Monthly Archives: April 2011

How I Nearly Halved My Body Fat in 18 Months

For a couple of years I was a gym rat. I followed the training advice in magazines such as Muscle & Fitness. I followed the diet advice as well, eating more meat than I would have really liked to, downing whey protein, and so on.

My Meaty Gym Rat Days

My Lookalike

The result? I put on some muscle, but also quite a bit of fat. I always felt bloated and gassy. I got a bit stronger, but also slower. I got sick all the time from hanging out in germ-infested gyms. And I looked like Young Frankenstein.

Then, in late 2006, I decided to make some major changes in my life. A longtime animal-lover, I’d flirted with vegetarianism before, but always managed to trick myself back into eating meat. This time I decided to get serious. I read books I knew would turn me off meat (such as Dominion by Matt Scully and assorted stuff by Peter Singer). Come New Year’s Day, 2007, I had finally gone vegetarian for good.

Around this time I also cancelled my gym membership. The cost and the hassle just were not worth it. Instead I decided to do all my training outside at a local park. I jogged anywhere from three to eight miles, four or five times a week. I did yoga poses. For strength training, I concentrated on Chin-Ups, Push-Ups, and Dips.

Getting Leaner & Better!

I don’t know if it was giving up meat or giving up the gym, but the results were impressive. In about six months my waist dropped from 36″ to 34″. My endurance improved, and I found myself getting stronger and faster. This reflected in my martial arts training, as my skill level went up considerably. I no longer was feeling sick and bloated. In fact, I felt better than ever!

At 18 months my waist had dropped to 32″. My bodyfat percentage, which had been about 24 or 25 percent, was now under 15 percent. I’d gone from a flabby 215 lbs. to a lean 180 lbs.

While I’m very happy with my results, looking back, I could have done a few things differently and had even better results.

  • I was mostly jogging for cardio. I should have added sprints to the mix.
  • Kettlebell training would have greatly accelerated my results.
  • My vegetarian diet was good, but could have been better. Like many new vegetarians, I went a little overboard on pasta. I got away with it because, for some reason, my body can take a lot of simple carbs without putting on fat and I was running so much. Still, I should have limited pasta to once a week and consumed more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Between the two, I don’t know if it was the change in diet or the change in fitness strategy that contributed to my great 18 month results. My guess, it was probably a combination of both. Though the specifics of my workout and diet have changed, I am still a vegetarian, and I still do most of my training at the park.

Plant Powered Kettlebells!

Will my methods work for you? I think so. You don’t necessarily have to go to the extremes that I did, but embracing a mostly plant-based diet along with fun fitness outdoors is a proven way to get fit, lose weight, and feel great!

Dealing With an Injury

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I tweaked something while working out a week ago. Turns out I more than tweaked something: I have a slipped disc!

It’s not as bad as it sounds. The pain has subsided quite a bit, and is now mostly a dull ache. And, according to the doctor, since my back is essentially healthy and strong, my recovery should be a matter of weeks, not months.

Fortunately, this doesn’t impact my ability to train clients. I will, however, have to make changes to my own workouts. Overhead lifts are out, as they compress the spine too much. No running either, as it’s just too jarring. Worse of all, while I’ll still practice Kali, my MMA (and especially my BJJ) training is on hold for the time being. So, until I’m healed, my workouts will mainly consist of yoga, chins, and ocean swims. Next week I might try adding kettlebell Swings.

I think it’s important to consider why this injury hasn’t proved more debilitating. As I mentioned, the doc said I seemed to have a healthy and strong back. I credit certain aspects of my training for this:

  • Yoga
  • Planks and Side Planks
  • Kettlebell  Swings

All of these greatly contribute to having a strong core and powerful posterior chain. And while my own experiences show that having a strong core and solid posterior chain aren’t a guarantee of not getting a lower-back injury, they sure seem to lessen the effects of those injuries.

So protect your back. Make sure kettlebell Swings, Planks, and Yoga are part of your fitness regimen. Not sure how to incorporate these into your routines? Then contact me to arrange a training session!

Lessons from an Interrupted Experiment

That was fast! The First Fit Monkey Hawaii Challenge has puttered out.

The challenge was simple: 10,000 kettlebell swings, 3,000 Hindu Push-Ups, and 6,000 Hindu Squats within 30 days. Alas, a week in I hit a major snag.

Sunday, I was trying to get in some extra sets of Hindu Push-Ups and Squats at the beach. However, in the middle of one of the push-ups, my left hand slipped on the sand. I managed to catch myself, but in doing so really tweaked something in my hip.

Monday rolled around, and even though my hip was sore, I didn’t want to fall behind on the challenge so I went forward with my workouts! Big mistake! What was minor soreness on Monday became major pain on Tuesday. I ended up being unable to do any more training for the rest of the week.

Losing nearly an entire week pretty much meant there is no way for me to catch-up and complete the Fit Monkey Hawaii Challenge without  killing myself in the process. So the whole thing is postponed indefinitely.

While I am disappointed at how things went, I don’t really see this as a failure, as I learned a few things from this interrupted experiment.

  • Don’t do anything myself I wouldn’t have a client do. If one of my clients wanted to do a hard workout despite being hurt, I would not let him or her do it. I believe in injury-free training, and that should apply to me, too!
  • I hate doing the same workouts day in and day out. One of the reasons I chose to get certified at Monkey Bar Gym is that they embrace endless variety. Same with kettlebells: I love being able to do all sorts of different workouts. Forcing myself to do practically the same training every day was boring and unnatural to me. Again, I wouldn’t have a client do this, so why should I?
  • I believe fitness should be fun, not a chore. This challenge wasn’t fun, and it was a bit of a chore. I missed the excitement of doing something different every day.

Please don’t think I’m slamming Lisa Shaffer’s 10,000 Swing Challenge. There is a time and place for this sort of training. I might try it again in the future. But for right now, I don’t think it’s what I should be concentrating on.

Monday Training, 04.18.11

I’m a little bit sore today. On Sunday I tweaked my left hip while doing Hindu Push-Ups on the beach. My hand started to scoot forward in the sand, and while trying to catch myself I either pulled a muscle or pinched a nerve or both. Lesson: No more Hindu Push-Ups in the sand!

Anyway, I persevered and did a couple of workouts today.

AM

Warmed-up with 10-min of yoga. Then on to 3 sets of 15 Hindu Push-Ups, 30 Hindu Squats, and 45 KB Swings with the 44# kettlebell.

PM

Group training with my friends Steven, Travis, Falo, and Derrick. We did sets of 10 Hindu Push-Ups, 20 Hindu Squats, and 30 KB Swings. Keeping with our tradition of honoring Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap, we did 11 sets. Since we only had four kettlebells for five of us, we’d take turns doing Chins on the Jungle Gym instead of Swings. Still, everyone did manage to get at least nine rounds of Swings in. It was fairly challenging, and everyone felt great afterwards.

Daily Totals

Hindu Push-Ups: 155, Hindu Squats: 310, Swings: 405

Sunday Training, 04.17.11

Today was something of an active rest day. I went to the beach at Magic Island and did about 10-min or so of yoga, followed by 5 sets of 10 Hindu Push-Ups and 20 Hindu Squats. Afterwards, I went for a light 15-min swim. Another beautiful day in Paradise!

Friday Training, 04.16.11

Another double workout day today!

AM

Just Swings. Grabbed the 44# kettlebell, headed to the park, and did 220 Swings, mostly in sets of 20, 30, or 40. Then I jumped in the ocean to sooth my sore muscles and cool down.

PM

Travis and I did a three-part set of 10 Hindu Push-Ups, 20 Hindu Squats, and 30 Swings. We repeated this a total of ten times.

Daily Totals

Hindu Push-Ups: 100, Hindu Squats: 200, Swings: 520

Thursday Training, 04.14.11

Kept it real simple after yesterday’s double-barrel workout.

Started with 10-min of yoga before moving on to 20 Hindu Push-Ups and 40 Hindu Squats. Meant to do more, but I was a bit more sore than I expected. Sore or not, I managed to grab my 44# kettlebell and complete 340 Swings. I did sets of 20-30, and alternated between 1-Arm and 2-Arm Swings.

Totals

Hindu Push-Ups: 20, Hindu Squats: 40, Swings: 340