Let me tell you about me.
I was always a chubby little boy, never much of an athlete, and that’s remained true over the last 35 years. Oh, I’ve had my moments – a bit of Tae Kwon Do and rollerblading in high school, some lifting / running in university, a marathon during my MBA, some Freeletics 2 years ago – when I was able to bring my weight down to an almost-healthy or just-barely-under-25-BMI level, but it was always short-term. I never held it, and anyway I never got to a point where I thought I was anything less than “overweight”, though I was closest just after the marathon. I was so proud that I managed to drop below 88kg…
Then life kicked in again, I went back to work, and my weight climbed. I dieted, I ran, I yo-yoed (can I make that a past tense verb?). My scale readings looked like something out of the Roller Coaster Tycoon video game. In fact, here are the past 6 years (yeah, the last bit is what this post is about):
At times, I felt like giving up, but I knew I could do it. I know in my core that I can do anything I set my mind to. Still, I struggled because the effort was right – in fact, I’ve done enough running over my life that I’ve been diagnosed with athlete’s heart, which is basically a physiological adaptation my heart has made to accommodate my aerobic workload. But despite knowing that I have a solid frame, I couldn’t get to the body type I’d always wanted.
Help arrived in an unlikely form – my fiancÃ©e asked for an online training program for Christmas, something called “HitchFit“. After opening her gift, she spent the next week or two convincing me to do the program with her. “What the hell,” I thought – it’s only a couple hundred bucks, and I liked the idea that they’d put together my nutrition plan for me.
16 weeks later, I’ve dropped 16kg (35lbs), 20cm (8″) off my stomach, 12.5cm (5″) off my hips, and have gone from 23% body fat to 9.6% – something I never even dreamed of previously. The scale clocks in at 82kg, well below my marathon weight. I haven’t been this light since I was 12 years old, and I’ve certainly never been this fit! Read on to learn how I did it.
This is the before and after me. The left side is the me that didn’t take the time to learn what being healthy really required; the right side is the me that learned, did the time in the gym, and will live a lot longer and happier life as a result.
When I got in touch with Micah and signed up for his HitchFit program, I sent him my goals. They were simple at the time – I wanted to get back down to about my marathon weight (88ish kg), maybe even be able to do 10 strict pull-ups without putting my feet down. Halfway through the program, after seeing the results, I reset my goals more aggresively and decided to target a single-digit body fat percentage.
He put together a multi-pronged attack for me. He gave me a nutrition plan including supplementation to eat at a caloric deficit, a rotating weight training plan to forestall muscle loss, and an escalating cardio plan to build aerobic fitness while increasing my caloric deficit safely. On top of that, he gave me the initial tools I needed to learn (though this was followed by me spending an awful lot of time on sites like forums.bodybuilding.com to increase my knowledge so that I can continue to become more fit even after my initial transformation).
Once he did that, the onus moved to my side. It’s not like he disappeared – I was in at least weekly contact with him; this helped hold me accountable and give me encouragement / get answers to questions along the way. However, at this point I had to put in the effort. I had to eat right, train hard, and push through the rough spots. I actually found this rather easier than I had expected – having the complete structure was the missing piece of the puzzle for me, and it filled the gap I’d been trying to fill for decades. All I had to do was follow the plan, and that took away the doubts and the second-guessing that had troubled me in the past. He did the project planning; I did the delivery.
On the nutrition front, I actually wound up increasing my caloric intake significantly. Prior to the program I’d been trying to diet at about 1800 calories per day, and wasn’t getting nearly enough protein or fats. Micah upped things to 2400 – which seemed wrong to me at the time (not now that I know that it works – and I understand how), but I went with it. With my fiancÃ©e usually helping to prep the meals on the weekends, all I had to do was measure out my food and throw it in an appropriate container each evening. But even when I’ve had to do it myself, I figure that the total time spent cooking is less than if I had to cook each meal individually, because I’m just preparing foods in bulk.
On the weight training front, Micah gave me a program that rotated every 4 weeks so I never got bored. Sometimes I did 4 day splits, sometimes I did 5, but I could always go back to him and ask questions about proper form and such.
And on the cardio front, he gave me a simple target: in month one, I was supposed to burn 650 calories per day, 4 times per week. Those numbers increased until, in month 4, I was burning 800 calories 5 times per week. Sometimes that meant a hard day of skiing, but most often it meant me going out for a run, starting at 6km and ending up around 13-14 by the end of the program (last week I ran 65km to hit my targets). Intensity was up to me, but I pushed myself harder and harder as often as I could.
In the end, the results speak for themselves. I had a wide range of sizes in my wardrobe due to past re-sizings, and yet… nothing fits. I’ve had to buy all new clothes (that is not, mind you, a complaint), with waist sizes under 30″ when the legs are loose (I’ve worn as large as 38″ in my life). People who haven’t seen me in a week approach me and say, “Did you lose even more weight???” The woman who measures my body fat at the doctor’s office has repeatedly asked if I’m taking any drugs, my results have been so dramatic (I’m all natural, baby). And while I haven’t quite knocked out the 10 pull-ups yet, I did manage 8 last week.
The journey’s not over yet; in fact, it will never be over. Micah has given me the tools that I need for the rest of my life; now I’m moving on to the somewhat slower process of muscle-building. I have a passion for the gym now – I love reading about fitness, I love waking up early to go there, and I love myself in a way that I didn’t before. I look in the mirror with pride instead of dull shame, and I imagine just what’s coming next. I’m already crazy fit, but when I hit 40 next year, #FitAt40 is going to have a whole new meaning. I’ve got the body now that I should have had when I was 16; now I’m going to build the one I should have had at 20.
But it will happen, because the body achieves what the mind believes.