Monday, June 30, 2008

"Mobility Training May Be the Most Important Factor in ... Health" by Steve Maxwell

I wish that when I started my weight loss journey back in 2003, that I was using joint mobility exercises. My knees and ankles would have loved me! Unfortunately, it wasn't until I took Steve Maxwell's Joint Mobility Workshop this year that I was able to fully appreciate the importance of doing daily joint mobility (JM) exercises. What I also like about these types of exercises is that it's not about working you out as much as it is training and strengthening your joints and learning how your body moves.

Another great thing about JM exercises is that they can be done every morning after rolling out of bed. In all honesty fellas, those of you who are not exercising like you know you should be, will benefit greatly by incorporating JM exercises into your routine because they also increase your balance, which is a seldom discussed aspect of being healthy. Oh, and you can do these exercises no matter how conditioned, or de-conditioned, you are. So whether you see yourself as fat, chubby, or skinny, JM exercises are for you!

I practice joint mobility exercises that I've learned from Steve Maxwell and Paul Zaichik. Steve has posted his Maxwell Daily Dozen on his website in addition to his The Encylopedia of Joint Mobility Exercises DVD, and Paul has several DVDs and books that also discuss JM exercises and flexibility. The JM exercises that I learned from Paul is discussed on his DVD Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About Splits.

I hope that Coach Maxwell's post below, helps to convince you of the importance of JM training and its overall health-ful benefits. Enjoy!

* * *

Mobility Training May Be the Most Important Factor in Musculoskeletal Health

By Steve Maxwell

Mobility, or joint mobility, is the ability to move a limb through the full range of motion--with control. Mobility is based on voluntary movement while flexibility involves static holds and is often dependent upon gravity or passive forces. Mobility demands strength to produce full-range movement, whereas flexibility is passive, thus not strength-dependent. Some authorities refer to mobility as 'active flexibility'. It is possible to have good mobility without being especially flexible, just as one can be flexible with poor mobility, i.e., control. Of the two, mobility is more important. It is better to be inflexible with good mobility than flexible with poor mobility. The percent difference between your mobility and flexibility is the same percent chance of creating a musculo-skeletal injury during physical activities.

Sports, recreational activities and other daily physical practices can result in reduced range of movement in any participating joint. When the joint is unable to move through its full range, we call it compromised. When compromised movement is present in a joint, surrounding joints take up the slack, creating extra stress all around. A typical example are immobile ankles and feet underlying stress and injury to the knees, hips, and lumbar spine. It's a cascade effect, albeit in reverse: the body tissues are held together with sheets of connective tissue called fascia, so stress extends upwards from the feet. Poor mobility in one area can cause pain and stress in seemingly unrelated areas, but once fascial anatomy is understood, the idea that immobile feet could cause neck or shoulder stiffness is no longer a conundrum.

Mobility work reduces the potential body imbalances inherent in our athletic and recreational pursuits. For example, it's widely accepted that running for distance shortens the hamstrings, calf muscles and hip flexors, resulting in decreased free movement in simple full-range exercises, such as bodyweight squats. Well-documented is the compromised range produced by heavy weight-lifting and body building strength sports--yet, properly conducted, weight training can improve range of motion! All too often, in practice, weight lifters endow themselves with tight, restrictive movement by over emphasizing short-range movements and excessive hypertrophy. Worse, especially in the U.S., is that ubiquitous non-activity: sitting. Sitting in a chair, at a desk, while hunching over a computer is a recipe for a compromised structure full of imbalance and continual pain.

The solution? A joint mobility program. Joint mobility exercise stimulates and circulates the synovial fluid in the bursa, which 'washes' the joint. The joints have no direct blood supply and are nourished by this synovial fluid, which simultaneously removes waste products. Joint salts, or calcium deposits, are dissolved and dispersed with the same gentle, high-repetition movement patterns. Properly learned, joint mobility can restore complete freedom of motion to the ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, neck, elbows, wrists and fingers. It's especially important to keep the spine supple and free and if there were such a thing as a fountain of youth, joint mobility exercises come very close.

Use mobility exercises as a warm up, an active recovery during other activities, or as a stand-alone workout. You can rejuvenate yourself and reclaim the movement of a child with a good joint mobility program. Joint mobility makes a wonderful, energizing morning recharge and sets the day up on the right foot.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Weight Gains & Losses By the Year - Part I

Well, I see that the majority of folks who voted want me to blog daily about my experience following Lyle McDonald's diet as outlined in his The Rapid Fatloss Handbook. I plan on doing this in a couple of weeks, so please stay tuned to more details about this. Thanks for those who voted, and please take your time to answer the new poll that I've posted ...

So, when you start a weight loss journey, many people who have already made the trip tell you the importance of journaling or keeping some sort of record of your weight loss as the months go by. Well, I can't say that I disagree with that advice; however, I'm not going to act as if I took meticulous notes like a Medical student or anything like that.

Actually, when I go back through my weight loss notebook (Sorry I'm old school and like to initially put my notes down with pen and paper before moving to the computer) I notice that as the years of my journey passed, the more detailed my notes became. This only makes sense because there were times, as you'll see in a minute, that I would lose weight seemingly at will, and then I went through droughts where I couldn't shake a pound off! But, you may be thinking:

Man, who has time to journal and write stuff down?
Unless, you're independently wealthy, I would venture to say that no one has the time, especially guys who have a family. Nevertheless, the question really becomes who is willing to make the time to journal?

Look fellas, you don't have to go out and buy a Franklin Planner to chart your progress. Simply buy a cheap spiral bound notebook from WalMart or the Dollar Store. Hey, I'm using an old journal from a student I had many moons ago who never picked up her journal at the end of the semester! LOL! I guess that one of the perks of being an teacher ...

The longer you keep your journal, the more it will turn into a place to jot down how you feel, your thoughts (negative & positive) that you're having on a particular day, etc. OK, I'm purposely avoiding using the word diary here because we're men, and we don't write in diaries, right? Of course we don't, so the information that I'm sharing with you below comes from my very manly weight loss journal/training log/idea and feelings recorder ;)

I've actually given you a time-line of my brief time on this earth and the causes of either my weight gain/weight loss. I strongly recommend that every guy does this at some point on their weight loss journey; you might be surprised what you discover.

* * *

1971 - 1981: This represents the first ten years of my life. I was always seen as a husky kid with big thighs like my mama, as my family was happy to tell me. Even though I wore husky jeans from Sears, my mom kept telling me, and everyone else, that my chubby physique was baby fat and I would grow out of it.

1983 - 1988: The good ole' teenage years where I finally started to grow taller and lose the baby fat. It was during these years that I got into break-dancing, popping and locking. The extra activity, along with my love for playing basketball, helped me to keep my weight between 170-180 at a height of 5'11''. During these years, I never felt fat or had love handles, but I knew I was not extremely athletic even though I loved to play b-ball!

1988 - 1992: These were my undergraduate years in college, and the years that I, unfortunately, started my adult weight gain and loss journey(s). The first two years of college I gained @ 25-30 pounds, which averaged out to the freshman and sophmore 15! While pledging a fraternity on campus, my weight dropped back to 180, but it was short lived because I lost the weight as the result of eating once a day and having to exercise like crazy for the majority of the semester.

My weight loss was very short lived because once I "went over" or became a member of the fraternity, I went back to the usual upperclassman diet of beer, pizza, and fried chicken. So, the weight I'd lost while on line came back with a vengeance, and, of course, it brought along friends with it! When I graduated, I was tipping the scale at 225lbs, which was more than 50lbs heavier than when I entered college!

1992 - 1994: Entering graduate school was a very stressful time for me. I went from being well known at my small, at that time, campus, to being basically a nobody at my new school. This not only bruised my former senior and BMOC (big man on campus) ego, but it caused me to start using food as a crutch for my depression. This is when I can say that my ED (eating disorder) started. Oh, and working in one of the college's cafeterias didn't help either!

After completing my Masters Degree in 1994, I had yo-yo'd with my weight only to complete my program 20lbs heavier than I was when I entered. But, I had no time to think about that because I went straight from my Masters program right into my PhD.

1994 - 1996: A series of "life happens" events had me going from having my own car and apartment to living in my aunt's basement and catching the bus to school. This extra stress caused me to eat more, especially junk food; I didn't exercise, and guess what happened? I promptly gained another 20lbs before leaving my program ABD (all but dissertation) and starting my new teaching gig at my alma mater.

One thing I can remember about this two year stretch is that when I first moved in with my aunt, I was wearing a size 38-40 pants. Since I was a poor and struggling college student, my cousin gave me a couple of pairs of his old jeans. I remember putting them on and being happy because they were size 42 and too big for me. "At least I'm not wearing 42s", I thought to myself. Unfortunately, by the time I was ready to teach my first college class in the Fall of 1996, I weighed 265lbs and I was wearing at least a size 46!

1996 - 1998: Coming back to teach at my old undergraduate school seemed like a good idea at the time, but it soon turned out to be one big stressful mess! I don't remember my grad school counselor telling me to take a class on BS College Campus Politics 101 or How to Mind Your Own Business When You Don't Have Tenure 102. I wish he had because my young ass didn't know the whippin' I was in-store for!

It was during this time that I thought I had finally found the answer to my weight problem. I was good friends with the college's assistant basketball coach. This guy had played on a NCAA team that went to the Final Four, and he had played professional ball overseas. So, I knew that I was going to get proper training and diet advice. Man, was I wrong about that. This guy embodied the "No pain No Gain" philosophy in a 6'10 frame. I endured 2 months of being tortured by this "coach", and I did lose about 20lbs through replacing one of my meals with a Spirutein shake, since Spirulina was the supplement flavor of the month at the time, and eating rice, steamed veggies, and baked fish damn near everyday.

This victory was short lived, as my trainer was fired (hmmm, I wonder why) and after the torture I endured training with this guy, I was much happier in a Pizza Hut's booth than in the weight room. So, of course I re-gained the lost weight, and an extra five pounds!

In July of 1998, I packed up and headed west to a teaching position waiting for me in sunny Southern California weighing 270lbs! It was now 10 years since I first started college, and I was 100lbs heavier, wearing long African clothing that fit me loose to cover up my fat ass and protruding belly.

* * *
OK guys, I'll complete my rollercoaster weight loss journey next week when I'll detail my slow walk to weighing over 300lbs. I'll also detail how much weight I lost per year from the start of my journey in 2003 until now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Be Moderate In Everything, Including Moderation" by Ross Enamit

OK fellas, I don't know about you, but we just finished going through a week long heat wave in Southern California that reminded me of being in the South, minus the humdity of course. Well, I'm glad that it's finally starting to cool down because I'm really getting into using my sandbag, pushupboard, and USA to train at the local park. I'm going to take pictures of my outdoor gym because it has a huge field that's large enough for me to do sprint intervals.

Speaking of which, I just picked up a gym boss interval timer that makes doing interval training really simple . . . well, as far as keeping you on time that is; interval training is, and should be, challenging. ;) Anyway, read up more about this interval timer at

For this week's strength coach's re-post, I've decided to use a great post from a great trainer, athlete, and all around cool guy: Ross Enamit. Ross has more free videos on YouTube than most trainers, and, as you can tell from his videos, he practices what he preaches! He also has books and videos that he has put together for everyone from combat athletes, military personnel, or the weekend warrior.

What I like most about Ross's approach is that it's so multi-faceted. You'll see him doing burpees with a weighted vest to doing one arm DB bench presses, and finish it off with ab work using ab wheels he built with lawnmower wheels!

I watch his videos on YouTube for motivation and inspiration to continue to set my fitness goals that much higher.

Alright, enjoy his post on why extremist dietary approaches are neither healthy nor sustainable, which is a topic I plan on posting about this week.

* * *

Be Moderate In Everything, Including Moderation by Ross Enamit

Horace Porter once said to be moderate in everything, including moderation.

Moderation is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes, and is used to ensure normality.

Note the underlined words above. To live a healthy (normal) life, moderation is important. My recent blogs were not intended to promote extremism regarding diet. We only have one chance at life. If you enjoy dining out at a nice restaurant, no one should stop you. As I’ve said before, I’m only human. I too enjoy good food. Who doesn’t? I’ve never met anyone who didn’t enjoy certain foods.

Yet, there is a difference between enjoying certain foods, and craving junk food 24 hours a day. Earlier, I stated that healthy living does not mean deprived living. Trust me, there are more than enough healthy (delicious) alternatives. If you are transitioning from junk however, it’s only natural to experience an initial struggle. Yes, tasty alternatives exist, but you must still overcome the initial attraction towards junk food.

Think of a drug addict. No one said it would be easy to kick the habit, but that doesn’t mean people stop trying. Initial struggles are to be expected. Obstacles are part of life. As Frank Clark once said:

“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”

Life is about more than food. Consider the amount of time that you spend eating within a single day. I’m guessing that most people spend an hour or less actually chewing their food. Yet, that single hour of eating often dictates how you feel for the remaining 23 hours. How do you honestly feel? Are you energized? Do you wake up feeling sluggish?

For every decision, there is a consequence. Ask yourself why you eat your food? Do you base your decisions entirely upon taste? Is taste all that matters? What about health? Much of my eating decisions are made with health in mind. Is it fanatical to take health seriously? I enjoy being healthy. What’s wrong with that? It’s an added benefit that the foods I eat happen to be tasty. I don’t live solely for taste however.

My health and vitality are extremely important to me. Of course I consider health when selecting foods to eat. I enjoy food, but I don’t enjoy it enough to sacrifice the rest of my day (and life).

I see people every day who complain about feeling tired, bitch about one ailment after another, and struggle to function in the world without a never ending supply of coffee. Does anyone actually strive to feel this way? Is it worth it? Is that what you want to be remembered for? Does junk food offer a hidden high that surpasses the crappy feelings (physical) that you experience the rest of the day?

I doubt it…

I’m not suggesting that you never have a treat, but apply the rule of moderation. For example, I enjoy taking my son to a local farm where the ice cream is freshly made each day. He enjoys seeing the animals on the farm. It’s a nice trip for the family. I don’t go every day however, and I don’t wake up dreaming about the next visit to the farm. It’s all about moderation. Enjoy yourself, but realize that there are more important joys available in this world of ours. Also realize that healthy food can be extremely tasty.

And if you find yourself struggling with food, it is useful to think about what you are eating. I recently watched the Fast Food Nation movie. Fortunately, I can’t remember the last time I had fast food (many years). After watching this movie, I’m certain that I’ll never have another fast food meal. The movie made me sick to my stomach. How could anyone actually want to put that kind of “food” inside the body? Forget about moderation when dealing with pure junk. I’ll proudly be extreme when it comes to avoiding absolute crap.

I enjoy waking up healthy and energized. My nutritional habits are largely responsible for this luxury and freedom. I wouldn’t give it up for the sweetest taste in the world.

Fortunately, it’s easy to feel the same way. I don’t have any secrets to share. I don’t have a top secret food source. I eat healthy foods and exercise for approximately 1 hour a day. That’s it.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Country Biscuits w/ White Gravy .... MLBF heads South

Before telling you guys about my trip South, I want to thank everyone who answered last week's poll question. It's really good to know that I'm not alone with the issues I've had in the past and continue to have with food. Please note that I've posted a new poll that I'd like for you to take. Thanks in advance for participating.

OK, let's move on to this week's post:

Even though I will proudly tell you that I'm a Californian, I'm really a transplant from the East Coast, with deep roots in the South. And, did I have a ball this past weekend re-connecting with these roots at my mother's 70th birthday party.

My brothers, sister, and I actually wanted to send mom on a cruise or to some exotic locale, but she wasn't interested. Mom told us that she simply wanted to be around her family on this special day. And, that's exactly what we gave her--a mini-family reunion!

This trip was extra special for me because it was the first time I had seen many members of my family in well over 10 years; also, I had a new wife that everyone had heard about and was excited to meet. And, to top it off, many of them had seen my CNN interview and was seeing the new Muata for the very first time. Let me give you some highlights from my trip to the "dirty, dirty" as the urban youth there call it ... ;)

Crystal was a bit nervous about flying since this was only her second time on a plane, but I assured her that our economy airline was not only 98% on-time but pretty safe too. While sitting in the really narrow chair, I couldn't help but think back to how much I hated to take the plane when I was fat. It was really embarrassing having your thighs press up against the button to recline your seat when you're not trying to lean back. Man, I can't count the number of times I got reprimanded by a flight attendant for not having my seat's back in its "upright and straight position". It wasn't until I started to use a trick I picked from a radio personality out here that I was able to avoid this; he mentioned that a soda cap top would fit over the recline button to keep your thigh from accidentally pressing it.

One thing that I can clearly remember about being fat and flying is the fear of having to use an extender belt. There were times when I would have absolutely no more slack in the seatbelt, but I would force it to snap close because I refused to ask for an extender. I guess I saw this as a small victory for me because only fat people use the extender belts anyway. So, I would fly in this uncomfortable position just to continue to fool myself.

Well, on a much happier note, I was so shocked at how my former fat ass (literarlly) could easily fit in the seats and fasten the seatbelt. Guys, there was enough slack that I could've probably made an extender belt from it! I was so stoked that I snapped a picture before they made me turn my cell phone off.

While I was relishing in all the new found room I had in my crappy seat, a woman sat in the seat next to me. I would say she was in her early 30s, stood about 5'4 and weighed over 300lbs. It was a surreal experience for me, and not because she was obese. Hardly! My trip down south confirmed that the 66% figure that we throw out about the number of obese and overweight folks in this country is on the low end of the scale!

What made the experience unreal was watching how uncomfortable she was in her seat. She shifted from one side to the next, sat forward, all knowing that she would never be comfortable in a seat built for someone who weighs at least 100lbs less. It put a lot of things in perspective for me sitting next to her.

Now, for those of you who have never been to the South, let's just say that their idea of a salad is usually the slaw you put on your hot dogs or hamburgers! Or, at least this is usually the case with my family. So, I knew that I was going to be eating food that I normally wouldn't; however, unlike most people who lose weight and fear regaining the weight, I was far from worried because I had a plan.

Listen, I hadn't been to the South in quite sometime, so that means there were certain foods, like biscuits and gravy, that I knew I was going to eat. Hell, that's like going to Jamaica and not eating Ackee and Saltfish, their national dish. So, not enjoying some of those southern delicacies was not an option for me on this trip! My plan? Very simple ...

First, I checked out my brother's house for a good place to workout. He has a nice home gym complete with cardio machines and free weights, but you guys know me. I went outside and found that the previous owners had put up a wooden swing and slide set that, get this, had plastic gymnast rings! After going over and making sure that it could support my weight, I knew I was in business.

Every morning (YES every morning!), I woke up around 6am, went outside and did my joint mobility exercises, warmed up for 3 minutes with shadow boxing and dancing to my favorite salsa tunes. I'm sure his neighbors thought I was crazy to be exercising outside, but I just loved how clean the air was. OK, so after warming up, I did a simple circuit/complex of the following:

  • Hindu Pushups
  • Hindu Squats
  • Chin ups
  • Plyo/explosive Squats
  • Static hanging knee raise
I did 3-4 complexes w/ 60 seconds rest between each one. I finished everything off with 100 jumping jacks and another 3 minutes to cool down a bit before going back in the house.

Since I had my training routine set, the only thing I really concerned myself with was the amount of food I would eat over the weekend. Fortunately, my days of gorging myself simply because the food is there are over and that I can appreciate good food without going overboard. And this was a good thing because there was enough good food at Mom's b-day party, complete with a whipped cream filled strawberry cake and a super rich chocolate cheesecake!

My mom's party was a success and people could not believe how I look now. They let me know how proud they were of what I'd accomplished and how I want to help others. It really made me feel good to know that many of my family members were watching CNN the first time my interview aired. I guess my 1 minute and 43 seconds of fame was enough for many of them to want to start their own weight loss journey. A good friend of the family took professional quality pictures that I'll post when they're ready because I want you guys to see how sexy my mom looks at 70!

Before flying out of Atlanta on Monday night, Crystal and I were treated to a tour of CNN by the producer who interviewed me for my interview, Matt Sloane. As I said in my last post, it was an incredible experience seeing all the behind the scenes activities that goes on with one of America's largest news organizations.

And, before heading out to check out The World of Coca-Cola (note: the Beverly is DELICIOUS!!) and the Georgia Aquarium, Matt was nice enough to pose with me in front of the CNN sign. He's busy working on their 2008 Fit Nation Tour. Folks in Seattle, WA may see a familiar face on the bus! Sorry about the poor quality of the picture, but it was taken with my cell phone.

So, did I ever get my country biscuits and gravy? Well, yes and no ...

OK, we get to a nice down home southern restaurant for breakfast one morning, and I order what I came South to eat, and you know what? The biscuits were so damn big that I was only able to get through 3/4ths of the first one while the other one simply hardened along with the cold white gravy covering it. I never thought I'd see the day when two biscuits cover an entire plate!

Oh, did I mention that this was a side order? There's no wonder why our southern states have some of the heftiest folks in the country ....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Why Everyone is an Athlete" by John Wood

OK fellas, I just got back from my mother's 70th birthday party my siblings and I had for her this past weekend in Charlotte, NC. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to hook up with my buddy Ray, from, whose company is based in North Carolina, but I was able to see a familiar face in Atlanta.

While staying with my brother in Atlanta, I was able to catch up with my buddy Matt Sloane, the CNN producer who actually conducted my interview. He gave my wife and I a great tour of the CNN's main headquarters in Atlanta. It was great seeing the set for many of my favorite news shows and to see some of anchors and news reporters I see everyday.

In a post later on this week, I'm going to post pictures and give you guys a full account of my weekend, but for today, I wanted to re-post an email that John Wood sent out to all those who subscribe to his Old Time Strongman blog. John has many other websites that I frequently visit, and I highly recommend that you check them out too, especially the first one below:

In the following post, John discusses a quote from old time strongman Al Treloar from 1904!! That's right, over 100 years ago, guys knew the importance of training and exercising for not only athletic competition, but for overall wellness and good health! When I write that I want to have the body of an athlete, that's exactly what I mean--I'm striving for the body of an athlete in the sport of life, as John notes below. Enjoy:

* * *
"Why Everyone is an Athlete" by John Wood

There are many good reasons to train - some obvious and
some not quite so obvious.

I recently ran across something written by Al Treloar
(the subject of a recent blog post) way back in 1904, which makes
a lot of sense to me.

Check it out:

"Next to a clear conscience, a strong body is the most
desirable thing in life and the latter assures the former.
Physical exercise brings bodily improvement and
therefore better health with all that that implies.

Pain is the greatest affliction of human life and good health
which nearly all can get but exercise means freedom from

The study and habit of exercise calls attention also to the
general laws of health, and create an ambition and desire
for bodily perfection, thus hastening the desired result.

Another aspect of the results of exercise that will appeal
to busy people is the greatly increases capacity for work

The business man or mental worker who gains a strong
and healthy physical make-up will not only endure more
hours of work but will be able to accomplish vastly more
and better work in the same time than before.

Not only are one's chances of high success increased by
fine bodily vigor, but from the examples one is
almost led to believe that a well-trained and vigorous
body is necessary to the best success."

You'll see a lot of training info written for athletes of one
sort or another, (football, baseball, wrestling etc) but the
fact of the matter is that everyone is an athlete in
the "sport" of life.

The lesson here should be clear:

Whether catching touchdown passes, or doing yardwork,
physical training will help you do it better...

Train hard,
John Wood

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Men and Eating Disorders: It's Time to "Man Up!"

I'm sure that most guys would want to believe that women are the only ones with eating disorders (ED); however, those of you who have struggled with your weight over the years know, whether you publicly acknowledge it or not, that's not the case. And, hey, I'm no different.

Growing up in a household with a mother who was constantly going from one diet to the next really made an impression on my eating habits. I can remember that along with milk and OJ in the fridge, there would be cans of Tab and Diet Rite (which was the 1st diet soda in the states). Melba toast, cottage cheese, whey powder (from Amway), and tons of grapefruit were always on hand. Oh, and when the low-fat craze hit in the 80s, you better believe that my mom followed suit. I can remember all of the tasty soul food of my youth was ruined by this damn mania! How on earth can you eat fried cabbage seasoned with vegetable oil!

I never really thought that my mom's obsession with losing weight would eventually rear its ugly head in my life once I started to pack on the pounds; unfortunately, that's what happened. Sure, I remember my mom having a copy of the TWA Flight Attendants Diet on the refrigerator door for many years, but I would simply shake my head when I saw it because I thought, and still do, that cottage cheese wasn't meant for human consumption. :)

Nevertheless, I soon realized I didn't have a positive relationship with food when I was faced with losing the freshman 25 that I put on my first year of college. Losing weight, no matter how much you need to lose, is a daunting task at first because you realize that you are going to have to put in an effort that you're obviously not doing or you wouldn't be overweight, right?

So, when I was faced with having to lose weight for the first time in my life, what did I do? I tried to starve myself of course! I made up my mind that I would eat once a day and drink plenty of water. Oh, and I would start lifting weights with my roommates and playing tennis for cardio. As you can imagine, I lost the weight and more people started to notice me on campus, but this victory over the bulge was short lived. Sure, eating once a day was easy during the summer because I was a poor college student working on campus, and I wasn't on the meal plan. So, my "diet" was really easy to follow. As soon as the regular semester started, and my meal plan was reinstated, I regained all the lost weight.

After going up and down with my weight throughout my college years, I started to notice that I had developed a habit of dieting until I couldn't take it, and then I would binge. I have never purged, but my binges grew more severe as the years and pounds came on. One thing I always found interesting about my binges, especially as I got older, is that a pattern had developed.

First, I would be stressed about something going on in my life that I believed I had no control over. Then, I'd usually order delivery with enough food for 2-3 people. Almost immediately after paying the driver and closing the door, I would get this intense feeling of shame and disgust with myself. The more I saw all the food I had ordered, the more I hated myself. Finally, I would think to myself that the best way to rid myself of all these negative feelings is to eat it as quickly as I could. And, that's what I did until I could no longer shovel any more food in my mouth, or I was staring at an empty container. What's crazy about my pattern is that once I finished all, or the majority, of the food, I would feel a sense of relief?!? I would feel this way because I could now throw out the evidence of my binge and act as if it never happened ....

As a result of my night-time binging, all of my weight loss efforts were futile. It was a vicious cycle that I was in, and it was one that I had to break! And, fortunately, that's exactly what I did in 2002, which was the last year that I went on a binge. Now, does this mean that I simply walked away from it with no lasting side effects? Of course not! Just because I didn't actually binge, does not account for the numerous times I "mentally" binged when I was stressed. OK, some guys may think that this type of binging isn't that dangerous because you're not actually going through with the physical act, but I disagree.

When I would give into my midnight gorging sessions, I was obviously acting on urges and not allowing myself to think them through before acting on them. Similar to a child going with a stranger who has a pretty balloon or piece of candy, I binged with no more thought than "I'm stressed and I'm hungry .... no, I'm really hungry". All of the regret and shame came after the food actually arrived and soon went away once I hid the evidence. So, stopping this behavior was more about me becoming more conscious about my destructive behavior and changing it. It really is that simple, but that's why I say that the "mental binges" are worse.

They are worse because they mean that you have not quieted that voice of doubt in the back of your head. Fellas, you know the voice I'm talking about. No? Sure you do. It's that little voice that tells you that "You'll never lose weight!"; it's the voice that says "I don't care how hard you try that program won't work for you FAT BOY!" or "Everyone in your family is fat, so what makes you special?". Depending on how much weight you need to lose or how long you've been overweight, this voice can be as quiet as an occasional whisper (which I still hear) to a patronizing proclamation of your weight loss failure!

Having "mental binges" means that you are not fully confident that you can really lose weight and keep it off this time. In addition to nutrition and physical training, you must address this voice guys; don't ignore it or act as if it's not there. Oh, it's there and it's not going anywhere as long as you ignore or try to run away from it. One thing I can honestly say is that you have to face the voice! Today, may not be the day, but there will come a day that you are going to have to simply "Man Up!" and face that voice and listen to all the negative, sarcastic, and patronizing things it has to say. Soak it ALL up and don't turn away when it gets a bit more than you think you can handle. Stay there, don't shy away because you've done that before.

After taking all that abuse, don't make excuses or even feel remorse for what was said. Remember it and USE IT for motivation because I have a little secret for you guys. The more goals you set and achieve, the less you can hear that voice in the back of your head. Listen, if you need to lose 100 lbs., I can guarantee that the voice you hear now, won't be as noticeable when you lose 75 of that 100 lbs.

Unlike boxing and MMA where they tell you to kill the body and the head will die, in weight loss and management you must control the head (your brain that is) and the body will follow. Mentally come to grip with your ED and start mapping out strategies to deal with it, and ultimately "Man Up"!

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Update: Please take a few seconds to answer the poll I've posted about this entry--thanks!

Monday, June 9, 2008

"Confessions of a Strength Coach" by Josh Henkin

When most guys think about ED, they're usually reaching for a little blue pill for help. However, I'm not talking about that kind of ED! I'm actually referring to eating disorders. Yes, a blog written for guys is going to discuss eating disorders in today's post because women aren't the only ones with this issue.

If you don't believe me, then I hope you enjoy reading Josh Henkin's latest blog post. I initially had two or three other posts from other S&C (strength & conditioning) coaches I was thinking about re-posting today, but, once I read Josh's post, I knew I had to share this with you.

I encourage you to leave comments at his blog as well as here because I'd like for us to start a discussion of the emotional side of weight loss, which, IMO, is grossly neglected. There are many men in this country with eating disorders, but they would never publicly admit to it for fear of being labeled a "sissy" or "punk". Well, get over it fellas because if a former collegiate athlete and current S&C coach can admit to having an eating disorder, what's stopping you?

In my post on Wednesday, I'm going to share my own issues with food and one topic most guys secretly obsess over: body image! Until then, read about Josh's continued battle with his eating disorder and some tips that he uses to manage it. Simply click on the title of his post to be taken to the original.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Confessions of a Strength Coach

It is impossible to speak about fitness, health, and performance without speaking about the role of nutrition. I am not going to speak about macronutrient ratios, carb intake, blood sugar, nutrient timing, or any of the typical nutrition talk. In fact, I think these aspects are far less critical than the often neglected part of nutrition, the emotional side.

One of the best ways I help my personal training clients is to give them some insight to my own personal struggles. When people can relate and understand you are not perfect, they are far more likely to adhere and listen to what you have to say. In this blog entry I wanted to share something on a very select few of people know (some family members don't even know) which is that I suffer from an eating disorder!

This isn't a trick to get people to buy products or to stir controversy. It is something I felt compelled to share after doing a very motivating interview with Muata Kamdibe. As many of you know at this point, Muata is a professor that lost over 130 pounds. In speaking with Muata it was reinforced to me how big of a role the emotional side of nutrition really is.

When I was 13 I was about 5'10 and pushing 185 very soft pounds. After feeling extremely self-conscious about the weight I decided over the summer break to do something about it. What I decided to do helped shape my coaching today. I began to take very careful stock of everything I ate. In those days, it was high carb, low fat nutrition.

So, I made sure that I didn't eat anything with fat. That wasn't the end of it, I tracked every single calorie that I consumed. If that wasn't bad enough for a 13 year old, I then made sure to burn every calorie I ate in the stationary bike in our basement. I also spent almost every waking moment during the summer doing some sort of physical activity. Guess what? It worked!

I entered school that fall down to 145 pounds! I was very thin and everyone noticed. The attention I received was far more positive. From friends, sports coaches, and girls in my school everyone remarked very positively about my change. For anyone that knows about eating disorders, this is the worst thing to happen as it only encourages the behavior. I was constantly sick to my stomach, tired, unable to concentrate, and many times almost passing out.

My life was probably saved by actually hurting my ankle very severely at the age of 14. This meant I couldn't be as active and began weight training with my older brother. Falling in love with weight training I wanted to know as much as I could. I read all the cheesy muscle magazines that all kids do. I started eating more rationally and developing a lot more muscle.

However, this didn't solve the emotional side of food. To this day, food is a constant struggle. No, I have never seeked help for this problem, but I have begun to develop very strong coping strategies that anyone can adapt to beat the problems of emotional eating.

Let's face it, it isn't as though people don't know vegetables and fruits are good for them. That they should eat healthy unprocessed meats and heck most know fish oils are good for you too. However, it isn't a lack of knowledge, but not addressing the personal issue that is far more challenging. Here are some strategies I found extremely effective.

1. Don't have bad foods in the house. This makes is far less likely that you will eat those foods. Oh, and if you have kids, don't feel bad about not having these foods, your kids don't need them either!

2. Find other foods that are healthy to satisfy cravings. I often will find a blend of different fruits to help sweet cravings. In addition, coconut butter blends are sweet treats and have a ton of nutrition. Also, you can not raw organic honey with some almond butter as a nice treat. All these things are healthy yet are easy to justify for those sweet cravings.

3. Watch for self-destructive friends and family. This sounds horrible, but I try to avoid friends or family that are highly negative and actually promote bad habits.

4. Choose restaurants that have a full selection of healthy foods. Try to avoid bars and other places that encourage bad eating habits.

5. Eat before you attend social events. I find that if I am not starving I am far better at controlling binging or other bad habits. I don't feel compelled to even start eating poorly.

6. Exercise regularly, this may seem obvious, but I find regular exercise encourages other good habits.

7. Surround yourself with positive people whether or the internet, gym, or social groups.

8. Find other coping strategies to stress. One of my favorite sayings is by Steven Covey. Mr. Covey believes that you can not prevent bad things from happening, the only thing we have control over is how we react. Very strong and powerful to me.

My hope is nothing more than a few of you that read this can relate and find some satisfaction in knowing there are more people like you that go through the same struggles. It is a challenge every day, but by applying some of these strategies I hope it becomes a little easier.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

So, Where Do I Start?

This seems to be a common theme in most of the emails that I've received so far. Oh, please keep them coming guys because I learn so much from them. If I haven't responded to you, don't worry one will be in your inbox before you know it!

OK guys, so you've read my story, you've become motivated, and now you're ready to lose the weight. But, just like me, most of you don't have a clue where to start. You could follow your old high school football routine that had you in the best shape of your life 20 years ago, or you could purchase the latest gadget on TV that guarantees results or your money back. Listen, I want to be clear about one point. You don't have to buy one single piece of equipment or one diet book to get the body of your dreams--not one!

This may seem contradictory since I promote certain products on my blog; nevertheless, all these are merely to compliment your training/understanding of nutrition, but you don't need them to lose the weight. Don't let anyone tell you differently because if guys in solitary confinement can get shredded on "nutritious" prison food and leaving the cell for 30 minutes to an hour per day, what do you think you can do?

I'm going to give you guys a formula for success that won't cost you one red cent! I'm even going to give them to you in bullet points for easier reading. OK, I know that in some of my earlier posts, I've discussed very complicated ways for you to figure out how many calories you need and macro-nutrient breakdown, etc. Also, I've posted some workout routines that seemed a bit complicated.

Well, I'm going back to my old fashion KISS (Keep It Sweet & Simple) philosophy for both my training and nutrition. Yes, I'm aspiring to have the body of an athlete, but I'm not one. So, I have to keep in mind that whatever program I create for myself must include the realities of my everyday life. Does this mean that you should continue to use your busy schedule as an excuse for you not exercising? Of course not, your busy schedule should cause you to want to exercise to help rid yourself of everyday stress. Hey, if you haven't hit a heavy bag imagining that it's your boss or an annoying co-worker, then you really don't know the true meaning of stress relief. ;)

Let's start with nutrition and the least you should know:

  • Calories do indeed count and always will. Don't get caught up in debates with people about this because it's counterproductive to your ultimate goal. If another person truly believes that they can lose weight and reach the size they want without having an idea of how many calories s/he is consuming, congratulate them on their success and move on because here on earth, the Laws of Thermodynamics have yet to be disproven.

  • "Eat Less, Move More" - Oh, how we hate hearing that from doctors, family, and friends who have never had a weight problem their entire life--lucky bastards! Well, don't be so quick to dismiss what they are saying because there is some truth in this weight loss cliche. In a most basic way, this expression is simply encouraging us to consume less energy (create a caloric deficit) while using more energy for the extra movement (which, since there is a calorie deficit, will cause your body to use its stored energy--fat and muscles--to make up for the difference, which causes you to lose weight on the scale). Simple, right? Yes, but they left something out. How much less do you eat and how much more should you move?

  • Determining your daily calorie requirements is usually so confusing that sometimes you feel you need a background in biochemistry to fully understand the damn formulas. Well, I've picked up a simple and extremely uncomplicated way to determine how many calories you need to consume to stay at your present weight and how much you should eat to lose weight thanks to tips from the bodybuilder and strength & conditioning communities. First, keep in mind that this is not an exact science and that these are estimates, but they are reliable enough that athletes use them as a guide for their training. So, to get an idea of how many calories per day you need to eat to stay at your current weight, multiply your bodyweight times 15. To lose weight, you want to multiply your current weight times 8 -12. For most folks starting off, go with 10 or 12. Reserve the lower number when you're going for your six pack!

    Let's look at the example of a guy who weighs 300lbs. Well, to lose weight, he needs to consume no more than 3000 cals (BW x 10 = 3000) a day. He'll stay with this number until he loses 20lbs, and then he'll go back and reformulate his calorie needs, which will now be 2800 cals a day. Next, he'll be eating 2600 cals after losing 20 more pounds. You see how simple this is?

  • So, what about macronutrients (carbs, fats, protein)? Should you do low-carbs, low-fat, or a balanced diet? What I find interesting is that this topic makes so much money in the "diet" book industry simply because of confusion and marketing hype. It's really simple. If you want to lose weight, simply follow the previous bullet's suggestion. However, if you want the majority of the weight loss to be actual body fat, then I suggest that you consume no more than 100 grams of carbs a day. This has been shown to be the upper limit of carb intake for one to consume and still benefit from the hormonal response (read: lower insulin levels, more fat burning, etc).

    If you are still freaked out about doing a low-carb diet, consider that the USDA recommends that we eat at least 125 grams of carbs because of the glucose our brains require on a daily basis. That's a difference of 25 grams, and I'll tell you what, without going into detail about ketones and the brain, I'll compromise with you. After you do a resistance workout, take in those 25 grams of carbs with your protein shake, and we'll call it even! There's no reason to go lower than 100 grams, despite what you may hear from low-carb sites and forums.

  • Finally, figure out what triggers your poor eating habits. Listen, we know that eating a scoop or two of ice cream in a cup is better than that gi-normous four scoop sundae that drips down our chin and add to our waist. What's just as important along your weight loss journey is to figure out who you are and what makes you tick. We all eat, or should I say overeat, for different reasons. I was an emotional eater. Whenever stress knocked on my door, I was off to Krispy Kreme for a baker's dozen! No one forced me or even suggested that I react this way to stress, and, unfortunately, my body acted accordingly to what and how much I was feeding it.
I wanted to get nutrition out of the way first because the training aspect of your weight loss journey is even more simple in my opinion:
  • If you lose weight mainly through calorie restriction, you, more than likely, will have droopy and saggy skin. We all have seen guys who lose a lot of weight and are pretty saggy. I call it the Jared Complex. No disrespect to the Subway guy because he is encouraging kids to exercise and be more conscious of their calories, but I never wanted to look skinny fat. When I lost weight using pills and doing tons of cardio, I looked like Jared, complete with the saggy skin and man boobs to boot! Fellas, if you don't want folks coming up to you and poking your saggy stomach like your the Pillsbury Doughboy, I'd suggest that you realize that resistance training is not an option--it's mandatory!

  • Compound bodyweight exercises are more than enough for your strength and cardio conditioning. That's right, the body you see in the mirror every morning presents more than enough weight resistance for you to build a respectable body! Again, you don't need to buy any equipment. For ideas, feel free to go to for free videos, discussions, and information on bodyweight exercises. I think it's one of the best bodyweight only forums/sites on the web! As I stated in my last post, YouTube is chock full of videos of people doing various bodyweight exercises. Oh, and there are two more BW-only sites that I've come across that I want you to check out:

    • Beast Skills - Jim, who lives in my hometown of DC, has a great site and instructional videos.
    • Body by Fish - Scrapper is another bodyweight culturists who has an outstanding site.
  • Finally, I have a little treat for those guys out there who just need a program to follow. OK, if you fall in this camp, I have a pdf file that you can download or view by clicking here. This is basically a teaser from Craig Ballantyne's Turbulence Training Fat Loss Program. The good thing about this pdf is that you'll get a lot of mileage out of it because it has beginner, intermediate, and advanced routines. So, you have a good three months, or more depending on your current level of fitness, of workouts (including cardio) that you can use to decide if you want to purchase his ebook.

    Even if you don't buy Craig's book, make sure to take advantage of this free pdf, and make sure that you start to do research on the term EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) to understand the number of new fat loss exercise programs getting ready to inundate the market around this concept!
Remember guys, the tortoise was right, slow and steady wins the race. It's OK to aim to have the body of a sprinter, but make sure to develop the mentality of a marathon runner along the way.

Monday, June 2, 2008

"Your Body is a Barbell: No Dumbbells, No Barbells, No Problem!" By Alwyn Cosgrove

As I've mentioned in a previous post, after researching and reading just about anything I could get my hands on related to weight loss and transforming your body's physique, I now listen to certain Strength and Conditioning coaches for advice. One such Coach is Alwyn Cosgrove. I have read and personally used his Afterburn Extreme Fat Loss program. Along with John Alvino and Craig Ballantyne, Alwyn is known for his ass kicking complexes! He wrote an article for Testosterone Nation about using complexes for weight loss that I suggest you check out.

Well, today our weekly re-post from a S&C coach's blog comes from Alwyn, and it reinforces the need for guys to first be able to master their own bodyweight before thinking about lifting even a 5lb dumbbell! I'll let Alwyn explain; however, if you're current level of conditioning is low, then I wouldn't try some of the exercises that he recommends in the exercise section of his post. As always, if you have any questions of comments, don't hesitate to leave one or shoot me an email.

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By Alwyn Cosgrove

Muscles are just plain dumb. Despite their ability at some level to perform amazing Cirque De Soleil type feats, muscles only ‘know’ two things – stretch and tension. They can’t differentiate between stretches (whether the stretch is coming from yoga or from Taekwon-do kicking) or types of tension.

Let’s talk tension. As far as a fitness enthusiast is concerned, muscle tension comes when you place resistance on the muscles. And it doesn’t matter what form that resistance takes. You see, as far as the muscles are concerned, resistance is resistance is resistance. The muscles have no idea what form the resistance takes, whether it is a dumbbell, a resistance band, a barbell or your bodyweight. True, free weights are superior to machines when it comes to building strength, but it’s because free weights require you to stabilize the load in three planes, not because the weight on the muscles is any different.

In fact when you think about it, the only reason to ever use external load (i.e. weights) is because your bodyweight is not enough resistance. Yet most guys are making exercises harder by adding external load, when they aren’t capable of handling their bodyweight in the same exercise. I’m constantly amazed by how many people I meet who can bench press whatever pounds of weight, but are unable to perform 10 correct push ups (typically due to a lack of core strength and synergistic muscle stability. As far as I’m concerned – unless you can do an easy twenty push ups, you have no business getting under a bar for bench pressing. In my training facility everyone begins with bodyweight exercises. You have to earn the right to lift weights in my facility.

Now I’m sure some of you are jumping up and down right about now, convinced that your bodyweight is not enough for you to get a ‘good workout’. You think you’re much too strong. And you’re probably right. If you’re an Olympic Gymnast that is. Remember - most gymnasts use primarily their bodyweight in their conditioning programs and have no problem developing great physiques and great strength levels. I’d go as far as to say that most gymnasts have better physiques than most weight trainers. And these guys train exclusively for performance – not for mass or aesthetics. Nick Grantham CSCS, former conditioning coach to the Great Britain Olympic Gymnastics team noted that the majority of male gymnasts, after years of bodyweight training could typically bench press double their bodyweight the first time they ever tried it. If that’s not evidence of the efficacy of bodyweight training then I don’t know what is.

The key to effective bodyweight exercises are the same as with any exercise – time and tension. We need to select exercises that load the muscles effectively through the entire range of motion, and select a speed of movement that eliminates all momentum.


Lower Body

A1: Bulgarian Split Squat: 2 sets x AMRAP each leg @ 333 30s rest

A2: Hip thigh extension: 2 sets x AMRAP each leg @ 333 30s rest

B1: Partial co-contraction lunge: 2 sets x AMRAP each leg @ 333 30s rest

B2: Step Up: 2 sets x 15-20 each leg @ 201 30s rest

C1: SL Partial squat: 2 sets x 15-20 each leg @ 333 30s rest

C2: Single Leg RDL: 2 sets x 15-20 each leg @ 333 30s rest

D1: Single Leg Squat: 2 sets x AMRAP each leg @ 303 30s rest

D2: Single Leg Deadlift: 2 sets x AMRAP each leg @ 303 30s rest

Upper Body

A1: T-Push Ups Left arm: 2 sets of 15 reps @ 211 30s rest

A2: Inverted Row: 2 sets of AMRAP @ 211 30s rest

A3: T- Push Ups Right arm: 2 sets of 15 reps @ 211 90s rest

B1: Mixed Grip Chins: 2 sets of 5-6 reps EACH SIDE @ 222 30s rest

B2: Dips: 2 sets of AMRAP @ 211 30s rest

B3: Prone Jackknife: 2 sets of 10-20 reps @ 232 30s rest

C1: Pike Push ups: 2 Sets of AMRAP @ 222 30s rest

C2: Reverse Crunch: 2 sets of 15-20 @ 111 30s rest

Advanced options

So is bodyweight training too easy for you? Yeah right. If that’s truly the case then here are a few variations that you can use for any of the exercises to dial up the masochism factor.

Oscillatory isometrics: This is an exotic name for what is essentially performing 4-5 short range mini-reps at the end range of the exercise. For example, perform the concentric portion (the lifting portion) of a chin up at a normal speed, then lower yourself down an inch or so and ‘bounce’ (controlled) up and down in that end range for 4-5 reps, before lowering yourself back to the start.

Dynamic Isometrics: Not a misnomer – just a combination of two complete opposite methods. This involves maintaining an isometric contraction in the toughest position of the lift for 4-5 seconds, and then performing the concentric and eccentric portions as fast as possible and returning to the isometric position. For example you’d be doing a tempo of X5X. Hold the bottom of a push up position for 5 seconds, then straighten and bend your arms as fast as possible.

Iso-explosives: Just taking the above a step further. A combination of isometric holds in the toughest position, with an explosive exercises. For example: hold the bottom of a Bulgarian split squat or a push up for 4-5 seconds – then as you press back up – explode with maximal force so your body actually leaves the floor.

One and a quarter reps: Perform the entire rep, and an additional quarter rep in the toughest part of the range (typically the bottom). This overloads your weakest angles by performing twice as many reps in that range.

Ladder reps: Break the exercise up into thirds – the bottom third, the bottom two-thirds and the full rep. For example perform five dips in the bottom third of the range (the toughest portion), then five reps in the bottom two-thirds of the range and finally perform five full range repetitions. This means you’ll have performed fifteen reps in the toughest range of the exercise, but only five in the easiest range.

Once you are capable of performing 15-20 reps of each of these exercises at the given tempo with ease – you are now ‘allowed’ to grab a 5lb dumbbell and start over!