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I know what it’s like to be on the physical fitness path…
To be an athlete competing at the highest level of your ‘profession,’ against other fine-tuned-machines of men. Some of whom would go on to play in the NFL and earn Super Bowl rings.
My collegiate football career saw me gaining muscle, burning fat, and improving every day as I competed with my teammates on Division I (MAC Conference) Kent State Golden Flashes Football Team.
At 255 pounds, I was a Tight End / Fullback hybrid that was used primarily in the passing game. I ran a respectable 4.68 40-yard dash, and although my numbers were decent, I still had quite a ways to go. But I was on the path…
I was in the prime of my athletic career up to that point… Until one day – I wasn’t
During the course of my Sophomore season, I had begun to develop a chronic back condition that stumped our team doctors. Because this pain didn’t quite sideline my practice time and it didn’t have an obvious diagnosis, I chose to press on.
It didn’t take long to determine that doing nothing was not the best course of action. As the season went on and it became more difficult to complete drills, run sprints, or even bend down to sit in my car, I knew that more analysis was needed to find out exactly what the problem was.
After the final game of our season, I made an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon unassociated with our team. As the doctor was reading my scans and explaining the then present state of my back, one phrase stuck out and was burned into my mind:
“The short of it is that you’re one wrong hit away from paralysis…”
Paralysis and the rest of my life weren’t worth the risk for me – so I hung up the cleats…
That news rocked me hard. It ended my football career in an instant, and that was bittersweet. Bitter because I felt good about my chances of contributing to the team in the coming years, but sweet because I was finally able to move on to the next phase in my life. The only problem was – I didn’t know what that next phase should be…
Without strength coaches and football Admin folks running my life – the wheels fell off
After I was forced to quit playing football… This happened:
I hate and love pictures like this one. Hate because I can’t believe I let myself go that far. Love because I know that there is no way I’ll ever go back. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves…
How I gained all that weight (Top end – 265lbs)
The cause for my weight gain was a lack of imposed external discipline (strength coaches/football team) and a series of terrible nutrition/health choices. Without the watchful eye of big brother, the required workouts, and the now incredibly painful back condition, I was full speed ahead toward holistically terrible health decisions. Alcohol, pizza, burgers, … – And a lot of each.
The one thing I wasn’t doing was working out. I told myself that, “You need to rest this back. That’s what the doc said, so let me just chill out on the couch and let this thing heal up.”
That was a lie…
The doc did say to stop playing football, but he didn’t say to quit all movement and start eating garbage all day every day. I was lying to myself and the worst part was – I didn’t realize that fact until it got out of hand.
I kept gaining weight
I had to get new clothes, easily lost my breath walking up steps, and was always tired and lazy. My energy level was close to zero and the path of my newfound “freedom” wasn’t looking good at all. On top of that, the rest wasn’t helping my back. The pain remained.
After about 6 months of this nonsense, In I had my rock bottom moment.
I was shaving one morning and just stopped mid-chin. I saw something I had never seen on my body before. Rolls over my pants and very high quantities of fat over my once muscular, fit body. I asked myself, “What in the hell are you doing?” Then I followed with a statement. “This is not how you’re going to live your life. Get off your ass and do something. Anything!”
At that moment, my life changed course forever
I chose health. I chose improvement. The rolls and fat were going to go. Only hurdle now – how to make that happen…?
I had to start from scratch and teach myself what proper nutrition and fitness is. It was a long slow road but I was moving forward. In the beginning, the one activity I found that didn’t cause excruciating pain during or after was swimming. So that’s where I started. Low impact and high difficulty led to a great calorie burn and solid muscle/cardio builder.
Slowly, the pounds started reentering normalcy. I got back to 255 and hovered there for the first few months. Eventually, my swims increased in length as I improved in proficiency. With that came higher muscle content and lesser fat. But because muscle weighs more than fat – I didn’t see a ton of difference on the scale.
Before too long, I realized the whole “muscle weighs more than fat” line was another lie I continued to feed myself
The fact that my diet didn’t change had nothing to do with my inability to fall below 255, right? (that’s sarcasm). Wrong. But the 2 benefits from swimming 3-4 times/week were that I was getting stronger and the pain in my back became less frequent.
After 3-6 months of chlorine stained hair and dry skin, I was finally able to make it through an hour of pickup basketball games again. Never mind the fact that I wouldn’t be able to walk for 3 days after said games. But at the moment, I started to feel alive again. Like my old athletic self.
From there, I was able to workout using the weight machines
I wanted nothing to do with the barbells and dumbbells that had run my life for the past 7 years, so I stuck to the machines, intramural games, and fell back into the pool when the back tightened up. Throughout the process, I regained my strength… But I couldn’t fall below the 245-250 mark that I hovered at for about 3 years.
I met Monica (my beautiful and amazing wife) at my 245 pound, fat-athlete stage
That tells you I must have either a decent personality or sense of humor… Or I’m an excellent con-man because I definitely married up.
Monica and I fell in love the moment we started dating, and about a year after that we were engaged. One constant – 245 pounds. During this time I went through rounds of P90X, LL Cool J’s Platinum Workouts, and other self-directed programs. My overall fitness would increase but my weight remained.
I was resigned to the fact that my build was “husky” and there was nothing I could do to change that
Although this was another lie I fed myself – I didn’t know that was the case at the moment. I just didn’t know any better. Looking back on those years now it seems ridiculously simple. I changed workout programs and busted my butt in the gym for years… But not once did I address my diet…
I found truth in Tim Ferriss’ quote, “You can’t out train a bad diet.”
After Monica and I were engaged in 2009, I decided that she deserved better. I deserved better. I went back to the drawing board and did my research. Not once had I considered that my calories needed monitoring, but this was the moment that all changed.
I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app to my phone and for the next 18 months, every calorie that entered my mouth was tracked. After three months something amazing happened! For the first time since my sophomore year of high school, my weight fell below 240 pounds.
Tracking my calories was proving to be successful
One thing I will caution you, though: If you are not going to track every single calorie, don’t waste your time. You’re only lying to yourself. I try to explain it like this:
If you spend a little extra on entertainment during a month, you don’t just ignore the extra expense and will it to happen. The money has to come from somewhere. And if you don’t account for it by subtracting that same value from another category in your budget, you’re going to end up spending more over the course of the month. Ultimately, you’ll be further away from your goals.
The same is true with calories. Just because you don’t track it in your app doesn’t mean you didn’t consume the calories. Ultimately, you won’t have optimal results at the end of the month. And it may bore out that you’ll be left wondering, “Why didn’t I lose X pounds this month!?!? I was under on my calories every day…”
Don’t lie to your app. Don’t lie to yourself.
If you eat more than the prescribed number of calories for a meal or a day – it’s all good. We all slip up. Do better tomorrow.
After I got the weight-loss ball rolling, losing the excess kept getting easier and easier
I was able to burn fat because I wasn’t overfeeding my body. Sure – I was hungry at first, but after a couple weeks, my stomach got used to the new standard. What’s more, if I did fall off the wagon for a day and binge, I felt terrible… Not mentally. Physically. My body neither needed nor wanted all those fatty excess calories.
“Get that weak stuff out of here!!” Is what I felt like my body told me on those few bad days (Motumbo style – finger wag and all).
235lbs became 225lbs. Then 220lbs. And before you know it I was feeling more confident, full of energy, and like I could take on the world again.
My weight-loss transformation took over a year to complete but it was worth a lifetime of fitness
In the last 6-months, I fell in love with running and ended up completing 4 half-marathons. I just didn’t know what to do with all of the energy I used to have finally coming back to me. So, like Forest, I kept runnin’.
All told, I dropped to 202 pounds at my lowest (for a total of 63lbs lost)!!!
It was the best I had ever felt physically and at the end of my weight-loss road I looked back at some of the before pictures and made a vow to myself. Never again would I let myself go. I owed it to myself and I owed it to my family to be present, healthy, and as active as I could be.
For the last 5 years, I’ve kept my weight between 205-210 pounds which is what I’ve found to be my ideal weight. I’ll go higher when I’m focusing on building more muscle (barbell workouts) and lower when cardio is the main driver (running). But through it all, my fittest self is and will be right in this range.
Where does the benefit for YOU come in?
Well, as I was saying above – I know what it’s like to be on the path toward phenomenal physical fitness… Then I also know what it’s like to slip, fall off that path, and tumble so far down the mountain that the path once traveled isn’t even in the same time zone as your present self.
From there, I know what it’s like to pick yourself up, one calorie and one push-up at a time. I know what it takes to transition a mindset from failure back to success. To employ techniques, both kitchen and gym-based, that actually benefit YOU!
During my climb up the mountain, I’ve tried all the workout types I’ve come across.
Add those above to group workouts, machines, barbells, dumbbells, cardio only, HIIT, …
Do you know what all of these fitness experiences have taught me?
None of them matter. Like really matter… You can workout till you fall out but if you’re not complimenting the three main factors in fitness with each other at the same time – you won’t be successful.
What are those 3 factors (in order)?
Mindset – Diet – Exercise
So come on this journey to improved physical fitness with me
Reach out in an email, subscribe to the blog, or drop me a line on Twitter. I’ll continue to learn and share and I hope that you’ll do the same. Let me use my past failures and successes to help save a ton of your time.
Let’s improve together!
Just to give you some perspective. Here’s what I’m currently doing in the 3-main categories
Mindset / Wellness
With everything that is currently going on in my professional life, I’ve done much discovery in this realm lately. I have most everything chronicled in this post, but suffice it to say that – Mental health / Mindset is no joke and I’ve learned recently that this part of my body needs to be trained too…
I could do better here.
We cook our own meals 90% of the time and I eat lean meats, fruits, and veggies, but damn I do love Doritos… And cookies. And cake.
I try to limit the bad stuff to moderate occasional intake and if I notice myself getting out of hand, it’s push-ups on the spot and a crawl-out-of-the-gym-workout the next day (because I’m too tired to walk).
I exercise (formally) 4 days a week minimum with the occasional jog/push-ups/kettlebell swings/abs thrown in on days 5-7. Right now I’m getting back to my barbell roots with squats, cleans, presses, deadlifts, and good ‘ole push-ups and pull-ups.
I fit some cardio and ab work into every workout, and I superset everything. This is when you do multiple exercises back-to-back without rest (similar to a circuit). I’ve found that the limited rest helps boost aerobic response in my routines.
If I wasn’t working both jobs and blogging, I’d work out every day. I love it, it makes me healthy, I’m less stressed afterward, and I’m more calm/peaceful throughout the day.
People say they don’t have time to workout. I ask myself how could I afford to not make time? I want to be there and able-bodied for my family for quite a long time.
Finally. If you’re out there looking for a place to begin. Here’s YOUR first step
This was one of the first articles I wrote for the blog and the message holds true up to now. My advice is to:
Plan less – do more
Or whatever other motivation you need to here to get out there and take a walk, ride a bike, or just stop right now and do 10 push-ups…
… Go ahead, we’ll wait…
Congratulations, you just took step 1. Now that your active, you need to define your goals (i.e. weight loss, muscle tone, cardiovascular fitness, etc.). Once you know what your target is, now it’s time to put the Google machine to work and find yourself a plan. Or feel free to email me (mikedupblog ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com) and I’d love to help get you started.
Then, once you have a goal and a defined plan on how to get there – write it down and post it on your social media, tell your friends and worst enemies, and make a bet with your closest friend/family member. Now all that’s left is to get back to work… 10 more push-ups. GO!
Also – this post is 1 of 4 that I’ve designated to describe my “Why MikedUp Blog is here”. I’d love it if you’d check out the other 3 and my “Start Here” page – which is a quick summary of the blog and what you can expect to find. Thank you in advance!