My name is Mike and I used to be a fat guy. I wasn’t always that way. I was pretty active in sports in junior high and high school. After that I was pretty consistant in the gym and training in my basement. I dropped all that as I finished college and started dating my wife. I weighed 240 lbs when I got married. From there I started packing on pounds. I was just tipping the scale at 300 lbs when I realized what happened to me. I was clutching a loaded leaf bag to my chest carrying it to the curb, huffing and puffing when a truck rode past with a couple of guys laughing pretty hard. Chances are they weren’t laughing at me, but at the time I believed it. I took a long look at myself and didn’t like what I saw. That night I went downstairs and pulled all the boxes of Christmas decorations off my weight bench and started training again.
That was approximately six years ago. I share this with you because I want you to know it can be done. You can reclaim your body and health. However you got to where you are doesn’t matter if you make the commitment to change. It took me getting angry and embarrassed with myself to motivate me and that’s OK. We are all different and our motivations are different too. I want to share my journey with you and what worked for me.
The first thing I had to do to get started was just that, get started. Pick a goal. I wanted to loose weight and gain strength back. Consistancy is key here. Commit yourself to training set days of the week. Come up with a schedule. For me it was four days a week and to this day it is still four days a week. Notice I say training. I don’t go to the gym to lift weights. I go to train because I have goals. Goals drive my lifting so I am training for my goals. Without goals what are you doing? What kind of progress will you make and how will you measure your progress? So set goals. Set short term goals like “I’ll loose three pounds a week.” That doesn’t sound like much but it’s attainable. That goal translates into a 12 lb weight loss in a month. Over 6 months 72 lbs of weight loss! Three pounds per week doesn’t sound bad now does it? Lets say you want to bench press 400 lbs. That’s not happening in a month. So it’s a good long term goal. “I want to bench press 400 lbs in 4 years.” Now that’s a real goal and you can make several short term goals to help you along the way. The smallest plates you can add to a bar in the gym are 2.5 lbs. That’s 5 lbs you can minimumly add to a bar. If you add a new set of 2.5 lb plates to a bar every month and do the same set of reps, then in a year you will have added 60 lbs to that lift! You can see how slow, steady progress pays off big over time.
So at this stage of the game, I’m committed to losing weight and getting stronger. I’ve resolved to training four days a week and I’m training in my basement on equipment I’ve aquired over the years. Not everyone has this, so starting off at a fitness center is good too. But what do you do when you get there? You need to educate yourself. As you follow your schedule, you need to learn how to train and eat to meet your goals. In the beginning, I had my experiences playing sports and previous gym experience to draw on. It was a start. I bought some books and they were helpful. The Internet is overflowing with information. A personal trainer is another resource and a great idea to begin to learn how to lift properly and safely. What helped me and spoke to me were the articles and message boards at Animalpak.com. I found a home there and log my training sessions on that site. On this site I am surrounded by like minded people who have similar goals, share knowledge and motivate and support each other. There are other websites that do the same things, like bodybuilding.com, but Animal is what speaks to me. As you learn, your training and diet will evolve. You will go from your basement or fitness center to a gym and maybe even a specialized gym like a power lifting gym or Crossfit gym.
In gym culture there’s a saying, “It’s a marathon not a sprint.” Changing your body will not happen overnight. Again, consistency is key. Make this a habit and then make it your lifestyle. You will constantly be learning and trying new things. Just give those things time enough to see if they give you results. I won’t go into detail about what worked for me because what works for me may not work for you. My goals aren’t necessarily your goals. Our bodies and backgrounds are all different. Don’t be afraid to do different things. Be fearless in your training and nutrition. Be fearless in the gym. There will be people at different levels of fitness at the gym. Don’t be intimidated. The ripped bodybuilder guy wasn’t always ripped and may have started out just like you. The guy benching 500 lbs was a skinny kid struggling with a naked bar once, but he stuck with it. If he can do it so can you.
A word on motivation. You can find inspiration from all over, but motivation is tough. It’s more personal. It’s what keeps you going. You can be inspired by watching someone lift something heavy. You can be inspired watching a weight loss TV show. But that is momentary. Maybe you start your transformation with a friend or spouse. Don’t count on them to always be there. People give up. People quit. But you’re not people, you’re you and you’re in this for you. I train alone all the time. I think what you have to do is find the challenge in it. I always loved the 5×5 program because I was always gunning for that 5 rep max on all my lifts. Doing the Cube or 5/3/1 gives you a different structure and different goals/ challenges on a daily basis. You have to love that. You have to celebrate those rep PRs (personal records) or that you lost so many pounds per week that was your goal. It has to really mean something to you. If my goal is 8 reps for a day on a main lift and I’m having an off day and only hit 5, then I owe myself those last 3 reps. I dig in and do them, or more. This is why I keep a log book. Before I start I see what I did the last time, maybe 3 weeks ago, and I try to push that further. If you need a pre workout or some crazy tunes on your headphones, a picture of someone or something that represents your goal, or whatever, then bring it. Look in that mirror everyday and ask yourself what it is you want. Write down your goals and what you need to do, or stop doing, to achieve them and tape it to the mirror, the sunvisor of your car, inside your work locker or anywhere you will see it. Reread it again before your train. Keep your fires lit but don’t count on someone else to keep them lit for you.
I was 37 years old when I was taking out the trash. I’m almost 43 now and I’m still taking out that trash. Six years later and I won’t stop. Ever. I was fat and horribly out of shape. Today I look like I have shoulder pads on under my t-shirt. Instead of stretching an XL shirt at the waist, I’m stretching an XXL shirt across my chest and shoulders. It’s all because I stuck with it. I’ve been asked what would I have done differently? What about setbacks? That’s the thing about all this, it’s not set in stone. If something is not working you change it. You adapt. Setbacks? There’s two different kinds of setbacks. We’re all human. Maybe you splurged on some ice cream. Maybe you gained back a couple pounds. Maybe you missed a day at the gym. Forgive yourself and get back at it. Keep moving foreward and don’t dwell on it. The other kind of setback is an injury. This will happen. It’s just part of the game. It will suck and maybe you can continue training around it. You can definitely keep your meals clean even if you can’t train. Again, it goes back to your mindset and motivation as to how you will handle it. Maybe you can’t train legs for a couple months. You can train your upper body even harder now. That extra day or two you can’t train because of your knee or back can be given to arms, shoulders or chest. Use machines instead of free weights. Don’t stop. Find a way. Don’t use anything as an excuse to stop. Once you meet your goals, set new ones. Just don’t ever stop.