One year later

14 02 2014

It’s been about a year since I started consistently weight training again, so I thought it would be interesting to look back and see what kind of progress I had made.

“Consistently” needs a little bit of a qualifier. I had several weeks here and there when I wasn’t able to train, largely due to travel; although I’ve done better than ever at finding gyms when I’ve been out of town, sometimes it just wasn’t possible. I also had my training impacted a bit by a shoulder injury that caused me to not train upper body for about a month.

I’ve been training using Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 program, which I highly recommend to everyone who wants to increase strength in a straightforward way. One of the great things about it is that it pushes you to set new personal records every time you go to the gym, which also makes it easy to track progress over time. I took my calculated 1 rep max for each of my major lifts and put them into a chart:

training progress

Deadlift (280 to 468: +67%) – The deadlift is by far my favorite of the big lifts, and I’m quite happy with how much progress I’ve made.

Squats (250 to 373: +49%) – I took a break from heavy squatting starting in September, because I was experiencing hip pain, and I wanted to work on my flexibility. Despite the break, when I resumed squatting last week, I immediately set a new PR, and then broke it again this week.

Bench press (233 to 304: +30%) – Due the shoulder problems, I hadn’t bench pressed in years, but I decided to start doing them again midway through the year, and I’m making great progress.

Military press (140 to 180: +25%) and push press (180 to 215: +20%) – For overhead pressing, I started the year doing military presses, then switched to push presses (where I can obviously move more weight), then recently back to military presses again.


Goals for 2014

29 12 2013

I’m not typically one for New Year’s resolutions, but I do have some things I want to accomplish this year, that I’m going to throw out there for accountability purposes:

  • Weigh less than 210 by the end of the year. Possibly 200.
  • Be able to carry on basic conversations in Spanish
  • Be able to surf
  • Brew a drinkable batch of beer
  • Develop more of a social life

Back, Maybe?

20 09 2013

I’m feeling somewhat motivated to start blogging again. Not that anyone will notice.

A lot has happened in the past three years. I married Amy at the end of 2011, and she moved to California. We now live in Encinitas. I also found my birth family last year, and they are amazing! Sadly, I also experienced the death of both of my adopted brothers. I’m probably going to post a bit more about those things soon, but in general, my posts going forward will be less of a personal nature, and instead focus on fitness and the occasional political rant.

Speaking of fitness, after reaching a low weight of 197 about 3 years ago, I started gaining it back. By the time I got married, I was up to 225, and by the beginning of this year, I was up to 253. This was all pretty much due to me falling off the wagon, both with diet and exercise. Since the start of the year, I’ve been weight training pretty consistently, despite a nagging shoulder injury (tendinosis and impingement), and my diet has been more on than off. I currently weigh 234. My goal is to get down to 215 by the end of the year. I’m pretty motivated to get stronger and lose some fat.

Weightlifting goals

18 09 2013

Here are my short and longer term weightlifting goals, relative to my body weight. I hope to reach the short term ones by the end of this year, and the long term ones sometime next year. The plan is to do this both through increasing my strength and dropping some fat.

Short Long
Squat 1.5 x BW 2 x BW
Deadlift 2 x BW 2.5 x BW
Bench 1 x BW 1.5 x BW
Overhead .75 x BW 1 x BW

My new favorite protein shake

30 03 2012

I started making this recently, and now crave them all the time:

2 scoops of vanilla whey
1 frozen banana
1 graham cracker square
Water based on the consistency you like

It tastes like banana cream pie.

Calories: 375
Fat: 3g
Carbs: 38g
Protein: 50g

A couple weeks of milestones

24 09 2010

The last couple of weeks have seen some significant milestones.

On September 13th, my kids moved to Italy with their mother. Perhaps “moved” isn’t the best word for it, because it’s a temporary thing; they’ll be back in 3 months. I’m excited for them to experience this adventure, but I miss them. Their internet access is sporadic, so I can’t talk to them very often. I AM going to see them in a few days, so that will be good.

September 16th marked a year since my first date with Amy. I still remember it vividly, especially the nervous excitement I felt. I already knew I liked her from the conversations we’d had, and the first time I met her in person, there was an immediate attraction. We spent several days together, going to a Weezer/Blink 182 concert, the Wild Animal Park, SeaWorld, the beach. I was so unhappy when she had to return to Utah, not knowing what the future would hold due to the distance, but I knew that I wanted to spend more time with her. Since then, it has been an amazing ride. I still feel the same nervous excitement when I’m about to see her, and the same sadness when it’s time to part. She made the last year the best in my life so far, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for us.

The 20th marked the date that my divorce from Melissa became official. There was no particular sadness associated with it. We first decided to get divorced nearly a year and a half ago, and I moved out more than a year ago, so I had processed it, and we’ve both moved on (obviously). We chatted briefly when she was at my place with the kids, and we both acknowledged regret at the things that went wrong, but we’re both happy now and wish the best for each other. Looking back, I was definitely unhappy, but the good times stick with me more than the bad. I’m especially thankful for the 5 fabulous kids we had together, and my only significant regret in all of this is that I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like now.

Finally, today, after what seems like ages, I broke the 200 pound barrier. I don’t remember for sure the last time I weighed less than 200 pounds, but the most recent it could have possibly been was in 1994, which was my first year of marriage. I had initially hoped to break this barrier on September 1st, and I got within a couple of pounds of that, but a trip to Seattle and 10 days with my kids derailed me a little bit.

So what’s next? I knew that at 200 pounds I’d still have a little fat around my middle, and I do. My best guess is that to get as lean as I’d like to be, I’ve got another 10-15 pounds to go. Possibly more. Part of me wants to focus on building muscle for a little while, but I’m pretty sure that if I do that right now, I’ll gain a lot of fat at the same. So for now, I think I’m going to continue to focus on losing fat, but a bit less aggressively than what I’ve been doing. I’m going to just continue to eat healthy, be active, and weight train without a specific goal until the beginning of November. Then I’ll see where I’m at and set my next goal. Ideally, I’d like to finish losing before the holidays, so I can use them to start my bulking cycle 🙂

Weight: 199.5
BF%: 22

Jan 1st starting weight: 232.5
Starting BF%: 31

Gymtards #1

1 09 2010

This is a post that I’ve been wanting to write for a long time, but I kept getting hung up on wanting to make it as comprehensive as possible. Then it occurred to me that I can just make this a recurring theme, so here’s the first.

I’ve been working out on and off (more on, lately) since I was about 12. I’ve done a lot of different things, lost (and then regained) a lot of weight, and I like to think I’ve learned quite a bit, especially over the past 5-6 years as the Internet has made access to reliable training and nutritional information readily available.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of other people, especially at commercial gyms, that I tend to think of as “gymtards.” This term is probably a little harsh, but it does drive the point home: many, and perhaps most, people working out these days are making major mistakes. This may just mean that they’re not progressing as well as they could, but it could mean that they are doing things that are entirely contrary to their goals. I probably wouldn’t care if they didn’t frequently prevent me from using equipment I want to use.

I’m not claiming to be any kind of authority on training, but I have spent a lot of time reading information and research from leading trainers and coaches, and applying those things to myself, so I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. My intention here is to draw attention to many of the common mistakes that people make, and in so doing hopefully encourage some of them to better educate themselves.

So with that introduction out of the way, I want to get to what inspired me to finally get this posted: the leg press.

The leg press is not a useless exercise. The biggest problem with it is that people use it instead of squatting and deadlifting, rather than as a support exercise, which is what it should be. What’s worse is that many of the people I see doing it aren’t even doing it properly. Lately, I’ve witnessed a number of people who load the leg press up with as many plates as possible, and then move it through a tiny range of motion, as illustrated in this video I captured last night:

If this guy were to actually attempt to go though a full range of motion, the ridiculous amount of weight that he’s using would drive his knees through his chest and into the pad behind him. He may feel like he’s accomplishing something, but the truth is, he’s probably getting more out of loading the weight onto the leg press machine than he is out of the tiny movements he’s doing.

There is a time and place for using a partial range of motion, but this is an advanced technique, used by people who are legitimately moving massive amounts of weight and trying to overcome weak points. Most people should be using a full range of motion, and if you can’t do that with the weight you’re using, check your ego at the door and reduce the weight. You’ll benefit more in the long run.

My Fat Loss Philosophy, Part 3

30 08 2010

Okay, this has taken longer than I initially intended, but here’s what I believe will be my last post for now regarding my fat loss philosophy. In this installment, I’ll deal with what to eat.


As much as possible, I try to eat whole, real foods, and avoid anything processed. These are the things that I eat freely:

  • Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, fish, etc.
  • Eggs, including the yolks
  • Vegetables, especially green leafy ones like broccoli and spinach, but not corn (which is a grain) or legumes. Most of the time I avoid starchy vegetables (like potatoes).
  • Fruit, especially berries
  • Nuts, except for peanuts
  • Limited dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese)
  • Green tea and water, with the occasional diet soda
  • Coconut and olive oil, butter

The things I avoid:

  • Everything grain-based, including breads and pastas
  • Anything sugary
  • Most vegetable oils
  • Legumes
  • Processed foods
  • Almost everything soy-based

I don’t shy away from saturated fat or cholesterol at all, because the science shows that they are actually good for you, contrary to conventional wisdom.

All of this means that my diet is high in protein, high in fat, and (relatively) low in carbs. I don’t pay a ton of attention to calories. As you’ll recall from my first post on this, if you’re trying to lose fat, it’s essential that you eat fewer calories that you use. But I’ve found that eating this way, that just kind of happens naturally. I have tracked calories occasionally just to get an idea, and I am careful with fruit, limiting it mostly to training days, but that’s about it.

This works very well for me personally. I think that some people might do just fine with grains and legumes (and if you eat them, it’s probably going to require paying closer attention to calories), but for me, it’s easier to attain my goals if I avoid them as much as possible.


In an ideal world, I’d be able to get ample supplies of all of my nutrients directly from food. But because of convenience and cost factors, I use some supplements as well:

  • Protein powder: I try to get at least 150 g of protein a day, and this is much easier to do if I throw in a protein shake or two. There are a LOT of good protein powders on the market now, many of them quite tasty. I recommend something using whey or casein protein. Avoid soy.
  • Multivitamin: I take one because I have a couple of huge bottles that I haven’t used up yet. Studies seem to show that our bodies don’t really absorb the nutrients in a multivitamin, though, so I’ll probably stop using them once my supply runs out.
  • Vitamin D3: There is a lot of research lately showing the importance of Vitamin D, and most people are lacking. I try to spend some time outside every day to get some from the sun, but just to be safe, I also take 5000 IUs every day.
  • Probiotic: I just started doing this. The idea is that antibiotics and the effects of the typical American diet have caused most people to be lacking in the healthy bacteria that make up our intestinal tract. Probiotics and fermented foods can help correct this.
  • Fish oil: The benefits of fish oil cannot be overstated due to the fact that most of us are sorely lacking in Omega-3s. I typically pop 5-6 capsules a day.

Weight: 202
BF%: 23

Jan 1st starting weight: 232.5
Starting BF%: 31

The HCG Diet

23 08 2010

Recently, I was on Amazon and noticed in their discussion forums a question about the HCG diet. I only became aware of this diet a few months ago, after someone on Facebook mentioned it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the diet, it is based on the work of a Dr. ATW Simeons, published in his book Pounds and Inches more than 50 years ago. The diet is based on eating 500 calories a day for several weeks, accompanied by daily shots of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which he claimed would help mobilize stores of “abnormal” fat that is not normally available for your body’s energy needs. After several weeks, people on the diet transition to normal caloric intake with a diet based mostly on whole food (meats, fruits, vegetables, etc.). The cycle is repeated as many times as necessary to attain the desired weight loss.

Interest in the diet was revitalized in 2007 with the publication of informercial king Kevin Trudeau’s The Weight Loss Cure They Don’t Want You to Know About.

Now, anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I am more than happy to deviate from the mainstream and embrace ideas that at first seem totally whacky, as long as there is solid reasoning and evidence to support the idea. So although I was skeptical when I first heard about this diet, I tried to keep an open mind when researching it. After reading from a lot of different sources, I came to the following conclusions:

  1. If you limit yourself to 500 calories a day, you’re going to lose fat pretty quickly, but doing so can be dangerous, and if you’re not smart about it, you’re going to lose muscle too.
  2. If you adopt a diet based on whole, natural foods, you’re probably going to have an easy time maintaining any fat loss, and may even be able to slowly lose weight.
  3. Numerous independent studies have shown that HCG is no more effective than a placebo when used in conjunction with this diet’s eating plan. Injecting HCG also has some potentially very serious side effects, and of course, it’s not free.

In other words, any successes of the HCG diet can be attributed to the first two points, and there are many other diets that use these principles, especially the second (and if you want to go with a very-low calorie diet for rapid fat loss, there are alternatives that are much more attractive). But because this diet includes injecting something that is not only unnecessary, but potentially dangerous, I’d steer clear of it.

Sifting Through the Garbage

In researching this diet, I noticed a couple of disturbing things.

The first is that, no matter what combination of search terms I used in conjunction with HCG, Google’s first several pages of results were dominated by sites that are owned and operated by companies or individuals selling HCG. To me, that suggests that there is a lot of money being made selling HCG to people who are desperate to lose weight, and the people making that money have a vested interest in people believing that HCG is an essential part of the process. In order to find more objective information on HCG, I had to go directly to sources like WebMD, Pubmed, Wikipedia, and the personal websites of weight-loss professionals that I trust.

The second is that any time I found any information critical of the HCG diet, the comments section would be inundated with people attacking the article, generally not by rebutting the facts but by sharing their own testimonials, usually along the lines of “I’ve been on this diet for 4 days and I’ve already lost 10 pounds.” This happened to me when I posted on Amazon, which caused me to want to write this blog. These people display almost cult-like characteristics, a phenomenon that has been commented on at a few of the fitness forums I visit. My theory is that these people are either being paid by companies that sell HCG, or they are people who have genuinely lost weight on the diet but suffer from confirmation bias preventing them from recognizing that the HCG itself has nothing to do with their success.

Further Reading

If you or someone you know is seriously considering the HCG diet, I strongly recommend that you thoroughly read some of the following articles and come to your own conclusions:

Fitness log, 8/8/10

8 08 2010

Lately, other than brief interruptions when I travel (and even on my trip to China, I made mostly responsible food choices and hit the gym a couple of times), I’ve been very consistent with both my diet and exercise. About a month ago, I started Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 program, and I’ve been very pleased with the results so far. In addition to that, I’ve increased my overall activity level: taking the (7 flights of) stairs at work, walking more (a half hour each way to the gym yesterday), with the occasional bike ride, jumping rope, and sprinting. My weight is dropping consistently, and I think I’m on track to hit 200 by the end of August.

I noticed something disturbing today. According to my Tanita scale, I currently weigh 207.5 with 27% body fat. I’ve said before that I think that’s considerably higher than what I’m really at, but taken at face value, that means I have about 150 pounds of lean body mass. Back in January when I first started this, I was 232.5 at 31% body fat. That’s a bit over 160 pounds of lean body mass. So assuming that the scale is at least relatively accurate, that means I’ve lost 10 pounds of muscle and 15 pounds of fat.

I’d like to write off the muscle loss as inaccuracy of the scale, but the truth is, my training logs show that I AM moving less weight than I used to at the gym, and my muscles seem to be a bit smaller. Really, this is no surprise. I went through a period where I was horribly inconsistent with my weight training, and then in April, I suspended it completely to focus on preparing for Ragnar. As I said a few posts ago, I think that running is terrible for fat loss precisely because it does nothing to preserve muscle, and my experience seems to confirm this.

Based on my current numbers, to get to my ultimate goal of 10% body fat, assuming that I can hold onto the lean body mass I have now, I’ll have to drop down to under 170 pounds. Ugh. However, I estimate that my scale reports at least 5% higher than what it really is, and if I stay on track I’ll probably be adding some muscle back on, so it may be more like 180-190. That’s not so far off.

Weight: 207.5
BF%: 27

Jan 1st starting weight: 232.5
Starting BF%: 31