Friday, February 11, 2022

four months to undo a bad year

Fall '20 to '21 was just a broken train wreck of a dumpster fire of a year.

So I fixed it.

Starting the end of September/beginning of October, finishing up this block of training the second week of February. Closer to 4.5 months, to be accurate, but there were fits and starts. Undid most of the damage and lost 25lbs by the end of November. Another 9 the next month. And 3 more since. Starting to plateau, but that should get a kick in the ass as I finish up the current training template and change things up and tweak things a bit. 

Results/Metrics: Weight from 9/27/21 to 2/11/22, 215 to 178. Puts me back at the weight I was in my five years in the military, age 21-25 (holy moly, over 20 years ago,) 175-185lbs. Weight, in general, not a great marker to track, honestly. The scale is a deceitful bitch. Within the course of a day, depending on the amount I ate or drank, sodium intake, etc weight could fluctuate 5lbs. Inside of a week I've seen 8lb swings, in both directions. But tracking the general trend line, taking the measure the same time every day - I do it first thing in AM after waking up - gives a good sense of the direction you're moving. If the previous day was on point or a clusterfuck. Waist measurement 36 to 32. And regular progress pics are really useful. Seeing objectively that you don't look still look like the overstuffed trash bag of garbage you've been picturing yourself as in your head is a good thing. The before/after bit in the above photo is 10/5 to 2/11. Plus the Robb Wolf metric, to paraphrase - "Do the thing, and see how you look, feel and perform." 

The easy excuse for everybody the last couple years is COVID. But really, I did well during the first year or so of that whole debacle. Nutrition wasn't on point, but I was training fairly consistently, working on hypertrophy but getting a little fluffy ('dirty bulking' is such an easy, and bullshit, idea/excuse) walking around at about 200lbs or so. 

What really got me off the rails was... well, life. Moving overseas again, quarantine, medevac back to the USA for what was ultimately a big nothing (get your salt and electrolytes, kids - idiopathic syncope, indeed) living out of a hotel for about a month, back overseas again, quarantine again, figuring out a new country, waiting for and then unpacking all our household goods, the holidays, then the flood on Easter, cleanup, temp housing for 3 months, moving back into our old place... those are actually much better excuses than the nuttiness that is and was Covid. But that's all they are. Excuses. 

The only real truth is I got lazy, undisciplined and made bad choices.

So around September, looking ahead to my birthday the next month, it was time to change direction and stop being an asshole. (When the occasional person asked me what my diet was, I told them it was the "'Stop Eating Like A Childish Asshole' Diet.'" Truth in comedy.)

I'd run some of the Beachbody, bunch of the P90X and Body Beast programs in the past when I needed to kickstart - and those all work great, particularly for home workouts (if access to a gym/barbells, some version of Wendler's 5/3/1 is my go-to move. Sadly, haven't done barbell work in over 2 yrs. I miss real deadlifts.) - but I wasn't feeling it at the time. I needed something with a bit more flexibility and allowed more choice and autonomy. So when roaming the vast expanses of the internet one day I came across the 75 Hard challenge. That clicked. A template, a set of guidelines, but there was a bunch of choice within it. Bingo. 

So in that template you do this, every day.


You check all those boxes, every day, for 75 days straight. You fail on any of them, you start over. You'll notice it took me four and half months to finish a two and a half month program. Dropped the ball 2x, both on the diet. Banana bread got me once and Thanksgiving pumpkin pie got me the second. Started the last run of 75 days just after Thanksgiving.

The big purpose of the whole thing was twofold. Primarily, set/reset habits for training and nutrition. Second, lose fat. Managed to make good dents in both of those. Worth noting and reminding (myself) that there is no endpoint for the habit part. It's like brushing your teeth. You do it every day. Systems instead of goals.

The advantage of the 75 Hard is the flexibility within the structure. Two workouts a day, but what those are are entirely up to you. Follow a diet, but it's any diet. You just have to find one that works for you and you'll stick with. But it has to have structure.

For me, PT1 was usually a strength based workout. Weights, calisthenics, etc. I had ADHD with set/rep/split schemes the first 3 months. 5/3/1, 5x5, 3x10, 10x3, 5x10, 10x10, amraps, targeted rep goals, full body workouts, upper/lower splits, 3 or 4 or 6 day splits. Ultimately doesn't matter. Put in work for at least 45 minutes. January 1 I flipped over to the Beachbody Body Beast program, because now I needed less choice, was overthinking things and just needed plug and play for a bit. Plus, old school meathead hypertrophy bodybuilding to try and hold on to some muscle while cutting fat. If I was beat/sore or on a 3 or 4 day split, PT1 was boxing/MMA. Bag work, shadowboxing, skipping rope, etc. If bone tired, 45m of stretching.

PT2, the outdoor workout, the first 2 months, usually a swim. These last two, with rainy season kicking in, usually stretching outside on the porch, or if the weather was good, the yard. Am sure the neighbors and guards think I'm a weirdo. ZFG.

Diet, for me, was low'ish carb intermittent fasting. Low'ish in that I didn't track carbs and sugar, just generally avoided them. Didn't worry about the carbs in dairy or fruit. No breads, processed wheat, limited added sugar. Ate eggs, meat, dairy, veg (including root veg/potatoes - though not often), fruit. I think I had rice twice the last 4 months, when I was feeling flat or it felt right. (Sushi without rice is just sashimi, people.) Oatmeal about the same. 

Intermittent fasting, daily. No breakfast, early dinner and then usually a smaller meal.  Probably a 4-5 hour eating window, though time limits weren't something strictly adhered to. Sometimes I'd eat at 4 o'clock, sometimes not until 8. On the couple times I ate earlier than planned, just kept the carbs really low that day. The smaller meal, I guess you could call it a snack, generally fruit/dried fruit, nuts/nut butters, yogurt. If needing a sweet tooth fix, peanut butter or yogurt, rarely oatmeal, with some maple syrup did the trick.

Typical day, yesterday for example, was - coffee w/milk, water, supplements* throughout the day. Steak for dinner. Some Greek yogurt later. If I find myself bored/hungry (most hunger is boredom, or you wanting to distract yourself from something - most people have never known real hunger) I'd chew some gum - mastic or nicotine.

 *Supps were both haphazard and targeted. Pickings are slim in East Timor, mail is infrequent from the US. Electrolytes/salt definitely every day/baseline. Citrulline and occasional niacin for circulation. Collagen, hyaluronic acid and gotu kola for joint and tissue health. Preworkout is whatever I can find local, or subbed with coffee, citrulline, nicotine gum and niacin, or some variation/combination thereof. Protein bars, when available, fall into that post dinner snack category. Stopped buying protein powder, just throw some eggs, dairy and maple syrup in a blender. Best shake you'll ever have.

Mindset for diet/nutrition - Food is fuel, not entertainment (99% of the time.) You're not a child, or a dog, you don't need 'treats' as a 'reward.' Eat real food, not chemically processed food-like substances designed in a lab to make you overeat and buy more. Don't eat until you're full, just until you're not hungry anymore.

The reading was usually a biography, training or mindset book. Good habit. Definitely keeping it.

The 'no booze' was surprisingly easy. Didn't miss it at all. Not even a little. Given my family history and own personal experiences with drinking, while I'd never say I had any kind of real problem, it's something that hangs around in the back of my head. Besides, it's not like I can get a Rogue Double Chocolate Stout here in East Timor. 

From here, as noted, I'm in the middle of the Body Beast template, due to finish that up the end of March. And now that I don't have to split workouts or make one mandatory outside, I figure there'll be more conditioning/boxing/MMA work. Low'ish carb intermittent fasting works for me. Shoot for 99% adherence, not 100%. There are Girl Scout cookies in the freezer, after all. Nutrition wise the goal is to get a little leaner and stay there. Back of the envelope "Navy Bodyfat Calculators" put me at about 15%. Shooting for 10%. There are advantages to the bulk/cut paradigm, but ultimately it's not my bag. And probably not worth it as I creep up in age. The rollercoaster of about the last decade or so is more than enough evidence of that. 

From April I'll start hybridizing weights and calisthenics more, since we move again this summer and I'll be without most of my gym equipment for about a year, year and a half. So then it'll be calisthenics, bodyweight strength skill work, martial arts, bands and mobility/flexibility work.

As ever, a work in progress.  Or, as Bucky Fuller said, "I seem to be a verb." 

Never too late. Never too old. Never give up.

“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” - Socrates

"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 everything you do, and you must be able to trust it absolutely..." - Greg Rucka, Critical Space

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