My journey began in a cycling class. Yes, I was already at the club. I was wearing my favorite pair of workout shorts, and I changed positions on the bike and pop! The top snap popped open. My first thought was that the snap must be faulty, or worn out from excessive washing. The truth of the matter was obvious: it was my tummy’s fault. Not long after that the fitness instructor announced the 90-Day Challenge. My first thought was, “Yes, I’m doing it.” Then “they” showed up. Just like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon: a little devil and a little angel. The devil said, “Don’t be ridiculous! Do you realize what that’s going to entail? No booze, working out all the time, and say goodbye to French fries.” French fries? The little angel rebuked him, saying, “You can do it! You have been praying to get rid of that belly. You can do it. Do it for your family.” Yes, I will do it. I decided to sign up right after class. All I was hoping was to not have to buy another pair of pants the next size up, and to fit better into the clothes that I already had.
I had always been athletic in high school and college. I was proud of my physique, but after a hernia operation and the birth of my daughter (sympathetic baby weight), I had let myself go. I was content with wearing baggier clothes and honestly I love food! I had been going through the motions of going to the club a couple of times a month. I had quit and signed back up with Life Time 4 or 5 times over the past 10 years. The real kicker was that I am in my forties and my wife and I were discussing having more children. With the way I was looking and feeling, I wasn’t sure. I really want to be able to dance at their weddings and look good doing so. I was committed.
Sign up was February 8. I weighed in and looked at the Try-It Tuesday signup sheet. The first session was a lecture on nutrition. That sounded like a skip. I thought I knew everything I needed to know. Wow, was I wrong. I learned so much. I think we all have a grasp of what’s good for us and what’s not. It’s that gray area. You could call it the “cheat zone.” Where we know that something is bad for us, but not that bad. Not like when we tell ourselves eating French fries is getting our vegetables, but more like orange juice has tons of calories. My plan was coming together.
The next Try-It Tuesday was a tour of Whole Foods. It was amazing. There are so many options. Life is full of choices. What we eat is a choice. Why not learn tons of options so that it is easier to make sound choices. Thank you, Whole Foods, for your standards and training your employees so well. They are a great resource. Not only for low-calorie, nutritious produce options, but great cooking tips as well. Just the fact that a grocery store has a list of unacceptable ingredients for foods is amazing. Plus, their website is awesome.
The “challenge” really began on February 15, the morning after Valentine ’s Day. My wife and I spent the night at a wonderful bed and breakfast. We awoke to a smell. Not smoke. That would have been easy — just exit. It was homemade maple caramel almond French toast hot dish. How is that legal? Only in Minnesota would that be the norm. We walked downstairs and sat at a beautiful dining table with 10 strangers. They were all smiles and ready to get their grub on. The innkeeper carried out the individual plates like Stanley cup trophies. She set a steaming plate in front of me. I said, “I can’t eat that.” Honestly, that was the nicest way I could think to respond. I was consumed by the “hangries” (hungry and angry). I felt like a starving lion over a fresh kill, but not allowed to feed. My wife lovingly placed her hand on my knee and said, “Honey, I’m so proud of you.” I gave her a look. It may have been a growl. I brushed her hand away. It was on!
Support was fundamental in my success. My family was 100% behind me from the get-go. My wife is amazing. We work out together, which I recommend to any couple. She is incredibly inventive in the kitchen, with a wide variety of healthy preparations. I couldn’t have done it without her. The support of the staff at Life Time was awesome as well. Be it Group Fitness, Try-It Tuesday events, staff, Personal Training and, of course, the guys and gals that make those awesome shakes at the cafe, thank you.
Supplements were something I had never taken before. I would occasionally take a vitamin C, but never a regimen of pills and powders. I felt that probiotics were helpful. The staff at the LifeCafe were very knowledgeable. They advised me on fish oils, protein powders, Dynamic Greens, creatine, and LeanSource weight loss supplements. I also always added liquid egg whites and chia seeds and flax from Whole Foods to my shakes.
I’m not going to lie; my training routine was pretty hardcore. We have a small gym in our basement. I would get up at 5:30 a.m. and lift weights for about an hour. Then, I’d go to work. I would try to lift over lunchtime for about half an hour. More specifically, I would do a big muscle group like back, legs, chest, or shoulders in the morning. Then smaller muscle groups like triceps, biceps or abs over lunch. Then I would do some light cardio in the evening. It sounds like a lot, but it was fun to break it up. On the weekends I would do Group Fitness and an awesome small group boxing class. Another thing that I found useful was writing down my workouts and goals. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and accountability.
Equally as important as training was nutrition. We are trained to say “diet” as something short term. By definition, diet is the sum of food consumed by a person. In other words, what we do and do not put into our bodies every day. Not for 10 days. But for your lifetime. I don’t believe in coincidence. Great choice when y’all named the club.
After the nutrition lecture and Whole Foods tour, I had to hit “clear.” Delete what I thought I knew and what I did in the past. I started incorporating what I had learned. Most importantly, I incorporated what I knew I should and shouldn’t put into my body. It’s like when we bring 10 items into a dressing room. We know what size is going to fit. The others are just wishful thinking. Maybe this time that cupcake will slide right by and not get stuck on my belly. We know what and how much to eat in order to lose fat and fuel muscle. Filling our tanks for the distance we need to drive. In the past I was filling my tank for a cross-country road trip when I was just going down the road a bit. I cut out all processed foods. I began eating single-ingredient foods like chicken or broccoli, as much as possible. When I picked up a food, I looked at the ingredients so I made sure I knew what they looked like. For instance, salad dressing. I know what olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper look like and they’re ingredients that I can spell and pronounce. The fewer the better. I consumed a high-protein low-carb regimen including meats, fish, and eggs. Usually, I ate liquid egg whites cooked or in shakes. Awesome and easy. Protein powder in shakes, both whey and vegan. And lots of veggies. Mostly they were steamed or raw. My carbohydrates were mostly eaten in the early part of the day. Baked sweet potatoes and eggs — yum. And thank God for hot sauce. I put that “stuff” on everything.
Throughout this whole transformation, my body changed because my mind changed. It was fun. We have to wake up and appreciate the gift of the amazing machine God made for us. Treat that machine like a prized hot rod and it will run great and look amazing. Win or lose, the before and after picture is the trophy. I never thought that I would ever feel this good again. I feel like I am in my twenties. I truly believe that anyone can do this, and everyone should do this. If not for yourself, for your family. We must realize that nearly all major killers of the Western world — heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, hypertension, and dozens of cancers — were unknown to our ancestors. Modern medicine didn’t exist, but they had legs and used them.
I want to thank Life Time for this opportunity of learning and training, and my wife for the support and encouragement. And I want to thank God for everything.