Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Road to Glory

Interestingly, I don't know that I've ever written about how I got to where I am today. It's been an interesting journey for me; one that is not without its share of bumps in the road. Want to find out how I got here? Read on.

I was always a tall guy, but physically my body fell somewhere between mesomorph and endomorph. I was always an athlete, and played any sport that was available. Just like every other fitness guy, I spent lots of time on the back porch dicking around with my sand-filled weight set; doing endless reps of bench press and biceps curls with very little to show for it. When I was playing a lot of sports, I'd stay pretty lean without trying, and when I was being inactive it showed. When I left UMass Amherst and worked in a greenhouse, my walking-around weight was probably around 175. I was very active at that job, and all the food I put into my body got burned up right away. After a few years of that, I took a desk job for the first time in my life, but didn't make a great adjustment to it. My then-girlfriend and I had a once-weekly ritual called "Fat Thursday". We would, along with my sister, get Thai food and Coldstone's ice cream and sit on the couch and watch Thursday night TV. It was our pre-determined time to hang out together and relax, and it got us fucking fat. This ritual got me up to my heaviest, about 230 pounds of chewed bubblegum. I looked gross and felt awful. There was some time when I would go see my parents, and my dad would make fun of me for being fat. I thought he was just being a dick, until one day I was in the car and realized that I could feel my stomach fat hanging over the seatbelt.

We made changes. We cut the Fat Thursdays and started eating better. The company I worked for was subsidizing 50% of the gym membership for the place downstairs, so I joined up. I read a little bit here and there on-line and got some ideas about the right things to do (although, in retrospect, I did all the wrong things). One of the things that I did do well was interval training. Four or five times a week, I would go downstairs and crush 20 minutes of 30:90 intervals. I'd go back upstairs to work and have a salad with a bunch of chicken for lunch. Within a few months I was down to about 200 pounds. At that point, one of my best friends asked me what I was planning on doing with life. I had no idea. He was at Bridgewater State College doing there Physical Education program, and suggested I look into something similar. I checked around and found out that UMass Boston had an Exercise and Health Science program. I applied and got in. I knew what I wanted to do with my life? I left my 9-5 job and went back to school, spending the first semester just doing school and not working; ultimately having a very successful first semester back. I then got a front desk job at the new gym opening up in my neighborhood, which would allow me plenty of time to work and do school. Everything was going just perfectly...then she dumped me.

I went on the whiskey diet for a few weeks and got pretty skinny (skinny, not lean). During the dark weeks, plus the ensuing exercise binge, I got back down to about 180 pounds of skinny-fat goodness. This is when my education really began. I found some sources of information on-line about the right way to do things. I found T-Nation, which led me to the demi-Gods of strength and conditioning; Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore, Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, Charles Poliquin, Dan John and Mike Boyle. These guys and their seemingly endless supply of articles were the resource I needed to get things on the right track. I started deadlifting and squatting and sprinting. Gone were the biceps curls and tricpes kickbacks, replaced with loaded chins and close-grip pressing. Scap wall-slides and foam rolling replaced arm circles overhead triceps stretches as my go-to warm ups. I made progress; not a lot of progress, but I was moving forward. I was eating better and doing the correct lifts. Over the course of some time doing my own "programming" I managed to work my way up to a 340 pound deadlift, while pretty much maintaining my bodyweight at 180. I was getting stronger, but my body composition wasn't changing very much. I was kind of doughy. That's when I got my golden ticket; Cressey's blog was asking for volunteers to be guinea pigs for his new program. Did I want free programing from one of the top names in the industry? Does a bear shit in the woods? I've posted these pictures before, but they are worth posting again.

I went from 180 pounds to 190 pounds while doing Show and Go, and ended up being able to see my abs. I also added 50 pounds to my deadlift, maxing out at 390. I would've hit 405, I think, except I planned out my attempts poorly. Pretty good gains, if you ask me. I also learned quite a bit about programming through Show and Go. It taught me the importance of creating physical balance through unbalanced programming, as well as providing a very clear understanding of the importance of varying volume and intensity throughout the course of a program.

The next stage was a little tougher, I had a few training related injuries there were tough to work around. I did something to my right bicep while deadlifting, and it rendered me nearly useless for almost 3 months. I came back to the gym and started getting in some pretty good work, getting strong again little by little. I was sort of homeless at that point, not doing any one program, but utilizing strategies by a few different coaches. I finally came across something to try, and spent some time doing The Superhero Workout, by John Romaniello. It was a pretty cool program, and there were some things I liked about it and some things I didn't enjoy. I, embarrassingly, didn't finish that program, but jumped right into a few months of hypertrophy programming from Christian Thibaudeau. I saw some results, and enjoyed it for a little bit, but was thrilled to return to some strength programming.

This all brings me to my current point; I'm doing some programming written by my training partner Dan, and seeing some good increases. We have been spending a lot of time working on our mobility as well as our Olympic lifting. My most recent maxes are: 415 deadlift, 275 front squat, 265 bench (with pause) and 205 push press at a bodyweight of 200 pounds. Nothing amazing, but nothing to sneeze at. I'd like to get all these numbers up, but as it stands I can walk into most gyms and not be the weak guy; I won't be the strongest guy there either, though. I'm still a semester away from graduating (finally) and I know that I still have a lot of work ahead of me. A recent seminar that I attended did a good job of humbling me and lighting a fire under my ass to spend more time learning about things I suck at. I have a pretty good idea of where I want to be and the road that I need to take to get there. It's not going to be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. I've made some mistakes along the way, and there are some things that I wish I would have done differently, but I understand that it was all just part of the growing process, and that I still have a lot more growing to do.

Now you know my story; go do something worth remembering today.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of the most effective core workout, as it hits all of your stomach muscle fibers at once. Assume a standard crunch position, raise your torso to a 45° angle, and then twist from side to side. For an advanced movement, extend your legs and pretend to peddle a bicycle while you continue to twist.