Recently I wrote an article on "How I became a personal trainer." In that article, I discuss the journey that led me to where I am today and some of the individuals and events that took place as I got there. During that journey, another one was taking place that I didn't get into many details about. That journey is how I got into shape? What were some of the challenges I faced? What foods did I eat? What happened to me mentally, and overall how it affected my life?
When I first started working out, like many people, I had no clue as to what I was doing. All I knew was that I wanted to gain some weight and put on muscle. I didn't know how much muscle. I just knew that I wanted to look better because I wasn't satisfied with my body. As I stated in my article "How I became a personal trainer," I was very skinny and thin, somewhat of a basketball player's body. I was teased a lot in high school around the time my peers started paying attention to how I looked, and I was not too fond of it. I was called a toothpick, pencil, pole, and stick figure. The worse part is that I seemed to travel with me where ever I went.
As I got older, I started looking at myself more in the mirror. I remember one day being at my mom's house looking at myself and just steering at myself in disgust. Sometime later, I finally started working out, and I had this logic. I told myself if I workout almost every day, then I would get in shape. I told myself the more, the better, and I'll gain muscle in no time.
I would follow this same program every day, Monday upper and Tuesday lower. When Wednesday came around, I would go back to the upper body and do this until I needed a rest day, which wasn't too often. Now, this wasn't such a smart program, but it was a start, and I felt stronger. I started to develop tighter legs and arms. My stomach got smaller, but still, there weren't any two, four, or six-packs showing. Not having block popping abs got me frustrated and confused me as to why everything else was drastically changing except for my stomach. It was then that I found out that I needed to change what I was eating. I had gotten my stomach to shrink, but I need to stop eating certain foods.
Over time I knew that I couldn't continue to eat like this. I slowly, one by one, started to give up some of these items. Chinese food was the biggest culprit for me. I could go there every night and get something new. The best part was that it was close by and cheap. Unfortunately, it took me some time to realize it was making me sick. I would get many headaches and go to sleep with chest burn, sometimes wake up with them too. Surprisingly I was still able to see some results and but new I was holding myself back by eating this junk. So I made a change, and my body thanked me for it. The food I started to eat include:
As you can see, my diet got a lot better, my food choices were improving, and it helped me perform better in the gym — the foods I was consuming help my workout. I felt stronger, but I didn't entirely give up all of my favorite foods, I just had them less. I told myself 2-3 times a week I would enjoy myself then get back on track. I realize that I started cheating more, so I tried to make healthier food taste better. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the taste, but I told myself if I can make it better than I probably wouldn't need a cheat meal as often. Once I did that, I found that I can eat more productive options more frequently. Then I thought to myself, why not have a system I can convert back to when I wanted a break from how I was eating. I developed a method called flexible dieting. Now I did not invent this idea. It was already out, but had no clue I was doing it. For a short period, I would have 80% clean food and 20% cheat foods. This style was an excellent method for me, and for some reason, it worked the second time around. Remember, I had already tried this approach by having 2-3 cheat meals a week, but I was limiting myself and felt restricted, so I would always end up doing more damage. Once I figured out a better way to eat, I change up my workout program to a split day.
Now with a program like this, you'll need to have the right amount of free time or keep the workout short and intense so that you spend about 45 minutes tops in the gym. Now I know you might be saying that's impossible, but you'll be surprised. During my time working out, I realized many people waste time talking to someone or being on their phones. I didn't play around when I worked out, maybe a few more extended conversations than expected when I saw a friend that I didn't see in a while or a discussion about an exercise or goal. If you've been working out for a while, you'll come across people telling you what's right versus what's wrong — throwing their no evidence knowledge at you. It happens from time to time, and when you know your stuff, you'll be eager to shut them up. My new program was working for me because I gave more attention to my muscles. I was a fan of bodybuilding, and that's how many, if not all, trained. I realized not many people were doing upper body day and lower body days. I did about 3-4 exercises to a muscle. So, for example, on Wednesday, it was back and biceps, I would do three exercises for back and 3 for biceps. The back exercises would include:
I would go on to keep this method as it would help me develop the body I have today. It's not for everyone, but the way I saw it was I wanted my muscles to grow, so I needed to give them each special attention. I couldn't work too many muscles at once because I would get tired and half-ass the last few exercises.
Here are a few things that change for me once I started working out. I saw these changes and loved how everything fell into place for me. These are also some factors that you should consider when first starting.
Sometime in the middle of all this, every muscle on me grew — my chest, biceps, hamstring, and quads. I would lift heavy every time i went to workout. I would soon find out that this wasn't good, and I needed light days, but I was all about pushing my body to the max. I got sore many times but never cared. I would find myself in more pain during work than in less. Picking up my arms would hurt, breathing would hurt my chest, and any sitting or standing up motion made my legs shake. I would lift until I couldn't get the weight up and sometimes workout while being sore. Now, this might sound unpleasant, but I loved it because i was getting stronger and loved how I looked. Soon after, I didn't get sore, and when I did, I was used to it, so it didn't bother me.
Lastly, What I soon realize was that I stopped thinking about how I would look and just started to enjoy the process. I loved every moment and became obsessed. I believe that this helped me because I wasn't checking myself in the mirror or scale, I few times, but I never said to myself "I'm not working out if my body doesn't change" even if I never saw any more results I knew that I was never stopping. Fitness gave me an outlet for a better life. I grew as a person and listened to my body, look at food differently, and use powers that I never knew I had but was always there. Most people usually want to look better than the next person, and at times I did too, but I was chasing a better me. I believe that I found that and a better body. In the end, I didn't just get ripped, jacked, shredded, or muscular I got a gift that I would carry with me and cherish for the rest of my life.
If you found my article helpful, please share it with a friend, family, or someone you know. If you are interested in more of my articles, you can check them out on my website https://www.obsessionfitnessnyc.com/blog.
If you reside in Brooklyn or Manhattan and are interested in personal training, you can reach out to me on my website above or email me at Obsessionfitnessnyc@gmail.com. If you're looking for fitness tips, I provide a ton on my Instagram https://www.instagram.com/chrisfitnyc/.
NASM CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER
NASM FITNESS NUTRITION SPECIALIST
NASM FAT LOSS SPECIALIST
Christopher Gilbert is a Personal Trainer based in New York City and is known for his effective nutrition and workout programs along with his intense training sessions.