The Best Shape of My Life


I have always had a fairly high level of fitness. But this year I decided to get uber fit.  I considered it to be a stage in my evolution as a trainer/coach. So just what does it take to get "ripped", "shredded to the bone" or in the absolute best shape of your life? Even at the age of 54, no less? For me it was two things; commitment and a plan. Fellow trainer David Johnston, who is my coach, had a plan for me. He's had great success with hundreds of "jaw dropping" transformations. So I wasn't worried about the plan end of things. I just needed to follow through with what was laid out for me. 

I also knew that I was committed to following through, because I didn't want to get halfway or two thirds into the process and only get half-baked results. With the time and effort I was putting into this I definitely wanted to maximize my potential. The fact that I work in a gym definitely made this a little more convenient. Although sometimes my training sessions were broken up into two (sometimes three) parts between clients. Don’t get me wrong, even though I was committed, there were days that I seriously questioned and doubted myself and the whole process. Also, depending on my results, the plan was to see how I stacked up against the competition in an NPC (National Physique Committee) competition. This was even more of a motivating factor for me.


Top left me in January at 201 pounds, right in June at 164 pounds

Top left me in January at 201 pounds, right in June at 164 pounds

Let me preface this by saying I went through a four and one half month growth phase prior to starting this process. During the growth phase I consumed more calories than usual to promote muscle growth. This would make my results more dramatic as I got leaner. Even though you are building more muscle in the growth phase you are also accumulating more fat unfortunately. You also don't get to eat whatever you want to get "bigger." The diet is very precise and restrictive. At the end of my growth phase I weighed 201 pounds, the most I have ever weighed. And yes, I was kind of freaking out about it.

Now that you have the background information, let's get to the good stuff.

Strength training:
I did strength training five days per week. Four to five exercises per muscle group, for four to five sets. Each strength session took between sixty to seventy - five minutes.


Cardio was performed, for the most part, five days per week. Duration and intensity varied throughout. The last month of training I did cardio seven days a week for up to sixty minutes. In addition to strength training and decreasing calories this created a "burning the candle at both ends" effect on my body, helping me to deplete even more body fat.


My diet was high protein, moderate carbohydrate and low, but very high quality fats. Carb cycling was a big part of my diet throughout the process. This further helped promote fat loss.

Proteins were lean - eggs, whey, fish, beef and chicken breasts. I ate a lot of chicken breasts. I consumed about 225 to 250 grams of protein daily.

Carbohydrates were green vegetables, sweet potatoes, rolled oats and occasionally rice cakes.

Fats were coconut oil, olive oil and Barney Butter almond butter and occasionally avocados.

There were precise weekly ratios for each macro nutrient. Translation? All food was weighed or measured for every meal. If you want precision nutrition it has to be precise. My protein intake remained about the same throughout, while carbohydrate calories were gradually reduced.

Supplements: On a daily basis I used whey protein, powdered bcaa, creatine, fish oil, a probiotic and a multivitamin.

 Finally, my coach David Johnston is the founder of Team Warrior Within, an elite personal training company that I am a member of. Part of the TWW brand is that every trainer has competed in a physique, bikini or bodybuilding competition. Every trainer knows what it takes to be in peak physical condition, they "walk the walk." David told me that I am a very good trainer, "but to truly be one of us you have to compete, at least once." Was I nervous about competing? You better believe it. It was as foreign to me as walking on the moon. I confided this to David and he just laughed and said, "Yeah, I don't care who you are, it takes a lot of balls to walk out on that stage. You don't want to look foolish either." Not exactly the reassurance I was looking for. I did everything possible to make sure I was putting my best foot forward. So I competed - twice - this summer in NPC events in the classic physique division. First at the East Coast Classic in Baltimore.  Next up was the Virginia Battle Royale in my hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia. I took second place both times in my division. First in the Grand Master's division (40+), and in the second contest the Master's division (35+) . Not bad considering I was the oldest competitor in my division both times. In fact I was nineteen years older than the winner in my second competition. I had several competitors at both shows tell me I was arguably the best conditioned person competing. Not a bad thing to hear from guys in their twenties and thirties.


Shredded to the bone at the 2016 NPC Virginia Battle Royale at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I took 2nd place in the Classic Physique Master's Division (35+). My coach David Johnston's nutrition and training plans helped me deliver my best.

Shredded to the bone at the 2016 NPC Virginia Battle Royale at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I took 2nd place in the Classic Physique Master's Division (35+). My coach David Johnston's nutrition and training plans helped me deliver my best.



And while there was great camaraderie and support from fellow athletes - yes these folks are athletes- I think it is fairly safe to say no more shaving my legs, spray tans or classic physique trunks for me. I am retiring from competition with my amateur status intact. I enjoyed the training, nutrition and transformation part of the process better than competing. Although, it was truly a great exercise in self-discovery. Plus I am applying the training and nutrition strategies with my clients.

There you have it. Train for 8 1/2 to 9 months, 90 to 120 minutes a day, five to six day per week. Eat a highly restricted diet, where everything is weighed or measured for the entire time. This is what it took for me to get in the best shape of my life.

This is not something you go into half-hearted. David told me it would be like walking through fire, and he wasn't kidding. It takes a big physical, mental and emotional toll on you. There is a lot of isolation. There are lots of days when it is all you can do to get out of bed. Seriously. I've also found that you can do a lot of soul searching in sixty minutes on a stepmill. I love being in the gym. I work at a gym. But there were days I resented being there. After some sessions I was in disbelief, shock really, that I had completed them. At the end of my very last training session I was a mix of relief, pride and accomplishment. I had left everything that I had in the gym. No cardio or strength sessions missed for nearly nine months.  Twenty weeks of clean eating. I was both energized and exhausted. 

I'm sure some of you are wondering, is it really worth the sacrifice? Would you do it again?

Would I do it again? You mean eat chicken every day for 9 months? Or be so exhausted I can’t fall asleep?  Deprive myself of pizza, hamburgers, ice cream, doughnuts and cookies for months on end?  Spend hours, days, weeks and months in the gym hammering my body, just to look my absolute best?

Hell yes I would.



Ready to start your fitness journey?  For a complimentary fitness consultation contact me at


Spicy Olives - A Great Appetizer and More

Looking for a nice healthy change in an appetizer? We enjoy these spicy olives as an appetizer, side dish, or in a salad. Quality fat that tastes great. 

Spicy Olives

1 jar of Trader Joe's World's Largest olives stuffed with pimentos

1 jar of Trader Joe's jalapeno stuffed olives

1 jar of Trader Joe's garlic stuffed olives

3 - 4  tablespoons of olive oil

5 - 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled

1 medium red onion

Crushed red pepper

Drain juice of the 3 jars of olives and put olives into a medium sized mixing bowl.

Drizzle olives in olive oil while gently turning them with a spoon. Use just enough oil so that olives are lightly coated.

Finely chop the 5 - 6  cloves of garlic and stir into bowl (more or less to taste).

Finely chop 1/3 to 1/2 of red onion and stir into bowl (more or less to taste).

Sprinkle liberally with crushed red pepper.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. This will help the garlic, onion and red pepper stick to the olives.

Product Review: Manduka Black Mat Pro

The Black Mat Pro
Made by:  Manduka
Price: $100.00 plus shipping

Let me start by saying that this review is based on a "long term" study. I purchased my first black mat in 2004 when I started my yoga instructor certification program. Since I divide my time between two cities in different states I purchased a second black mat in 2007 for convenience purposes.

The stats: The black mat pro comes in 2 sizes ;  7.0 lbs; 71" long; 26" wide; 1/4" thick (6 mm) and9.0 lbs; 85" long; 26" wide; 1/4" thick (6 mm). This mat is 100% latex free and according to Manduka is "certified safe for human contact by OEKO-TEX, an environmental certification agency in Europe for the textile industry. " The black mat pro has a lifetime guarantee making it eco-friendly. 

My experience with this mat has been great from the start. If you step on a"regular" mat then move your foot you can see an imprint of your foot. This is not the case with a Manduka black mat. The best way I can describe the high density padding of this mat is by saying that it is similar to what a piece of padded plywood might feel like, plenty of stability and more than enough cushioning. It is also "slip resistant yet non-sticky", and after a decade of regular use has minimal wear. In fact this mat actually improves with wear. I can honestly say that my practice would not be the same without it.

 Over the years I've had several students in my classes ask about my mat and after just standing on it they have purchased a Manduka black mat as well with no regrets. In my humble opinion if you practice yoga on a regular basis this mat is the best investment that you can make. $100.00 plus shipping to have the best mat in the world with a lifetime guarantee is an excellent value.
I give the Manduka Black Mat Pro a rating of 5 stars out of 5.

Product Review : Adidas adipower Weightlifting Shoes


adiPower Weightlifting Shoes

By Adidas

Price: $200.00 /  Shipping Included






In the sport of weightlifting the type of shoes you wear are very important. Weightlifting shoes have acompletely flat sole. This allows the lifter to create more force against the lifting platform, and generate more power. The reinforced heels allow the lifter to get nice and low in their squat without any "give". 


I have purchased weightlifting shoes from Adidas online before, the Power Lift Trainer and the 

Powerlift 2.0. Both are very good shoes and retail for $90.00. The adiPowers retail for $200.00, and to me personally that is a lot of money to spend on a pair of shoes, much less a pair of weightlifting shoes.  But when my birthday rolled around this past January the good folks at Adidas e-mailed me a 20% off coupon, so with a $40.00 discount in hand I figured there was no better time to upgrade to their top of the line shoe.


My shoes arrived via UPS 4 days after ordering.  To say that I am impressed by the quality of these shoes is an understatement. For such a lightweight shoe they deliver heavy duty performance . They ooze stability and durability. The adiPower features Adidas' Torsion System which allows for better mid-foot support. The heels are made of polymer, a lightweight but incredibly strong plastic. They are also very well vented with VentFlowopenings on the toes, heel and mid-foot. I have a fairly wide foot but they fit true to size. The adiPower comes in one color, "Core Energy".


 I have had 10 opportunities to use these shoes since my purchase and I am quite pleased. The amount of stability they provide is exceptional, especially considering how comfortable they are. The way these shoes are built I'm certain I will get plenty of good use from them for years to come. For the quality and performance I'm getting, I feel my money was well spent.


I give the adiPower a rating of 5 stars out of 5.




Photos by Adidas

Good News for Chocolate Lovers

Today's post is a guest post written by my wife, Certified Nutrition Specialist Courtney Carpenter.

High cocoa content chocolate is the perfect heart healthy gift for Valentine's Day, but not just for its sweet taste. It's real benefits are just beginning to be recognized. Flavonoid antioxidants in chocolate specifically help reduce inflammation in the lining of arteries, known as the intima. The main flavonoid, epicatechin, is similar to flavonoid antioxidants found in green tea. It seems to help reduce unnecessary clotting in the blood which is another factor that can promote cardiovascular health, including lower blood pressure. Some studies have suggested that it also normalizes insulin response by enhancing the production of nitric oxide, a compound that functions as a local vaso-dilator.

Dark chocolate, which has no milk content, or "raw," "non-alkalized," or "un-dutched" cocoa or cacao powder are the most beneficial forms, since they have the highest flavonoid content.  Powders can be made into hot chocolate with any milk substitute and sweetened with any sweetener. Cow's milk proteins bind to the flavonoids making them unavailable, so avoid traditional cocoa mixes or milk chocolate. Two tablespoons of cocoa powder is roughly equivalent to 1 ounce of unsweetened baker's chocolate or about 1.5 ounces of  70-80% dark chocolate in a bar. This about the right daily dose for your heart's health, so you and your beloved should be splitting most of the three to four ounce bars that are popular where dark chocolates are sold. Cacao (pronounced 'ka-COW,) is the Spanish word derived from the native language of people using the beans in Central America in the 15th Century. You will see both cocoa and cacao on packages. Cacao is often the term used when the marketer wants to let you know the product is raw, but there is no legal trade definition for these terms at all, so read the label to be sure.

"Flourless" Chocolate Muffin

The foundation of any sound fitness program is nutrition. While lunch and dinner are a bit easier to fine tune a lot of my clients struggle with breakfast. Breakfast has become a meal of convenience in the past 20 years. A lot of  people want something they can grab and go. This usually results in a poor nutritional choice.

Many of our clients enjoy this healthy alternative. It is Courtney's version of a "flourless chocolate muffin." It's quick, convenient, tasty and nutritious. It's not just for breakfast either, we sometimes have one for dessert, too. It features 17 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber.

Muffin mixture before cooking in a large latte cup. One of our clients adds a sliced strawberry or a few blueberries to the mix for variety.    

Muffin mixture before cooking in a large latte cup. One of our clients adds a sliced strawberry or a few blueberries to the mix for variety. 


The finished product (about the size of a small grapefruit) with my favorite topping, almond butter from Barney Butter.   

The finished product (about the size of a small grapefruit) with my favorite topping, almond butter from Barney Butter.


“Easy Recipe” provided by Certified Nutrition Specialist Courtney Carpenter, MS June 2012

55 Second Microwave Muffin

This is a single serve recipe. Make yours in a large coffee mug or latte mug. It is best eaten still a little warm, since as it cools it also dehydrates.

You may combine the ingredients, EXCEPT for the BAKING Powder, in advance and cook this at the last minute. If you do, protect the dough by using plastic wrap pressed directly on top of the dough with the edges of the plastic run up the inside of the cup. Refrigerate, and when you take it out, warm it up for 5-10 seconds in the microwave, before adding the baking powder. Once baking powder is in cook as normal or a few seconds longer.  Microwaves vary.

Combine these first:

2 tsp coconut oil (butter or other solid fat may be substituted)

¼ cup finely ground flax seeds

2 Tbl cocoa powder (aka baking cocoa)  Note: un-Dutched, “raw”  cocoa has more flavonoid content, making it better for you.

1 tsp baking powder

Mix these together. Your main goal is to mix the dry ingredients. Let the oil end up wherever it does.  

Now add these and then combine until you have a paste-like consistency:

1 egg (equivalent in egg substitute or egg replacement, prep as egg)

1 tsp maple syrup/agave/honey

½ tsp vanilla extract  (other flavor extracts may be used) rough

         equivalent = 1 cap full

Once thoroughly mixed, cook, dump from cup immediately, cool about 2 minutes and enjoy.

55 Second Muffin ADDITIONS

Hi Pro Muffin  (>20g Protein!)

Add 2 Tbl of protein powder + 2 Tbl of water

Muffin Becomes Cake

You can still use the protein powder here!  

Use flavored agave syrup, such as chocolate, as substitute for maple

Use another flavor extract to compliment or enrich as sub for vanilla:

Chocolate w/almond or orange or coffee extract

Use a dark, rich honey as sweetener plus a trendy flavor extract such as jasmine or lavender or anise.

Serve with fruit slices or “ice” with Barney Butter brand almond butter.

 Courtney Carpenter, MS, CNS

Ms. Carpenter's presentations are sponsored in cooperation with David's Natural Markets in Columbia, Forest Hill, and Gambrills, Maryland.