Tag Archives: health

Physical Training Anniversary and New Challenge

One year ago today I embarked on a project to renew my body. I’d gained flab and lost fitness. I made a meme of Frosty the Snowman with my face superimposed because I looked like a snowman. I don’t look like that today!

I won’t go into all of the details of my diet and exercise program here. If you want to look back at earlier entries in this blog you can discover what I did. Suffice it to say, what I’ve done worked. I’m maintaining less than 10 percent body fat and have gained muscle mass. My waist is at 29 inches. My goal is to gain about 10 more pounds of lean body mass and keep the fat percentage where it is currently. However, I’ve encountered an obstacle: injury.

Over the years, I’ve seen a repeat of the same issue. I’ve gotten myself back in shape and then sustained an injury to my shoulder(s), which results in my not being able to train my upper body. I get disappointed, don’t do other exercise, let my diet go, gain weight, and remain out of shape until long after the injury heals. I re-injured my right shoulder while doing benchpress last week. This is sad because I had gained strength even though I still have a mis-located (broken) collarbone sustained while doing incline benchpress. I’m afraid I’ll have to find other chest exercises. Bench has proven destructive. Yes, I warm up. Yes, my form is correct. 

I’m not giving up, but I am learning. First, I’m not afraid of gaining too much fat, even if my workouts are curtailed while this shoulder heals. Why? I’ve found the golden ticket to fat loss and maintaining lean body mass. It’s called intermittent fasting. You could also call this scheduled eating. I’m not the expert here. You can look it up. Read books by Jason Fung. Watch YouTube videos by Thomas DeLauer and Dr. Eric Berg. What I will tell you is, it works.

Intermittent fasting means I fast periodically for at least 13 hours, up to 24. Typically I stop eating between 3pm and 6pm and don’t eat again until the next day until noon. On the 13 hour fasting days I drink Bulletproof coffee and/or eat eggs, no carbs in the morning. Secondly, I limit my carbohydrate and sugar intake. I eat almost no bread, no pasta, no potatoes, and limit the amount of fruit. Of course, I avoid all sweets, and don’t put sugar in my coffee or tea. Intermittent fasting is easier on a low carb diet. When I eat carbs I’m hungry all the time. When I eat healthy fats, I’m not. The simple reason for this is, when you eat carbs, your body uses that as fuel immediately; therefore, it wants you to keep supplying those carbs throughout the day. When your body doesn’t have carbs/sugar for a longer period of time, it learns to burn fat. This is what happens when someone follows the now famous keto diet.

A keto diet is a good place to start before entering into longer periods of fasting (ie. longer than over night). Once your body is in ketosis, it isn’t craving carbs for fuel. Fasting becomes easier in this state because your body is used to burning fat, and will easily burn body fat in the absence of food. That’s what you’re looking for, at least if you need to lose some flab.

So, I’m injured. I’m disappointed. However, I’m not giving up, and I’m not going to get fat again. Fasting is a discipline often associated with religion. In fact, every major religion practices fasting to one degree or another. Sadly, many Protestants or Evangelical groups do not practice it. We should. It’s healthy, both spiritually and physically. I’ve written about this as well. The reason I bring in the spiritual aspect at the end of this entry is, I believe God’s providential reason for allowing my current injury is to move me away from focus on self and toward increased spiritual discipline, or what the Bible calls training in godliness. The essence of this kind of training is focus on God instead of self. Fasting is one of the spiritual disciplines I want to pursue. There are others.

I’ve just purchased the Kindle version of Richard Foster’s classic A Celebration of Discipline, along with Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines. One year after my physical transformation, I will now focus on training in godliness/a holy life. Basic to this is becoming more like Jesus. I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m impatient. I’m easily frustrated. I complain often. I’m lustful. Just saying no to these things will not stop them. I know because I’ve tried that approach my entire life. What I need is to learn to say yes to a good and loving God, and that includes saying yes to spiritual training and discipline.

for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8, NRSV)

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You Can Be Less Fat & More Fit

Fitness is more than how thin you are, but I believe a good start (probably the best place to begin) is with a change in your diet, which results in a leaner body. A lean body is better for many reasons: less prone to heart disease, increased longevity, avoidance of type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, joint problems and a host of other complications which result from hauling around too much body fat every day.

It’s not popular to say this, but neither is it a secret: many people are simply carrying too much body fat. Perhaps you are one of them. Notice, I didn’t say “too heavy.” It’s not about weight; it’s about body fat percentage. The average American carries between 28-40% body fat (and it may be worse today, since that stat is from a study done 15-20 years ago!). That is not healthy. Not at all.

One year ago my body fat was around 23% at a weight of just over 170 lbs. I’m around 71 inches tall. I wasn’t terribly unhealthy, but I was getting there gradually. You see, everything accumulates over time, whether fitness or fatness. In 2012 I had gotten down to 7% body fat, was lifting weights and running regularly. I felt great! Then I broke my clavicle doing incline presses and that slowed the weights down considerably. I was discouraged. I stopped running. My diet gradually got less healthy. I still went to the gym a couple of times per week, but my workouts weren’t enough to burn off the additional calories.

The difference over a five year span was a gain of 16% body fat, which translates to around 20 lbs on my frame. That’s an annual gain of a little over three percent fat, or a mere four pounds each year. Consider, if I had gone another decade I could have been carrying around the high average of 40% body fat. NO THANKS!

I took a look at myself in the mirror at 23% and didn’t like what I saw. I looked like a round, slightly lumpy snowman. I knew what I could look like when healthy and fit. I knew it was going to take some work to get back. It did! I’ve journaled about that process here, so you can look back at those blogs if you’d like. The picture I’ve included in this entry is a screenshot I took this morning from a body fat calculator on my mobile device. To use the app you still need body fat calipers, and, yes, you need to weigh yourself. Currently I weight around 145 and am carrying about 5.5% body fat. Did I mention I’m 56 years old…

If your sex is male, and you’re not an elite athlete, then you should aim for 10-15% body fat. If your sex is female and not competing in some sport, aim for 20-25%. If you need to be leaner for a sport (I am a martial arts instructor), then you may seek to go lower. However, men shouldn’t get below 4% or women below about 9%. You do need some body fat. I am keeping mine between 5-7% because I want to stay at that level of fitness to teach my karate’ class. That, and I like how I look and feel when I’m this lean.

So, what’s the secret? Did I do Keto? Count calories? Fasting? Run an hour a day? Overall friends, although it’s hard at first to apply the self-control, the concept is really very simple: you get fatter when you eat more, and you get thinner when you eat less. You also get fatter when you’re less active, while still eating the same, and you get leaner when you’re more active without increasing the amount you eat. Everything accumulates over time, fitness or fatness.

Duh? Well, why do we read so much disinformation when it comes to this? People want to believe, “You can eat whatever you want and lose the weight!” No, you can’t. Don’t buy it (metaphorically or literally). There are many paths to the goal of losing fat, and there are variables, but the truth is your body carries more fat when it doesn’t burn the excess (yes, I’m going to use a bad word here) CALORIES you’re consuming.

So, do you want to get fit? Start with your diet. You need to establish a healthy diet. If you want less fat, then you need to eat fewer calories. You need to cut out the sugar and starch. You need to schedule your eating.

Next, you need to move more. Find a form of exercise you will do regularly: walk, swim, bike, lift weights, get into an aerobics class, learn and practice a sport like basketball or an art like karate’ or yoga. Aim for 30-40 minutes of vigorous activity five or six days per week.

Do you want help? Coaching? I’m considering doing that for people in the near future, so stay tuned…

From Fatness to Fitness, a Journey

It started on November 8th, and today is February 26th. I was sick and tired of my gut and my “snowman body,” which had accumulated over four years. In early November I weighed around 170 with 19% body fat (according to my smart scale, which may not measure body fat with great accuracy but was my gauge all along). My last weigh-in showed 147.4 pounds. I used calipers and found between 8.38% to 10.12% body fat, depending on the method of calculating. I dropped from a 33” to a 30” waist.

Previous to this I had worked hard and effectively to arrive at the same point. However, everything accumulates over time: fatness or fitness. It all depends on what you’re doing, or not doing in the case of decreasing levels of discipline and activity. I didn’t decide to start being unhealthy one day; in fact, I never stopped going to the gym. Everything happened gradually.

I think I did make a decision to gain some weight, but I wanted it to be muscle. However, I broke my clavicle and was unable to perform any bench presses. This is demoralizing for a guy. I continued to work out, but not very hard, and finally averaged only once or twice a week. I continued to eat a fairly healthy diet, and I didn’t overeat. In spite of this, I gained fat and lost muscle mass. Four years ago I weighed 149, so I gained 21 pounds, or five pounds per year. Had I continued on this gradual increase I would have eventually become obese, and likely struggled with type-two diabetes, which runs on my father’s side of the family.

My vanity kicked in when I stared at myself in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. Coinciding with this was my decision to return to teaching karate’. I have been an instructor for over 30 years, but had quit teaching or even practicing. I didn’t realize how out of condition I had become. We deceive ourselves when we get older, thinking that everything is pretty much the same this year as it was last, or five or ten years ago. Unlike young people, who naturally grow, when we hit about the mid-twenties we begin to decline, slowly at first, but everything accumulates over time. If you’ve not chosen a disciplined lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating you may be in your late twenties (even younger) and already show significant signs of decreasing fitness.

The last time I started, it was a more difficult journey out of the slough of fitness despondency in which I had found myself. I am happy I didn’t wait any longer to get back into shape. It could have been significantly more difficult to do at this point if I had not already built a fitness foundation. As we get older we have decreased physical capabilities and increased liabilities. In spite of this, we may not realize how far removed we are from the halcyon days of our youth. The result? I go to the gym and attempt to do what I used to 10 or 20 years ago, and discover I cannot. Disappointment may stop me there, or soreness and injury may slow me to a stop later. Then I quit, become depressed, eat more, care less, and put myself at risk for serious physical problems. I learned to meet myself where I am (as opposed to expecting I will be where I used to), and keep moving forward. This motivational strategy has worked to keep me going each time.

I really like being skinny! I have more energy. I look better in my clothes. Since I’ve been going to the gym regularly I’m stronger. Since I’ve been running my cardio-vascular system is healthier and I have more energy. I have more self-discipline in other areas of my life too. Temptation is tough. I was at a birthday celebration at an Asian buffet two days ago and our room was right next to the dessert section. All those beautiful little cakes, cookies and tiramisus were calling to me. I resisted! Why? I’d just purchased new jeans and pants a few hours earlier with waist sizes between 29 and 30. I’m not going to keep myself from fitting into those new clothes! I want to be lean, look good, feel good, have energy and have no self-consciousness about a pooching belly. Half of that is vain, but it’s honest.

In the end, I’m a Christian and a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus. I’m called to offer my body to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is my reasonable and spiritual offering in worship. God is worth more than a feeble sacrifice. I want to present a clean, healthy body for him to use. If I am going to serve the Lord by teaching karate’, then I need to be in top condition. If I’m going to keep away from sickness, and disease like Alzheimer’s, then I have to discipline myself to exercise, eat healthy, as well as reading and writing regularly. If I’m going to defend myself or my congregation against the attack of some violent individual, then I want to be as trained and fit as possible to do so. My body belongs to God; it is his temple. I want him to be pleased. That’s worship. That’s the best motive of all.

Don’t Give Up

When your expectations aren’t met it’s tempting to give up. When on a fitness program–or most any other plan you make in life–you need to see progress. Or what’s the point, right?

I’ve seen progress, but it hasn’t gone according to my original plan, which was to lose 2lbs per week until January 1, then lose 1lb per week until around Valentine’s Day when I reach my goal. I wrote my target weights on a calendar and met about half of them at the right time. I did the 10 day modified juice fast and hit my goal for January 1 on December 24. Then I proceeded to gain SIX POUNDS. The next week I dropped back down a couple of pounds then fasted for three days and got back to where I had been. That’s where I am currently, and it’s about three pounds off of my original goal.

Still I look at myself in the mirror and it has been a remarkable physical transformation in a two month period. My scale measures body fat, but I’ve determined that it is grossly inaccurate. At my current weight, based on the original body fat calculation, I should be at 10-12%. The scale says 15.6. I’ll need to get calipers and pinch the fat in various places and plug those numbers into a formula that calculates more accurately than my $100 scale from Amazon.

So, although I’ve not met my original numeric goal YET, I have made significant progress. I’m not giving up. In fact, I’m more determined than ever to make my body do what I believe it can and will do: reach 9% body fat with 40% muscle mass by my birthday, which is in 52 days. At middle age this is not as easy as it used to be, but I’m up for the challenge! And I’m looking and feeling great–except for the constant muscle soreness!

Body Fat comp

Addendum: I used calpers. The various formulas for determining body fat lead me to believe my scale is closer than I’d assumed. I’m probably between 14-15% now. So, I adjusted by goal to be at 9% by my birthday, which is 49 days from this addendum.

Push through the Disappointments

It’s been nearly a month since I determined to lose 16 lbs by the end of 2017. I’m happy to say that I am on track. There have been some disappointments along the way, however. On two occasions I was on target mid-week and magically picked up a pound the next day. My body doesn’t want to lose fat. It is not easy to make the transition from burning carbs to burning fat. I’ve cut both calories and carbs. I’ve increased my activity level. I’ve been working out more often. In spite of all that, there were those two disappointments.

If I see progress, it is much easier to stay motivated. When it appears that what I am doing is not helping, I am tempted to go to one of two extremes: quit or eat nothing. Either extreme is unhealthy. Fasting for a short period, even fasting a day or two per week may be healthy. However, fasting slows the metabolism and inhibits muscle growth. Yes, I did try it, and yes I will continue to include it in my regimen. There are spiritual reasons for this as well, which are contained in another article I posted here.

Whatever I do it must be sustainable. If I lose this fat, then go back to old habits, I’ll gain it right back. I know I can do this because I’ve done it before. In 2012 I got down to 7.5% body fat and stayed there for over a year. Even after that I stayed under 10% for two more years. What caused the weight gain? Disappointment. I inujured myself and couldn’t do the intense weight training I was accustomed to, so I gradually gave up. Not completely, but enough to gain 20lbs over 4 years.

I will face disappointments. I will miss a workout. I will have a day where I eat more than my allotted 1750 calories. My body will, inexplicably, gain a pound. I’ll injure myself, or be so sore that I cannot work out. What I have to do–what I have done, and will keep doing–is to persevere. Tenacity is important. I must keep moving forward, even if it appears (or feels) as though I’m not going as fast or as far as I expected or planned.

So, I pressed on toward my goal, and I’m over halfway there. My determination remains strong. I don’t want the things I did before because I have a higher prize in front of me. Saturday was a big temptation. The micro-brewery down the street from me had its anniversary with special beers. I considered taking a cheat day and going in there. However, I was 1.4 lbs away from my weekly goal as of Thursday, so I couldn’t afford to cheat. I resisted temptation. I met my goal this morning.

This all has spiritual application as well. There are many things I’m tempted to do that I resist, not because I’m afraid, but because I am pressing on toward a higher prize: becoming like Jesus in his resurrection. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Keeping my eyes on the ultimate prize keeps me from doing many foolish, worthless and destructive things. It keeps me from believing lies like, “Oh, that’s not so bad.” Or, “Everybody does it.” And the most damaging, “This isn’t really wrong.” Christ’s character and commandments determine what is right and wrong. If I am going to be like him in my character, and follow him in his resurrection, I must have faith first. Then I have to follow that faith with obedience. That will make me different than many people in my culture. That’s ok. A 55 year old man with less than 10% body fat is rare too. I don’t want to be obese, and I don’t want to be un-Christlike or immoral either.

So, I press on…

ZMA and Balance

I took a supplement last night that’s supposed to help people who lift weights to gain more muscle. It’s called ZMA. Nothing exotic; just zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. Within an hour I wasn’t feeling great; in two I was miserable. It’s hard to pinpoint how I felt, except to say that my head hurt and I was jittery in a strange way. I looked at the label and the B6 dose is really high, like over 500% of the daily recommended dose. I looked up side effects of excess B6 and it can cause nerve damage. Good grief! Why in the world are companies permitted to market and sell a product purportedly to help someone get healthier, which can actually cause physical harm? Unbelievable.

The lesson I learned from this is one I should have already learned. Do the research before you start taking the supplement, or medication, or anything else you put into your body. Get the majority of your nutrition from natural food, not pills and powders. Believe it or not, I did look at the ingredients in ZMA, as I do the other supplements I take, and thought it’d be good because what it contains are natural substances that the body requires. Problem is, you can take toxic amounts of some vitamins and minerals. I think that was the case with this product.

While I was experiencing the reaction to ZMA I was praying that God would heal me. I ate a little, vomited a little, took an over the counter pain reliever, drank water, and waited. I believe God answered my prayer fairly quickly. Within an hour I felt well enough to lay down, and I eventually fell asleep. I feel great today! Thank God.

I wrote an essay about balance last week, and this is another example of the need for that practice in life. Too little vitamin B6, zinc or magnesium will cause a variety of physical problems. Too much of these essential nutrients is toxic and causes different problems. What we need it proper balance. I am in balance today and I feel healthy.

Today is leg day in my weight workout schedule. Legs are difficult because it’s such a large muscle group. I’m in the middle of a protocol known as German Volume Training or the 10 Sets Method. The idea is to do ten sets of ten repetitions of two different exercises in a superset. On leg day. I do squats, which require a lot of effort normally, but they are paired with leg curls. You do ten repetitions of squats, wait 90 seconds, then do ten reps of leg curls, wait 90 seconds and go back to squats. Back and forth I go until ten sets of both exercises are completed. It takes a lot out of you. 

I didn’t want to do that leg workout today. I started to make excuses: I don’t feel well because of last night, my legs feel tired, I feel tired. However, I went to the gym and did the workout. Actually, I did eight sets because it felt like there might actually be something amiss. Now I feel great. Balance. The body needs to be active in order to remain healthy. If I would have sat around it wouldn’t have been healthy. If I would have pushed it, it may have been too much (today). 

The Bible has something to say about discipline, which I believe applies here. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but in the end it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). That verse is speaking about receiving discipline from God, but it applies to self-discipline as well. In fact, if you discipline yourself by being obedient to God and doing what He says, He won’t have any reason to correct you with outside discipline.

So, eat healthy, stay active listen to God and do what he says. He speaks through Jesus Christ, the Son, and in the Bible, his written message. In this way you’ll stay in balance and be happy.