Thursday Jul 17, 2008

Fitness: One Year Later

Yesterday was my one year "anniversary" of my renewed commitment to fitness.  Here's the tweet right before hitting the gym a year ago.

Let's recap, shall we? 

Last Year


I've still got a ways to go, but I look at it this way:  I hate pictures of myself, and I can actually handle looking at these so I must be on the right path.

Friday Apr 18, 2008

Unintentional Sabotage?

Just an observation if you are always hungry.  I see candles that smell like sugar cookies, shaving cream that smells like tropical fruits, and lotions that smell of chocolate.  Something to think about if you are having trouble sticking to your nutritional goals.

Tuesday Mar 04, 2008

Fitness for Geeks

Here's my attempt at explaining fitness to smart people.


Saturday Feb 23, 2008

Killer Cardio

For those of you who strength train (and you all really should) do you do cardio before or after you lift?  I'm a post weight lifting cardio kind of guy, for a number of reasons, mainly though because I don't want to leave puddles of sweat on the equipment.  This is one workout that will make you sweat, so watch your puddles.  This is also great glute workout due to the double stair stepping.

Required Equipment:  StairMaster Step Mill

This can be done using either HITT (High Intensity Interval Training) or LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) techniques. 

For high intensity, go for 20 minutes using the "Fat Burner" mode and a setting of at least 10.  I usually do 12 but sometimes I bump it up to 13.  At level 14, you almost have to run up the stairs during the peaks.

For the lower intensity, go for 40 minutes with a setting around 8.  Experiment and find the right setting for you.

Click the below graphic to view the full size. 

Each column in the grid represents 20 seconds for HIIT and would be 40 seconds for LISS.  The StairMaster keeps track of all the time and adjusts the levels for you.  All you have to do is watch the grid so you make sure you doing the correct steps at the right time.

If you try it out, my only tip is to be careful on the backwards walking part.  It takes a bit of practice, but it's an awesome burn due to using muscles in ways they are not used to working.

Monday Feb 11, 2008

Two-a-day update

My two-a-day routine has been going really well.  Was a bit tired during the first week, but am now quite accustomed to it.

I've averaged about 5 to 6 two-a-days a week, looking to finish strong and not miss anymore if possible.  Slight tweak to the previously published grid is that I've basically slashed the 6th day of the routine so it's now a five day cycle.  This requires keeping track of which core exercises to do but that's not hard and keeps it from getting too routine. 

I found it interesting to see about 8 people are doing basically the same thing I'm doing.  Perhaps it's a pre-vacation ritual for some, maybe others are training for a competition.  One thing about the little group, we all seem to be no nonsense.  No sitting around socializing or chatting.  Get in, do your work, go home.  They all look great too.

I haven't had the mix of cardio equipment/outdoor activity that I planned for, mainly because I'm just enjoying the relative safety of the treadmill, not having to worry about getting hit by a car as I tend to let my mind wander a bit while doing cardio.

The only real downside is that I'm typically wide awake when I typically should be getting ready to fall asleep at night.  I'm adjusting to that too, trying get the second workout closer to 7 PM.

Diet has been good, trying to add more and more fish in. 

More updates soon.


Sunday Feb 10, 2008

The man in the mirror

I catch a glimpse of this guy each morning as I fill my water bottle and head out to the gym.  I try to not stare because I'm not ready to see him.  Or rather maybe I'm not ready to accept him.  My minds eye holds two pictures, what I was and what I want to be.  Somewhere in between is the blurry reflection nudging me towards my goals.  (and he also is reminding me to leave a note for the cleaning ladies to do the windows)


Update:  Since there has been some confusion regarding the pics, those are indeed of me.  The reflection coming from our kitchen windows, taken Feb 10, 2008.

Tuesday Jan 29, 2008

Greek Or Geek

My friend Dave sent this link via Twitter.  Your ideal measurements, based on your wrist size, to have the "Grecian Ideal Body".  Though based on statues I've seen, I'd rather have the Roman interpretation of the ideal body.



Tuesday Jan 22, 2008

Two-A-Day Challenge

It's a new year and I'm a little bored fitness wise.  While I won't say that I've just been going through the motions the past couple of weeks, I'm definitely not pushing myself as hard as I could either.

On the diet front I've mostly been keeping on track.  Although after the 12 Days of Tuna, keeping on track seems rather indulgent.  From July to December, I could probably count my cheat meals on one hand.  I'd need two or more hands to keep track since Christmas, not excessive but again, not as good as I should have been.  The real problem I've had lately is getting my 6 meals in and have had plenty of days where I'd eat just two meals a day.  Not good, not good at all.

Spring Break is looming and whether or not we go anywhere really depends on how Bellamy is doing, I want to look good regardless.  I mean really good.  "Damn, that guy is 38?" good.  We won't venture into DILF territory, but you get the picture.  How about GILLL?  Geek I'd Like to Look Like.  Think that will catch on?  "Yeah Melvin, that Thin Guy is a total GILLL!"

For the next 30 days I'm going to do two-a-day workouts.  The real difference is going to be extra cardio at night.  Right before we found out she was pregnant with Bellamy, my wife's trainer had her on something very similar.  She was ripped.

Since I'm a firm believer that Diet is King and Exercise is Queen I will ensure that I get my six meals a day.  I will put the following twists on my diet:  Limit my starchy carbs to the first 3 meals of the day.  Green fibrous carbs for the last three.  I also want to ensure that I eat fish at least 7 times per week, that's at least one meal a day.  Finally follow the principle of eating like a king in the morning and a pauper at night, or caloric tapering.  Oh yeah, since I'll be doing PM cardio, that means no wine.

My workouts will be as follows with added emphasis on turning the intensity level of my weight lifting up a notch or two.

 DayAM Weights
 AM Cardio 40 min
PM Cardio 40 min
PM Core
Step Mill
2Back/BicepsStep Mill
Outdoor (i.e. jog)
3ShouldersStep Mill
Incline Tread
Lower back 
Quads/Calves Glutes
Step Mill
Hamstrings/Glutes Calves
Step Mill
Step Mill
Step Mill (60 min)
Outdoor (60 min)
Lower back

Lather, Rinse, repeat.  I should get five of these cycles in in the next 30 days.

I will be taking my body fat and weight and will post the before and after numbers.



Friday Jan 04, 2008

Gym Etiquette

This one goes out to all the gym newbies that made a new years resolution to get healthy.  First off, congratulations!  You've made an incredibly wise choice.  However, like anything else, there are both written and unwritten rules.  Golds Gym does a good job with signage telling folks to put away their weights, wipe down machines, etc.  There are a lot of rules that have no signs, but if you learn them it will make for a much nicer experience for both you and your fellow gym rats.

The best list of these rules I've found is here.  Study them.  Take them to heart.

To this list I'd like to add a few of my own. 

  1. Closely related to the lists #'s 5 and 6.  If you are a smoker (and I hope you are also trying to quit), puh-lease use Febreze or something on your workout clothes.  The only thing worse than someone that smells like an ashtray getting on cardio equipment next to you are those who..(See #2)
  2. Blow heat.  No, it's not OK to just let one slide out.  Unless you just can't control it and one sneaks out on your last leg press, it's unacceptable, especially in the cardio area.  I don't care if the new whey protein shakes you are eating are making your stomach go nuts.  Go use the restroom or better yet go outside for a minute.  Thanks.  And really, what the hell did you eat.  That was nasty!
  3. Have a workout plan.  For beginners, do something like push/pull, i.e. Chest and triceps one day, back/biceps the next.   Take a tour of the gym to familiarize yourself with the equipment and  location.   Too many people waste time and wander around aimlessly with that n00b look in their eye.  They have no rhythm or rhyme to their workout, just plop down on any open machine.  That's not going accomplish much.  Plan it out, even carry a small notebook around with you for the first couple of months.  If you are unsure about the proper form, jot down some notes after you've researched the lift. (See, I can give serious tips too)
  4. When taking the above mentioned tour, pay close attention to what is in fashion.  Sure, it may seem shallow and it actually provides me with quite a few chuckles but those stupid "weightlifter pants" were never cool.  Same goes for those cut off the shoulder flash dance sweatshirts.  Sorry. 
  5. Don't even get me started on do-rags, skull caps and worst of all bluetooth headsets while working out.  Chances are you are not a pirate or an on-call neurologist, so let's just leave those at home.  No need to complete the Rex Kwon Do look.  Arrrr Matey?
  6. Closely related to my number 4 is for the fellas.  Dudes, if you're not rocking sub 10% body fat, then please please please stay away from the Body Armor.  Sure it looks great on the mannequin, but I've seen you and let's not kid ourselves.
  7. No lip syncing and by all means no air drumming.  On second thought, it's pretty funny to watch.  Keep it up.
  8. Guys, if you choose to shower at the gym, please wrap a towel around you for the journey \*to\* and \*from\* the shower.  I have no desire to see your goods.  Ladies, feel free to ignore this advice.


Tuesday Jan 01, 2008

My Resolutions

Happy New Year to all my friends, old and new!  Above all else, I wish you good health and happiness throughout 2008.  Here are my resolutions for the new year:


  • Be the best husband, father, son, and brother that I can be


  • Keep doing what I've been doing
  • Get to < 10% body fat


  • Document, document, document
  • Travel less, but be more connected with my customers.

Sunday Dec 16, 2007

5 Months and 50 Days

While sitting around the dinner table on July 15th 2007 my wife said to the family "Daddy is going to the gym tomorrow."  She even got up to write it down on the calendar.  I actually just tried to find the calendar to take a picture of it and I was saddened to be informed that July fell out and was thrown away.  I do have the next day and many more captured on twitter though!  She had issued a direct challenge to me in front of our kids, one I'm thankful that I accepted.  I know she'll stick by me through thick and thin, but I know she prefers the thin.  I can't blame her,  I was less than happy with myself on many fronts.  Most of which stemmed from being totally out of shape and the poor self image associated with such a state.

I'd received a few hints here and there along the way.  One of the most memorable was a trip in March to the Sun offices in Mexico where my host didn't recognize me.  He only knew my face from the picture that I had on our internal employee directory.  He said my picture looked much different and I was much "bigger".  No Spanish to English translation needed.  He meant that I was fatter than he expected.  ¿Qué?  Thin Guy es muy grasa!

I knew it was time to get serious as a few days before my wifes proclamation, my daughters Maggie and Delaney had a joint birthday party at the water park.  I was "that guy" who wouldn't go swimming.  It was July in Las Vegas, in other words it was HOT.  Despite the heat I was too embarrassed to take my shirt off and I didn't want to be "that guy" who swam with his shirt on.  If you're overweight and swimming with a shirt on, you are only fooling yourself.  Just like I was fooling myself keeping a five year old picture of myself in the corporate directory.

When was the last time I was comfortable without a shirt on in public?  Well, that's been a while.  Probably between 2001 through 2003 when I was really fit.  Pics here if you care to see what I used to look like back then.

I'd say the last time I wasn't embarrassed to even have a photo take of me even with a shirt on was around the birth of my 5th daughter, September 2005.

Since then I've steadily let myself go.  Numerous excuses, none of them good.  No excuses ever are.  Prior to July I tried to get back into shape several times, most recently right after spring break only to get sidelined with pneumonia.  Good excuse for not going to the gym, but a poor excuse for blowing off proper eating habits.  The minute I was better I should have gotten back in the saddle from an exercise perspective but I didn't.  5 weeks of hard work wasted.  Sadly that's been story of my life since 2002.

Here's me Christmas Eve 2006.  Fat.  I'm glad I'll be able to stomach the pictures from this year (pun intended).

Here's me at the opening day of adult soccer season (March 2007).  Fat.  I'd guess about 265 pounds at this point.  I hate this picture and almost deleted when I first saw it.  I'm glad I didn't as it provides me with motivation.

If you've followed my fitness journey thus far, you saw the pics from Hawaii.  Ugh.  I think I was fatter in March.  The March picture looks worse anyways.

Here's me this morning, 5 months after my renewed commitment.  Nice and sweaty from a grueling leg workout.  I weighed in this morning at 223.1 pounds.  My wife says my clothes are too baggy in this photo so I'll try to get something a little more snug and update this section later.  And I'll shower and smile.  Promise.

What's the 50 days about?  Well it's been 50 days since I've had a drink.  A hangover from a Halloween party made for an extra hard workout the next day.  I looked at myself in the mirror and said "if you drank to the point that you are hungover then getting back in shape must not be that important to you". Then I asked myself "how bad do you want this?"  Bad enough to forgo something that aided heavily in gaining over 40 lbs in 2 years?  I answered yes and have not touched a glass of wine or even a light beer since October 27th.  It makes for interesting nights out that's for sure and I've been accused more than once of being a bump on a log.  I take it all in stride and remind myself of my goals and the ones giving me a hard time are not the ones whose alarm goes off at 4:30 AM.  Will I abstain forever?  No, I like wine, beer, whatever as much as the next person, probably more.  Right now however it's not important to me.  When will I have a drink?  How this: When I see a six pack, I'll have a six pack.  Seriously though, I'll probably enjoy a glass of wine on Christmas.

What's next?  Well I've still got a ways to go until I'm satisfied.  When will I be satisfied?  Hopefully never.  The minute you stop trying to improve, bad things happen (see fat pictures above).  Am I happy?  Absolutely.

To wrap up this rather lengthy post I'd like to give one piece of fitness advice.  While you never know what tomorrow brings, muscle is like money in the bank fitness wise.  The more you have, the longer you can weather the bad times.  Those bad times can be illness, injury, or even poor lifestyle choices.  While cardio fitness is very important, don't neglect strength training.  I'd hate to see how bad it could have been if I wasn't in really good shape a few years ago.

See you at the gym.  One more thing...Thanks Tom!

Sunday Dec 09, 2007

Getting Fitter with Twitter

I've been trying to think of some kind of mashup to do for my twitter fitness related posts, but thus far I am drawing a blank.  Here are the past 21 weeks worth of my fitness tweets, from day 1 until today.

Using Twitter is a great way to look back on your progress, get feedback/encouragement/inspiration from fellow tweets, and I look forward to posting my accomplishments.  To me, it's a far better way to journal your fitness journey than pen and paper.

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    Monday Nov 26, 2007

    Starting Week 20

    A quick fitness update for the start of week 20.  This is week 7 of the second 12 week circuit.  Today I started creatine loading as I've hit a bit of plateau strength wise.  Perhaps it's mental, but it should help me.  Getting more solid everyday, adding muscle is balancing out the fat loss on the scale.  Still in the high 220's, but no complaints here.  Did awesome on turkey day, kept to my six small meals had a great workout.  Down to the last hole on my belt, and a belt is now a required accessory for all my jeans.  This twelve week circuit will end the week of Christmas, which will lead to a bulking circuit for my new years resolution.  After which I will do a hard core cutting cycle for spring break.  That should put me back where I was in 2002.

    Friday Nov 16, 2007

    Rules of the Road


    1) If you have a tight connection or are delayed going into ORD, your connecting flight will always be in another terminal.

    2) If a hotel gym describes itself as state of the art, it isn't.

    3) Unless the engine falls off at the gate, any other delay will be treated by the airline as weather related.

    4) Unless you require one, never accept an "accessible" room.  Same for Parlor rooms.

    Monday Nov 12, 2007

    Start of Week 18

    Down three pounds on the scale, but what I really need to do is get a proper body fat measurement.  My legs are getting pretty cut and beefy.  Maybe OP shorts will make a comeback so I can show them off this spring.  :)

    Week 17 was a good one, with good gains on all my lifts.  I'm lifting enough now that I probably should start adding another rest day.  At least from the weights, as with some of the groups (especially legs) I'm still a bit sore when they come up in the rotation.  I won't be taking any cardio breaks though.  Unless you are pounding the asphalt for your cardio, I really don't think you need a day off from it.  I've kept good on this promise too, which makes the 4 AM alarm much easier to deal with.  I'm horrible at moderation and when you add in a very high tolerance, it's a very thin line between self control and self abuse.  So it's better that I over do the good things and forgo completely the bad things.  Obsessive?  Perhaps.  Rewarding?  Absolutely.

    Monday Nov 05, 2007

    Week 5, Circuit 2

    Today marks the beginning of the 5th week of my second 12 week circuit.  Those who follow me on Twitter usually get daily updates but I've been falling behind on my fitness blogging lately.  The good news is that I haven't fallen behind on my fitness journey.  I can honestly say I'm in the best shape I've been in the past five years.  2002 saw me at about 215 and 6-8% body fat.  Between then and 2005 I let myself go a bit, but then rededicated myself and was in the 220's again for the birth of my 5th daughter.  Then I let myself go again, a lot this time.  Hovering around 260 lbs, over eating, over drinking, and sitting on my backside far too much, I knew I had to get with the program.  Even being 6'5", an out of shape 260 is not very attractive or healthy.   I started this new journey on July 16th, which makes today the start of week 17.  During this time, I've "missed" going to the gym only 6 times.  Twice due to injury, the rest, well, due to needed rest. 

    A few less chins, bigger muscles, and 30 lbs of fat gone, I'm back in the 220's, 229 to be exact.  More to go.

    Update:  Just to give a more complete picture of the changes, I had to really dig to find any "before" pictures of me.  Why did I have to "dig", well because I knew I looked horrible and didn't want to see myself.  I'm sure that sounds familiar to some of my readers.  Regardless, I found two and I'm still embarrased by how I look in them.  Even though they make me cringe, I'm posting these before pics, hoping that they can inspire someone else to get fit.  These were taken in April, it only got worse.  It took over 2 years for me to get out of shape.  Less than 20 weeks to get back in.  You CAN do it too.


    Let Go!

    In strength training I live by these three words: Form, Intensity, Weight.  If your form is wrong, which almost always happens when people try to lift too much weight, you're not doing any good and actually probably doing more harm to your body.  Likewise for intensity.  45-60 seconds max between sets.  Don't sit there an jabber for 3 minutes in between sets.  Finally, choose the right amount of weight.  You should be able to do six repetitions, but usually no more than 10.  Single rep max lifts are good for the ego, but do very little for your overall fitness.

    The same basic rules apply to cardio.  It drives me nuts from my perch upon the step mill to watch everyone walking on the treadmill wrong.  Do not hold on to the handles or console!  If you "hold on" you are effectively taking all the incline out of the exercise.  Don't believe me?  Then let go.  I bet you need to now lean forward or else you'll fall on your back (form).  You will probably also need to slow down (intensity).  A lot of folks subscribe to the notion that you should be able to comfortably hold a conversation while doing cardio.  I don't know if I subscribe to that, mainly because I hate to talk when working out, but you should be able to answer questions.  We'll replace the amount of weight with duration in cardio.  You should pick the proper incline and speed that you can do 20 minutes without holding on or stopping.  Unless you are a distance runner, I really don't see much advantage in ever going more than 40 minutes.  This tip works extremely well for the step mill and even the elliptical trainers, you'll have a stronger "core" to show for it.  For a far better cardio workout, let go.

    Monday Oct 01, 2007

    Week 12

    Week 12 is off to a good start.  Calf muscle is a little tender, but it really only effects me if I'm sprinting.  I've upped my cardio to a minimum of 40 minutes per day, which means I have to get to the gym earlier so I can get home at my normal time to help get the girls ready for school.  Alarm goes off @ 4 AM, I'm usually out the door by 4:30 and lifting by 4:50. 

    I'd like to forget week 11 though.  Two misses at the gym, one due to an injury and one due to a post-Willie Nelson hangover.  I didn't even drink that much, but a combo of hardly drinking at all lately, going to sleep about 5 hours past my normal bed time, a baby that doesn't care if you had a late night who was up early, and a full day of soccer put the gym out of the picture.  There was also a few days where I didn't get my six meals in.  While that may sound like a benefit, it's really a huge negative.  As much of a contradiction it might seem to be, you have to eat to lose weight.  Like sleep and workouts, meals are highly perishable.  You can't make up for missed ones.

    Monday Sep 24, 2007

    Week 11

    Week 11 of my fitness routine starts off with bad news.  I jacked up my calf muscle on Sunday night during our soccer game.  Walking around with a limp as it tends to get all knotted up.  Not sure how bad it is jacked up, hoping just a minor strain.  It took a couple of hours of R.I.C.E + Advil to get it to relax last night. 

    I'm fairly convinced that this happened due to the addition of an Abs and Calves day into my routine and the muscle was already tight and fatigued.  If I had gotten a couple more of these in before soccer season kicked in, the injury probably would not have happened.

    Bottom line, I missed the gym this morning.  Will try to hit it this afternoon, but have a day full of concalls.  Cardio options will be limited though, I'm fairly certain I can use the lifecycle if I push more with my heels.  While most of my workout should be OK (i.e. weight training), certain leg day exercises may be iffy.  On the plus side, if I do miss it will be only be the 3rd day off in 71 days.

    I will be posting stats and possibly before/after pics at the end of week 12.  I think you will all be impressed (and hopefully to some of my readers inspired) with my results.

    Monday Sep 17, 2007

    Week 10

    With the inclusion of soccer, I may have to add a light day to my current weight training routine.  Still feeling sore from Friday night's practice.  Currently I do:

    Day 1: Chest/Triceps

    Day 2: Back/Biceps

    Day 3: Shoulders

    Day 4: Legs

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    I think I might add in a Abs/Calves day to give my legs one extra day for recovery.  Other groups will welcome the rest too I'm sure.

    On week 13 (a new 12 week circuit) I'll be dialing in my diet and switching to a Chest/Back and Bi/Tri routine.

    All still followed up by at least 20 mins on the Step Mill.  My favorite piece of gym cardio equipment. 

    (Hey, if I get caught up in a RIF, I'll be in good shape to pass the CPAT.)



    My name is Craig Bender aka ThinGuy. I'm a Principal Software Developer for Oracle's Virtual Desktop Engineering group.

    I architect and evangelize the use of Oracle's Desktop technology including Sun Ray, Secure Global Desktop, and Oracle VDI.


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