Average. That's me…just an ordinary, average guy. I have never been an athlete; I am not wealthy; I don't have a high-profile job; and I am just as easily overlooked in a crowd as the next guy. My whole life I've just kind of been a regular, average guy. So, when I began seeing the Transformation Challenge posters popping up at the gym, I took notice. I found myself staring at the “before” and “after” photos of past contestants in amazement. The changes these regular people underwent were so incredible that they seemed almost unreal. I soon found myself wondering just how I might look in a “before” and “after” photo. After a couple weeks of daydreaming about what I might look like with an awesome body, I had one of those tiny cartoon light bulbs illuminate above my head. This challenge was all about making choices....
Clearly, I had already made the choice to go to the gym with the intent to better myself. However, had I really been making the best choices? Was I always getting in a full workout, or did I regularly find reasons to end my workout early and head home? Likewise, was I making good choices with my diet or with my sleeping habits? The truth was no, I really was not. I wasn't making horrible choices, so I found it fairly easy to convince myself that the decisions I was making were “good enough.” But in reality, I was actually making poor choices, and my “blah,” average body was a direct result of these poor choices. I took one long look at myself and decided that today was as good a day as any to begin making better choices regarding my life, my health and my appearance. I went home and spent some time reading about the challenge on the Life Time Fitness website. I then marked my calendar for Weigh-in Weekend, pieced together a basic plan of attack and, next thing I knew, I was competing in the 90-Day Transformation Challenge!
My transformation plan of attack had three basic components: Exercise, Nutrition and Rest. I acknowledged that all three components needed work, so I began with the element that seemed like the easiest win - rest. It took some rearranging and plenty of planning ahead, but I managed to juggle around all the parts of my life enough to get in eight hours of sleep (or something very close) almost every night. I have three young sons, so continuous sleep was seldom possible. However, if my total hours of sleep added up to eight, I considered that night a victory. Consequently, I was waking up feeling refreshed and energized every morning.
My greatest hurdle when exercising has always been myself. I would all too often go to the gym without any set plan, wander around for a while lifting this and that, lose focus and eventually convince myself that I'd be better off heading home for the day. I knew that I needed to make better choices regarding how I spent my time at the gym and which exercises I was performing for the day. The day I signed up for the 90-Day Challenge was the first day I marched into the gym with a pre-set workout plan. I never wavered off of my plan, even on the days that I really didn't quite feel like working out. After a few weeks of sticking to a schedule, I discovered that my workouts were actually becoming easier - at least the mental portion. No matter how you spin the concept, burpees never actually get easier!
Aside from keeping myself focused and following the plan, the exercise component of my transformation was fairly straightforward. Each week I would complete five days of weightlifting and core exercises, coupled with three to four days of cardio. I also made a point of taking a rest day after every three days to give my body adequate time to recuperate. At my trainer’s suggestion, I tracked my weights, reps and notes in a journal. I quickly discovered that watching my numbers increase was highly motivating and kept me excited for my next workout. A few times I had to travel away from the gym. On those occasions, I would take a kettle-bell and find a little corner of the world to run through a HIIT workout. Finding the strength and discipline to fit in all of my workouts, as well as sleep a full night, was certainly challenging at times. However, the real challenges began when I attacked the nutrition element of my plan.
Growing up, I basically lived on cereal, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and boxed noodles with ground beef. For the most part, my diet really hadn't changed much over the last thirty-seven years. Common sense told me that these processed choices weren't the ideal foods for my body, but I was not entirely clear as to what would be better alternatives. So, like any guy would do, I turned to the Internet for advice. I quickly found a diet that I believed suited my needs and dove in head first. Two weeks into the competition, I found myself angry, confused, hungry, tired, gaining weight and eating something in the ballpark of six bananas a day. I needed guidance, and I needed it quickly.
I am not overly stubborn or proud, but I really stink at asking for help. If I could offer just one small bit of advice to any future participants in the 90-Day Challenge, it would be this: Ask For Help!!! Life Time Fitness is more than simply a gym. It is a group of properly-trained, highly-motivated individuals whose sole purpose is to help average people like me become awesome. My trainer had been checking in with me and kindly reminding me that she was readily available should I need help with any part of my transformation. I truly wanted to believe that I could do this all on my own, but I took a good look at my body and diet and realized that I needed some guidance from someone with actual knowledge. Shortly thereafter, I scheduled an appointment with my trainer to get a MyHealthScore and review my diet and transformation plan.
In all honesty, I would not be even close to where I am today if my trainer had not steered me in the proper direction. She took a look at my diet plan and promptly directed me to the club dietitian. With the help of my trainer and the dietitian, I started a regimented high-protein, high-vegetable diet with a moderate amount of healthy fat (and I took a hiatus from excessive banana-eating). Additionally, I was introduced to amino acids, fish oil and multivitamins...which had a huge effect on my energy and how quickly I recovered after difficult workouts. Before long, I found myself checking in with my trainer and nutritionist regularly and found that they were genuinely interested in seeing me improve myself.
Toward the last month of my transformation, I hit something of a wall. I noticed that I wasn't burning fat as easily and my energy had dropped to a level that I wasn't comfortable accepting. I met with the dietitian, and we reviewed my attack plan and diet. My workout schedule was fine, but she suggested that I was eating too little fat (which I didn't realize was even possible) and that I should add in a bit more healthy fat each day. This slight increase in fat actually allowed my body to release some of the old stored up fat. She also suggested that I make UCAN superstarch a daily part of my diet. The addition of UCAN into my pre- and post-workout meals helped me sustain the energy I needed for a full day. With the help and support of my Life Time team, this average guy quickly began burning fat and building muscle again.
These past 90 days have been incredible. I have learned so much about myself, about self-discipline and what I am capable of accomplishing. I'm not going to lie...this is the most challenging thing I have ever done. Every single morning I had to take a look at myself in the mirror and make a choice. Do I continue trying to improve myself and my life, or do I take the easy way out and quit? Some days were certainly tougher than others, but I made the choice every single day to stick with my plan. I found discipline and strength in myself to do things I would never have imagined possible. However, I also had to humbly rely on many people around me to succeed. My family supported and endlessly cheered for me, and my “Team” at Life Time coached me every step of the way.
I am now undeniably, undoubtedly, officially no longer just “average.” I am incredible! I feel like I could take on the world and accomplish any goal I set my sights on. I have confidence, I feel great, I eat healthier, my family eats healthier, and I am not afraid to take on new challenges. This has been a truly transformational experience that will fully shape my life moving forward. This is Awesome!