Long time no post. I think my last post was in February of last year. Probably a few of you have figured I’ve given up the fight.
Last December I decided that while my desire to lose weight and get fit is strong I really didn’t have a clue as to what to actually do about it. For those of you reading this for the first time you should check out some of my earlier posts to get a feel for where I was coming from.
For those of you still following me you will know that when I initially started I figured I’d count calories and go whole hog into working out, or at the very least at least walking/jogging/running. Which I did – you saw it. I documented it and it worked… sort of.
Eventually the extreme nature of what I was doing started to get the better of me. Eating 1500 calories a day was really hard. Super hard. Despite the math – burn more calories than you eat and create a calorie deficit – it wasn’t actually adding up. In the end, while reducing calories was part of it, it wasn’t all of it and I started to realize I wasn’t getting to where I needed to be.
As far as the exercise goes I really hated walking/jogging/running. I mean I hated it with a passion. Combine that with fact I had to go outside in rain, sleet or snow (We don’t own a treadmill) I eventually had no desire to do it anymore.
So that brought me to a point of where I had to figure out what I was going to do. I knew that I wanted to keep going but didn’t know how to. I also wanted to do it smarter and I had no plan. This was around November last year that I came to this point.
Enter the “personal trainer”.
A personal trainer had never occurred to me before. I mean I had thought about it a bunch of times when I had a gym membership but the personal sessions were always crazy expensive and to be frank, didn’t feel all that personal. Finding a personal trainer to “hire” also just felt a bit weird mainly from a perception perspective. I’ve heard people at times talk about their “trainer” and, I don’t know, it always sounded a bit pretentious to me and I didn’t want to be lumped in with that crowd – whoever or whatever they are.
When I started to think it about it more I realized my main issue was I wasn’t sure I could handle it and… I was embarrassed. I really didn’t want to expose myself to some stranger for judgement. I wasn’t interested in some Biggest Loser type trainer screaming at me to work harder or tell me I was weak or needed to man up! Beside I don’t have a home gym and I’m certainly not going to spend the money to buy one so how am I going to work out if I don’t have any weights? Deep down inside I also worried that I would disappoint myself or my wife and kids with another hair-brained scheme to get thin quick – it felt like I would be throwing good money after bad.
For the next few months I continued to discuss it with Michelle, my wife. We knew of a personal trainer who does Crossfit who is fantastic. Crossfit personally appealed to me as well (minus the throwing up part). Michelle was also aware that one of our daughter’s friends Dad was personal trainer as well – he’s a body builder. That was less appealing to me at the time because I wasn’t interested in becoming a lunk head, bro.
Money is always a factor as well – what should I be paying? How do I know the trainer is good? How do I know if I’m paying too much? What’s the average cost? Can I even afford this?
Meanwhile behind the scenes Michelle had started to do some investigating – she connected with our daughter’s friends Mum and started the conversation around her husband, Tom, training me. Eventually Michelle bottom lined it for me and said “You need to at least go talk to Tom and see what you think.” As always my wife is totally supporting me. Tom and I exchanged a few emails and texts over the next couple of weeks until I finally, with Michelle’s urging, decided to consult with him – I was gonna do this.
We set a date where I would meet with Tom for an hour or so to discuss my situation and to see if it was a fit. Both from my side and from his. I couldn’t believe I was going through with this!
The next few days leading up to meeting with Tom were amazingly anxious for me. I was so nervous… by now I had more info on who Tom was – and seeing some of his pictures I was like “Holy crap! This dude is big and shredded!” I don’t know if I can handle this. Regardless I stuck with the meeting which in the end was more like an interview (of me).
I got to Tom’s place at the prescribed time – which was easy because he lives 3 mins away from me (that was a contributing factor to talking to Tom – I wouldn’t be traveling to gym, which was great.) When I got in the door and met him I realized that he’s different from what I thought. This whole idea I had of bodybuilders being lunk heads wasn’t manifest in Tom.
For one thing Tom is drug free, which is, understandably, a point of pride for him. For another he wasn’t some immobile meat head whose whole body turned when he tried to look over his shoulder. In fact Tom was really athletic looking, he looked powerful but flexible. He looked like he could move quick and fast. He didn’t look encumbered by his muscles, he looked empowered - he looked like an action hero. I thought “Okaaaaay this is different than what I thought.” You can check him out here… http://personalcoachprogram.wordpress.com/
So we sat down… and we talked… a lot! It turned into a 2 hour session. Tom is a pretty intense guy, and to be completely honest I was initially pretty intimidated by him. But he’s passionate about what he does and that translates, it got me fired up. It also became clear very quickly that he wasn’t interested in having his time wasted and if it became obvious that I was wasting his time – I would be fired. Not the usual customer/vendor relationship, at this point my main goal became – not being fired.
We talked about what I’m good at, what I’m not so good at. What I eat and drink, how I sleep. But we also talked about what motivates me, the reasons why I’m doing this, what sort of impact will this have on me, my family, my life… and how I’ve tried to do it before (and the results of that attempt). I told him that I was a great starter, but a horrible finisher. His response was “That’s perfect because if we take it one day at a time you’ll be starting new everyday.” To this day we continue to focus on that and it’s been 11 months since then.
Another interesting thing he asked me was “Who do you want to look like?” I replied with the same question “Who do I want to look like?” He said “Yeah… is there an athlete or celebrity or actor you want to look like?” I said “Dude I just wanna lose 50 lbs and not suffer a heart attack in my 50′s.” But he pushed me on it, I think partly to get an idea of whether I had realistic expectations or had a sense of what my body type was . So in the end I said “Jason Statham”. Tom asked”Why Jason Statham?” I explain “Well Jason Statham is not tall, nor am I am. He’s also not huge either from a musculature standpoint, but he is ripped pretty good and he looks like he can kick some ass. He looks athletic, like he can move. He doesn’t look big and slow. If I was to look like anyone that’s the dude I’d want to look like. I wouldn’t want to fight him and I think my body type can support that look.” In my head I’m thinking, yeah my body type can support it but will my mindset support it?
He seemed to think that was a reasonable goal. So I guess I’m in at this point - I’ve been accepted to the Tom Kiatipis school of torture.
Tom went on to explain that he had actually read quite a bit of my blog and while he thought what I was doing was admirable, he said he knew I was doomed to fail. He actually said Doomed To Fail! The reason being? I had no plan. Sure I had desire and motivation but no plan. (By the way I always thought I had a plan – I planned to lose weight) With me not having a proper plan in place I had no chance. He then proceeded to lay out the plan.
First of all based on the food information I’d given him, my likes, dislikes, temptations (pizza! Sour Keys!) he was going to design a meal plan. NOT a DIET. A meal plan. This meal plan would change over time, not just with the weight loss but also with how my body was responding to the food set out in the meal plan. The focus would be getting the correct amount of protein and carbs into my system while creating a calorie deficit. This was not about eating to a calorie goal. This was about eating to meet the needs of your body. Protein was a big part of it. The great thing about it was I was able to have one cheat day per week on Saturday! He actually refers to it as less of a cheat day but more of fun day – have some fun with your food but make good choices. I still call it a cheat day:)
The hard part about the meal plan for me was the time of year. I started it on Dec 30th! Yup, the day before New Years Eve I decided to go on a meal plan. While I enjoyed the time with friends that New Years Eve it was also completely distracting because everywhere I went there were temptations – I like beer – and I couldn’t take part in those temptations. What a dumb time to change your eating habits. Tom said it was the perfect time which I could not understand at all. Why not wait to Jan 1st and have a fresh start? (There’s the “good starter” in me coming to the surface.) In the end Tom was right. Fighting through the holidays and successfully navigating the food temptations became a liberating experience that helped build my confidence and motivation.
Here’s a snap shot of my food intake from myfitnesspal on New Years Eve 2011 – a little high, the goal was 1950 calories and 200 grams of protein, but not bad for my first day and certainly good considering what normally happens on New Years Eve!
The second part was to design a training regimen that would work with my lifestyle. I have 3 kids, a fairly demanding job and an awesome wife that can’t be ignored. I didn’t have a lot of time but at the same time I would have to carve some dedicated time out of my life to do my “homework”. (that’s code for torturous exercise that would put me in pain everyday for the next couple of months) Tom would know if I’d done my homework each week because every Saturday morning he would put through his gauntlet of exercises to determine if I’d put in the work or not.
The next step was for him to determine the training I would be doing to start off with. We met the next Saturday for the initial run through of my daily training. I arrived at 8am to be tortured in his basement where no one would hear me scream. (actually his whole family would be able to hear me scream which I was determined NOT to do!)
Tom explained to me my starting routine. The Fox 150. Basically I was to do sit-ups, push-ups and squats in no particular order. I had to complete 150 reps – total. Not 150 for each exercise (for which I was relieved) but 150 reps total – which meant if I wanted to do 148 squats, 1 push-up and 1 sit-up that was fine as long as 150 reps were completed in total. I also had to do it within 15 mins.
I was like “Sure that’s fine, no problem – good for a 15 minute warm up, but what about that cardio?” Tom’s like “Cardio?” I said “Yeah, I mean I’ve only done 15 mins of a work-out. Aren’t I gonna run or jog for 30 mins as well? I mean 15 mins isn’t much man.” Tom replied “So you want to run?” I said “No. I don’t want to run, I hate running, but I’ve only done 15 mins so far.” He says “Tell you what, why don’t we go through the routine first and then we discuss the “running”. That sound good?” I said “fine let’s do this.” (obviously I’m feel pretty confident – I mean really? 15 mins?)
And so we go – me doing the work, Tom providing the counsel, feedback and form corrections. The squats start off fine, bust through the first 30 or so no problem, move on to the push-ups. Okay this is getting harder, pull off about 15 and now I’m sweating pretty good. Move on to the sit-ups. Uh oh… Sit-ups. Houston we have a problem! I could only do one. ONE! One sit-up! Now I’m overwhelmingly tired, dizzy, absolutely drenched in sweat and totally embarrassed. I mean REALLY embarrassed. I can only do one sit-up, I feel like I’ve hit rock bottom. This where I proceed to start cursing myself and getting mad at myself. Once I complete my one sit-up Tom tells me to stop for a sec.
He’s not happy. “I don’t want to ever hear you talk like that again!” I’m thinking “Oh great, I’ve offended my trainer on the first day with my potty mouth. That’s it, it’s over I’m fired. First day on the job and I’m fired.” Lying on the floor dazed I just continue to look up at him blankly. He says “I don’t want to ever hear you get down on yourself like that again!” That’s when it occurs to me that I haven’t offended him, it’s that he doesn’t like the negativity. Tom asks me what the problem is and I explain that I used to be an athlete, I used to do this sort of thing easily and that I’m disgusted with myself. He then explains to me that I’m not that guy anymore… (Let me tell ya, no one realized that more than me at that moment) but he also says I’m not the same guy I was before I stepped in this gym with him – I’m moving forward, I’ve made a decision to get better to live better to be better. That’s who I am now and moving forward I will get there – stop dumping on yourself and be proud of the fact that you’re taking the steps to get out of your old self into the new. “Now get back up and finish your set!”
I end up finishing the 150 reps (with only 1 sit-up) in the grand total time of 25:00 mins. Well over the prescribed time of 15 mins. I’m in pain, I can barely breathe – I honestly wonder if I’m having a heart attack. Tom looks at me and grins a bit and then says “Now, about the running…?” I hold my hand and politely tell him “Hell NO! Screw the running!. lol!
The Fox 150 is good enough for me – I mean who wants to run anyways?
Tom then says to me “Look I could design an hour-long workout for you that would be fantastic but you’d quit after a week. It would be too much.” He said “You’ve tried that before, so let’s take smaller steps and get you moving and we’ll modify with time as we need to.” That’s tough to disagree with considering how I’m feeling at that point and I’m grateful for his restraint. But it’s true, there is no way I would consistently do an hour of training a night. This felt good, this felt right.
Fast forward two days later…
This feels AWFUL! Holy pain! Who would’ve thought 15 mins of calisthenics would leave you in such mortal pain! (In reality it was taking me at least 20 mins) Folks I am not exaggerating on this. During this period, stairs put the fear of God in me – they were the enemy. I felt like an S&M deviant on the days I decided to wear shoes with laces, slip on’s were the only choice – it was winter so I had to wear socks but the thought crossed my mind to abandon them due to the painful nature of their application. Seriously. I was in pain. So much pain in fact I was having trouble sleeping at night. I honestly thought I had done some sort of damage that needed a doctor’s attention. It was bad, REALLY bad! I’m not the greatest sufferer in the world I’ll admit, but I had never experienced this type of muscle pain before.
All through it I got support from Tom, via email or text or phone or Saturday mornings telling me to push through it, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that I can do it. Truly this is where the support from the personal trainer comes into play. I would have quit at this point – the pain was bad, I needed someone to get me through this and that’s where Tom came into play – I decided I would trust him and push through but I wouldn’t have been able to without him there. I don’t know how many “I can’t do this today” texts I sent him. How many times I told him I thought I was injured (I knew I wasn’t but I needed an excuse) and should stop and he convinced me to push through the pain. At this stage, at least for me, this was why I needed a personal trainer.
I don’t know much but I’ve become convinced that a personal trainer is as much a shrink to his clients as he is a motivator. The fact is, yelling at me all the time (like on TV) won’t motivate me – sometimes it’s needed. Sometimes I do need to be called out and Tom has no fear of doing that. But that’s rare. In my case there really is nobody harder on me than me. I’m an Irish Protestant – guilt is my middle name. So Tom has to figure out what makes me tick, what’s motivating me or not. He needs to figure out why I’m going through a laissez faire period and how to get me out of it. When I’m on a high he then needs to figure out how to capture that to maintain my momentum. Humorously I also think they take an amount of sick pleasure in making you work. It’s never a good Saturday when Tom has a big grin on his face and says to me “Hey I’ve got something new for you to try! Yer gonna HATE it!”
I’ve also decided that in the end this is completely a mind game. I’ve been astonished at how mental this is – I now understand what mental toughness is. To give you an idea – one Saturday I was on the leg press and Tom pushed me through a set of what seemed to me to be an extremely unreasonable amount of weight, at the time I didn’t know how much it was. When I was done Tom told me how much I pushed and I actually broke down. Never in my life did I ever think I could do what I just did. The amount of weight in the end is irrelevant because if I had known how much it was I might have psyched myself out of it. When I realized what I had done I was overcome. It was emotional. It was a mountain climbed. It was a victory and I had done it. That was good, it was very good.
This has been an amazing experience so far and regardless if anyone reads this or not it’s good for me to write about – it serves as motivation. I’ll talk more about my journey later on as this is a recap of the humble start. Not that the rest of it is any less humble but I’m still moving toward an ultimate goal. I’ll fill you in more over time.
We’ll talk more in the New Year.
Love, Peace and Hairgrease.