Here’s how I turned things around and how you can, too.
Click here to download my free eBook 4 Secrets of Looking 10 Years Younger in 10 Minutes. It has the full details. But we begin...
A long time ago, in a city far far away...
Okay, it was 2012 and only 2,000 miles away.
I was in Chicago, a jazz musician living the jazz musician life (minus the drugs.)
Translation: I was 26 and broke. I’d been living on Ramen and Jack Daniel’s and hadn’t had a vegetable or a good night’s sleep in recent memory.
I was 175 pounds and what we in the fitness industry call “skinny fat”. (Skinny fat is when a person is not visibly overweight, but they have a high body fat percentage with little muscle on them.)So, to sum up: broke, tired, malnourished, and weak. The perfect quad-fecta.
Now you’re thinking, “Do I really want to take fitness advice from this guy?”
Yes, you absolutely do. Because I turned it all around and got back in the best shape of my life.
The Origin Story
Obviously, I wasn’t born a skinny-fat musician in Illinois.
I grew up in the Seattle area and was a very athletic kid. Playing baseball was my reason for living in those days. It was my alpha and omega, and I prayed daily to my baseball God, Derek Jeter.
And I was good. I was always skinny growing up, but really strong. I was freakin’ fast, had a great glove, hit for a high average (with lots of doubles) and stole truckloads of bases. I even had a stretch where I didn’t make a fielding error for almost two seasons.
Tooting my own baseball horn is just to set up how devastated I was when I tore my rotator cuff late in my High School years. It destroyed any chance I had at playing in college.
It was world-ending. I had to quickly switch gears and get into something else.
I’d been a band geek since 4th grade and had started singing in Junior High. By the time I graduated, I’d participated in All-State band/orchestra and a U.S. Concert Band European Tour as a trombonist. As a singer, I’d won the State title in classical and musical theater vocal performance. Not a shabby backup plan.
So, in college I was a musician. I got a degree in Jazz Studies: Vocal Performance and Music Business. I moved to Chicago. I tried to start an Independent Jazz Label called Second Balcony Records.
I lost all my money, strength, and my independence from alcohol. I got fired from several jobs.
I was struggling hard and losing.
The Comeback Kid
Don’t worry, dear reader, this is where your humble narrator turns it around.
Realizing this lifestyle was not only unhealthy, but terribly unenjoyable, I moved back home. With my parents. At age 26. Still not great for the self-esteem, and even worse for dating.
But, I got to eat real food and sleep well. After a solid month of sleeping, I got a job at Gold’s Gym working the front desk with a bunch of High Schoolers.
Then one day, realizing my arms were small and my stomach doughy, I decided it was time to get back in shape.
Cue the montage music.
It has been the most fun and rewarding chapter of my life.
I dropped my extra fat, build 30lbs of muscle, and got a six pack. My deadlift went from 135 (I’d never deadlifted before) to 405. I finally benched more than 225. My squats and lunges stopped hurting and got strong. I regained my confidence, slept better, and had more endurance than the Energizer Bunny.
The journey changed my life and inspired me to help other people take control of their health.
Great Story, What’s In It For Me?
In fairness to you, patient reader, I’ll summarize the trials and tribulations of my “get strong and healthy” journey, and distill the events to the interesting bits.
The five most important aspects of getting from scrawny back to brawny were as follows:
1) BE CONSISTENT. It’s the roughest habit to build, but once you do everything gets easier. Go to the gym every day. Don’t feel like working out? Ok. Go to the gym, do one exercise, go home. Is it your rest day? Cool. Go to the gym, sit in the sauna, go home. Park your car in the gym lot for 5 minutes then leave. Do whatever is necessary to make going to the gym seem as regular and low-hassle as possible.
2) ASSESS YOUR WEAKNESSES. Often, this takes a seasoned pro to do correctly. You must identify your problems. I had tight quads and a weak posterior chain (back, glutes, hamstrings). This caused knee problems. Without addressing my glute weakness I’d be one of those guys saying dumb stuff like “Squats are bad for my knees”. Spoiler alert: they aren’t. You squat wrong. Find out your imbalances and asymmetries and get to work on fixing them.
3) LIFT FREE WEIGHTS. Machines are for fragile, injured, or lazy people. There, I said it. There are specific exceptions to this rule, but for general fitness stay off machines. Using free weights (dumbbells and barbells) for compound movements will bring the most satisfying and rapid results you can get in a gym.
4) EAT BETTER. You don’t have to count calories. Just cut out the obvious garbage food and eat like a grown up. Eat veggies and lean protein with every meal. Remember when you were a kid and you’d beg your parents to take you to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal? Whenever you get the craving for fast food, you’re that kid again. Don’t be a child, be your own parent. You’d be amazed at how far that simple advice will take you.
5) GET A PRO TO HELP YOU. I was lucky working in a gym. I made friends with the training staff and they’d help me along the way. Then I became a trainer and learned more than I thought I could know about how the human body works. I can’t stress enough the importance of well informed, professional guidance. That program you found on the internet wasn’t made for you. That’s why it doesn’t work. You will improve by leaps and bounds if you are doing exercise customized for you.
There’s much more about all this in my free eBook 4 Secrets of Looking 10 Years Younger in 10 Minutes. Download it here right now.
The Saga Continues…
From here on out, the goal is to help you do the same. I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I made all the mistakes you will make on your own. Then I learned how to completely avoid them with exercise science.
A wise guy once said “Do or do not. There is no try.” So, don’t wait seven years like I did. Don’t just try to do better. Commit. Go all-in on yourself.
Seriously, if this scrawny punk can do it, you definitely can.
Then: I’m on the right, and that shirt is a medium.
Now: Stud-muffin, shirt also medium.