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The Day I Stopped Drinking

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I should preface this piece by saying that I am not an alcoholic.

I exist in that weird limbo between being a casual drinker and an alcoholic. I don’t have a physical addiction to alcohol, and I didn’t drink to the point of getting drunk every day. But ever since I was legally able to drink, I would go through spurts where I’d have a few drinks a week, sometimes more than one a night, and would spend a lot of my weekends drunk and hungover. Stressful situations would lead me to drink either at home or at a bar or at a friend’s house party, providing a faux panacea and an unhealthy alternative to coping with said stress.

In early August, I was under a decent amount of stress due to some personal changes in my life. Good changes, mind you, but the process of reaching them proved to be very intense and very stressful. And when I get stressed, I drink. And when I drink, I eat. Alcohol and comfort food are my own personal match made in hell.

I had gotten back into a trend of eating, drinking and not being merry after a semi-successful month of working out again. Despite my persistent self-reassurance that I was happy, deep down I knew that I had started throwing away every ounce of physical and mental progress gained from working out and eating (slightly) better the month before.

And then I hit my own personal bottom.

Most people think of hitting bottom, in the scope of drug and alcohol addiction, as committing an act so embarrassing or destructive that it forces them to open their eyes and changing their ways. Nothing that extreme happened to me, thankfully, but I did undergo an intense physical wake-up call known as a splitting hangover.

I’ve been hungover before. Many times. Hell, I’ve had worse hangovers than the one I’m about to discuss. But this one was different. To this day, I still can’t quite explain what it was about it that told me, “Dude, you’re better than this.”

The day before, I got pretty drunk. I was bar hopping and chasing beer and tequila with decadent bar food, plus some donuts that I scarfed down as soon as I got back to my apartment. I don’t remember falling asleep. Hell, I don’t even remember why I got drunk, other than the fact that I could.

I woke up the next morning feeling like a guy who had three tall beers, a tequila cocktail, an undercooked burger, and 4 donuts the night before. The sunlight beating down on me from my bedroom window mocked me mercilessly. My own body mocked me. My stomach felt like I had swallowed a tiny uranium bomb. My head spun; it churned a dull, poisonous sensation throughout itself chastising me for my less than stellar life choices.

That day, I decided not to drink for a while.

I had entertained the notion of quitting drinking plenty of times before. I heard stories about people who felt, thought, and lived much better after limiting their social drinking. But what always stopped me was the fear of missing out, of not being able to socialize and hang out with friends and go on dates without the aid of a stiff drink. After all, I’m only young once, right? YOLO, as my fellow millennials say. You can quit drinking when you’re older. Just enjoy life, man.

The only problem? Drinking didn’t make me enjoy life. It dulled life. It dulled me. It made me even more of a physically and emotionally imbalanced person. It didn’t decrease my anxiety, it exacerbated it. It messed up my sleep patterns. It created a vicious circle of drinking (often hard liquor), making me hungry and thirsty for crap, buying greasy, salty comfort food and soda, finishing with some kind of dessert, passing out, and doing the same thing later that week. It sapped my daily energy. It made me unmotivated to go to work, to write, and to work out and eat right. Because if my diet isn’t good, then why bother working out, right?

Cut back to the morning of my brain and gut taking turns kicking my ass. I looked in the bathroom mirror and realized I had only two choices: (1) Do nothing, and continue to make half-assed attempts at eating better and limit my drinking, only to inevitably relapse, or (2) Commit to clean eating for a firm period of time, including NO drinking at all.

I don’t know what was different this time around. I had given myself that same ultimatum God knows how many times before, and always chose the first option out of complacency and a fear of self-improvement. Maybe it was fate or the stars aligning or just a spontaneous coordination with God and whatever forces at work internally and externally, but as of writing this, I have gone 31 days without a single drop of alcohol and a substantially improved diet and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

In just over a month, I’ve noticed my skin is glowing, I think more sharply, I want to write more (hence the slightly more consistent blogging),I have a lot more energy and desire to work out, and therefore my body fat has significantly diminished. I’m still not at my goal body type yet, but I am in FAR better shape than I was a month ago. As for my weight, I couldn’t tell you because I don’t weigh myself much anymore. I may hop on at the end of the week just out of curiosity. In short, I feel pretty damn great.

Speaking of working out, in addition to the whole “no drinking” thing, I knew I had to get back on the ball with my diet and exercise, which suffered by proxy. I severely curbed my intake of processed food and sugar, replacing fast food with home-prepared meals and more green stuff, zero-nutrient sugary crap with dark chocolate almonds/berries and dried fruit, and soda (a lifelong addiction) with unsweetened green tea, the occasional tart cherry juice, and *GASP* … water!

I started working out one week later. I revisited Hip Hop Abs through Beachbody OnDemand, and decided to do the month 2 workouts to jumpstart my metabolism again. I eventually toyed with my schedule and added different workouts into the mix, but my calendar was a fantastic starting point just to get me moving again. I remembered that if my workouts were fun, I would be even more committed to leading a healthy lifestyle, and I was right. I’m following this modified four weeks of a Hip Hop Abs calendar with a CIZE/Les Mills OnDemand hybrid, and I cannot wait. Curbing my drinking for a while has given me so much energy and enthusiasm that I actually WANT to work out again. For real. I haven’t actively wanted to work out in so long that I forgot what it felt like.

To anyone reading this struggling with your diet or drinking, it’s important to realize that you are WORTH the change. Every bit of it. It is never too late to turn your life around and make a game plan. There are so many easy, healthy recipes out there (which I’ll also blog about), affordable and free workouts you can do at home, and of course, support groups for drug and alcohol addiction. My drinking dependence never got to the point where I needed those groups, but there is absolutely NO shame in reaching out to them if you need them. It’s one of the most beautiful and amazing things you could ever do for yourself.

No matter who you are, or how far gone you think you may be, you are worth living your life to its absolute fullest potential. When you honor your body and give it what it needs, you are honoring yourself. You are showing yourself the love and respect that you deserve. You are cultivating an incredible existence, and by overcoming those demons of food and drink, you aren’t just strengthening yourself, you’re inspiring those around you to potentially do the same thing.

Now let’s go out and kick some ass.

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P90 Week 5

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Looking at my 30 day progress pictures, I saw some definite improvements, especially in my back and upper midsection. Something that I didn’t directly notice in the pictures yet saw in my daily life was that my biceps and triceps are more hard and defined, and my legs are a lot harder and sturdier. Plus, as is the case with consistent exercise, my face appears less puffy as well.

Sculpt B has proven itself to still be one of my favorite workouts of all time, because it’s both classic and progressive, incorporating old school routines like classic curls and 7/7/7 curls from Tony’s original Power 90, while also invoking P90X3-esque routines like balance curls and push-up+side arm balances (aka “The Crab Special”, a name that made me more hungry than anything else. Yes, I know it’s treif.). What I also like about it is that the entire routine can be done with dumbbells so, unless you prefer it, you can do rocket rows with dumbbells.

Sweat B is a definite improvement over its Month A predecessor, making its moves slightly more complex by adding on extra twists (i.e. downward strikes + sprawls instead of just sprawls). Plus, seeing Maddy strike and kick her way through this routine not only motivates me to keep up with her, but she also reminds me of Alice (aka “Pain in the Alice”) from P90X3, who proved herself to be nothing short of a bonafide badass in routines like The Challenge and MMX. The major downside of this lies not in the moves themselves, but within Tony’s incessant need to copy the modifying performer’s English accent. Ugh. As for Ab Ripper B, I’ll be honest…I didn’t do it. I don’t really have the time to add ab routines on top of 35+ min routines (though I should), but it’s basically Ab Ripper A with some added moves.

I also sampled the 22 Minute Hard Corps Cardio 1 workout, which absolutely kicked my ass but it was over in practically no time. It’s basically repeated sets of moves like step-back lunges, side-to-side lunges, and (holy &%$!)…burpees. Lots of burpees. I can tell this is going to be fuuuuunnnnn.

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P90 Week 4 / “Month A” Review

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And so ends Month A. How I hardly knew thee.

I’ll miss you all…Jim, with your ripping 61-year-old biceps putting my 26 year-old twigs to shame, Stella (STELLAAAAA!!!) with your awesome Lara Croft braid and your horrible, horrible form (though mine isn’t much better), Christy with your refusal to do anything Tony says, and of course, Dakota. No matter if I’m going north, south, east, or west…you’ll always be in my heart. Because your “advanced” level shenanigans inspired me to crank up my heart rate.

So yeah, I got through it. I did very little Sweat A + Ab Ripper A, but that’s ok because I did most of my Sculpt A workouts and substituted cardio with yoga sessions, which made me sweat like Chris Christie on stage with Donald Trump. Here are my thoughts on the workouts:

Sculpt A

Like I had mentioned in a previous post, I have never been a weightlifting guy. I think that stems from the fact that I was always overweight growing up and a lot of what helped me (temporarily) lose weight was running and other forms of cardio. That, and I always assumed the sole purpose of lifting weights was to get you big. It’s not. It’s prolonged calorie burn, and like Tony says during lunges (in a voice so flamboyant it makes Richard Simmons sound like Arnold): “BURNING SENSATION! Which means calories are burning, which means you’re gonna lose weight and look good.”

Sculpt A is an awesome and accessible introduction for people who have never so much as lifted a dumbbell yet will still provide one hell of a challenge. It’s a total body workout that includes both isolating moves (standard curls, swimmer’s presses, pulldowns) and moves incorporating the multiple areas (rocket launcher kickbacks, weighted kayak lunges, Sawyer chin pulls). You do 16 reps per move, take a break midway, then do slightly harder versions of those same moves. For instance, you’d start with half pushups in the first round, then start with walking half pushups in the second round. Overall, it’s a quick yet effective calorie burner that novices and pros alike will get a lot out of.

Sweat A

As I’ve said, Tony isn’t a big cardio guy. Shaun T just straight up annihilates him when it comes to cardio workouts, while Tony offers more in terms of resistance (two sides of the same ridiculously shredded coin). So, while it has its moments that I got a lot out of (particularly its MMA moves), this workout really didn’t do it for me. Not because it was too easy, because it did make me work up a sweat, but because it just kind of bored me. It’s one of those “have to” workouts that I ultimately ended up substituting yoga in its place. I prefer cardio set to a rhythm, which is why Les Mills COMBAT is and will most likely remain one of my favorite home workout programs of all time. It’s rhythmic, fun, energetic cardio that keeps you moving because it’s set to a musical tempo. Here, the background music serves just as that: background noise. Not terrible by any means, but not particularly motivating either. I say try it out a few times, and if you like it, great. If not, do something that makes you giddy as a [something giddy] to work out.

Ab Ripper A

This is actually where Sweat A improves a bit, with its immediate followup of Ab Ripper A. This 8 minute core routine, if done correctly, will make your midsection sore and make you feel like you put in genuine work. All of it is floor work, though, so if you’re a standing abs kind of person, then you’re out of luck. Thankfully it’s relatively quickly, and as someone who HATES working his abs, I’ve been through more torturous routines.

Saturday Special

This is a P90X3 workout.

Okay, it’s not, but since this weekend workout has a time length of 30 minutes and the fact that it will make you sweat a ton (and whine a little) by its end puts it in the same category as Accelerator or anyother X3 cardio routines. It’s fast-paced cardio and abs (standing and floor) that puts you to work for half an hour but makes you work. It’s one of those “hate it but I love it” workouts that is a challenge no matter what month you’re on, because you can always go faster or intensify your moves. Definitely an improvement over Sweat A for sure.

So yeah, this was a good month and I’m already noticing myself slimming down and fitting into jeans that were too tight a month ago. Up next is Month B…

BUT.

The peer pressure of Facebook has proven itself too much for me, as I have been invited to participate in a #SummerStrong fitness challenge group. This means that beginning April 4th, I will be committing 60 days to Tony Horton’s brand new military-inspired fitness program 22 Minute Hard Corps in lieu of the second half of Month B, all of Month C, and the first half of P90X3 Month 1. My reasoning is simple: I get to satiate my desire to try this (really cool-looking) program out and get a free t-shirt at the end. What I may do to appease my OCD desire to finish P90 is to create some weird hybrid of the two, but we’ll see.

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P90 Week 3

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Greetings, nonathletes!

So, despite my initial determination to complete as full and unadulterated a P90 calendar as possible, I’ve realized how much I actively dislike Sweat A + Ab Ripper A and have instead opted to switch in yoga workouts instead, making this a strength training + yoga hybrid for the time being.

This past week, I did the following workouts:

Mon: P90X3 Yoga + P90 Sculpt A

Tues: P90X3 Yoga

Wed: Rested

Thurs: P90X3 Dynamix – A dynamic stretch routine co-developed by Olympic athlete Malachi Davis.

Fri: Moving heavy boxes (yep, counting it as a workout)

Sat: Yoga Booty Ballet Pure and Simple Yoga – Hey, don’t knock it till you try it. As silly as its name is, it’s an ass-kicker.

Sun: PiYo Sweat – To make up for Wednesday (and a Saturday of St. Patrick’s Day festivities), I tried the BOD sample workout of Chalene Johnson’s PiYo program.

This week, I’m reincorporating more of Sculpt A to not only reintroduce my body to resistance training, but also to adequately prepare myself for next month’s Sculpt B workouts. I’m particularly excited about this since I feel Sculpt B is one of the best resistance workouts I’ve ever done. On the remaining days, I’ll alternate between various BOD yoga routines and make sure one of them has cardio, so ideally, PiYo Sweat or Jericho McMatthews’ Half & Half cardio + yoga BOD workout.

I’m really excited about pushing my body further with the relaxing yet challenging and sweat-inducing power of yoga and the adrenaline rush of lifting iron and cranking out pushups and pulldowns.

Whatever it is you’re doing (or thinking about doing), “do your best and forget the rest.”

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P90: Week 2

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Greetings, Nonathletes!

Confession: This week was about the same in the diet department: not great but not terrible (speaking of which, Ruffles All Dressed chips are amazing), and I ended up not working out Wednesday and Friday. So instead, I did a less than stellar Amazon.com free yoga workout Saturday morning in addition to Joel Freeman’s 8×8 workout on Beachbody OnDemand that night (I highly recommend it – 22 minutes of HELL on your legs and biceps).

Today, to make up for last week and to kick off Week 3 just right, I did the P90X3 Yoga routine right before today’s P90 Sculpt A, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I have greatly improved at yoga! Despite not having done any yoga workouts lately, I attribute my new strength to two things: (1) The vinyasas at the beginning of every P90 workout and (2) The insane leg strength I’ve developed thanks to Sculpt A 3 days a week. Speaking of improved strength – when I started P90, I was doing max 50 lbs during pulldown exercises and 35 lbs on tricep pulldowns. As of today, I can now do 70 and 50 lbs respectively.

Between that and the physical toning I’m noticing, I’d say I’m not off to a bad start. If I’m able to, I’d like to do yoga 2-3 times a week in addition to my normal routine to make sure my flexibility is on point. I’m still liking the program and I’m glad to finally be halfway done with Month A.

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P90: Week 1

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P90 may be called the “on switch to fitness” for people who haven’t worked out in a long time (or ever), but as someone who’s dabbled with INSANITY, P90X and X3, I can safely say that P90 is definitely a challenging program…if you make it challenging.

Any fitness expert could easily dog his way through this stuff and not get anything out of it. But by upping your speed, weights, squat and lunge depth, and overall intensity, you can make this legitimately hard to finish, especially if you focus on your overall weaknesses.

Case in point: I opted for the Sculpt calendar (3 days lifting, 3 days cardio) because I’ve always been more of a cardio man. I recognize that I need more lifting in my life to prevent bone and joint issues, to burn calories longer, and to be an overall stronger and fitter person. But what I’ve realized is that I actually enjoy Sculpt A more than Sweat A + Ab Ripper A. Maybe it’s due to the fact that deep down, even the most cardiophilic of men still have a primal desire to lift heavy things and put them down. Regardless, it’s still a fun butt-kicker of a workout. Sweat A + Ab Ripper A are nice, but Tony Horton is an admitted cardiophobe, so while you will sweat (I should hope so, it’s in the title), it probably won’t be the most fun you’ve had working out.

In terms of my diet (the REAL challenge), I have been very healthy and on top of my vitamins and water intake, but I will fully admit I could use a bit more discipline and order in the food department (pizza and wings were had this week, and that’s all I will say…also, pineapple and green peppers go very well together).

Still, not bad for my first week.

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Update and thoughts on Les Mills COMBAT so far

So sorry for the absence! It’s been a hectic past couple of weeks, but rest assured I have been getting my workouts in except for 3 days when I was out of town at a convention, busy as heck and low energy. However, I’m back on track with COMBAT and currently doing a 3 day Shakeology cleanse to kickstart my nutrition back up. I also have a cold though, so working out has been the LAST thing I want to do, but I’ve been pushing play anyway.

So, I have to say that Les Mills COMBAT might honestly be what my Beachbody Coach calls a “soulmate” workout: a program that you actually kind of look forward to doing on a daily basis. I thought INSANITY was my soulmate workout, but I just don’t really have the same passion for it that I do for COMBAT. I keep saying this, but I just love the sense of control and power it inspires without wearing me down mercilessly or taking up a ton of my time. I’m most likely going to be doing a Les Mills PUMP-COMBAT hybrid this fall, which I’m really looking forward to even though I don’t love PUMP quite as much as COMBAT. I’m confident the addition of more weights will be good for my body. Hell, I might just do a P90X-COMBAT hybrid instead. Hmmm, we shall see.

I can’t promise I’ll be updating daily during the coming weeks due to some big changes going on in my life, but I will chime in whenever inspiration strikes. I owe it to you guys, and myself.

Keep it real and *kisses fist* stay with the fight.

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Les Mills COMBAT Day 9: Power HIIT 1 and T-Rex Tuesday!

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Greetings, Nonathletes!

Today, I met my nemesis in battle again, and while I may not have been able to perform every single burpee-pushup-jump-squat and had to modify the occasional lunge and lower my weights again, I did a LOT better this time around than before!

This should have been more obvious since I did INSANITY, but I’ve found that the secret to overcoming high intensity interval training, especially workouts like this which utilize both calisthenics and fast-paced weight training, is a clear mind and an absolute determination pre-workout. That applies to any and all workouts, sure, but personally, these plyometrics and clean and presses required me to psych the hell up and NEED to win, NEED to finish as much as I can, NEED to meet my friend fatigue head on!

Oh, and I may not have completely overcome the workout, but don’t worry…I’m doing it again on Thursday. Oh, joy.

My nutrition today was spot on, although I got another really bad craving, this time for Buffalo Wild Wings and their infamous Wing Tuesday, or as I like to call it, T-Rex Tuesday (Chickens evolved from T-Rexes, right?). I’ve been getting nightly cravings a LOT recently, and tonight’s was stronger than ever. I wanted nothing more than to slam 12 wings, tossed in their signature Hot sauce, juicy and falling off the bone, accompanied by some crispy and soft potato wedges covered in cheddar, paired with a nice little side of blue cheese dressing and some Seagram’s 7 whiskey.

But as I’ve said, I want to transform my body, my soul, and my mind more than I want a quick junk food fix, and that’s why I didn’t eat that despite wanting it more than ever. It takes strength to prioritize what’s important long term over what’s important in the heat of the moment, and I might slip up and indulge now and again, but not tonight. And not tomorrow. Not anytime soon. Not until I feel that I truly have EARNED the right to indulge, after I’ve put in work and done something GOOD for myself because that’s what I deserve. That’s what we all deserve.

Keep it real and *kisses fist* stay with the fight.

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Les Mills COMBAT Day 8: Combat 60

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I have to say, doing Combat 60 (which is more like Combat 54, but that’s ok), I felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the night before. I felt powerful, unstoppable, completely focused. My front and back kick combos were on point, my footwork was getting noticeably faster, and in general I had a really solid workout. While the MMA workouts might not be as excruciatingly exhausting as INSANITY (that’s what we have the HIIT workouts for), they require an intense amount of focus and discipline if you want to burn as many calories as possible. Maybe it’s in my head, but thanks to LMC, I’m already noticing myself slim down a bit.

Later that night, I had some cravings again. It’s always in the evenings, I very rarely want Taco Bell in the morning or afternoon. I guess it’s just the psychology of wanting a reward like that at the end of the day, since I’d reward myself with food like that almost all the time after class ended during college. But you know what I did? I talked to my Beachbody Coach. She’s always been there for me and is an amazingly kind, intuitive and strong individual, and she helped break down why I was craving that food, and explained that eating crap like that isn’t cool or awesome or funny, it’s disgusting and not indicative of what makes a person strong. Now working out 5-6 days a week and eating things your body loves, now that’s a different story. I just want to take this time to thank her from the bottom of my heart, and thank all of you for the likes. Feel free to comment and engage in discussion as well, this blog isn’t just for me, it’s for nonathletes (AND athletes!) everywhere who have something on their minds.

Keep it real and *kisses fist* stay with the fight.

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Les Mills COMBAT Day 4: Shock Plyo HIIT 2

Greetings and love, Nonathletes!

I don’t know if I “killed” today’s workout per se, but I know I sent it to the f***ing ICU!

Not to say Shock Plyo HIIT 2 didn’t put up a fight, that would be a lie. It’s tough. Really, really tough. But I was bringing the energy today, y’all. I met this workout head-on and did the burpee-squats like a pro. Ski moves like a pro. Pushups and mountain climbers and weighted squats like a PRO. I felt great, and after my workout and shower I was STILL sweating! And I went into COMBAT thinking, “Pssh this isn’t going to be all that tough.” That’ll teach me to judge a DVD jacket by its cover.

Also, some honesty time for my readers…I had a drink last night before bed, some gin. NO FOOD though! I feel as if I’ve reached a new point in breaking my food addiction where I can enjoy a drink without having to pair it with food, particularly greasy and salty food that’ll make me feel bloated and gain weight. Not to say drinking is healthy, but breaking the addiction to salt and grease that goes along with it will help tremendously with my goals. Hell, the Jersey Shore guys drink all the time and they’re ripped, right? That was partially in jest.

Additionally, I’m watching the live stream of Team Beachbody Summit and I am excited to announce that they have FINALLY crafted Vanilla Shakeology! Once I feel like I’ve had my fill of Vegan Chocolate, I’ll definitely be trying this out. I love vanilla ice cream and shakes, so to have it for breffis (yeah, I said breffis, what?) every morning sounds absolutely wonderful.

Keep it real, and *kisses fist* stay with the fight.

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