Lifestyle Prior To Change
Like most young guys, I used to go out a lot with my friends. The problem was that I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin. My buddies all seemed to be having a good time, while I was “worrying” about the way I looked. Although it maybe wasn’t that apparent, I felt like I didn’t look like I could take care of myself. Funny statement, I know. But for someone who’s experienced being called skinny for most of their life, and also feeling all the while as though it wasn’t ‘the real you’… this is hard.
The world seems to be obsessed with pointing the finger at obese people, but the emotional struggles of an extremely skinny person are the same. I basically didn’t believe in myself prior to start working out. Once I joined a gym, I was hooked because it gave me discipline (creating balance in my life). I also started to see positive physical changes right away. Bodybuilding, if anything, has helped me to believe in myself. It’s a very individual, mental, and spiritual sport… before simply being a physical sport.
What Was Your Turning Point?
There were many low points, but the one that immediately comes to mind is when I had suffered a depression seven years ago, and lost about 40 pounds as a result of it. Within one week my closest aunt passed away, my first niece was born, I quit my job, and I graduated from university in a program I had no real interest in. All of the emotions attached to these events combined with the stress from not having a clue as to how I would be able to make a living doing what I love, created tremendous anxiety. I had become emotionally over-exhausted. Most of the gains I had made since beginning working out were lost. Besides the few people at the gym who motivated me, I didn’t have a real mentor. I felt my dream was slipping away and this was hard to deal with.
For years I continued to suffer from anxiety attacks, and my current lifestyle at the age of 25 was a continual reminder that I was not on the path to prosperity (which for me signified being a full-time bodybuilder training to his potential). As a result, I would experience severe, chronic lower back pain any time I encountered a stressful situation.
My suffering went on for a few years, and although I had made some gains… I was not where I wanted to be physically. Around that time, I had sustained a pretty bad back injury (while doing a heavy barbell curl), demonstrating my lack of focus in the gym. My lifestyle was not in line with my goals. That was when I took the decision to quit my current job (working in construction) for a new career as a personal trainer. I found this was a step in the right direction. It brought me closer to the gym, closer to my true passion.
For a period of about 2 months thereafter, I studied and prepared for my personal training certification exam… and gained over 30 pounds of lean muscle mass. That brought me up to about 207 pounds. I was not ripped at that weight, but still happy with the overall gains I had made. That, for me, was one of the signs that my dream could and would eventually become a reality. I passed my exam and started my new career as a personal trainer, training people in their homes as well as in local gyms.
What Was Your Exercise Plan?
Since my transformation from 120 pounds to about 207 pounds took nearly 7 years, I’ve used many different weight training programs over that time. But in general, I’ve always stuck with traditional bodybuilding techniques and exercises. You know... 6-12 reps for each set, about 3-5 sets per exercise. Also, many compound movements and isolation exercises, with a good balance between free weights, machines and pulley systems. For my first few years of training, I was lifting quite heavy so I would usually pyramid my way up in weight (increasing the weight, and decreasing the number of reps for each consecutive set of an exercise). Eventually, I had hit a plateau...and as I learned to listen to my body, I found that pushing light-to-moderately-heavy weight (while using perfect form) allowed me to make supernatural gains.
What does your current training approach look like?
Currently I’m training 6 days per week for about 2-3 hours each time. This may sound like a lot to most people, but it’s what I believe I have to do in order to reach my goal. I would like to compete at 215 pounds (100% natural), hopefully by the end of this year. My training schedule will pretty much be the same until my first bodybuilding contest, but my workouts vary every time. I do quite a few exercises compared to when I first started, but the format is usually the same. For example, I almost always start with an incline press for chest… Except nowadays, I’ll do two or even three incline presses rather than one, as in the past. Here’s my weekly training schedule.
- Monday: Cardio / Chest / Calves
- Tuesday: Abs / Biceps
- Wednesday: Triceps
- Thursday: Cardio / Back
- Friday: Abs / Shoulders (Every 2nd Friday) / Forearms (Every other Friday)
- Saturday: Legs / Triceps
- Sunday: Rest
What Was Your Diet Plan?
For my first 4 or 5 years of training, I was 100% focused on gaining mass. I wasn’t worried about getting fatter because I simply wanted to gain weight. So I would basically eat whatever I could get my hands on. I consistently took in plenty of protein with virtually every meal, and I didn’t avoid carbohydrates because I knew that they were essential for putting on considerable size. I would often eat pasta with meat sauce before workouts, and then go home and have chicken breast with some rice and vegetables, etc. Looking back, I admit that I would probably have done things differently. I would have rarely eaten sweets or fast food. I don’t have any regrets as I did the best I could with what I knew.
It was difficult being disciplined while balancing things out. I don’t want to say that training and nutrition don’t mix well with school and a part-time job… but it’s definitely not easy to improve physically or even stay in shape when there are too many things going on in your life. I have in recent years become much more concerned with staying lean (while continuing to put on size). So today, I take nutrition very seriously. I don’t necessarily follow a strict diet, but I make sure to eat mostly healthy, whole, natural foods which I prepare myself. Here’s a sample eating plan I use:
- Breakfast - 1 cup (cooked) of plain oatmeal, 1 whole egg, 5 egg whites, 1 banana.
- Snack #1 - Protein or meal replacement shake, plain low-fat yogurt.
- Lunch - 8 oz of tuna (or chicken breast, lean ground beef, other fish), 1 cup (cooked) of rice, some vegetables (preferably raw).
- Snack #2 - Some almonds (about 20), 1-2 fruit(s) (like an apple, orange, tangerines, etc).
- Supper - 8 oz of chicken breast (or lean ground beef, fish, other poultry), 8 oz of potato, some vegetables (preferably raw).
- Snack #3 - Protein or meal replacement shake.
What supplements did you use during your transformation?
Over the past 10+ years of training there’s been only a slight evolution in the nutritional products I use to supplement my diet. At first, I used a weight gainer. Then, as I began to be more concerned with building lean muscle mass… I moved onto whey concentrate or whey isolate protein powders. Although I have tried creatine, nitric oxide, and some other bodybuilding supplements in the past… I haven’t regularly used any of them.
Today, I stick with ‘IsaLean’ shakes by Isagenix, which are high-quality meal replacements. I’ll often add a scoop of IsaPro for extra protein. My friend had introduced me to Isagenix, and because of recent improvements I’ve made by using the products I mentioned (as well as some of their other products), I now endorse them and sell them through my own independent associate website. For anyone who is interested they can get more information over at http://www.NaturalBodybuilding.Isagenix.com.
What Is Your Life Like Now?
My life is totally different from when I began training. When I was younger, I was pretty disciplined with my weight training… but not in my social life. I would stay out way too late, wake up extremely early, skip meals, etc. I was always tired for those reasons, as well as because I didn’t know who I was or rather who I wanted to be. Slowly but surely, I began listening to my body and to myself, and found my true purpose. I’ve reshaped my lifestyle to incorporate training, healthy eating, and adequate rest as a priority.
Some people may find this to be selfish, but I sincerely believe that you can only help others by first helping yourself. So, I make it a point to do the things I love for myself. Everything seems to fall into place when you do this. I met the love of my life, Virginia, through a client I was training (who was her friend and co-worker). I’ve found a renewed faith in God, which helps me to follow through with my goals. I’m able to inspire and help others because of my own physical accomplishments.
I earn my living working online from home. I’m a fitness author and I also manage my websites (which are mostly focused on building muscle naturally). I do, occasionally, train people at a local gym… but that’s rare. I offer online personal training for anyone looking for personalized programs, and solutions to stay motivated and to follow through with their goals. I love what I do, even though it’s not always easy. I find that the easy road almost always leads to failure. I take steps forward even though it hurts, because I know that in the end… it’s worth it.
Advice For Others
Above all, I recommend every individual to follow his/her heart. If you have a goal, don’t wait until you’ve got enough money to pursue that goal… because money isn’t what you need. You just have to believe in yourself, take the necessary actions and have faith that things will work. This is what separates a successful, happy person from the person who repeatedly falls, and is on the brink of giving up (and God knows I’ve been there). You learn from experience, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life, and are only there to teach you about yourself.
Concerning training and nutrition, trial and error works well… but listening to your instincts works best. There is nothing more precise then your own senses. But it does take time to listen to oneself. You first have to accept that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Once again, you have to believe in yourself. This is when you’ll begin to trust your instincts rather than rely on someone else to tell you what to do, how to train, what to eat, etc. This is also when you’ll begin moving towards your goal (and vice versa, you’re goal will begin moving towards you) at an accelerated rate.
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