional bodybuilding routines to powerlifting (more on both of those topics, later).

What I aim to get across here is that you must understand that you were designed a certain way and that no matter how much you may want to look like another person, it just isn’t gonna happen.  Don’t get me wrong, you can get dang close!  Aim to be the best you and be happy with today.  You are not guaranteed tomorrow, friend.

If you haven’t checked out Part 1, click here!