Lifestyle Prior To Change
What was your lifestyle prior to your transformation?
My lifestyle before the change was what I would consider out of control. I was consumed with excess. I lived to eat, drink and party. Having a huge meal with an abundance of beer was the norm for me. The only thing I did for exercise was walking to my truck! Six years ago I smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. I smoked non-filter cigarettes because I thought it was the filter that was killing everyone not the tobacco.
It was an easy thing for me to consume 6,000+ calories a day, then throw a 12 pack in on top of that!
- Breakfast. A typical day started off with breakfast of four eggs over easy, half a pack of bacon and biscuits with gravy. I would put a slab of butter in the middle of my plate, pour molasses on it and sop it up with a biscuit. I would wash it down with a couple large glasses of orange juice. Of course, I would have my normal pot of coffee.
- Lunch. Typically, I would eat at a buffet or eat a Wendy’s triple burger with cheese, "biggie" sized, with a diet Coke.
- Supper. Supper consisted of fried chicken, creamed potatoes, pinto beans with corn bread.
- Dessert. Dessert was a huge bowl of ice cream and cake.
- Snacks. Of course, throughout the day I would snack on chips, sweet cakes, cookies, etc.
I had knee pain, back pain, and my wife used to say I grunted when I would turn the steering wheel.
I was up on all the latest TV shows. I used to sit and watch "The Biggest Loser" while snacking and say "I could win this." I was in total denial of what I had become. I thought I was healthy, happy and wise. I thought I looked stocky, not fat. I really had no idea I was fat.
I thought I felt good. I thought I was doing well. I actually thought I was in pretty good shape. When I saw myself in the mirror, I used to think "Look how big my arms are!" and "Man, I am still as strong as ever."
People used to tell me that I didn’t look fat and that I carried my weight well. I was killing myself one bite of food at a time, and numbing that out with alcohol.
I was in total denial about my drinking also. I was a binge drinker. Every day was a binge. If I didn’t have to fly that day, I was celebrating how great I was!
I got the wake up call on my drinking one day while drinking with a good buddy of mine at a bar in Miami. I decided to try and convince him to slow down a little. His drinking was getting so bad that we would have to leave early, before the bar closed.
I talked to him about it and he said "Man, I don’t drink near as much as you do." I said "That's bull! Look, you can hardly stand." He said "Ask the bar keep." So I called her over and asked her to settle a little something for us. She said "Okay." I asked her "Who has had the most drinks?" She said "According to your tabs, he has had six rum and cokes and three beers. You have had nine Rum and cokes and six beers." I said "Oh, okay. We are pretty close." She said "All your rum and cokes have been doubles." I was nearly floored. I was practically sober. WOW! That really bothered me so I went back to the hotel that night and drank some wine to ponder my drinking.
The thought of what I was doing to myself, my career and my family never occurred to me. I was 40 years old, 345 lbs. and clueless.
What was your low point or turning point?
My turning point came two days after Christmas. I was at work back in Miami training for a new piece of equipment and getting ready to go into the flight simulator when my phone rang. It was my wife. She never calls me when I am at work unless something has broken at home or one of the boys has pulled a good one. I said "Hello" and when she started speaking I knew this phone call was not like the others.
She told me that my mom had had a heart attack and was in the hospital and going to have open heart surgery in the morning. I tried to think of a safe question to ask to gauge how bad things really were. I started with an easy one "Is it bad?" She said "Yes." Then I asked the money question: "Do I need to come home?" She said "Yes!" In 15 years of marriage and flying around the world, she has never answered YES! This was bad. I went home on the first flight out. When I got home, my wife and I went straight to the hospital. My mother was already in surgery. When the doctor came out to talk to us, he said the surgery didn’t go well. Due to her diabetes and the small size of her arteries, the surgery was more difficult than normal. It was also complicated by the worst case of plaque in her arteries that he had seen in 25 years as a heart surgeon. We were floored. We didn’t even know she had diabetes. My mother never told anyone.
When they got her stable after another heart attack in the recovery room, followed by three stints, we were allowed to see her. She was so swollen, had a balloon pump working her heart and did not have a good prognosis.
That night when I got home, I walked in and got bum rushed by my boys and nearly broke down. When I took a shower the next morning and was shaving before going back to the hospital the next day, I took a good sober look at myself. What I saw terrified me. What had I done to myself? For the first time I saw myself for what I had become. It scared me and I knew without a doubt that what was happening to my mother was in store for me. I looked at myself in that mirror and said "That’s not going to happen to me! I don’t want my boys to feel this pain because their Daddy was too lazy to do anything about it." I told my wife I was done. I was going change. I was going to get back me. I apologized to her for my actions and committed myself to change. She said "Okay, honey. You're perfect to me the way you are."
My Mom is a fighter and pulled out and is back to her normal self, but she is concerned about her health now! When my Mom got stable, I went to the Hospital Wellness Center that my wife had signed us up for months ago to get started. I met with a trainer, discussed my goals, where I was now and made a plan for the future.
Austin's Training And Cardio Approach
What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?
The first thing I did was get a trainer. He measured me, took my bodyfat and gave me a strength and flexibility test.
Man was I fat. Now the truth was coming out. I was off the charts in danger zones for everything: diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. I was going get them ALL. Then came the strength test. I knew I was going to do great in this test because I was stocky and had always been strong.
Well, my first test was the flat barbell bench press. I thought he was going to load the bar up and see what I could do. But he had a different idea. He put two 25 lbs plates on the bar and told me to lie down and see how many I could do. I kind of laughed and thought "How much time do we have? I can press that all day!" Well, I laid down and got started. When I un-racked that weight I thought "Man, that seems heavier than I remember." I started knocking them out and around six I was sweating. At eight I was struggling, at 10 I was shaking, at 12 I was done, and at 13 the trainer was having to deadlift it off me. I was spent and embarrassed. Then he said "Good Job." I said "Really?" He said "Yes, good job." We did some other things, reviewed the results and made a plan. For the next week I did everything he told me to and how he told me to do it.
I started a simple diabetic diet at that time to loose weight. I knew enough about diets to know I did not know anything. My wife is a nurse and she offered me some of her old text books. I welcomed the information.
During my research I came to several conclusions.
- The last sentence in every diet book I had was the same. It was “With proper nutrition and exercise you will meet your diet or fitness goals.”
- The calorie is king. If you take in less calories than you burn, you will lose weight.
- Lean muscle burns more calories at rest.
- You need a support network of fitness - successful people.
So with proper diet and exercise and limiting my caloric intake I will lose weight.
But with more lean muscle I will burn more calories when I am at rest.
That is what started me down a quest for more muscle. The big question was where to find this information. Then one day I saw a Men’s Health Magazine and on the cover all my questions were answered: a workout to gain mass for men over 40, a diet to maximize my weight loss and to keep my lean mass and articles about people who were in shape. So I tried them all. The workouts, the diet, the recipes and reading all the articles.
I have always liked bodybuilders and powerlifters. They were amazing to me with their dedication to their sport and lifestyle. When I went back to the bookstore to see if there were any books on weight training and diets I found everything I was looking for. I found books or manuals on weight training and diets. I also found magazines full of bodybuilders and even workout books some of the bodybuilders had written. I had found a new source of information and support. Now you might think it is funny to say you get support from an article in a magazine or a website, but to me they were telling me what I needed to hear, how to do it and to never quit.
I had found that in Huntsville, Alabama there are a lot more unsuccessful fitness people than successful ones. So I surrounded myself with the people I wanted to emulate and, even though they were in magazines and on websites, I found them to be supportive. I would find myself talking to people at the gym and saying I was reading an article by Dave Goodin and he says to do this or that, and they would look at me like who? I would say "Dave Goodin, he is a natural bodybuilder, over 40 and RIPPED UP!" Most of the time, they would look at me like I was crazy. I was not crazy. I was on a mission. I was on a mission to take back my life and my health.
As the weight came off, my workouts changed. I progressively got more old school in my workout and tuned and tweaked my workouts as I learned my body.
Here is what it has turned into for me. I do change it up time to time, but for the most part these are my core exercises. The ones that work for me.
Day 1 - Chest and Triceps
- Barbell Bench Press: Two warm up sets, three work sets. Start at 15 reps then pyramid down as weight increases.
- Incline Bench Press: Two warm up sets, four work sets. Start at 15 reps then pyramid down as weight increases.
- Incline Dumbbell Flys: Four sets of 10-12.
- Dumbbell Flys: Four sets of 10-12.
- Dumbbell or Machine Chest Pullovers.
- Cable Tricep Extension.
- Triceps Extensions.
- Seated Dips.
Day 2 - Back and Biceps Day
- Lat Pull Down: Four sets of 12, wide grip, narrow grip, and reverse grip.
- Behind Neck Lat Pull Down: Four sets of 10-12.
- Seated Cable Row: Three sets of 10-2.
- Below Knee Pulls: Six sets pyramid 12-4.
- Bent Over Row: Three sets reverse grip and three sets of over hand grip.
- One Arm Dumbbell Row: Three sets of 10.
- Standing Dumbbell Curl: Four sets of 15-10.
- Standing Hammer Curl: Four sets of 8-10.
Day 3 - Leg Day
- Smith Machine Squat: Five sets of 10-12.
- Leg Press: Six Sets of pyramiding up in weight with 10-12 reps.
- Three sets of 21s.
- Leg Curl: Four sets of 10-12 reps.
- Seated Calf Raise: Four sets of 10-12.
Day 4 - Shoulder Day
- Seated Barbell Press: Three warm up sets, three work sets of 10-12 reps.
- Standing Dumbbell Front Raise/Dumbbell Lateral Raise: Four sets each 12 reps.
- Bent Over Dumbbell Reverse Fly: Four sets of 12 reps.
- Reverse Pec Deck Fly: Four sets of 10-12.
- Barbell Shrug: Four sets of 10 -8 pyramiding up in weight.
My main focus has become lean mass building. I know when I go into the gym I might not be the strongest or the most ripped person in there, but I can be the hardest working one in there!
I try to make a little gain every time I walk in the gym. If it's by adding weight to an exercise or adding a couple reps, I always try to push. I am never satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy and thankful for what I have achieved, but I am a work in progress. There is a monster in me and I am trying to uncover him one drop of sweat at a time!
Austin's Diet And Nutrition Approach
What was your diet and nutrition approach during your transformation?
The diet plan that I used was very simple. If I had eaten it before, I didn’t eat it anymore. I had a bunch of diet books with recipes in them. My trainer had measured me and told me I needed to eat like 2,800 calories a day to maintain my weight. And to lose weight I needed to take a minimum of 500 calories off that. His suggestion was to eat 2,000 calories a day, exercise and lose weight. So that’s what I did.
I went to between 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day and at first I only counted calories. Then, as I read more in my muscle magazines, I kept reading about the different proteins, fats, carbohydrates and how they worked in the body. So I took out my wife’s text book and started studying the different food groups and their effects. I did a lot of research and came up with a plan that sounded as old as man. I was going to eat six 300 calorie meals a day. I read articles on eating for muscle growth, learned words like catabolic and anabolic, the best time to eat in the morning to stop the catabolic state and what to eat.
So as I tweaked my diet and ate every three hours like clock work. I prepared meals ahead of time and carried almonds with me to snack on just in case I got hungry. I had my diet dialed in and my exercise program working well for me and it was like I was melting before my very eyes. I was going through clothing sizes faster than I could buy them. I tweaked my diet as the fat was being replaced by muscle. I would increase my protein intake and include protein shakes before and after my workouts. One of the big stumbling blocks I found to my diets before was being hungry. With eating 300 calories six times a day I was and am never hungry. I stay satisfied all the time and am never craving for anything. So the most important thing I found out was that with proper nutrition and exercise you can lose and keep off large amounts of body fat.
What supplements did you use?
I would try something because a famous bodybuilder said he did. With most of the products I tried, I could not tell that they did anything for me. They were a waste of money. The ones that worked and I liked I still use today. For protein powder I use Nature's Best Isopure.
What Is Your Life Like Now?
My life now is nothing like it was. The only resemblance is that I am still a pilot, father and husband. Now, when I am on the road, instead of going to bars, I go to the gym. Instead of finding food buffets, I prepare my own food.
When I am at home, I play with the kids and the kids in the neighborhood. I help clean the house and, of course, I go to the gym. I also do all of the cooking when I am at home.
I have to admit I catch myself watching every bite of food that goes into my kids' mouths. I can't help it but I count their calories and their protein intake. When I cook, I always cook a couple of different meals, one for me and one for the family. I know they do not want to eat what I do, so I cook things that they like, but prepare it in a way that is good for them. I make sure they get to eat candy and cakes. I just try to control the amounts without seeming overbearing to them.
My wife used to get mad at me when we would plan our vacations, especially early in my lifestyle change. When she would tell me where we were going, I would say "Where is the closest gym?" She has gotten over that and now when she makes our vacation plans, she includes gym locations and plans around my workout schedule. She has really grown into a real source of support for me. Even though she does not understand my quest for size or even like it, she supports me. My kids are proud of me. They never tell anyone their dad is an airline pilot they always say "My Dad is a bodybuilder." But the best thing about this is that my two youngest kids will never remember when their Dad was overweight.
Advice For Others
The advice I have for others is not wait to get started. Go join a gym, get with a trainer and assess your fitness level. Get in that gym and leave your old self on the gym floor, one drop of sweat at a time. Don’t be afraid of the people in there hitting it hard. And don’t be afraid of the free weight area. Sometime when people first start in a gym, they are intimidated by the free weights and the people in there grunting and groaning. Don’t be. Remember they had a first day also. Try to feed off their intensity. And by all means learn a little gym etiquette. I could write a book on that one.
Also, shop around for a trainer who fits you. There are good trainers and not so good trainers. Interview a bunch of them to find one what works for you. This is a subject that I could write a book on also.
Just remember 90% is diet. The other 10% is exercise. But you have to give both a 100% effort to be successful.
The only other thing I would like to say is surround yourself with support. If it is in magazines or in real people, find them. Also, continue to educate yourself on different types of exercise and diets. Read the articles, do your own research and, above all, listen to what your body is telling you. Good luck in reaching your goals. You can do it. Just remember, you are not on a diet, its your lifestyle.