This blog provides encouragement to people who are recovering from injury and working towards fitness.

Six-pack abs by sixty - two months out

After my accident, fifteen years ago, I floundered, as you would expect. I tried to do what the doctors ordered, which was take my medicine, and rest. I also discovered the wonder of comfort food, and managed to balloon up to the fattest that I'd ever been in my life.

195 pounds
My attempts to lose weight went back and forth for many years until I hit what I called "my fighting weight" in my mid-fifties. This was the weight that I remembered from my twenties when I was in very good shape. But after thirty years of neglect, most of my muscle had faded away, and all I looked like at 165 was kinda sad and thin.

My next step was to get some advice from the strength coach at the Fitness Center at my local Community College. He measured me and told me that I was still way too fat. His advice was to lose fat, and gain muscle. Of course I thought he was crazy, but I gave it a shot. He was right.

Last year, at age 59, I took a Body Mass Index test in a "Bod Pod" and realized that I was now in the best shape of my life. I had more lean muscle, and less fat, than back in my "heyday". I guess that makes now my "heyday", right?

I will be doing the BMI test again in two months, and I will be working on sharpening up my condition. I did get my six-pack abs back, but they're really kinda blurred by the fat that I need to lose to really reveal them, so that's my next goal. I've been taking photos of myself and I can see my abs, but really only in the perfect light, tensed very hard. But I know that there's muscle under there.

I've been weighing myself, and measuring myself, and writing stuff down. I write in this journal every day and it helps remind me of my goals. There really isn't any reason to do this, other than I enjoy setting goals and hitting them. I have to admit to being kinda curious about what a man my age can do mostly just training at home and at a Community College Fitness Center.

I'm now consistently at 160 and figure that I'll be at about that, or slightly below in two months. I'll let you know how it goes.

Goal for April 23: under 20% body fat

Every year on my birthday I take a body mass index test at the Fitness Center. Last year I was just barely under 20% and my goal this year is to get closer to 15, and at least be as lean as I was last year, and hopefully with more muscle mass. That's the idea of the test, to see what your body composition is. For the past five years I've consistently lost fat and gained muscle.

It's February 23rd and I will be taking the test on or around my birthday on April 23rd, so I have about two months.  So I will switch up my workouts to promote fat loss, and keep up my resistance training to retain the hard-earned muscle. The plan is to get back to tracking my calories and exercise, which I haven't done for months, and get off of the "bulking up" phase and more into "cutting".

My first step was to write down the goal on my calendar for today and for the final day. I also add a "one month out" to remind me to stay on track one month from today. Well, the 23rd of next month. Close enough for me! The next thing I started right away was getting back to cardio. I just did 1/2 on my stationary bike, with the idea of doing a total of one hour each day. That means that I can break it in half, but if I get close to the end of the day and haven't done the hour, I have to squeeze it in before bedtime. There's an incentive to do it! A full hour at one time is too long for cardio and breaking it up into 4 fifteen minute segments makes no sense. Two half-hours, every day. According to my tracker, that will burn 257 calories a day.

And it's time for me to take a closer look at the food I'm eating daily. I've been focusing on protein, protein, protein, and while I want to keep my protein up, I do need to watch the total calories. I can take in about 2,500 calories if I keep up the cardio and the weight lifting, but I can't do 3,000 or 5,000, which I've done a few days in the past couple of months. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if I'd had a 10,000 calorie day on occasion! That stops now.

Something I haven't done for a long time is prepare some hard-boiled eggs, which I'm doing now. They're very high in protein and low in fat, and I like them with some low fat cheese and a protein shake.

My next important step will be a grocery run, with the emphasis on lettuce, veggies and fruit. I do record my calories on my tracker, but I use an idea that I learned from Weight Watchers, I don't count veggies and fruit. Yes, I know veggies and fruits have calories, but I allow myself an unlimited amount of the veggies and fruit I like. I get the watermelon and cantaloupe already sliced up and I go through it pretty fast.

I'm making my protein shakes with mostly water nowadays so I'm not going through quite as much milk, but I'll get more eggs, more chicken breasts, that sort of thing.

I like projects like this, and I like goals. I know what to do, and I'm excited about doing it, and seeing how it goes. I'll let you know.

Image at the top of this post: Last year at 17.8%, 157 pounds. Would like to be there again.

Why you should have a dedicated calf workout day

If you're like me, you like to train chest and arms. And if you're a normally healthy person, muscle will grow there. The first time I saw new muscle it was surprising, but it's a perfectly normal process. Train the muscle, give it some protein and rest, and it will grow.

My split system has a dedicated day for chest, for back, and for arms. Until recently I had "Leg Day" which was just awful. So I kept skipping Leg Day. Yeah, I know you're not supposed to skip Leg Day! Because if you do, and keep training your upper body, you're just gonna look ridiculous - big strong arms and chest and skinny legs.

The biggest problem that I had with "Leg Day" is that it was way too much at one time. And really it is. Your legs are 1/2 of your body and trying to do intensive muscular training for that much of you is just plain asking for two much. So I divided "Leg Day" into two separate days: "Quads and Hamstrings Day" and "Calves Day". Quads and hamstrings I train on Wednesdays, and calves are today, which is Friday.

In a way, "Calves Day" is kind of an off day. It gives my upper body another day to recover, and I exercise muscles that really have no connection to my chest, back, and arms. I mean, my calves are below my knees! Yours probably are too, if you've ever looked at your calves.

And I'm not kidding here. Calves are what I call a "taboo" body part for us men. We're not supposed to look at them, or even speak of them. When I've asked people at the gym if they train calves, I've often got a look of horror as if I had mentioned something obscene. Some men would never dream of wearing shorts, or if they do wear shorts, they get the kind that are so long that they nearly cover up their calves.

But your calves are just like the rest of your body: they have muscle that gets stronger with use. I have one of those plastic little step thingees and it's just perfect for me. I hold a dumbbell in one hand and then raise and lower one leg at a time. Full stretch at the bottom, full flex on the top.

Welcome to Calf Day!