Another Milestone Down, Some Visual Evidence and More Questions Than Answers

me triple
Better lighting helps, and a little brightness/contrast adjustment too. Today is on the left, the middle is six weeks ago, and the right is 11 weeks ago. You be the judge.

As I mentioned in my last entry I have been working through something called Shortcut to Shred – a free six-week workout program I found on some time ago. Exercise guru Jim Stoppani, who seems to be doing his own thing on his own website these days, crafted this six-day-a-week hell and I was determined to complete it – again. I have done it all the way through once. I tried it a few other times in fits and starts. The last time I tried it in earnest I herniated a disc that required surgery to repair during a bad form deadlift during heavy week.

I can follow a program and this one I like because it forced the muscle confusion as you go. It’s not six days per week for six week of three sets and 10 reps a set. It’ll take you from 2-5 reps and heavy weight early in the week to 21-30 and light weight on the back half of the week. The key to the program is something Stoppani calls “cardio acceleration.” You don’t rest between sets, you do 60 seconds of some kind of cardio like step-ups with a knee raise, jumping jacks, kettlebell swings, mountain climbers, goblet squats, etc.

Well, today was Day 41, the last workout of the program. It says Day 42 is a rest day. No kidding. I finished the program with 30 reps of 25-pound hammer curls. I missed four workouts during the six weeks. So of the 36 prescribed sessions I did 32. As I mentioned in a previous entry, I missed two with a head cold, one because my body said no and a fourth because of a late commute (I did workout that night, just not a program session).

Definitely making progress on belly fat, shape and size.

I feel good that I accomplished this. I’ve done the lifts off and on as part of my regular workout regimen. But this is only the second time I have completed this program from start to finish. Now, I must be totally honest here. Due to equipment limitations in my little makeshift gym, fatigue, soreness or extenuating circumstances, I did not do every rep or every set or every exercise or every round of cardio acceleration the program calls for. I did most of it though and I am proud of myself for it. I don’t feel ike I cheated myself one bit.

As you can see from the photos I look a lot better than I did Jan. 9. But from Feb. 15 (the date I started the program) there isn’t what I would call a drastic change. I wish I had changed my caloric intake sooner. I think I’ve seen the most change in the last week or two. I started cutting calories two weeks ago and I upped my protein intake. Again, I should have done this six weeks ago. Maybe the photos would show a more dramatic change. I have not lost any weight on this program but that wasn’t really the goal. I do think my legs are stronger and more defined, especially my calves. I certainly have slimmed down.

IMG_9191I have picked up the running the past few weeks after a light February on that front. After just 22 miles last month, I passed 29 with a three-mile run today. I think I have two more runs in me this month.

As I write this blog and enjoy a Deschutes Black Butte porter and Tullamore DEW Irish whisky, I am contemplating what to do next. Yeah, the booze really helps. I cut back when I started cutting calories actually. Men’s Fitness magazine has a lot of great workouts and healthy eating tips. I’m looking forward to designing my own program to see if it works for me. There are many exercises I want to try like Belgian split squats. Several people have recommended HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and Shortcut to Shred has a good measure of that built in. I need to find some that don’t involve twisting. My surgically repaired back doesn’t like twisting one bit. Bad enough I ran 17 miles this past week.

I really need to figure out my nutrition. I think that’s my biggest problem.I am much better than I ever have been but I probably need to consult a nutritionist or a dietician.

I can’t bench more than 105 until I upgrade my barbell situation, but I have room to go for dumbbell bench presses, same with pec flyes. I would really like to be able to do two-a-days. I think the best I’ve looked was last August when I was able to do two-a-day weight lifting sessions and interval walking/running.

There is a great chest workout from Men’s Fitness that I’ve done a couple of times – it’s actor Matt Bomer from American Horror Story’s chest program. It’s an ass-kicker, holy muscle fatigue Batman. There’s an arms complex in another issue and a great ab workout in a recent issue. I just need to find a challenging legs routine and I think I’ll have my program set. I definitely need more cardio in my life whether that be walking or recumbent bike on the days I don’t run. I am definitely going to continue to work on my belly fat and I am going to build up my non-existent chest.

deadI wish I could be as active as I was today every day – a three-mile run, an hour-long weightlifting session, a little football and a little basketball. A few years ago when I was approaching my heaviest weight and my most out of shape state ever, I played an hour of tackle football with my then-six-year-old in the front yard. I spent the rest of the day on the couch. As tired and as sore as I am right now, I couldn’t imagine what I’d feel like right now at age 46 if I was still 236 pounds. I know I wouldn’t have gone running or lifted weights. And a half an hour of catch with the football probably would have ruined me for the weekend. No, I don’t like 186. I liked 180 much better. But it is what it is.

As usual I have been doing a lot of unnecessary reading (and not enough necessary reading), and yes, I am more confused than ever. I have more questions that answers. But I am determined to figure this out and get the results I’m after. I can’t exercise six hours a day. I can’t live on 1,200 calories per day (I could but what the hell fun is that).

At my age, with my schedule, is getting ripped and having six-pack abs realistic? I don’t know, but I sure as hell am going to find out. Speedo season is on the horizon, you know, and I plan on being the envy of the backyard pool set. People tell me I am too hard on myself and my response is that I’ll never improve if I don’t push myself, if I don’t try harder. I don’t react well when I am told I can’t do something. But I am a seeker of knowledge and information, especially about myself. I am on a quest to test my limits and discover who and what I am and be the best whatever that is.

So keep following my faithful readers, age is but a number and the best is yet to come.

Shaking Things up a Bit

It’s been about three weeks since my last blog entry. I have been concentrating on getting through this workout program and working on a different personal writing project. I have long subscribed to the mantra, “the day you stop learning is the day you die.” I continue to learn more and more about myself and the people I’ve collected and the world I live in every day. Unfortunately, I seem to learn more ugly truths than bright happy ones.

I am not going to bore you with details. Just know that the list of people who are dead to me seems to be growing by the minute. I don’t trust people who claim to have a small army of friends. I don’t trust people in general.

Call me jaded, bitter or cynical, or all three. I really don’t care.

FRIENDSHIP, n. A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul. – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

I only have a few true, honest-to-goodness dear friends. And I am more than good with that. That’s all I need. Ask yourself if any of your friends would let you crash on their couch for a few days out of the clear blue sky with no warning. I bet you have a lot fewer friends than you think.

FRIEND, n. An investigator upon the slide of whose microscope we live, move and have our being. – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

IMG_9162In six days I will have completed Jim Stoppani’s Shortcut to Shred from for the second time. Have I performed every set or every rep? No. I have missed four program workouts in five weeks (not bad if you ask me); two because I had a nasty head cold, one because my body told me to take the night off, and the other traffic delays put me behind so I did pushups and sit-ups and called it a night. Equipment shortfalls in my makeshift gym keep me from doing everything. I can’t go as heavy as I would like, and I am never doing another deadlift as long as I live. And I am limited in what I can do from a “cardio acceleration” standpoint because of space. But step-ups with a knee-raise, jumping jacks, kettlebell swings and running in place are enough if you ask me. I’ll finish the program Saturday, barring craziness or injury. I’ll post pictures next weekend. I don’t think the before and after pictures will be that startling. I do think I have slimmed down though. The numbers on the scale don’t agree but pictures don’t lie.

The first time I did the program I had to tack two workouts onto the end. I was in the middle of it a year ago when I injured my back to the point of needing surgery. Other times I’ve tried it I have done some of the lifts and relied on running for cardio rather than the interstitial 60-second high-intensity movements the program calls for.

I’ve picked up the running, over 10 miles since Tuesday. I had been running a lot, but that head cold and some dental issues knocked me down some. I’ve hit 16 miles for the month after running just 22 in March. January was a high-water mark for me with 44.6. When I do this Shortcut to Shred deal, since cardio is built in, I don’t think I need to run or do the recumbent bike. I am sorely mistaken. The workouts do take a lot out of me, they can last as long as 90 minutes. I have to keep finding ways to push myself. I am looking forward to designing my own program. Recent issues of Men’s Fitness and the Men’s Health Facebook page have tons of great strength training and HIIT workouts. I am going to identify some goals and weak spots and attack them.

“A person is smart. People are dumb, dangerous, panicky animals.” – Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K in Men in Black

I have come to the realization that most of my problem has to do with my caloric intake. I started counting calories again. I am eating too much. So many things I have been reading lately have me even more confused. Carbs are the devil, no, carbs are not the devil. Eat this not that. Don’t eat that, eat this. I am going to take a new approach starting tomorrow. For months on end I have been trying to find a way to get at least my bodyweight in protein in grams in my system everyday. I have extolled the virtues of Isopure products mainly for the high protein content. The mistake I have been making is using the protein to supplement my daily diet rather than using it as the basis of my nutrition and building around it.

To that end, I’ll make getting 180g of protein in my system, by hook or by crook, every day. I’ll eat regular food around my protein. Three 50g gram shakes, two scrambled eggs and a Greek yogurt gets me to 187g. Three shakes are 66o cal, the eggs about 170, the yogurt 120 – that’s 950. That gives me room for a good lunch and dinner. I weigh between 185-188 right now and my body needs about 1,800 cal per day without exercise to maintain my weight. I just need to plan ahead.

I really cut calories this past week and there was a noticeable difference. More and more material I read, and the more people I seek advice from, or offer unsolicited advice tell me the same things – if I want to cut my body fat I need to cut calories and drop some weight. I had forgotten how to lose weight. I lost 60 pounds and I had forgotten how to do it.

I got as low as 176 and couldn’t stay there. Over the course of a year, I have gained as much 12 and as little as nine depending which day I of the week I weigh myself.

I am nowhere near where I want to be. I have no doubt I will get there. After a mini-epiphany this weekend about diet, exercise and unfortunately people, I am more determined than ever. And you know what, I feel sorry for anyone who gets in my way.

The bottom line is that you have to find what works for you. I’m still looking. There is no magic bullet. There are no magic pills. I read an interesting article a few days ago about why crash dieters fail. It’s because although they see quick, easy results, they don’t develop long-term habits that lead to sustainable success. They are more likely to binge eat when the opportunity presents itself. When I was younger I didn’t believe in moderation. There was no fun in it. I always drank too much, smoked too much, ate too much. Now I get it. Many times a taste is all I need. I don’t need or want the whole damn thing.

I’ll let you know how the protein and the cutting calories thing goes. I’ll craft a new program at the end of the week. I have a de-loading week on the horizon. It’s almost Speedo season and I plan on looking damn good for a 46-year-old suburbanite. Some would say I already do.