THE BELT

If you ask my Dad about back pain, he’ll likely tell you one of two things first: (1) Don’t sit on your wallet, or (2) Don’t wear a belt.

I’ve dealt with my own share of back pain (more on that in my next post), so I get the sentiment, but I’ve never been one for suspenders.  So, for years I’ve worn the same cheap, green nylon belt with a “D” ring fold-over, style buckle.  It matches nothing and my wife hates it.  Well, actually, it matches my sense of style, so that should tell you a lot.  I got it along with an equally fashionable pair of size 38 cargo shorts from one high end retailer or another (probably Wal-Mart, but it’s been so long I really don’t remember).

belt

I had a ton of issues with stiff-buckled belts when I was fat and out of shape and the ugly green one had just enough give to provide some relief but also keep my pants up.  So it stuck.

At my heaviest, I could barely fold the end over and loop it back through to get it secure.  In fact, it would pop loose on occasion if I let my guard down and didn’t suck in hard enough.  My relationship with the belt was constant adjustment.  I would pull it tight and it would fight back against my ever-growing gut.  Looking back now, I realize that was a hard thing for me to deal with emotionally, so I blamed the crappy belt that wouldn’t stay tight.  In all reality, though, I was the thing that needed to do better, not the belt.  It took me years or pain, pills, booze, anger, and depression to realize that.  I went through some very dark places before I stepped onto this road (more on that to come), some that I maybe shouldn’t have survived.  But, the belt has been with me the entire time.

Today I have to wear it off-center with the buckle just above my left hip pocket.  This gives me enough room to thread the excess through my front two belt loops so it doesn’t dangle down in front of my crotch like an… extra belt.  As of this morning there’s a full ten inches of “leftovers” when I pull it snug.  Oh, and those size 38 cargo shorts?  I’m trading those for a pair of 30s as soon as I can find some that fit my thighs (my legs aren’t as impressive as I want them to be, but I never skip leg day).

This week is four weeks from my first physique show and I’m still on track.  I’ve been pretty absent from posting due to the fact that I usually can’t remember which day of the week it is.  But I’m still on the road and I’m not getting off until I get there.

IDENTITY CRISIS

There’s a short foot bridge spanning the creek that runs through the plant where I work. Employees use it to cross from the main parking lot to their offices and other locations. The bridge is in no way interesting, scenic, or serene (I mean, really, you’re walking over it to get to work). What is interesting, though, is the mythical fish.
There is a HUGE trout that lives just below the creek and waits to be fed and ogled by passersby. He is obviously very happy and very well fed, because he returns after every heavy storm that would wash a lesser fish downstream. He’s also kind of an ass, because he knows that you want to look at him and he knows you can’t catch him (no fishing allowed), but I digress…
Anyway, I was admiring the fish yesterday when a young employee (whom I’d never met, or even seen before) walked up behind me and asked: “Why’s the water like that?”
“Like what?” I replied.
“It’s not running very fast anymore.” He must have thought I was insightfully pondering about the current.
I assumed at this point that the guy didn’t realize that it is currently late summer (August 19th) and the water had, perhaps, dried up. In any case, I wasn’t interested in small talk, so I told him I didn’t know.
But he persisted. In fact, he followed me and continued to seek my guidance about the mysterious disappearing water. Seriously, he kept asking me as if he knew I had the answer, but I just wanted to keep it from him because I don’t want anyone to possess that powerful knowledge except myself (I mean, how can I take over the world if anyone else is as smart as I am?) The guy actually followed me all the way to the end of the bridge, which was odd because he had been walking the opposite direction than I was heading.
While the strange conversation made me wonder what about me gave him the impression I was an authority on the water-flow patterns in Northern Colorado, it also reminded me how unfamiliar I am with myself sometimes. Over the past two years I’ve experienced some dramatic physical transformations (mental too, but I’ll talk about those later). I tend to look at myself in the mirror through the distorted vision of someone who used to be obese and still only see the imperfection. This is despite the fact that I can clearly see all six of my abs now, so I realize that I’ve got some work to do on my body image.
The interesting thing about it though, is that no one I interact with on a daily basis has ever known or seen me out of shape. My family and I moved out here earlier this year so I could take a new job, so none of my friends and co-workers ever knew what I was like before. To them I’m just the fitness guy who’s super dedicated and working toward competitive bodybuilding. More and more often people at the gym (usually when asking for a spot) and people at work ask me for advice about nutrition, workouts, etc. I’m happy to share what I know, but the truth is I’m still not used to being a physical example of health and fitness. Part of me is still a little confused about why people would ask at all, let alone think of me as an authority figure.
But in actuality I am. This blog is one way I’m trying to own it. It’s a way to share what I’ve learned so others can share some of the success. I wouldn’t be where I am if others hadn’t done that for me.
Yesterday on the bridge I could have explained the water situation to the guy who was obviously desperate for that knowledge (or maybe just a friend), but instead I told him “I’m just looking at the fish…” and walked away. Given the opportunity again, I’d probably be a little nicer or at least a little more understanding. In my mind at the time all I could think about was what a moron this kid was. But once I thought about it, I realized the bridge was no different than the gym, and that guy was no different than me before I learned what I was doing. In a way I’m glad I never ran into myself and asked for advice, but that just makes me want to do better.
So feel free to ask me anything. I’ll do my best to remind myself not judge and to stop looking at the fish.

THE BREAKDOWN BEFORE THE ROAD

87 days.  Even after two years of hard work, at this point it’s hard to imagine how I will feel when I step on stage for my first Men’s Physique competition.  Don’t get me wrong, I know what I’m going to look like, that image is my singular focus, but the feeling is still three months away.  The crazy part is that two short years ago I didn’t even know I was capable of taking this journey; let alone what I want to look like at that moment.  But now it is an inevitable destination.  It’s not a goal.  It is a reality that hasn’t happened yet.  That’s my mindset.  That is the only way I can allow myself think to make sure I get there.

I guess I should back up a little to explain the situation.  In my last post I described my first steps along this journey, but the motivation for taking them happened a few weeks prior to that.  I’ve got the next 11.5 weeks to tell you about all the ups and downs, but it was one incredible down point that made me move.  So that’s my challenge to you:  Stick with me for 11.5 weeks. Make goals.  Change your life.

On July 22nd, 2013 I had a revelation.  I was in a hotel room in downtown Houston Texas and realized that one fundamental belief I had about my health, my weight, my nutrition, and even my sanity to some degree was wrong.  I grew up believing the old adage that you’re “stronger than you think you are…” the belief that people are naturally resilient and can just endure.  But that’s not the case.  I realized that day that the truth is actually the exact opposite.  The truth is that you’re only as strong as you think you are.

I had spent the ten days prior to July 22nd in a last-ditch effort to try to lose some weight and take control of my health.  At that moment I truly believed that if I didn’t do something I would die.  Most of my young adult life had been a roller coaster between extreme fitness and complete inactivity.  In 2013, I hit an all-time low (high actually) and topped the scale at 225lbs of 100% flab.   For someone who stands 5’6” on a good day, that’s not a good place to be.  I had high blood pressure, I was in chronic pain, and I felt like a failure in every respect.  Up until that point, my son had never seen me be physically active.  The memories of when I was 25 and could run a 5 minute mile were fading and I had almost resigned myself to the idea that this was how things would always be.  I had begun imagining the rest my life full of pain and poor health and it was terrifying.   I was at a point of desperation.

So on July 12th I made an appointment at a medical weight loss clinic and allowed an “expert” physician put me on a 98% liquid diet consisting of putrid shakes and one wafer-thin meal bar per day.  All together I was consuming less than 800 calories a day (if you don’t understand how low that is, try it for just one day).  I lost 12lbs within the first week and stuck to it like my life depended on it (actually I cheated with one pickle and a saltine cracker… bad me).  And then I started losing something else: my sanity.  I began hallucinating about food.  Not craving it, fixating on it.  All of the things that I “couldn’t” have dominated my thoughts and kept me awake at night.  My wife was genuinely concerned and co-workers thought I was insane.  By the 22nd I did too.  And that’s when it hit me:  I had put myself through absolute torture, complete mental anguish, for 10 consecutive days.  If I could work that hard to feel that terrible, then what could stop me from doing the right things?   The answer?  Me.  I was the only thing in my way.

That night I decided to change.  I met some work friends at a baseball game that night and had a ceremonial plate of nachos as I told them my plan.  I assured them that the next time they saw me I wouldn’t be the same person.  But it wouldn’t be because I drank a million shakes or listened to some quack doctor.  I was going to change because I realized how strong I was and even how strong I was going to be.

I’ve learned a lot more about strength and motivation along the way, but those stories will come.  All you need to know right now at this moment is that I was right about myself.  I’ll tell you this as well: whatever you think about yourself right now, however strong you think you are… you’re right.   But it’s time to move past that point.  It’s time to get stronger.

First Step On The Road

Two years ago today, I took my first step onto The Road To November.  I didn’t know what it was or where I was going at the time, but it happened that day.  My 32nd birthday.  There’s a lot to cover, and I’ll get there over the next 90 days, so you’ll have to stick with me if you want to see where the road leads.

Over the past few months, I’ve put a lot of thought into how to tell my story.  I’ve even debated whether it was one worth telling because I don’t want it to sound trite.  See, it’s a story about getting in shape, about fitness, about well-being, even mental health.  But it’s really a story about change.  I think there are other people out there that want some change in their lives who just don’t know where to start or think that it isn’t possible.  I’m writing this for them.

So back to my birthday two years ago… I had basically reached a breaking point (I’ll explain in detail in my next post).  I was in pain, I was severely overweight (also short, but that hasn’t changed), I was unhappy, and I didn’t really believe things would ever get better.  But in spite of all that, I put on my pair of ridiculous gray toe shoes, my blue workout shorts, and an old Under Armor t-shirt and walked into an Insanity class at the only decent gym in the tiny NorCal town we were living in at the time.  AAAaannnd it totally sucked!  I didn’t walk right for the next three days.

But I learned something that day.  I learned that I could do more than I thought I could.  I discovered that there was fight in me and I wanted to see how far I could push it.  So, two days later I tried it again.  It still sucked, but I kept going.  By September I decided to see how I would fair with resistance training and began lifting.  That was when it clicked.  By the end of that year, I realized where I wanted the Road to lead me.  I knew that it would take me to a stage at some point in time, but it took almost another full year to realize that that point would be this November.  November 14th, to be exact.

My Road To November is a pretty personal journey.  The idea here is that I share it both for my own gratification and motivation and also to inspire others.  There’s so much negativity everywhere these days and I think people need to just kick that shit to the curb and start living their own lives.  Hopefully I’ll be able to help at least one person do that.  We’ll see.

I know I haven’t gotten into any details; that’s by design.  You’ll just have to keep reading if you care to know more.  I promise they’re on the way.  For now, think positive and try to change just one thing for the positive.  Do it today.

By they way, I retired the ridiculous gray toe shoes about a year ago… I have an even more rediculous neon-green pair now.