So I decided to do this thing. Eight weeks out from an NPC Contest in Allentown, Pennsylvania. August. I just got done with vacation and was pretty dissatisfied with the way that I looked and felt. Gotta get my self together, gotta have a goal. Can't flounder around in the doldrums. Not going anywhere. Powerlifting? No, not into it at the time. My back was acting up and I knew that it couldn't handle a bunch of heavy work. I could feel my sciatica starting to act up from an old protruding disc injury. Gotta have a feeling about something in order to give it my all. Looked in the mirror. Yeah, looking bad. Thinking, "You told yourself that you would keep the body fat down, but it has crept back up." Disappointed in myself. Go into stuff knowing things about myself--that my attention span is pretty short. I lose interest in stuff after just a few weeks. Short term goal guy. I hear about people and long term goals. Not me. Short term, a bunch of short term goals...write a book, do a contest, stuff like that gets me going.
And I really had not committed until my sister said that she was really looking forward to it, to seeing me on stage, I pushed further and further into myself, clammed up and tried to make it as pure as possible for her. And that is tough to understand, but deep inside, I just wanted this thing to be as untarnished as possible for her.
Any longer than 8 weeks and I get bored for sure. Just the way it is; the reality of the situation. I was sitting at about 238 to 240 lbs of body weight and I figured that I am looking pretty good. I carry my fat around my waist and chest. Even when my body fat gets super low, I still have loose skin from years before when I pushed my body weight to 312lbs. It looks like a pregnant woman's skin after a baby. I just get tan and try to hide it, but it is there. Surgery is the only option to get rid of it, and I understand that. Again, just a hand that I was dealt and I deal with.
So,I start dieting and I am a week and a half in and I took some pictures and sent them to my buddy Rich Salke who I have been consulting with on diet stuff since 1983 when he was a champion bodybuilder back in Maryland. Rich is brutally honest. He asked me what I was eating, so I told him: "One protein shake, 2 pounds of ground beef and 1 sweet potato." He said, "Jimmy, you are eating too much." I simply looked BAD. Flabby chest, love handles, SOFT. It wasn't the loose skin, it was simply fat. You think you look good? Take your shirt off and have somebody critique you. Those rose colored glasses fade pretty quickly. Eye opener for sure.
So Rich says, "Jimmy, it's Tim Belknap time." Belknap was Mr. America in 1981 and he transformed himself with tuna and water in like 30 days and nobody had seen anything like it. Ok. Tuna and water. Rich wanted me to eat 3 cans of tuna a day and at least a gallon of water. And to break out the keto sticks. He wanted me in Ketosis. Rich wanted the tuna to equal out to 1,000 calories a day and I misread the ounces. I chose the small cans and started eating 300 total calories a day with a gallon of water, and I also cut out all diet drinks, and sweetener on the cabbage. I was in ketosis in one day. I guess I was pretty close before...welcome to Miserableville, a place that I have visited before. And so it begins.
And I have to be honest here: I was going to punish myself with this diet, I was going to barely eat and make myself as miserable as possible with the whole damn thing. I was in a place in my head where a bunch of stuff had been coming at me hard and fast for a long time, and the feeling that I had was one of, everybody has it hard, look at your sister, look at your son, look at all the cruelty and injustice. And you can't starve yourself for a few weeks? Its not about bodybuilding, I have a love hate relationship with it. Bodybuilding to me is the suffering. I have always had to suffer to be in shape, my metabolism has never been one that just flies, I have to suffer, stay hungry and suffer. I laugh at the folks who think that low carb is 150 grams or that you must go zero carbs for 3 days to deplete. Three days? Try 6 weeks. Light headed, irritable, sleepless nights. Now you are where you need to be. I would much rather eat a hoagie and go deadlift. But anyone can do that, not anyone can suffer and not quit. And I have quit on things, I have started diets and not finished them. But this time was gonna be different, and I really didn't even want to do it, I was just going to do it. And so I shut everything down that wasn't involved with work, family or training. I have never been into going places, mingling and being out and about. Hate formal stuff, hate informal stuff. Fakeness abounds. This kind of stuff, the training and dieting is what is real for me, right in my face. And not talking about it either, just doing it.
Training split? The same split that Tracy and I have been on forever. Sunday (when we have the whole gym to ourselves and I can cuss and yell and wear rock and roll shirts and a Down bandanna and play Superjoint and Exodus) is leg day, Monday is chest, Tuesday is cardio only, Wednesday is back, Thursday is shoulders, Friday is arms. Saturday is cardio. Oh yeah, calves twice a week on Tuesday and Saturday. Sets and reps? Fifteen total sets on everything, except 10 for arms and always 150 total reps of calves. So as long as you get 150 reps, you are fine.
For legs, we started off with squats. I had been squatting ten sets of six pretty consistently for my last show. I dropped the reps to six because after six reps I start to get sloppy and use too much back, and then my quads don't get the work. So I am doing my usual squats and then I get a flair up of my disc and sciatica that I haven't had in three years. I blew a disc out in college when a coach told me to swing the weight out in front of me with my stiff legged deadlifts. I had 325 pounds on the bar and I actually heard a pop during the set. That is why I am nuts about form when it comes to coaching athletes. One dumb ass coach can set you back forever.
But now this damn thing comes rolling back into my life, this sciatica. I know what needs to be done- sleep on the couch downstairs in my basement sitting with the chair reclined, leaning my body to the left and my right leg over the edge. The dogs and I, doomed to the basement. Actually, it isn't that bad. My messiness is contained to a small area, or so my wife Michelle maintains. Sciatica is a curse, it is amazing, this nerve pain. When it gets really bad, you want to lash out, you want to grab the doctor and say , help! Don't you get how this feels? It consumes you, you try to get away from it but you cant. The nerve is just ringing, throbbing and won't go away.
Usually I woke up around 4:30AM, took a pain killer , a caffeine pill and some water. My doctors don't like this, but it is the reality of the situation.I can not pick up my kids, smile or do a damn thing without this early wake up. Then I get up, take the dogs out back, pour a cup of coffee and go back downstairs. I put my headphones in with Exodus playing and get on the exercise bike for at least a half hour. Getting that first half hour of biking in the first thing in the morning is imperative. If I waited until later, the day gets too busy and I end up with a bunch of bike left after football practice at night.
I am literally tilted off to one side and it effects everything that I do. Pain in the ass. When I put the bar on my back to squat, I feel it. The crazy thing is, that I deadlifted 700 a few months ago and had no issues at all. This flare up came out of nowhere and I can't freaking predict or explain it. I know that plenty of folks are a lot worse off than me, but it is something that is always a factor in my life and I just deal with it and work around it. This time, I could not get it to calm down for the life of me. Squats, bent over rows, deadlifts and one arm rows were OUT. Well, I did very light one arm rows.
Now I had to leg press. Tracy and I performed fifteen sets of leg presses, twelve reps a set. I would do a set, then she would do a set, and we went back and forth. Really, we always train everything in that fashion, you go I go. Just back and forth, I never really lock out either. Folks can say what they want, but for bodybuilding, that technique works. Almost locking it out, but never resting. Those 15 sets actually helped my legs. They actually started to look better and they definitely got more vascular. Nothing else was done for legs. Just 15 sets of 12 reps. It was enough, as both of us were sore and walking up steps was a challenge. It still didn't help my back, and immediately afterwards I would take some pain killers to try to calm it down some.
That's what a lot of people don't understand about the mindset of folks who have decided that they must get to a goal no matter what. I had a doctor tell me that I was using pain pills the wrong way. The wrong way? So that I can get through my workouts and move one step closer to my goal? Take one so that I can pick my son up and take the dogs out side and not be a roaring jerk because of the nerve?
Anyway, this nerve was going nuts down my leg, making me crooked and I was trying to figure out how to make it through. I scheduled an injection in my spine. Usually you get one and then you need to take some time off. I couldn't take any time off, so it didn't. Then I had another MRI, and another epidural. Nothing. But once again, no time off. After the second shot, I just resigned myself to the fact that this thing wasn't gonna get better, that it was just something to deal with, and it was part of the process. Hell, my sister is sick as hell and she isn't complaining. I could deal with the back.
The tuna was going very well. I was losing weight fast, with the training, two hours of bike a day and 300 calories? it was coming off fast. I have talked about doing interval cardio before, and I swore by it last time, but I stayed with the 2 hours this time. How intense? Sweating a bunch. Working hard, but not all out. And without the carbs, I think that it was the right choice. I put mustard all over the tuna, ate cabbage, a pickle here or there, and that was pretty much it. After about ten days of the 300 calories, I bumped it up to 600 calories and a few more pickles. Binging, baby!
Training the other body parts? Shoulders- laterals, presses, shrugs, rear raises. Back- lat pulls, pullovers, Yates machine rows, light one arm rows. Chest- db bench, flies, lots of dips. Triceps- dips and pushdowns. Biceps- db curls, cable curls, hammer curls. Lots and lots of reps, perfect form, squeezing the crap out of the muscle.
Paranoid about losing thickness without deadlifts. Paranoid about getting small because of the lack of squatting. No bent over rows? Blasphemous. No choice.
And as the time went on, my energy literally dipped down to nothing. Just work and train and go home. Sleep in the truck when I was early for work. Ten minutes makes a huge difference. Just a little shut eye. Did I bring my mustard? Gotta have mustard. Buy all the tuna in the store, albacore. I had chicken twice and thought that I was cheating. Tons of cabbage, head after head. Raw and crunchy. Added some Splenda back in. Can't even look at people in the grocery store with their carts filled with Oreos. Envy them, despise them. Everyone needs to do this diet, see how they feel, see how much they appreciate food. See how when you are hungry that your whole life changes. Had my first accident ever, in my brand new truck. Head is spinning. The days are running together. This thing needs to end soon.
Part 3, coming up.