Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Training Progress - "The body dictates everything."

7/24 - deadlifts, squats [light/deload] - PR/1RM attempts starting Sunday...

Given all the 'before & afters,' 'progress' and 'transformation' photos I've posted up on the blog over the last few years I kind of figured at some point I was obligated to post up one of my own eventually...
On the left, summer 1994, just before graduating USNA and heading into the USMC.  On the right, this week.  Back in the day, IIRC, about 175lbs and a 32" waist [I kind of remember my measurements from uniform fittings and the weight I checked in at Quantico] and now, on the right, 203/34.  I've experimented with a bulk & cut over the last 10-12 months, and I'd hoped to have leaned out more before I posted this up, but it just didn't happen.  I can blame 2 week Australia/New Zealand vacations, the ease with which Carl's Jr delivers in Bangkok or the ubiquity of delicious weekend brunch buffets and icy cold beers in this town...  but the truth is that I just didn't exert the dietary discipline needed to meet the ambitious goals I had in my head.  And with visitors coming in this weekend and travel and comradery [and gluttony & libation] heading to the forefront for the next month, bodycomp goals take a backseat.

You might think, "Eh, so what?  Not much of a 'transformation.'  Relatively in-shape college aged dude turns into relatively in-shape middle aged dude.  No big deal."  

If only that were true.  It'd be nice to say that the two pics show a gradual progression of slowly putting on some muscle and mass over the course of 20 years.  

Alack and alas, the last 3.5 years actually looked like this:

On the left, Sad Fattie is Sad.  But I'm feeling much better now.

 So how did I get from 'there' to 'there' to 'here'?  After that college pic I stayed in pretty good shape for about 8-9 years, then got on the roller coaster of fatfuckery for about 4-5 years, got myself back into decent shape over the course of a couple years, then backslid into being a fattie until I finally had my 'Seriously, Get Your Shit Together/Come to Jesus' moment.

Since then, for the last 3.5 years, I've scratched and clawed and fought and busted my ass to get into shape and stay there.  Taking exercise and training from something that I did, or was a hobby, and instead making it into an integral part of who I am.  If I go a few days with no workout now, I feel 'off' and I'm a bundle of nervous tension until I can get a workout in.  It's an addiction almost, but a good one that improves the quality of my life.  It keeps me feeling sane and balanced.  It's become mental as much as physical.  Training was one of the few things to helped me to cope and get through the death of my Dad a few years ago...

Anyways, that twenty year long road, in more detail:
- After that first pic was taken, for about the next 8 years or so, I stayed in pretty good shape.  Five years in the Marines, where a culture of physical fitness and excellence is the standard, it was easy.  Throw into that mix a good lifting partner for a couple years [shout out to H.W. Wilson, wherever you are] and starting to train JKD/MMA, and I was never at risk of getting out of shape, always in pretty good condition.

- Then out of the military and to Japan for the next two where I had ready access to a basic gym + training in Daido Juku karate and a little submission wrestling/BJJ.

- Back to the USA & NC & DC.  For about a year I maintained pretty well... and then that's when things start coming off the rails.  For a wealth of reasons - nutritional, psychological, emotional - I started eating terribly and exercising hardly at all.  So, of course, this happened: 
Here you see a fat-fuck in his native environment.  Notice, if you will, how it grows out the facial hair in an attempt to cover up the chin rolls.  The baggy clothes, which fool absolutely no one.  And, if you look closely enough, the self-loathing in the eyes.

The saddest part?  That wasn't even as bad as I got.  It took, give or take, another two years after this pic for me to even begin to get my shit together.  [I think that pic is from around winter 2004.]

- Moved back to Japan in 2005.  Tried to get back into MMA & Karate training, but of course: fat and out of shape.  Which led to a litany of injuries.  Which made training all the harder and infrequent.  Which led to my all time "Peak Fat Fuck" - stats I remember to this day - 227lbs & a 41" waistline.  Pathetic.

But, after about 2 years in Japan I started to slowly, slowly improve my diet and start exercising again.  God, sooooo slowly.  But I trained regularly - started P90X twice, didn't finish, but I was building momentum - and started eating relatively intelligently again.  Got back under 200lbs and achieved reasonable, human-like proportions.  
- And then, the big backslide.  The six month lead up to leaving Japan in 2010 - oh, the farewell drinking and partying that was had - and the couple months it took to catch up w/my wife in West Africa, and the couple months to settle into Liberia, and suddenly it was Jan 1st, 2011 and I hadn't worked out or paid attention to my nutrition in damn near 6-8 months.  The result?  224lbs and a 40" waist.

Lazy. Fat. Fuckery.

- This was the 'Come to Jesus' moment for me, to crib a saying from the goofily religious.  I saw pics from an Xmas 2010 shindig I attended and...  I knew I'd put on weight, but holy fuck, it was bad.  Can't even find those pics in my photo archive because I'm fairly certain I've shame-deleted them.  I hit that wall, that moment when you just have absolutely had enough and won't tolerate from yourself the behaviors that led you to wherever you are.  When you start asking of yourself "Seriously?  Is this who I want to be, how I want to look and feel and live and behave for the rest of my time on planet Earth?  Really?"  And it's not, you know it's not, because there is absolutely nothing about your life that is better when you're in shitty physical condition.  Being in shape doesn't automatically make you smart, or emotionally stable or psychologically healthy *BUT* it does make you smarter, more stable and healthier than you'd be otherwise.  The studies on biochemistry bear that out.  And most importantly - for me - my personal experience bears that out.  Your body is your vehicle for all of your experiences on this planet, you absolutely have to make it work, feel and look as well as you possibly can.  You must absolutely decide to fucking do something about it.  Get angry, harness that anger and no longer accept from yourself all the bullshit laziness, excuses and rationalizations that have been part and parcel of the you that got yourself to this point.  

So here's the last 3.5 years, step by step:

January 2011 to Summer 2012:
Left to Right:
- Jan 2011, 224/40.  Wildly Unacceptable Fat Fuckery.

- April 2011, 210/37.  3 months of random workouts.  Just getting back in the groove with exercise. Mostly bodyweight exercises and dumbbell work, with the Bas Rutten MMA CDs for shadowboxing & conditioning.  Started cleaning up my nutrition.

- July 2011, 194/34.  Finally completed a full round of P90X.

- April 2012, 182/32.  The lightest and leanest I've been since college.  Even lighter than when I left the Marines.  From Sep 2011 til April 2012 I did a combination of hypertrophic bodybuilding - high volume, light weight - plus bodyweight exercises, Bas Rutten MMA workouts and conditioning workouts 2-3x week with friends [PruFit!]  And I really tightened up the nutrition.  Indulgences/free/cheat days were limited to one day a week and it was pretty strict otherwise.  There were trips and travel and the special occasion indulgences, but overall, I was really consistent, nutritionally.

Fall 2012 to Now:
Left to Right:
- Feb 2013, 190/33.  Kept up the PT from April through the summer, left Liberia, transitioned back to the US, backslid just a little and then did a round of P90X+ from November to February.

- May 2013, 185/33.  Completed a round of P90X2.

- Jan 2014, 215/35.  Huge change in training protocols & nutrition.  Moved to Thailand in June and for the first time since getting my act together had ready access to a barbell and a good amount of weight.  So I wanted to see if I could put on some size and muscle mass.  The base of my training became Wendler's 5/3/1 [with not a whole lot of conditioning.]  And my nutritional protocol shifted from what it'd been the last 2.5 years - a low carb'ish/Primal [Paleo+dairy] template [with CKD&Free/Cheat/High Carb Day/s on the weekend + occasional IF] to, well, eating a lot.  Of everything.  Or as I called it, the "Eat All The Things and Drink All The Beers" diet.  Which, I have to be honest, was fun as hell.  And I got bigger, putting on weight and muscle mass.  20-30lbs in six months.  Not all of it muscle, of course.  A good chunk of fat.  But I got stronger and was moving more weight in the gym almost every trip there.  Which was cool.  I get why guys eschew vanity for strongfat performance.

- Jul 2014, 203/34.  So, bulking was fun.  But, honestly, too much fat came with the muscle.  Some vanity in that call, but I was also losing mobility, flexibility and seemed to be getting injured more often.  [My guess to the cause of that is that the higher inflammatory diet played a fairly big role.]  So I started dialing the nutrition back in.  Low carb'ish Primal 5-6 days a week [too often it was 5, not 6] and adding in conditioning work again.  5/3/1 is still the base of training, but I did a round of P90X3 (Mass Schedule) in there as accessory/conditioning work as well, and did a little bit of occasional running stairs and the treadmill.  And I keep working and trying to get rid of some elbow tendonitis I picked up [that has, over the course of the last year, healed in one elbow and started up in the other... madness!] so that I can try to get in some shadowboxing and heavy bag work.

So, that's where I'm at now.  Visitors from this coming weekend, for about a month, including some fantastic training partners, so during the visit/vacation we're gonna take a run at some PRs and 1RMs and keep the training up regularly.  But the diet will be, how shall we say...  indulgent.  [Yay Beer!]

Come Sept when they're out the door I'm still thinking 5/3/1 as the foundation but less volume on the weights and working in more bodyweight work.  More conditioning.  More flexibility and mobility work.  The bulk was fun, but at age 41, unless I get the hookup from Vinny at PlanetMuscle or they make TRT available OTC, I'm never gonna be hoooooooge.  But I'm good with that, actually.  I've always gravitated a lot more, aesthetically speaking, to the Stallone/Rocky/Rambo physique than the Arnold/Conan one.

So Sep to Dec I'm going to try and lean out as much as I can, tighten up the nutritional intake, maintain/increase my strength gains and get rid of some of the nagging injuries I've built up over the last year, year and a half.  That way I can take advantage of living in Thailand and hit up some Muay Thai/MMA gyms while I'm lucky enough to live here.  And I'll try to keep up with these progress posts & pics, let's say, every six months or so.

Anyways, posting on the blog is going to be more intermittent over the next few weeks.  Visitors and travel and the hazards of having a real life.  See ya as time permits.  Onwards.

You know, I particularly like how my back has come along...
 Deadlifts, pullups, chins and rows...  yep.
"It is always about you and your body. It's how you see yourself, and as a result, how you see the rest of the world. The body dictates everything. It's where it all starts. What you can make it do. What you can make it endure. How quick you can be. How precise. How quiet, and strong, and flexible and still... It is at the heart of eveything you do, and you must be able to trust it absolutely..."
- from "Critical Space" by Greg Rucka

"And without understanding you cannot proceed."

You Can't Blame Americans for Not Feeling Exceptional - "There's something sweaty and desperate about a patriotism that cannot tolerate the diplomatic acknowledgment, on foreign soil, that other countries might have their own reasons for national pride. You'd think a great-souled nation could afford a little magnanimity — but too many conservatives think it betrays weakness. We're well on our way to becoming the first hyperpower with short-guy syndrome. Worse still, some neoconservative ideologues have turned American Exceptionalism into an ersatz religion, fidelity to which demands reshaping the rest of the world in our Image, by force, if necessary."

How 'Crazy Negroes' With Guns Helped Kill Jim Crow - "Chinn was a black man in Canton, Mississippi, who in the 1960s owned a farm, a rhythm and blues nightclub, a bootlegging operation, and a large collection of pistols, rifles, and shotguns with which he threatened local Klansmen and police when they attempted to encroach on his businesses or intimidate civil rights activists working to desegregate Canton and register black residents to vote. After one confrontation, in which a pistol-packing Chinn forced the notoriously racist and brutal local sheriff to stand down inside the county courthouse during a hearing for a civil rights worker, the lawman admitted, "There are only two bad sons of bitches in this county: me and that nigger C.O. Chinn."

Although the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) were formally committed to nonviolence, when their volunteers showed up in Canton they happily received protection from Chinn and the militia of armed black men he managed. "Every white man in that town knew you didn't fuck with C.O. Chinn," remembered a CORE activist. "He'd kick your natural ass." Consequently, Chinn's Club Desire offered a safe haven for black performers such as B.B. King, James Brown, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, and the Platters; illegal liquor flowed freely in the county; and, unlike their comrades in much of Mississippi, CORE and SNCC activists in Canton were able to register thousands of black voters with virtual impunity from segregationist violence...

According to Charles E. Cobb's revelatory new history of armed self-defense and the civil rights movement, This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed, Canton and the rest of the South could not have been desegregated without people like C.O. Chinn, who were willing to take the lives of white people and were thus known as "crazy Negroes" or, less delicately, "bad niggers." Cobb does not discount the importance of nonviolent protest, but he demonstrates with considerable evidence that desegregation and voting rights "could not have been achieved without the complementary and still underappreciated practice of armed self-defense." Noting that textbooks like my son's ignore the many people who physically defended the movement or themselves, Cobb shows that the "willingness to use deadly force ensured the survival not only of countless brave men and women but also of the freedom struggle itself."" 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Training - "Passion wants blood."

7/23 - press, bench, seated laterals/bent over laterals, pulldowns, back xt, seated row - stretch

Fucking Awesome.  Passion wants blood | The Diary of a Girly Powerlifter: "Lifts have always made everything in my world make sense...  And like anything else, when you are passionate, when you really give a shit about something. You will make time for it...

I am dedicated. I am focused. I am passionate. Maybe everyone expects this to be about lifts. It’s not. This is me telling you that you better be passionate about what you choose to do with your life. Because your passion? It will break you, make you broke, threaten every single one of your relationships, it will rob you of your sleep, it will demand that you give it the attention it deserves… Passion wants blood. Passion wants proof that you care.

And once you’ve proved your worth. Passion will fill you with purpose. It will make all the things in your life you’ve always found confusing, not so confusing. Passion will always see you through. So maybe everyone will ask why you train. Everyone might ask why you work so much. Who fucking cares. Maybe it’s because I have something to live for that makes me feel like it’s all worth it. And contrary to popular belief, that’s okay. Most people live an entire lifetime and don’t get to experience such a thing. If you’ve found it, hang onto it. And offer up some blood as tribute. Sacrifice some sleep. Live and breathe for it because it really is a once in a lifetime thing. And if you let it slip by you most certainly will not find another."

Wilson Silva
Bodybuilding- Masters 50+ 2nd place

Ana Acevedo
Bikini- Class A 4th place and Masters 30+ Class A 2nd place

 2014 NPC Miami Classic:

 randy-gets-swole: Sooo this is my latest...:

This guy is awesome/your excuses suck. Blog: "Stuart Jamieson was born with spina bifida, scoliosis, kyphosis, and diastematomyelia. He was not expected to live past his second birthday. Doctors did not even expect him to sit up as a child. The thought of him living an active life as an adult was not even considered. Over twenty years later, Stuart is now a British Classic Powerlifting champion. Highlights from one of his recent meets can be seen below. You will see him pull 225kg while weighing in at just 59kg. If you aren’t quick with math, that’s a few pounds short of 500 at a bodyweight of approximately 130 pounds."
'via Blog this' Blog: "Stuart provides a powerful example of an individual who was determined to write his own destiny. His early doctors were entitled to an opinion, but Stuart and his family did everything they could to prevent that opinion from becoming a reality. To suggest that they defied the odds is an understatement. Fortunately, you do not need to have endured Stuart’s early struggles to learn from his example. At some point, I’m sure we have all been told by an authority figure what we could or could not achieve. Whether it was a doctor, teacher, coach, or family member, there is a good chance that someone could not resist sharing their opinion of your future. Ultimately, it is up to you whether you’ll accept such opinions as fact or instead find out for yourself. " 


"I used to think that basically, the whole world, that all humanity were basically bastards."

"I've since found that most people seem to be pretty nice--basically good people doing the best they can."

Great Anthony Bourdain interview.  Excerpts:
Blogs of War - Anthony Bourdain Talks Travel, Food, and War: "...right away--very early on--I came to realize that everything, particularly something as intimate as a meal, is a reflection of both a place's history and its present political and military circumstances. In fact, the meal is where you can least escape the realities of a nation's situation. People tend to be less guarded and more frank (particularly when alcohol is involved). What you are eating is always the end of a very long story--and often an ingenious but delicious answer to some very complicated problems. Within months of leaving the professional kitchen for what turned out to be a non-stop voyage around the world, I found myself in the Mekong delta sitting down and getting hammered with a group of former VC. The senior member of the group was a very old dude, who when I asked if he felt any animosity towards me, towards my country, why he was being so damned nice, laughed in my face and started ticking off all the other countries he'd fought in his time: Chinese, French, Japanese, Cambodians, Chinese again. He basically said, "don't flatter yourself that you were anything special--now drink!". When you travel with no agenda other than asking the simple questions, sharing a moment with people around the table, people tell you extraordinary things...

You have to learn to exercise a certain moral relativity, to be a good guest first--as a guiding principle. Other wise you'd spend the rest of the world lecturing people, pissing people off, confusing them and learning nothing.  Should I inquire of my Masai buddies if they still practice female genital mutilation? Express revulsion in Liberia over tribal practices? Fact is, the guy who's been patting my knee all night, telling jokes, sharing favorite Seinfeld anecdotes, making sure I get the best part of the lamb, being my new bestest buddy in Saudi Arabia will very likely later, on the drive back to the hotel, guilelessly express regret over what "the Jews and the CIA" did to my city on 911. What do you say to that? Or in Anatolia, the Kurdish religious elders there who asked me for reassurance that "Obama is indeed a Muslim, yes?". I hated to disappoint them. So I didn't. My first obligation, I feel, is to be a good guest. I go to great lengths, and have had to choke down some pretty funky meals to do that. Its a strategy I highly recommend if you're looking to make friends and have a good conversation. Sometimes you have to take one for the team but its well worth it...

An interesting thing we noticed a while back was when we were shooting in pre-revolution Egypt. When we expressed a desire to shoot a segment at one of the ubiquitous street stands selling ful, our fixers and translators, who, no doubt also worked for some sinister department of the Interior Ministry, were absolutely adamant that we not do it. What was it about this simple, everyday, working class meal of beans and flatbread that just about everyone in Cairo was eating that was so threatening? Turns out, they knew better than us. The price of bread had been going up. The army controlled most of the bakeries and stocks of flour. There had been riots over bread elsewhere in the country. And the inescapable fact was that ful was ALL that much of the population was eating and the bastards knew it. That was an image they apparently considered sensitive , dangerous: their countrymen eating bread...

Iran was mind-blowing. My crew has NEVER been treated so well--by total strangers everywhere. We had heard that Persians are nice. But nicEST? Didn't see that coming. Its very confusing. Total strangers thrilled to encounter Americans, just underneath the inevitable "Death To America" mural. The gulf between perception and reality, between government policy and what you see on the street and encounter in peoples homes, in restaurants--everywhere--it's just incredible...

The reaction from the Arab and Palestinian community was overwhelmingly positive--which I found both flattering and dismaying. I say dismaying because I did so little. I showed so little.It seems innocuous. But it was apparently a hell of a lot more than what they are used to seeing on Western television. For some, unfortunately, depicting Palestinians as anything other than terrorists is proof positive that you have an agenda, that you have bought in to some sinister propaganda guidelines issuing from some evil central command in charge of interfacing with Western com/symp dupes. A photo of a Palestinian washing their car or playing with their child is, therefore automatically "propaganda."

If I have a side, its against extremism--of any kind: religious, political, other: there's no conversation when everybody is absolutely certain of the righteousness of their argument. That's a platitude. But it's still true."

Training - "how do you feel?"

7/22 - pushups, pike presses, bw rows - stretching

RIP James Garner, Jeet Kune Do Fighter | FIGHTLAND: "Garner was also, somewhat less famously, a Jeet Kune Do practitioner. He took private lessons from some guy named Bruce Lee."

"Nice soul you've got there. Would be a shame if it were tortured forever."

BuzzFeed’s ’22 Messages From Creationists’ gets translated by science lovers and the results are hilarious: "In the wake of Bill Nye the Science Guy’s recent debate with young earth creationist Ken Ham, the online media giant BuzzFeed ran a piece entitled “22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution.” The premise of the piece was simple: ask 22 creationists to pose whatever question they wanted to evolutionists, write it down and hold their questions up on a piece of paper for the camera. BuzzFeed was admirably quiet on the ideological fodder of the piece, leaving it open to the interpretations of viewers and commenters. But the folks over at The Science of Sarcasm took an opportunity too good to pass up, translating the questions into language they think might reveal a little bit of what could be behind the creationist train of thought."

Dwayne Johnson Confirms Role in Upcoming DC Movie: "In an interview with Total Film to promote his upcoming film Hercules, Johnson confirmed that he will indeed be playing a character from the DC universe in an upcoming movie. While he didn’t give a name, he did offer that “this character has the power of Superman, he can throw down. Just say the word.”"

Dwayne Johnson Confirms Role in Upcoming DC Movie: "Comic book fans will recognize this as Shazam, a character who turns into a hulking, flying, fighting machine simply by saying the word “Shazam” with great gusto. It sure seems like a role Johnson is well-suited for. This casting decision would also align with DC’s upcoming movie schedule; a Shazam movie is scheduled to be their next film released after Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Expect an official announcement soon."


This almost exactly mirrors my thought process when I went vegetarian for a couple years.  Hard to imagine now, as carnivorous as I am.  Tovar Cerulli – The hidden costs of vegetarianism: "When I ate meat, that meant animal death. When I ate dairy products, that meant animal confinement. When, inspired by the compassionate teachings of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, I turned to veganism — that meant harm to nothing but plants. My conscience seemed clear. Eight years later, this fairy tale began to unravel. In the garden my wife and I tended, for instance, I began to see that squash and green beans were not just the fruit of plants. They were also the fruit of animals.

Like all living things, our garden plants had to eat. As their hungry roots drew sustenance from the ground, nutrients had to be replaced. So each year I drove our pickup truck a few miles down the road and brought home a cubic yard or two of compost: rich, dark, dense material made from the manure of cows and other animals, and from their bodies as well, as farmers sometimes compost carcasses.

I could have insisted on supplementing our own kitchen-scrap compost with fertilisers made from nothing but plants. Such products were certainly available. Most, though, were imported from out of state in bright plastic bags. Depending on them to feed our soil would, I reflected, be like subsisting on grocery-store tofu made from soybeans grown a thousand miles away, instead of eating chicken from a neighbour’s backyard or venison from nearby woods. These choices would keep animal products away from our garden and plates, but they made no ecological sense.

And even if I found a local source of animal-free fertiliser, would it make a difference? Though crops can be grown without manure, such approaches typically require more acreage than do integrated plant-animal systems. Why till more land, and perhaps displace more wildlife habitat, for the sake of excluding domesticated creatures from the agricultural landscape? Though this might help shore up my own conceptual categories, would it serve any other purpose, any greater good?

When I visit the grocery store these days, I realise we have a choice, but it is not simply the choice I once made between the purity of veganism and its alternatives, based on suffering. Walking down the aisles, we can let the orderly bins and shiny packages cultivate our forgetfulness. We can let ourselves believe in all the tidy separations: plants and animals divided into neatly compartmentalised kingdoms, food severed from earth, our shopping disconnected from others’ farming. We can let ourselves be comforted by our own ignorance, by everything we neither see nor want to see. Or we can remind ourselves of just how intertwined everything really is. Uncomfortable though it might be, we can remind ourselves that lettuce is not as innocent as it appears, that squash and green beans owe their existence to the lives and deaths of animals. We can remind ourselves that pastoral landscapes are not just backdrops for recreational hikes or idyllic rides through the countryside. They are not an ‘environment’ that exists around us. They are the places that feed us, the soil in which we are rooted. They are us."

"Chuck Palahniuk is breaking the first two rules of Fight Club: He's talking about Fight Club. The author's devotees probably won't mind since what's on his mind these days is more of the characters and world he created in his 1996 book, which was adapted three years later into director David Fincher's cult film starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. The story of an unnamed insomniac narrator, his violent id come to life in the form of Tyler Durden, and an underground society built on bare-knuckle brawls and anarchic ideas continues in Fight Club 2, a 10-issue Dark Horse Comics maxiseries illustrated by Cameron Stewart, debuting in May 2015...

Fight Club 2 takes place alternately in the future and the past. It picks up a decade after the ending of his original book, where the protagonist is married to equally problematic Marla Singer and has a 9-year-old son named Junior, though the narrator is failing his son in the same way his dad failed him."