Tag Archives: cardio

The Day I Stopped Drinking

ryanstavern

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.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

P90 Week 5

p90_socialicon_200x200

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

P90: Week 2

p90_socialicon_200x200

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

P90: Week 1

p90_socialicon_200x200

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

https://www.lesmills.com/files/globalcentral/Les-Mills-Combat-logo.jpg

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Les Mills COMBAT Day 8: Combat 60

https://www.lesmills.com/files/globalcentral/Les-Mills-Combat-logo.jpg

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Les Mills COMBAT Day 2: Power HIIT 1

https://www.lesmills.com/files/globalcentral/Les-Mills-Combat-logo.jpg

Good day, Nonathletes! I want to take a moment to thank everyone for the likes so far. I’m new at this blogging thing and I appreciate the support so far and being able to connect with others going through their own fitness journeys.

Today, I completed Power HIIT 1, a non-MMA themed workout designed around high rep weighted workouts and calisthenics. It’s also one of the toughest workouts I’ve ever done in my entire life. Not even kidding.

The short warmup alone will get you soaking with sweat, especially from its its body weighted squats to its suicide runs. I was shocked at how quickly I broke a sweat, especially considering it takes me longer do to do with INSANITY. Then the weights came out, and Dan the Man made me do deadrows, cleans, and a LOT of clean and presses and power presses. My arms were fried like bacon after this, and I had to temporarily downgrade my weights from 20 to 15 just to get through it. Then he and the crew threw in some plyo lunges just to make me suffer a tiny bit more. They must have been able to see I was still breathing a tiny amount and were like, “F*** that noise, jump around some more!”

And then there were the burpee-pushup-squats. Fast ones, no less. That should be self-explanatory enough to tell you about the terror my body went through. I did maybe 3 or 4 whole ones and modified a few more when I wasn’t on the floor gasping for air. Then Dan started jumping between his squats. I almost sent my Powerblock flying at him through the TV.

My food consisted of:

Vegan Chocolate Shakeology, almond butter, almond milk

Almond chicken and grilled veggies x 2 (plus half  a sweet potato)

Greenberry Shakeology and a Promax bar

You might think that because of how I just described it, I must hate Power HIIT 1. But I don’t, I actually love the challenge it gave me. I thought this would be a breeze given I’ve done both INSANITY and some Les Mills PUMP, the former with its emphasis on super speed and the latter with its constant use of high reps.

Imagine having those two elements combined in one workout, going from an extreme amount of high reps to plyo lunges to burpee-pushup-squat-jumps. Set to a tempo. It ain’t easy, I can tell you that. But instead of making me feel dejected, it makes me want to improve and kick the workout’s @$$ next time. It’s like Dan says in the video: “The burn is called fatigue, and fatigue is my friend. ‘Hey fatigue, would you like to go to dinner?’ ‘Yeah, I’d love to!'”

Fatigue and I will be having dinner 6 days a week for the next 60 days.

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,