Tag Archives: muscle

Closing the Goal

Today I entered Week 12 of the Body for Life Challenge.

This isn’t so significant in the sense that I’ve completed a few other fitness programs/challenges in the past few years with varying degrees of success.

First there was the Insanity Max:30 Challenge.  That one focused on cardio and the goal was weight loss.  I got super skinny but still looked fat.

Then there was the Body Beast Challenge.  That one focused on heavy weight lifting and bulking up.  I packed on muscled but still looked fat.

Then there was the La Leche del Sol Challenge where I had to use a mule to take daily shots of the illegal Mexican beauty secret of the stars.  That one focused on getting ripped but only for certain cameras in precise lighting.  I finished and looked like Austrian opera singer Maria Jeritza.

atlas

Too bad ol’ Chuck isn’t still considered a fitness icon.  Sure he’s got a “V shape” but he’s also wearing a diaper.

I was beginning to think I couldn’t win except that I did have a sense of accomplishment at finishing all of these programs.  And for a guy in my condition – no will power, loves to shovel food into his mouth, works 23 hours a day, and missing all of the DNA receptors that promote muscle building, fat loss, and scalp hair – that’s saying something.

I have a friend who patiently tried to give me training advice.  Believe me, it’s a compliment to say what I’m about to say.  He’s super ripped.  He’s also super dedicated and on a level I doubt I will ever see.  He works out every day.  He runs long distances three times a week.  When he’s not doing that he does resistance training using only his bodyweight.  We’re talking muscle-ups and hand stand push-ups.  Even if I had the will power I don’t think I could be successful like that.  I’ve come to the point of forcing myself to believe that maybe I’m just not meant to be “jacked”.

But something in me keeps persisting that I could get there given the right program before I’m dead.  And believe me if my loved ones are standing over my rotting corpse in a casket and saying “Damn he looks good” I’ll be happy with that.

So tonight I reach the final week.

I texted my buddy to tell him how excited I am and to ask for some prayers this week that I don’t give up with the finish line in sight.  I think he knows where I’m coming from.  Even for a guy like him there’s got to be some sense of how hard this is to accomplish.  I mean, even the best probably still remember a time when they were starting out when the goal seemed impossible.  Granted, for him that time was probably in infancy.  Dude, it’s called “baby fat”.  Babies are supposed to have it.  And again, I kid because I admire his dedication and the results he’s achieved and maintained.

I like to have something solid to back it up so I tell him a little statistic.  “I got the tape out and did some measurements,” I say.  “I started with 14″ biceps and tonight I’m measuring 16″.”  I honestly don’t know if that’s supposed to be impressive.  I also do not want to boast or come across as bragging.

He replied that this was bigger than his arm.  Now I know I measured wrong.  That couldn’t possibly be the case.  So I got the tape out again.  OK, this time I measured my arm at just shy of 16″.  But not much.

Holy cow!  Could it be that I might have finally found the right program?  This one (Body for Life) has been amazing.  It’s just the right mix of cardio and weight training.  My only regret as I stare in the mirror and see my transformation is that I didn’t do more.  Now I keep thinking “If I had just done 30 minutes of cardio instead of 20 on those days…” or “I could have lifted heavier and pushed myself more…”  “I would like him to see my gains (and losses),” I think to myself, so I put on the tightest white tee shirt and head over to church where he’s doing a Holy Hour.  This oughtta’ be fun.

We catch up afterwards in the parking lot.  In a way that only one guy can say to another, he compliments me.  “Dude, your calves were already bigger than mine.  Now you gotta’ have bigger arms too?!”  Believe me, my friend, you are definitely the motivation.  Still not sure my arms are any bigger than his (and sort of still feel like they’re not much bigger than when I started) but there’s a whole lot more definition, that’s for sure, and not just my arms either.

I’m happy with this.  Happy where I am.  Do I want way more?  Yeah.  I’m never satisfied with my results and I’m always harsher on myself than anyone else ever would be.

Will I do another 12 weeks?  Well, either that or 12 weeks of something else.

I’ll just keep collecting challenge tee shirts every three months until I finally reach my goal.

Then I’ll finally be able to say that I did it.

Until then, keep the prayers coming.  I’ve still got a week to go.

And take it from me, La Leche del Sol is crap.

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Closing In on the Goal

It’s raining.  It’s raining pretty hard.

I like the rain normally.  But…

atlas

Sometimes when I train I wear a diaper as well.  If only Charles Atlas was still the standard of male jacked-ness.  I think I’d stand a chance.

The only thing about the rain I don’t like tonight is that it kept me from doing my cardio workout.  I lack a treadmill or elliptical machine so I either go for a run or do 25 minutes of jump rope in my driveway.  Driveway’s flooded and the streets are a mess.  Since I’m only four weeks out from recording my final results in the Body for Life Challenge that just means I’ll do the cardio first thing in the morning and then a lower body workout (leg day) in the afternoon.  If you read this, say a prayer for me please.  I’ve never been this close before to achieving a goal I really wanted this badly.  For eight weeks now I’ve put in the hardest physical work of my life.  I followed a really good diet to an almost-micro level.  I did every set, every rep, every major muscle group at the appointed time.  When it was cold in my garage and the steel plates were hard to grip, I gripped ’em.  When it warmed up and I put the garage door up to let in a breeze and I wound up giving my neighbors a show as I pumped iron without a shirt on, I, well wait, where was I?  Oh yeah, I swatted mosquitos trying to suck the blood out of my near-bulging veins.  When the idea of hitting the pavement to run 20 minute intense intervals sounded like a death march, I forced myself to go faster and faster hoping that this would actually start burning fat.

I’m 40 years-old and in phenomenal health for a man half my age (if I do say so myself).  But there’s something about being able to visualize those results…  You know what I’m saying.  My body fat percentage is dropping but not fast enough for me.  I’ve gained 7 pounds of muscle since I started and that’s great but not good enough for me.  I’m finally starting to see the kind of definition that would turn heads and that’s awesome but not good enough for me.  My former-one time-actually never in reality trainer who remains an acquaintance of mine despite the way I’ve abused him in print over the years told me yesterday that with this particular program the results from the last four weeks are expected to be as good as for the first eight weeks.  “You’ve no doubt gotten a lot stronger now and can force more out of yourself.  Lift heavier because you can!  Run faster, jump rope more intensely.  You can either quit now and be happy or you can double down and be really happy.”  It was cool to hear him say that he really believed I could do it.  But if that’s the case and I stick with it (as I fully intend to) I should be a chiseled man in a month.  As shallow as it sounds but for the reasons mentioned above, pray for this.  I’d like to be happy with my appearance once in my life.  And if not, well, they say it’s good to possess good health.  Yeah.  Great.  Whatever.  I want to be ripped.

Good night, folks.

Just Get It Done

I heard someone say once “If you want to write well, simply write.”

The implication is that in order to become a better writer one has to first write anything at all and, more to the point, write a lot. 

Likewise I heard a former Navy SEAL say that when he first joined the Navy he thought he was able to do pull-ups. He was humiliated to discover that the “half-up and half-down” method he was great at wasn’t really a pull-up. “How am I ever going to be a SEAL,” he thought, “if I can’t even do a pull-up?” He discovered what good writers have known for some time. If you want to at least try to be great at something you just have to get it done. In other words, to be good at pull-ups, do pull-ups. 

I just finished 25 in 5 minutes. I’m not satisfied. Some who know me know that I rarely ever am satisfied. I see that as a good thing. These 25 pull-ups? They were in sets of six. See that’s I pushed myself up one from the sets of five I did the other day. But they weren’t great. I admit toward the end I wasn’t going down all the way. But somehow it seems to be coming together. I’m squeezing the right muscles in my back and noticing my forearms working a bit more (taking the strain off my biceps). For those who are interested I watched a YouTube video yesterday on how to improve form. It involves hanging from the bar and just raising one’s head up and down to focus on strengthening the scapula muscles. This is apparently a key to doing phenomenal pull-ups. I did it. Don’t know if it helped or not but it couldn’t hurt. 

Enough about that. I think I’ll try to knock out another 10 before heading inside. Thanks for following along. 

Last Chance?

Sometimes a thing catches your eye and fills you with such a sense of absurdity that you laugh out loud.  Then your wife, sitting next to you on the couch, looks at you and seems about to ask what you’re cackling over but then lets out of muffled sigh instead as if to say “You know what?  Nah…”

But my wife would never do that to me.

IMG_8947

Nestled safely between box sets of Unsolved Mysteries and Lost is your LAST CHANCE!

As we sit next to each other on the couch in our family room I just noticed a DVD case on its side under the TV with about 50 other DVD cases.  Remember them?  There was a world before streaming.  This DVD says (in blazing, italicized letters no less) LAST CHANCE WORKOUT.

I’ve been doing so well with my fitness plan these past few months.  First I did Insanity Max:30 where I stripped a whole lotta’ fat off my frame and found out I have no muscle.  Now I’m doing BodyBeast where my aim is to bulk up and make some serious gains in mass.  Yes, I know I did it backwards.  I did it that way as a joke on my trainer.  Duh.  No, if I had been thinking clearly I would have done it the other way around.  Apparently you bulk first and then shred.  My trainer does both at the same time and he has telekenesis.  Guy’s amazing.  Sometimes he bulks in the morning and then shreds after lunch.
Just. Because. He. Can.
I got a lot out of the shredding part.  I got pretty lean – down to a set of abs that were almost perceptible to the naked eye.  In fact, it’s only because I know Im capable of doing that again pretty quickly that I don’t mind having almost completely lost them due to this bulk.  This is the part where anyone who’s actually seen me in the past month says “No way, man, you’re looking amazing!  Are you shred-bulking or bulk-shredding?  Whatever it is, sign me up!”  I’m eating a LOT of food these days.  I’m also lifting heavier and heavier weights.  My trainer ties  70 lb. dumbbells to his ankles when he does his 12 mi. run.  That reminds me that I’ve been meaning to ask him if I should do a little running while I’m trying to bulk.  He’d probably advise against it at least until I’ve been doing this long enough to know what’s what like, say, 18 years.

sagi

This is the guy from BodyBeast.  He’s an Israeli named Sagi (pronounced Sah-GEE).  And that quote tells you he’s peddling some hard core bullshit even if he is unbelievably ripped.  My trainer friend looks kinda’ like him but not as douchey.

My point is that I’ve become very comfortable at this routine.  That’s comfortable, not complacent.  I enjoy what I’m doing and I enjoy seeing the results (not as quickly as I’d like but I’m the guy who stands in front of a microwave and yells HURRY UP!”).  And I’ll also admit that over the years I’ve been frustrated with fitness.  There have been times when I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and would never figure it out.  Not all of us were blessed to have gym access growing up on the streets of Compton.  I don’t know who I’m talking about since I’m from Newark but you get the picture.  Would I rather have figured this all out 20 years ago and been a stud with a full head of hair?  Would I rather have had girls beating down my door?  Would I rather have had a shot at achieving this goal earlier and getting it out of my way so I could legitimately cash in on my success and become a whale in my 30’s knowing I had already been jacked?  What was my alternative?  Oh yes, being me.  OK, so it’s not that bad.  But I’m comfortable with where I am with my fitness goals and progress here and now.  The downer in me says I’ll probably never reach my true goals but I need to murder him.  Bad downer.  Bad.

So why write all this?

How much do you have to hate yourself to do a workout called Last Chance?  I’m trying to picture anyone looking for a program.  “Let’s see… There’s Insanity.  Nah, too much cardio.  There’s P90X.  Nope, too many jumps.  There’s Tae-Bo. Too urban.  I guess I have no other options.  Oh look!  There’s a crazed woman on this box and she says it’s my last chance!  I don’t know what it is but something in her eyes is forcing my to believe it.  I’ll buy this DVD now because, having exhausted no other options, I realize I have no options left.  Thank God I found this DVD before it was too late!  What would have become of me?”

Yeah, that just happened.

My wife and I also watched a movie last night about aliens.  It stars Amy Adams.  I think it’s called Arrival.  Not bad.  The two aliens were called Abbot and Costello, no joke.  Unfortunately they weren’t remotely funny.

The “Fix” Is Working

I shared with you a week ago that I was on BeachBody’s 21 Day Fix Extreme.  Tonight I rounded out day 8. No, Annie, there won’t be any before and after picture, at least not until it’s all done and I’m drunk. Suffice it to say that things are going better than expected. 

Even “trainer” noticed a difference. At work on Friday he casually mentioned that I was looking very fit. “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!” He has no idea how valuable that comment to me was. For a guy as fit as him (read: “shredded”) to tell pathetic old me who is far from fit and in fact may be classified as deformed that I’m looking better is huge. And I was fully clothed too so that speaks volumes. Of course he made this comment while doing 25 squat lunge-burpees and then took off to run 4 miles during the change between classes, but… He still said it and he can’t take it back. 

This will be me at 40. *Not ALL parts depicted accurately.

Tonight it was back to plyo workout. I felt great when I finished. Not only did I complete every damn set but it didn’t feel like I would die. And yes, I’m starting to notice little things here and there – things like abdominal muscles (not phenomenal but there) and the ribs that frame out ones chest when he’s actually jacked. I know this doesn’t mean much to most people or even to “trainer” who’s probably sick of seeing himself in a mirror but to me it’s big. As a younger man I never felt that I could just rip my shirt off whenever I felt the urge. Still don’t. Instead I had to win friends and indluence people by sharpening my wit. I was always the smart, funny friend whom everyone loved to have at a party but not necessarily on their team. So I found ways to insult them with clever words and then to insult myself and make a joke out of my shape. It’s worked for me for years and I’ve gotten quite good at it. Just the other day a friend shared a clip with me of a baseball catcher making an incredible catch. Meant nothing to me since I never played baseball (not even a game of catch in the yard with my brothers) but I could appreciate the intensity of it and my friend’s sense of awe. Fighting the urge to say “Wow, such coordination. Someone can use his hands,” I said instead simply “Wow.” But I didn’t say it with an exclamation point. 

My ultimate hope is to be able to say in a year and a half when I turn 40 that I’m in the best shape of my life and to have the body to back that up. And if not I can always cut everyone around me down to size with a quick jab of my vocabulary. There’s a part of me that would love the “revenge” aspect of that as I watch my friends who once had athleticism struggle to avoid obesity. Of course “trainer” will somehow find a way to shed even more body fat by then. But on some plane where the rest of us mortals dwell most might think I’ve done OK for myself. 

Autumn ( the woman from the workout videos) keeps saying “Remember why you’re doing this!”  Then she yells at Cat. I keep responding “so my wife will find me irresistible” and realizing that’s not the right answer.  

I’m doing this for me. 

Pumping Iron

It actually looks more like a ski lodge except there's no fireplace or brandy.

I did it!  After a long absence I started working out again.  I actually used to enjoy lifting weights.  It’s something I only really got into in my twenties.  I was never athletic.  OK, that’s an understatement.  For much of my life I was an amorphous blob, uncoordinated, ungraceful, unenthused by anything physical.  I first started lifting the first time I engaged in physical therapy for my back about fifteen years ago.  Lo and behold, I found that it was something that I could actually do.  I enjoyed lifting much more than, say, riding the bike.  And I got pretty good at it.  I even had a Bowflex.  Although I never saw the results I wanted to see — that is, I was never going to be anyone’s cover model — I still enjoyed it.  Or at least I recognized the benefits of how I felt (stronger, more energy) during those times I would take “a break” from it.  And so, on and off, over the past ten years I would return to lifting.  Well, for the past year I’ve been off.  I was beginning to think it would be a permanent off because of my back; but the thought kept coming back at me.  As long as I was doing exercises that didn’t require me to stand or really use my lower back or legs I could probably do this.

Well, for the Epiphany, my lovely wife gave me a gym membership.  Actually it as a membership to the rec center just outside our development.  It’s a two minute ride from our house and the gym there has everything I need and, best of all, appears to be frequented by absolutely NO ONE!  It was fun getting back on the bench.  I remember a time when I could really lift.  I used to bench well over 200 and on one occasion I even benched 300 lbs.!  I could do this.

Strange looking machines, but they help those of us with back "issues".

Started stacking the weights on the bar.  Think I’ll start myself out small, let’s say, oh, I don’t know…  How about 150?  Yeah, sounds good.  Locked the bar and got on my back.  Thank God there was no one around because I would have been thoroughly embarrassed.  So I’ll be starting out really small.  But it was a good set overall and I guess you could say that I’m “freshly pressed”.  Curls, presses, lat work.  And the nice thing is that I had control of all three of the TV’s in the room.

I’ll keep you updated.  Maybe in a few weeks I can work myself up to something not so pathetic.

Terra, Terrae, Terrae, Terram, Terra

The title?  Don’t ask.  Oh, alright.  I was teaching Latin tonight.  That’s a model of the first declension, singular.  It means land or earth.  I have so much to write tonight I hope I can hit it all.  Stick with me and we’ll see if I achieve my goal or fall flat on my face.

First, a few nights ago I wanted to write about my niece, Bernadette.  Bernadette is the fifth child (fifth daughter) out of six born to my sister Barbara and her husband Ron.  They had their only boy, Matt, a year later.  Early in her pregnancy Barbara was told that her daughter would be born with a defect called anencephaly.  Basically, her brain and/or skull would not be properly formed.  The prognosis was certain death for her baby.  Barbara and Ron would never have considered not bringing this child into the world.  And so (Itaque in Latin) on March 7th, 2008 little Bernadette came into the world.  For someone who was labeled as defective she was the most adorable, most beautiful little girl in the world.  I’m so thankful to have a sister like Barbara.  And for a child who’s time on this earth wasn’t supposed to number hours, little Bernadette stayed with us a remarkable five days.  In her short time here she glorified God in a way many people never do.  Without a  word spoken, her whole being radiated gentleness and love.  I consider it a blessing that I happened to be present when God called her home.  I think of her every day.  Monday was her third birthday.

Today we celebrated Ash Wednesday.  Yes, I did say “celebrated”.  Someone commented to me this morning that this sounded oxymoronic since the day is a solemn one.  I pointed out (in my capacity as a Catholic school teacher for whatever that’s worth) that solemn does not mean somber.  This is the start of a journey with Christ to Calvary.  As St. Francis tells us, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  That being said my lovely wife has come up with a host of Lenten “stuff” for us to do as a family apart from the usual prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Actually, the things she came up with are extensions of those other things.  For instance, we now have a nifty Lenten Calendar in our kitchen where each of the forty days is marked with the names of family members.  They are our primary prayer intentions for that day.  Today it was my parents.  Tomorrow it is Karla’s folks.  Never a dull moment in our house.

This is actually my body.

Tonight I finally started physical therapy for my back!  Yes!  Winning!  Sorry, I promised myself no more Charlie Sheen references.  For one solid hour tonight a young woman named Monica stretched me, pulled me, rolled me over, and made me do things I did not know I could do nor would I ever want to see anyone else do.  I had forgotten how much fun PT was.  The prognosis here is very good.  We think that within the four week course I should be able to come off the pills and improve my flexibility and core strength.  But for the hour I was on the table I would have sworn I was already on the cross with Christ.  Actually, getting up I felt great.  I could move a little better and wasn’t feeling the constant soreness that had plagued me when I walked in.  It was a bit odd lying there with a long rope that resembled a dog leash lashed around my foot while holding the same over my head for thirty seconds; but, hey… whatever works!

Finally, the topic for tonight:

“What are your favorite slang words?”

I refuse to answer this question 1) on the grounds that it might incriminate me and 2) because it’s totally unfair to everyone else.  I work with teenagers all day.

Not my best writing by a long shot but after my sister Bridget commented to me on Facebook about how in her opinion I didn’t “need” to be Freshly Pressed I have decided she’s right.  I am me and these are my words.  To hell with them!  You know, unless, of course, they want to press me.