Get some popcorn, because this is long
Chapter 1 – Hey there fatso
I was skinny-fat throughout most of my teens and unfortunately, I don’t have a picture to show you. During my teens I’ve spent most of the time sitting in front of the computer playing Civilization 4.
When I grew tired of the sedentary life I decided to take action. The first obvious thing that came to my mind was insane running sessions. The first time I went running, I could barely run for 500 meters. Even my dad, who was also out of shape (aged 45 at that time), was able to outperform me.
Now, when I look back, I think that my body is geared more towards running than lifting weights. In just a couple of weeks I was able to run 12 kilometers without stopping once. I was officially a running junkie. Each running session would last more than an hour and in that time, I’d cover more than 12 kilometers. I’d do 3 to 4 sessions each week.
Chapter 2 – Skeletor no more
In about 3 months time, I managed to shed 33 lbs of body weight. I’m not sure exactly how much fat I’ve lost but I’m sure as hell that I’ve lost quite some muscle also since my diet back then was horrible.
Most of the time I was eating bad foods like products made from white flower, sugary snacks, fast foods and other processed junk.
My eating schedule looked something like this: get up and eat breakfast (some sort of cereal), for lunch I’d make a sandwich from whatever was in the fridge. The main meal of the day was something my mom cooked, which most of the time was a soup of some sort combined with a side dish and an entrée. I’d eat my last meal at around 6pm.
More than running, the reason I lost so much weight was because I was starving myself. On an average day I’d consume probably less than 1800 kcals a day.
This has always been my main sticking point as far as fitness goes. If I’m not tracking how much I eat, I tend to undereat. Combine this with the 12 kilometers running sessions every other day, then you have a recipe for extreme weight loss.
Soon I realized that I was too skinny. With just over 71 kilograms I looked like a skeleton, as you can see from the picture below. This picture was taken somewhere around October 2006.
Nearing the end of 2006 I got tired of being skinny, so I started exploring the world of weight lifting and nutrition. Before embarking on this “educational journey” I didn’t have a clue about weightlifting and nutrition. First of all, I’d try to search the internet for some useful information. I’d spend hours in front of the computer, devouring tons of information on the subject.
Ironically the more I read, the more confused I was. There was literally a myriad of information about this topic and worst of all, a lot of the stuff I was reading on one website contradicted the information I read on other websites.
After a few days spent in front of the computer, I saw that all of those different methods had some things in common: eat 6 to 7 meals per day, eat above maintenance to gain weight/muscle, train 4 to 5 times per week, eat lots of carbohydrates so your energy levels are stable and some other bro-science mumbo jumbo.
Chapter 3 – Terminator wannabe
My fitness efforts between May 2007 and June 2008 can be summarized by the following phrase: “Half assed effort, half assed results”.
After I’ve conquered the theoretical basics, I built myself a diet and a training plan. It was far from perfect, but it was better than taking no action at all.
My goals back then were simple … to have a physique like Arnold Schwarzenegger in just a couple of months. That was a stupid goal I know, but in the eye of a beginner, it seemed completely doable.
I haven’t made any progress on my first routine for almost a year because I was doing 130 lbs squats almost every workout and I was eating too much carbohydrates and way too little proteins. I ended up gaining quite some fat, with no significant muscle or strength gains. Since I was seeing the scale going up every time I weighted myself, I was satisfied with my “progress”.
I didn’t realize this at the time, but diet self-discipline is the hardest skill to master. It’s easy to structure a dieting plan, but it’s a whole other ball game to put that plan into action and stick to it. I had the discipline to train 4 to 5 times per week but the area where I failed miserably was diet and sleeping.
By the end of May 08 I started to have doubts about my training and dieting methods. I realized I’m not moving in the right direction but then again, fitness was the least of my worries at that time.
By June 15th I had my traveling bags ready, it was time for me to go to the USA. This has been one of my biggest wishes since I was a kid. I managed to obtain a J-1 visa which enabled me to stay in the US for 6 months (5 working months and 1 month to travel around US). I found a job as a server assistant in the Yellowstone’s National Park (Old Faithful restaurant).
The whole experience was unbelievable and I had the time of my life. I managed to meet people from all corners of the world, have a great time, explore the US and earn some money in the process.
I stayed in Yellowstone for 5 months and I’ve concluded my trip to the US by visiting San Francisco (3 days) and New York (4 days). I wanted to use the whole thirty days for exploring the US but after 5 months of 10 hour shifts bussing tables, I barely even had enough energy to visit SF and NY.
By October 21th 2008 I was back in motherland Slovenia. It sure felt good to be home again (I actually got tired of Slovenia 2 weeks after return … I wanted go to the US again).
Chapter 4 – Getting serious
I managed to bring home some serious dough (money) from the US, since there weren’t many places in Yellowstone that allowed you to spend it in a creative way.
As soon as I got home, I started thinking about joining a gym here in my hometown of Koper. Luckily for me though, I got a better idea … I decided that I was going to turn my room into a gym.
I asked a friend of mine from Germany if he could find me a German web-store that sells power racks. Unfortunately at that time, no one in Slovenia was selling them so I had to look elsewhere. After my friend found the store I immediately proceeded with buying the best possible power rack for my budget. Besides the power rack I also bought the attachment for the lat pull-downs, a sturdy, adjustable bench and some other accessories.
The whole thing cost me 1200€ ($1700) but I was more than pleased when I got the stuff I ordered. I saw the whole thing as an investment, which would repay itself in about 3 years time. This is, and probably will be, one of the best investments I’ve made in my life.
The best thing about power racks combined with a simple bench is that they allow you to do almost all of the major lifts in a safe way. This is why power racks are a must have for any serious weight lifter who trains at home.
I came back to Slovenia 10 kg lighter than before I left. Due to bad cafeteria food and lack of exercise, most of those 10 kg gone I’d say were muscles. So here I was, back on the starting point again (now even in worst shape and weaker).
With the proper equipment at my disposal, I was determined to succeed. I managed to gain some strength and muscle but far from what I was hoping for. I thought that the lack of my progress was due to bad genetics but I didn’t realize that, yet again, I was putting in a half assed effort. Since the lack of progress was a big frustration for me, I was thinking about quitting. It seemed that no matter how much I applied myself, I wasn’t seeing any noticeable results.
Chapter 5 – Fast forward to present
When I was just about to quit, I had my biggest fitness realization ever which was “Don’t complicate too much, lift heavy weights and be consistent”. When I had this realization I was deadlifting 175lbs continuously because was kind of afraid to move on to bigger weights (fear of potential injury).
My biggest sticking point though was nutrition. To be short, I wasn’t being consistent. I’d skip meals, eat junk more often than I should and I wouldn’t be tracking what I was eating.
It took me a while to fix these problems but as soon as I did my results in the gym started to improve. I was making progress on all of my big lifts and my physique was soon starting to follow.
In just a couple of months I was able to shatter my reality about fitness and make a huge gains (compared to my previous training years).
On February 1st 2011 I was “forced” to take a break from my lifting because of a routine surgery. In the process of recovery, which lasted for three months, I lost about 10 lbs of body mass.
After fully recuperating, I started training again (beginning of May). I quickly came back to my old lifting numbers and due to my “hardcore” application, my lifts were (and still are) reaching new heights. I’m quite satisfied with my rate of progress and I realize that there’s still much room for improvement.
Probably the main take-away of my story is that you must be persistent. Great physiques require years upon years of dedicated smart work in order to be built, so don’t be discouraged if you’ve not reached your goals yet (I still haven’t after years of training).
Where am I now? Since deadlift is the king of all lifts, here’s my status: 2 sets of 320 lbs for 5 reps (August 6th 2011)
And here’s the before and after picture. The left picture was taken somewhere around 2007 (when I started weight lifting). My weight at the time was 70 kilograms. The picture on the right was taken on July 15th 2011 and in this picture I’m weighing 80 kilograms. Through smart work and persistence, I managed to gain 22 lbs of clean muscle.