Day 52 – The Hotter Your Desire Burns, The Stronger Your Discipline Will Be

Today is an off day from the weight room.  As with every “off” day, I will get in a yoga session this evening.  Oh how I love yoga!

Since I don’t have anything to report as far as a lifting session goes, I would like to share a thought.  Before doing so, here’s a little background for you.

For those who aren’t aware, I am a connoisseur of self-development materials.  I love reading books on the subject.  I especially enjoy audio programs.  If I were more wealthy, I would probably buy every single self-development product that Nightingale-Conant has to offer.  I firmly believe in feeding the mind with new concepts & am committed to continual growth.  If you aren’t growing, you’re shrinking.

So today, I offer this quote:

“Discipline is doing what’s hard & necessary rather than what’s fun & easy and doing it when it’s necessary, whether you feel like doing it or not.” – Brian Tracy

Can’t argue with that.  While this quote can be applied to nearly every area of life, it is very  germane to my current participation in the Early To Rise 90 day body transformation contest.

Some days there are things that I don’t necessarily feel like doing at the time.  Things like:

  • Saying no to donuts, sweet rolls & other desserts at work
  • Updating meal planner spreadsheets
  • Going to bed by 10 each night instead of staying up later
  • Deadlifts & squats (I love what they are doing for my body but they are HARD)
  • Avoiding other things that pop up during the day that if I were to choose them, would take me further away from my goal even though they are appealing at the time

This is a small sample of instances in which discipline is necessary.  I think we can all agree that the list above are things that will help get me closer to achieving my fitness goals.  So it should be a no-brainer to do them with no hesitation.  Yet some days it isn’t that easy.

That’s when discipline kicks in.

But what is that allows me to be disciplined more often than not? (Believe me, I’m not perfect but I’m getting better each day).

Desire is what makes discipline possible.  While that sinks in, I’ll take it a step further.

Your level of discipline directly correlates to the strength of your desire.  There’s no 2 ways about it.

If you are lukewarm in your desire, your efforts will be a great indicator of this fact.  You will lack the discipline necessary to do what you need to do, when necessary, regardless of the degree of difficulty.

But, if your desire is burning white-hot you will do what it takes, when it’s necessary, regardless of the price.

Are you coming up short in the pursuit of your goals?  Are you finding that you are easily distracted?  Do you find yourself making excuses instead of taking action?

If so, take a moment & ask yourself how much you truly desire what it is that you are pursuing.  If it means enough to you, you will find the necessary discipline! 

Day 51 – The 300 Club

Today, I completed a modified version of Workout B, Phase 2 from Craig Ballantyne’s “15 Pounds of Muscle in 8 Weeks” program.

As I stated in last Tuesday’s update, I like to keep the “spirit” of a workout the same as the author intended, even if I substitute exercises or modify things a bit.

I kept the spirit of this workout true to its original format by focusing on the Lower Body.  I basically stuck to two exercises today (just as I did last week).

I started off the workout with Barbell Back Squats:

I love the fact that he is squatting below parallel.  He could probably lift his chin up a bit more but other than that he’s doing a great job.

After the squat portion of my workout was completed, I then moved on to good old


Yep, good old deadlifts.  Up until a few months ago, I had never attempted a deadlift.  I always shied away from the big compound lifts in favor of isolation type exercises.  In retrospect, that was rather silly & a waste of time.

When I first attempted a deadlift, it was ugly.  But as with all new things, the first few times are usually the toughest.  After awhile, it becomes less awkward.  You master the movement after numerous reps & sets.

That’s when the fun begins.

Once the movement has been perfected, you can then start to increase your working weight loads in greater quantities.  Strength gains & muscle growth tend to follow this increase in weight loads.  That has been the case for me anyway.  I’ve been feeling stronger lately as I have been able to increase my weight loads in the squat & deadlift.

So today, at the end of my workout, I decided I was going to do something I had never done before.

300 LBS Deadlift 2:26:13


That is 300 pounds (bar & weights).  I decided that tonight I would give it a shot & see if I could get at least 1 rep.  I wasn’t sure if I could do it as I had already done 5 sets of squats & 5 sets of deadlifts.

Now for some people, a 300 pound deadlift is nothing major.  But for me, this represents a “magic number” so to speak.  I’ve never lifted anything that heavy.

But I was determined that today I would.

I loaded the bar, stared it down & got into starting position.  I gripped the bar & before I knew it, I was standing upright with the bar in my hands.  I then lowered it to the floor.

I DID IT!  It was only rep but I established a new personal best in doing so.  What a fantastic feeling!  Now my new goal is 2 reps with 300 pounds.  Then 3, then 4, then 5…..

Today’s Workout Track Listing:

  • Astronomy – Metallica
  • Swamp Song – Tool
  • In My Tree – Pearl Jam
  • Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
  • Without Wings – Corrosion of Conformity
  • Rocker – AC/DC
  • Lucretia – Megadeth
  • The Red – Chevelle
  • Prayer – Disturbed
  • Heavy – Collective Soul (how fitting, this was playing when I deadlifted 300)

Day 50 – Until We Meet Again

Today, I completed Workout A, Phase 2 from Craig Ballantyne’s “15 Pounds of Muscle in 8 Weeks” program.    As noted in prior posts, this is an Upper Body Antagonistic Superset workout consisting of Presses & Rows.

I was a bit saddened today when I realized that I won’t be doing this particular workout next week.  Today marks the last week of Phase 2 of my current program.  I really enjoyed this particular workout over the last 4 weeks.  Although it is “only” Pressing & Rowing exercises, it is a fantastic workout!!

Incline Barbell Bench Press:



What a great way to target the upper chest!

Bent Over DB Rows:

A great back builder!  I like Barbell Rows but I find I tend to use better form when using dumbbells.

DB Fly Aways:

This exercise is best described as a mash-up between a DB Bench Press & a DB Fly.  If you click here, you can read all about it & even see a video of the exercise.  The guy in the video (Roman) just happens to be my former trainer.  It’s worth a peek.

Overhand Inverted Rows:

Notice the overhand grip.  Feet on bench is optional but I like the challenge so that’s how I roll.   This exercise is great for the back!

Alternating DB Bench Press:



A good description of this exercise may be found here.  Not only does this exercise blast the chest, the arms get blasted as well!!

Underhand Grip Inverted Row:

Notice the underhand grip.  (I go with feet on the bench for this exercise.)  Not only is this exercise great for the back but the arms get a great workout too!

So as you can see, although the workout is rather “basic”, there is a great deal of variety involved.

I’m going to miss this workout.  But, I have a feeling that a few months down the road this workout will make its way back into the rotation.

Today’s Workout Track Listing:

  • Zombie – The Cranberries
  • Cosmic Monsters Inc. – White Zombie
  • Sugar – System of a Down
  • Suicide & Redemption – Metallica
  • GD Electric – Pantera
  • Mandatory Suicide – Slayer
  • Freewill – Rush
  • Rocks – Primal Scream
  • Delivering the Goods – Skid Row with Rob Halford
  • Adrenalin – Eisbrecher

Day 49 – Now I Know How A Yo-Yo Feels….

Today is an off day from the weight room.  I can use the rest & recovery before tackling the upcoming week.  I will be completing Phase 2 of my current program next Sunday.  I would like to finish up this phase as strong as possible. The resting today will help.

Being that this is Sunday, I had my weekly weigh-in.  How did I do??

This morning’s weigh-in was a failure in one aspect & a success in another.

Failure: Lean body mass increased very little this week.  I gained less than a pound of muscle.  I ate more food this week yet the gains were minimal.  Not good.  I am now well behind the pace I had hoped for.

I would be lying if I said this doesn’t bother me.  It does.  I’ve put in a great deal of effort in the weight room.  I’ve been diligent with my meal planning – hours have been spent planning, prepping & consuming meals.

It is frustrating to put in a great deal of effort for only a minimal amount of perceived progress in return.

The frustration came to a head when I stepped off the scale this morning & realized I was 1.5 pounds lighter today than I was last week.

This is a mass building program, I’m eating more food & I weigh less??  My attitude took a sudden downturn.  Then I sat down to run some numbers.  Begrudgingly, I might add.

Success: The 1.5 pound drop on the scale was actually a good thing, despite this being a mass building phase.  The 1.5 pounds was predominantly fat loss!  My body fat percentage was down 1/2 % this week due to this fat loss.  Plus, I gained a little bit of muscle in the process.

Bottom Line:  For the week, I was able to shed about 1.5 pounds of fat while gaining a little bit of muscle in the process.

Lesson Learned: Had I focused entirely on the scale & not taken body fat measurements, I would have felt like I had taken a big step back this week.  But in reality, I took a step forward this week.  Not a big step but it was something.

While I was looking over my numbers this morning, I also noticed a pattern that has developed over the last 7 weeks.  It seems that I tend to gain weight for 2 weeks, lose a bit the 3rd week & then the cycle repeats.  This pattern has held true this entire contest period.  Not sure why this is but I will figure it out.

Honestly, I would prefer not to be yo-yoing when it comes to my attempt at gaining muscle mass.  I would rather the gains be mostly clean & the scale to be nudging upward each week.  So, I will look back over the last 6 weeks & see where I could have been better.

Maybe I ate too little on my non-lifting days?  It’s possible.

Maybe I need to increase my caloric intake on lifting days?  Could be.

Maybe I should take in a little more carbs & back off the protein & fat a little bit?  More carbs on lifting days might be the key.

I have gained nearly 20 pounds of muscle since last June so maybe that is part of the issue?  Maybe the next 10-20 pounds are going to be tougher to come by?

It could be any one of the above things.  It could be all of the above things.  It could be something totally unrelated.  Whatever it is, I will figure it out & take the proper corrective actions to fix the issue(s).


Day 48 – Saturday Fun

Today I took a break from my scheduled workout & instead did a workout that I designed myself.

Today I really felt like doing a Total Body workout.  I decided to pick one of my favorite exercises for each major muscle group & go from there.

Here’s what I came up with:

Lumberjack Press  (Shoulders)

Front & Back Barbell Squats (2 sets each) (Lower Body)



Close Grip Barbell Bench Press (Chest) & Underhand Inverted Row (Back) (Superset)

DB Hammer Curls (Biceps) & Diamond Push-Ups (Triceps) (Superset)



Each major muscle group got some attention.  I definitely worked up a good sweat & felt pumped when I was done.

The last 2 Saturdays I have designed my own workout based on the “feel” for that day.  I think I have started a new Saturday tradition!

I’m cutting this post short.  Time to shower & then head out for a birthday dinner.

Today’s Workout Track Listing:

  • The Pot -Tool
  • Wake Up – Mad Season
  • Ride the Lightning – Metallica
  • Custard Pie – Led Zeppelin
  • Live In A Hole -Pantera
  • Metal Health (Bang your Head) – Quiet Riot
  • Bring it on Home – Led Zeppelin
  • Right Turn – Alice in Chains
  • Down in a Hole -Alice in Chains




Day 47 – Snow Day!

Today is an off day from the weight room.  After finishing this post, I will get in about 10 minutes of core work & at least 10-20 minutes of yoga.

After that, it will be a day of fun-filled activities with my son.  Translation: Hours of MW3 on the XBOX.

I should be at work but not today….

Due to the ice & snow we got last night, school & daycare are closed.  Guess I will have to stay home with him all day & enjoy the time.  Not only with him but also with my dog.

My boys

My boys

So, I’m cutting this post short, getting my 1/2 hour of core/yoga work done & then it’s fun time!!!

Be back tomorrow with a recap of my Saturday workout.  Enjoy the day everyone!

Day 46 – I’m Not A Lumberjack But….

Today, I completed Workout C, Phase 2, from Craig Ballantyne’s “15 Pounds of Muscle in 8 Weeks” program.  This is a great Upper Body workout!

I’m happy to report that I was able to make some measurable progress this evening.  For the majority of the lifts I performed this evening I was able to use a heavier weight than last week.

Here’s the rundown:

  • Close Grip Bench Press: +5 Pounds
  • Pull Ups: +3-4 Pounds (I weigh more this week, YES!!)
  • DB Hammer Curls: +5 Pounds
  • Barbell Curls: +5 Pounds
  • DB Skullcrushers: +2.5 Pounds 

But, there was one exercise that did not call for an increase in working weight.

What exercise am I talking about??

The Lumberjack Press:

Although I didn’t increase the weight used this week, I was able to pound out more reps.  That’s a sign of progress in my book!

I’ve written a great deal about the LJ Press in previous posts.  It is one of my favorite shoulder exercises.  Why?  Because it is a difficult exercise to perform correctly.  Balancing the bar while pressing it overhead is not an easy task.  An empty barbell can become a teeter-totter in no time at all.  Add weight to the bar & it is REALLY tough.

It took many sessions but I have finally gotten to the point where I have “mastered” the movement.  Now that I have the movement perfected, I can focus on adding weight to the bar.  Or increasing my rep count.  Or doing both.  Regardless of the method, from session to session I look for measurable signs of progress.

Don’t shy away from an exercise because it is “too hard”.  When I first encountered the LJ Press, it was a very humbling experience.  It was difficult & I had to use a light dumbbell instead of the barbell.  But over time I got better at the movement.  I also gained strength.  Now I look forward to the LJ Press.

If there’s an exercise you suck at & it’s getting the best of you, don’t give up.  Stick with it, get stronger & before you know it you’ll be a master at it!  What a great feeling!

Today’s Workout Track Listing:

  • Thumb – Kyuss
  • The God That Failed – Metallica
  • Albatross – Corrosion of Conformity
  • Meatplow – Stone Temple Pilots
  • Strutter – KISS
  • Ghosts of War – Slayer
  • Raining Blood – Slayer
  • The Sky is Fallin’ – Queens of the Stone Age
  • Fear – Heaven & Hell
  • Divinations – Mastadon

Day 45 – Halfway Home

Today is an off-day from weight lifting.  I have some core work & yoga to do this evening however.

Today also marks the halfway point of the 90 day body transformation that I am currently participating in.  January 6th doesn’t seem like that long ago!  Yet here I am, 45 days later.

In the past 45 days, I have accomplished a few things on a personal level worth noting:

  • Gained nearly 7 pounds of lean body mass while minimizing fat gains
  • Hit personal bests in a vast majority of the lifts I’ve done
  • Regained discipline in the weight room & the kitchen (this is HUGE)
  • Created this blog
  • Assisted friends, family & co-workers in relation to meal plan & workout questions

There are probably a few more positive things that have come about due to this contest but for now these are the ones that really stand out.

With all of that being said, I do have a confession to make.

I’m nowhere near where I ultimately desire in terms of weight/body fat%, personal bests, assisting others, blogging, etc.

I’m definitely not as “cut” as I was back at the end of October:

Screen shot 2013-01-11 at 9.12.17 PM

But it’s ok.  I’m currently in a mass building phase so I expected to gain a little bit of fat.  I can lose the fat in a few weeks so I’m not worried about it.



If I intend to win this contest, I have A LOT of work ahead of me.  Not just over the next 45 days, either.

Nope, this is a lifestyle.  A lifestyle that I intend to carry forward.  Once this contest is over, I fully intend to continue doing the things that I’ve been doing thus far.

Honestly, the past 45 days have really been a re-introduction to healthy living more than anything.

I lost my edge back in November. For nearly 2 months I sloughed off.  I watched the efforts of the prior 6 months erode into a body I was not happy with.  So I joined this contest & here I am.  Not where I would like to be, but inching closer each day.

What do the next 45 days have in store for me?

If things go according to plan here’s what I envision for the next 45 days:

  • Gaining an additional 10-15 pounds (would like more but that may take longer) over the next 3-4 weeks
  • Using the final 2-3 contest weeks to incinerate the fat that is currently masking my lower abs
  • End my 90 day transformation period looking better than I did in the picture above
  • Placing in the top 3 in the Body Transformation category & winning some $$$!!!
  • Gain exposure online due to being a contest winner & using it as a springboard to a career in health/fitness

How will I do?  If the vision I see in my mind manifests itself & becomes my reality, the above list will come to fruition in a rather short time.  It will be AWESOME!!!

But what if I don’t?  I don’t plan on that happening but who knows??

If I miss the mark, I will be a bit disappointed.  But I WILL NOT QUIT!  Ever.

Why let a temporary defeat become permanent?

We all suffer setbacks in life.  But they aren’t necessarily the worst thing that can happen.  Besides, a setback might be what you need to get moving in the proper direction.

When I suffer a setback, I close my eyes & this is what I see:

A Setback is a Setup for a Comeback

“A Setback is a Setup for a Comeback”

In case you can’t read the writing in red, it says: “A Setback is a Setup for a Comeback”.

This was written by my grandma Golden at some point between Mother’s Day 1972 (when she got this particular Bible from my aunt as a gift) & December 2010 (when she passed away).  When Grandma died, the one thing I asked Grandpa was if I could have one of her Bibles.  Specifically, I asked for one in which she had taken a copious amount of notes.

My Grandma loved to write.  And she was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known.  In lieu of her journal, her Bible notes would be the closest thing that I could ever hope to have that would allow me to peer into her mind.  I knew that within the pages of her favorite book I would find a treasure trove of wisdom & gain insights into her thoughts.

A priceless gift for sure.

I fully anticipate some setbacks along the way to achieving my goals.  But I also know what a setback really is – a setup for a comeback.

The reason I wanted to share this story is because I hope that when you are experiencing a rough patch, you’ll remember what my grandma wrote & it will pull you through.

You have no idea how many times I have cracked that Bible open & read that line.  Repeatedly.  Until I believed it.

45 days gone, 45 more to go…..

Day 44 – 100 Pounds Less Is 250 More Pounds?

Today, I completed a modified version of Workout B, Phase 2 from Craig Ballantyne’s “15 Pounds of Muscle in 8 Weeks” program.

As I stated in last Tuesday’s update, I like to keep the “spirit” of a workout the same as the author intended, even if I substitute exercises or modify things a bit.

I kept the spirit of this workout true to its original format by focusing on the Lower Body.  I basically stuck to two exercises today (just as I did last week).

First, I upped my working weight from last week on the Front Barbell Squat:



It was only a 5 pound increase but over 25 reps that equates to an additional 125 pounds lifted today versus last week!

Side note: In the above picture, the fitness model is squatting to parallel.  That’s ok for him I guess.  However, I tend to squat below parallel for a number of reasons.  I won’t go into them all right now (great article here) but just remember that squatting below parallel (if done properly & in a safe manner) has some benefits.

I did change things up this week on the Barbell Deadlift:

Rather than doing the 5 rep/5 set pattern as I did last week, I changed a couple of variables.  First, instead of doing 5 reps per set, I upped the number to 10 reps.  I also reduced my weight by 100 pounds from last week.

This might sound like I took a large step back from last week.  Maybe I did in a few aspects.  But, the increased rep count did make up the difference in one aspect. I ended up lifting 250 more pounds this week than last week.  Granted, it took more reps to get there but I got there.

All in all, I had a great workout today.  I hope you did/do too!

Today’s Workout Track Listing:

  • The Underdog – Spoon
  • Blood & Thunder – Mastadon
  • People of the Sun – Rage Against The Machine
  • Israel’s Son – Silverchair
  • Parasite – Anthrax
  • Custard Pie – Led Zeppelin
  • Long Time – Black Label Society
  • Sabbath Bloody Sabbath – Bruce Dickinson w/ Godspeed

Day 43 – You Make It Look So Easy

Today, I completed Workout A, Phase 2 of Craig Ballantyne’s “15 Pounds of Muscle in 8 Weeks” program.  This is an Upper Body, Chest/Back Antagonistic Superset based workout. While the arms & shoulders get a little bit of secondary work, the main focus of this workout is chest & back.

The Press/Row in-set dynamic is one aspect of this workout that I really enjoy.  I also like the fact that this workout is heavy on the Inverted Bodyweight Rows:

This is a great exercise for growing a larger, stronger back.  The arms get a good pump during this exercise, especially when using an underhand grip.  The shoulders & chest even get in a bit of indirect work during this exercise as well.

The Inverted Row is also a very versatile exercise.  Grip, feet placement, tempo & many other variables can be changed rather easily.  The Inverted Row is probably one of the best & most versatile exercises you aren’t currently doing.

I had no idea the inverted row existed until a few months ago.  And man was I not very good at it when I first discovered it!

It has taken some time but I am now able to knock out a decent amount of rows during this workout.  This specific point was the topic of discussion a bit earlier.

My 10-year-old son was in the weight room at the time observing me when the following conversation took place.  I had just completed a set of Underhand Grip Inverted Rows when he asked me the following question:

“Is that exercise hard?”

Me: “Yes!”

Him: “Then how do you make it look so easy?”

Me (smiling): “Lots of practice & building strength are why it looks easy.  You missed the sessions when I first learned the exercise.  I struggled with it & could barely do a few reps.”

Him: “Wasn’t it hard getting strong enough?  Did you ever want to quit?”

Me (with a bigger smile): “Yes, it was hard.  Yes, there were times when I wanted to quit.  But I kept going.  You know why?  Because I was unhappy with where I was at & I knew that eventually this would become easier.  It is still a tough exercise.  But it looks easier because I became stronger. And so will you once you begin to lift weights.”

Him: “Don’t worry dad, when I start lifting I am going to keep going when it gets tough.  And I won’t quit.  I know you don’t like quitters and I want to be your workout partner so I won’t quit on you.”

Me (with lump in throat): “That’s awesome buddy.  Soon enough you will be able to be my partner & we’re gonna turn you into a big boy!”

As if this 90 day contest hasn’t motivated me enough to keep pushing in the weight room.  Now I have an even bigger, more important reason than winning this contest.

One of the most important people in the world is watching me.  He wants to be like me.  He’s counting on me to show him the way.  I MUST continue down the path that I am on.

In just a short time, my workout partner will be old enough to join me in the weight room.  I must be ready for that day!

Today’s Workout Track Listing:

  • Hallelujah Goat -Volbeat
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls – Metallica
  • So What’cha Want – The Beastie Boys
  • Expendable Youth – Slayer
  • Communication Breakdown – Led Zeppelin
  • Sober – Tool
  • Stayin Alive – Ozzy with Dweezil Zappa  (click Ozzy Stayin Alive for a little listen)
  • Zero – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Animal – Pearl Jam
  • Your Disease – Saliva