Monday, November 29, 2010

Week 2...and Post-Thanksgiving Fallout?

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday and enjoyed time with your families. I certainly did, even though it was in about a foot of snow across the state at my dad and step-mom's house. The kids had a (snow)ball, though!

As I suspected, the food situation would be challenging. With absolutely NO disrespect toward my my wife and my mom, my step-mom is a GOOOOOD cook. And her pies (made from scratch) should be illegal. Her pecan pie can make captured spies give up sworn secrets.

So how did I do? First of all, I didn't deny myself of the goodies. I partook in Thanksgiving as usual, with one slight adjustment. This year, I didn't stuff myself to the point of being sick, like I have the last who knows how many years. Yes, I filled my plate, but I didn't go back for seconds. I basically just controlled my portions (meals and desserts). Here at home, I have more control over my dietary choices, so an occasional indulgence while visiting the family during the holidays isn't akin to a fitness train wreck. If you deny yourself ALL the time, you're setting yourself up to binge. Trust me, I've been there.

As for workouts, I managed to utilize my dad's exercise room once, but threw in push-ups, sit-ups and hanging dips once a day (I do at least one set of each every day, along with pull-ups when I'm at home). Today, I hit the weights pretty hard, too, starting to increase my poundages.

Even though I've backed myself into a corner by choosing the end of February as my target date for the shining 6-pack, I'm going to periodize my training (much like I do as a runner). This next month will be dedicated to lifting heavier weights and increasing muscle mass. I'll loosen my diet just a bit (i.e. I'll increase calories), but it won't be a free-for-all with the goodies. It's much easier to build muscle mass while taking in slightly more (healthy) calories than maintenance level. Consequently, my abs, as they are now, may lose some definition. I'll do my best to keep them visible, but my focus will be on gaining a little weight which, hopefully, will be mostly muscle.

Beginning in January, I'll switch gears once again, then again in February, in order to burn off the remaining fat while hopefully preserving most of the muscle. I'll detail those approaches later.

And with all that said, here are this week's comparison photos:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The "Before" Pics

As I haven't made this blog known until now, feel free to read the first entry, below, to find out what it's all about.

I wish I had taken my "before" photos sooner, since I've been doing strength training the last couple of months (when I was running very little or not at all). But, since my "before" condition isn't too terrible (if I can say that myself), it should provide an even greater challenge to tighten the abs even more, while hopefully adding a bit more muscle and strengthening my core.

Just "getting sharper abs" is a bit of an amorphous goal. After all, how do you define success? It's a matter of degrees, I suppose. I know in my mind what I'm looking for. I suppose I could throw a bodyweight and waist measurement goal out. How about 160 lbs. with a waist under 31", by my 44th birthday (Feb. 28, 2011). That would mean a net gain of 8 lbs. of muscle with less bodyfat. That's a pretty lofty goal in that time frame, I know. I do have the benefit of "muscle memory", meaning I used to lift weights fairly seriously until I started running again in January of 2009. I could also throw in a bodyfat measurement, since I have a Tanita scale that gives that reading, but I don't know how accurate it is...and I tend to look more at waist measurement (and appearance) anyway as a gauge.

I guess I should briefly outline my plan of attack. Weights 2-3 days per week and slightly smaller food portions than I've been eating. Vague? I know. I'm going heavy on the fruits and veggies and light on the red meat. Supplements consist of a multi vitamin, vitamin C, Glucosamine, fish oil, and flaxseed oil. Breakfast tends to be a bowl of Cheerios with raisins (or half a banana) on top...or oatmeal with raisins, walnuts & honey, and an english muffin with Adams all-natural peanut butter. I usually eat a lunch consisting of a hard-boiled egg, an orange, half of a large apple, carrot sticks, maybe a slice of wheat toast with Adams all-natural peanut butter, and water. I'm trying to get back into the habit of eating healthy mid-morning and afternoon snacks in order to keep the nutrition flowing all day. As for dinner, I don't want to rock the boat too much...and my wife usually makes nutritious meals, so I'll just eat appropriate portions of our usual dinner. As the final date looms nearer, I'll probably tighten up the dinner, maybe making my own most nights. When I say "final date", I don't mean my quest for lean muscularity and good eating will end there. That's just when I'll post my "after" photo. The journey will go on after that.

Where's the cardio in this approach? I wish it was alive and well, but as I'm in a walking boot for a heel injury, I'm unable to do any at this time (nor can I effectively work my leg muscles). That will make both muscle building and fat loss more will the holidays, with all their goodies. Why exactly am I doing this now? Seriously, though, when I'm cleared to start cardio again, it'll likely be in the form of stationary bike, swimming, and possibly walking on a treadmill. Hopefully running won't be far behind.

As for my total approach (weights, diet, cardio), I'm basing it on a gentleman I've followed for years, Clarence Bass. He's an accomplished Olympic lifter, bodybuilder and fitness guru, now in his 70's. His philosophy has always made the most sense to me, regarding a balanced approach to getting and staying fit and healthy. I've gotten to know him via email over the years, and he's a great guy. While he's not a runner, I'll still be applying many of his ideas to my training. And talk about abs...holy cow, he's got 'em!

Anyway, without further adieu, here are my "before" photos. I'll always take the same poses for the weekly photos and include my weight and waist measurement, along with any other pertinent info I think of.

Care to join me in this challenge?
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Let The Quest Begin

My friend and fellow runner/blogger, Chris K, recently challenged me to work on "getting my abs". Why this particular challenge? Briefly, I'm an injured long-distance runner (see my running blog), as well as a VERY goal-oriented person; especially when it comes to fitness and exercise. To stay focused while I'm not running, I need a concrete goal to shoot for. My primary objectives, while I'm rehabbing my injury, will be to:
  1. Stay in cardiovascular shape
  2. Increase my upper body strength and, to some degree, muscle mass
  3. Eat as clean and healthy as possibly, thereby allowing me to...
  4. Get an etched six-pack!
What kind of fool decides to take on this challenge during the holiday season (in the U.S.)? Me...I guess. I honestly had second, third and fourth thoughts about creating this blog, because I love me some holiday baked goods! Pecan pie, fudge, gingerbread cookies...

Okay, never mind the challenge. I'm going for "flabs" instead., I need to do this.

Getting abs to show THE CORRECT WAY (i.e. not just starving myself) will be tough. I want to maintain and/or increase my overall muscle mass while doing so. I've been close before, but never really got rid of the last little bit of fat obscuring the bottom two abs.

I plan on posting progress photos once per week. I'll determine which day of the week once I take and post a photo of my current state. I'm already relatively lean (due to my running, up until recently), so I don't have a ton of fat to lose. Just need to tighten things up a bit. I'll also post stats (weight, waist measurements) and the challenges I've faced and either failed at or overcome. Like many personal fitness-oriented blogs, I'm making this public for accountability purposes. I'll probably document other strength-related goals, too (I'm trying to achieve a set of 20 pullups for the first time in several years).

The wild card in this quest will be the walking boot I'll soon be wearing, which will undoubtedly affect my exercise selection. I'll make do, though.

(Maybe I should put a walking boot on my pie hole...)

So...this blog will chronicle the ups and downs of trying to become lean enough for "Ab Out Time." (a little play on words there, you get it? About Time...Ab Out Time...ahem)

"Before" photo coming soon...