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.
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.
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.
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!