Plants and hard work (part 4)
This blog will be my fourth update about my goal of stepping on stage as a physique competitor. If you haven’t already, be sure to read Plants and hard work (part 1), Plants and hard work (part 2), and Plants and hard work (part 3).
It has been nine months
I just completed another three months of training with Korin Sutton and these past months have been the best so far. Throughout January and February, I was still bulking in an attempt to gain as much lean muscle mass as possible. During the bulking phase, the workouts were some of the worst I have ever done. Korin had me doing nightmare “monster sets” where I would complete ten sets of ten reps on squat and deadlift. It was awful, but I loved the physical and mental challenge.
On March first, I started to diet down and my workouts changed drastically to higher rep sets with shorter rest periods. I enjoyed these workouts much more. I have continued to increase my strength and recently greatly improved my conditioning. I am ecstatic with the results. I can say with confidence that I am in the best shape of my life. Since I have started training for the physique show, my wife has had to listen to me constantly asking her if I would be ready. Right now there is no question in my mind. I will be ready!
Workouts in the yard
For two months of this program I was deployed. Unfortunately, out of the nine months I have been training with Korin, I have spent nearly 4 months deployed aboard ship. (read this blog to see what I eat while I am deployed)
During our pre-deployment meetings for my most recent deployment, I made sure to ask our crew of six if anyone lifted weights. I was hoping to have a workout partner, but our whole crew looked down and shook their heads saying they had no plans of spending their deployed days doing any form of exercise. I was a little disappointed to hear the news.
Once I was onboard the ship, I spent my first morning out in the yard. The yard was a small area on the fantail of the ship with a few benches, a Roman chair/dip station that doubled as a squat rack and was known to fall over, and a bunch of rusted weights that looked like a guaranteed way to contract tetanus. It was appropriately named the yard as it resembled a prison exercise facility and was often filled with grunting shirtless patrons. After my first workout in the yard, I noticed one of my crew members, Quince (names are fictitious to protect the identity of the crew) hanging around nearby. He asked if he could workout with me the next day, and I said he was more than welcome to join. Honestly, I doubted his commitment since Quince smoked cigarettes and didn’t seem accustomed to anything even remotely in the realm of fitness.
I couldn’t have been more wrong about him. Quince showed up the next day motivated and greatly impressed me with his work ethic. Over the next couple days, some other crew members Pops, Blaster, and Amigo all requested to workout with me. I found it hard to believe that they wanted to workout, and I expected their commitment to fade after a few days. Again, I was wrong.
Over the next 50 something days we worked out together, pushed and motivated each other, held each other accountable and it was absolutely incredible. Despite the ship often rolling nearly 40 degrees, sea sickness, sweltering heat, and having to launch the helicopter at a moments notice, we were out there never missing a workout. We worked out in the middle of the ocean and three foreign countries, always pushing each other to achieve our goals. I was able to train harder than ever with their support, and I will always remember and cherish all the great times we had out in the yard.
Believe it or not, the best part of our crew training together in the yard didn’t happen until we all returned home and went our separate ways. Everyone had lost a significant amount of weight, and all of their wives and girlfriends marveled at their improved physiques. Quince quit smoking and is in phenomenal shape having lost nearly twenty pounds and 4.4% bodyfat. More importantly, he became so passionate about living a healthier lifestyle that I helped him make the transition to a plant-based diet that he has followed for a few weeks now. I can’t express how proud I am of him, and how much satisfaction I received from helping him and the rest of our crew achieve their fitness goals.
While I was out at sea, I also finished my online course to become a certified personal trainer through the International Sports Science Association and Quince has volunteered to be the first person I will train. I can’t wait to share his results as I am more impressed by his commitment and enthusiasm every day. He is so enthusiastic about his new lifestyle that in a few short weeks he has already inspired others to try a plant-based diet.
I have always been passionate about my own healthy choices and lifestyle, but I learned that there is nothing more satisfying than helping other people achieve their goals. Watching my friends succeed has given me even more motivation to set an example and demonstrate the power of a vegan lifestyle.
Extra help from my swolemate
In Plants and hard work (part 3), I mentioned how supportive my swolemate Natalie has been and I am happy to report that now she is even more amazing! While I was deployed, she went to the Living Light Culinary Institute in Fort Bragg, California and was certified as a raw vegan chef and instructor! I am extremely proud of her for following her dreams of being a chef and her new skills have benefitted me tremendously. She has developed such a passion for cooking that she decided to take full control of my diet. She meticulously tracks my diet in Myfitnesspal to ensure I hit my macros recommended by Korin. Natalie cooks delicious, healthy, vegan food that helps power me through my workouts. This allows me to focus on my training while balancing everything else in my life. Additionally, the food is so delicious and varied that I don’t ever feel like I’m on a diet.
In Plants and hard work (part 3), I also wrote about how I was going to try and convince her to compete as well. She won’t be getting on stage, but she does want to do a couples fitness photo shoot the day after my show and is training extremely hard to look her best! She wants to use these pictures on her website that we will be launching soon. Be on the lookout for www.fitveganchef.com which will be full of healthy recipes and fitness tips. In the meantime, follow her on Instagram @fitveganchef.
I continued to get measured after every month. My wife used a tape measure and calipers to do a seven site skin fold test for body fat. I also charted lean body mass and bodyweight. To calculate lean body mass, I subtracted fat mass from my bodyweight.
Looking at the numbers, I am happy that I increased my lean body mass slightly during January and February despite being deployed. This is no small feat considering I have to bring all of my food and lifting heavy can be nearly impossible on a ship. From February to March, I lost 3.67 pounds of body fat which is great except I also lost 2.53 pounds of hard earned lean muscle mass in the process. This loss of muscle could have been for any number of reasons, but I think stress was the biggest factor. I spent most of this time period waiting to hear where the Coast Guard was going to transfer me this summer (Houston, Texas!), studying for my personal trainer final, conducting high-stress operational missions, and missing my wife at home. All of those things combined with a change in training and diet could have caused some less than favorable results. From now until the contest, my goal is to preserve or increase lean muscle mass while bringing my fat mass as low as possible.
I have my sights set on NGA Abraham Fitness Championships in Miami, FL, which has been moved to May 28th. I also need to learn how to pose and master the other intricacies of competing. I have been meditating every day and visualizing the success I will have on stage. My goal is to come in first place in the men’s physique first timers category, place in the top three in men’s physique novice category, and try out the men’s physique pro qualifier category just to get some more time on stage.
In the past, a lot of my motivation came from my desire to prove people wrong, and I focused on the people who doubted me. Lately, my motivation has changed and I feel like everyone believes in me and supports me. With all of that overwhelming support, I know I will succeed. I will succeed for Quince, Pops, Blaster, and Amigo (GAINS), for my wife, my mother, and my sister, for Korin Sutton who has made all of this possible, for Geoff Palmer and Clean Machine, and for everyone else who has ever believed in me.
I owe you my best performance, and I promise that I won’t settle for anything less.