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.
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.
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.
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, before my first competition, I got a little teary. Just a little. It 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.
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