Man vs. Himself; A trainer training himself, part 2

So, we’re just over three months since part 1 of this series and I find myself in a position in which I have seen many a client and acquaintance.  I stated my intention, grandly, set a plan, got to work… and I “failed.” I find myself at roughly the same bodyweight, the same level of motivation, doing the same things “right,” doing the same things “wrong,” and carrying with me a sense of spinning my wheels.

There are many reasons for this, and I do mean REASONS, not necessarily excuses.  And there are, indeed, many excuses that I’ve made.  I find it extremely important to delineate between those two and to very clearly acknowledge when something is a legitimate reason, rather than simply an excuse.  I’ve had many clients over the years mention that, for example,  they failed to meet the week’s objectives because they were watching their grandkids or lay offs were announced at work or an old friend made a surprise visit from out of town and they finish the story with, “but I’m just making excuses.”

That is where I raise my hand and halt the conversation.

Part of the problem here is the fitness industries lingering ties to a machismo culture that has used shame and guilt for motivation and attached character value to one’s abilities and adherence to norms.  This is bullshit, but it seems too heavily engrained to have been yet discarded.  For most, the idea that one’s efforts to show up to the gym for bench presses or to “hit their macros” might be of superior priority than meaningful family connections is ludacris.  Even more simply, the idea that a new thought or choice might not be cast asunder by old habits and distractions, good or bad, is, again, ludacris.

If you were to try fly fishing for the first time, what would be your expectation?  I think we can all agree that you’re probably expecting to not be very good at it. It’s a new skill that will take practice and you’ll learn much from both your failures and successes.

So, why would deciding to begin tracking your food, going to gym, pre-prepping meals, or otherwise thinking and acting different regarding your lifestyle choices be any different?  You’re trying a new skill, at which you are likely to fail at first, but you will learn much from both your failures and successes.

100% success on the first try (or first few tries) should not be your expectation of your development as a human being.  Just as it wouldn’t be for fishing.

And this is where I stand.  I stand, much like you likely have in your health and fitness journey, facing my failure but willing to learn from it rather than internalize it.

Practically speaking, what do I do?  The plan I laid out failed, so it must be time for something new, right?  This is where I’ve missed the mark many years ago and I suspect a lot of people do.  My goals are the same, as they are reasonable and important to me.  They haven’t caused my failure.  The fundamentals of my approach will be the same, as they are the basic building blocks (tracking food, meal prepping, etc.).  My application of metrics of success will adjust slightly.  Being more diligent with weekly bodyweight averages and more frequently posting about this process (and regularly entering my weight in MyFitnessPal, for example) for accountability, perceived or otherwise, will be huge.

I’m applying a process and adjusting it as needed to suit me.  But, having said all that, there needs to be an element of pressure.  Of just getting after it.  I know this to be true for me, personally, and I’ve found it to be true of many others.  Pressure, with reasonable expectations and intelligently used metrics can be very meaningful.   This is where I find the prying public eye sharpens my focus.  Hence, the public posting of bodyweight.

So, three months later and technically no closer to my goals, but I’m able to understand why and appreciate what I need to make happen and do differently, going forward. I hope these posts, and those to come, resonate in some way.  We’re all largely the same brand of human, experiencing the same things.


Man vs. Himself; A trainer training himself, Part 1

I’m a personal trainer.  And I’m good at it.  I’m good at it, frankly, because I’m a mother blessing mess.  I sit down daily with clients, new and old, perspective and returning, and nod my head with real personal appreciation as they list their perceived and real shortcomings, failures, and reservations about the whole “health and fitness” bit.

I don’t just nod so that they’ll feel like I’m being empathetic or simply because I’m understanding what they’re saying. I also nod because I’m thinking something along the lines of “yep… yep… that sounds familiar.  Doesn’t everybody do that?” And sometimes it’s something more specific like, “you call that self-sabotage?!  I’ll show you self-sabotage!”

I won’t make any unnecessary and very likely inaccurate generalizations, but I feel like coming from a place of conflict, failure and personal history that matches that of those I’m trying to help, is a significant player in the personal trainer I am.  Again, I’d never suggest that having never been overweight or struggled to maintain a healthy relationship with food or activity disqualifies a trainer from helping those with those concerns, but that history (and let’s be real, current state of affairs) most definitely helps me.

Having said that, the realities of having a historically dysfunctional relationship with food and a propensity toward habits that are, to put it mildly, not the most healthful is still a pertinent concern for me.

And so, we find ourselves here.  This will likely the be the first installment of many “journals” where I will discuss, probably in frank detail, what I am doing and pursuing from both the perspective of a client (myself) and their personal trainer (also me).

I’ll give an in-depth account of my history at a later date but to set the stage; I was a fat kid, then I dropped weight, got really fit, then I got strong… and I’ve teetered back and forth between being a strong/competitive (but fat) guy and a poorly conditioned/weaker (but not so fat) guy ever since. And in that span of about 17 years the same root food and behavioral issues of my initial obesity have festered beneath the surface, undoubtedly having an impact.

The current tale goes like this; sort of un-retired from strength sports and interested in competing in powerlifting, once again fatter than I’d like to be (or SHOULD be) and, as of this very moment in time, intending to shelf competitive desires and willing to waylay my focus on building strength to better address what is or should be goal numero uno.

Getting lean(er). Staying lean(ish).

There probably is a part of me that is attracted to the idea of being lean.  You know, visible abs and the vein over the bicep, lean.  But, as I sit here, I couldn’t possibly care less. So, my goal is to get a little leaner and sustain it.  To carry less fat around for the purpose of health, of better pursuing many of the activities I enjoy outside of slinging iron (hiking, kayaking, etc.) and to simply look a little better.  As referenced above, I’ve done it a few times before but the element of permanence as eluded me for one reason or another (most of these options probably being me and my head).

Now, I’ve never been a huge proponent of attaching body weight goals to a timeline, so my metrics of success here likely won’t have a due date, but they will be used to assess change, good or bad.  They are as follows:

Body weight (goal is 264lbs. for powerlifting, but we’ll see)

Body fat %age (I’ll be getting a DEXA scan at some point, here…)

Body circumference measurements (neck, shoulder, chest, upper arm, waist, hip, thigh, calf)

These are all very typical to my personal training process but I have seldom used them to assess and center my own efforts.

Two days ago, on my 32nd birthday, I weighed 295 pounds.  I’ve been circa 300 pounds at three different periods in my life.  As you might be expecting me to say, my intention is for this to be the last. And so begins a comprehensive and, as you’ll see, probably complicated and very human process of making that happen. I hope that as I muse each week about my checkered perspective – knowing what needs to happen and how to get there mixed with being flawed and, well, human – that you can take something from it.


Down 2.8 pounds of bloat from my birthday weekend.