the Texas experiment

Last fall when I went to Charleston SC, I KNEW I was in for some good food. There are a few places in the U.S.  that are known for fantastic food, Charleston is one of them. I vowed that during my time there, I would search out the best of the best and eat it all. It was going to be goooooood. And it was goooooood and because of that gooooood food, I came home 10 lbs heavier.

Weight is hard to shed once you hit the 40s and the 10lbs I gained in Charleston was a stubborn 10. Heck I am not even sure it had ALL gone by the time I needed to leave for Texas 25 days ago.  Last year at this time I was closer to 200, pre Texas I am pushing the high 200 teens.

Anyway that is in the past.

Last month I got the word that I was going to Gainesville Texas  for 25 days. The first thing I thought was “oh man I KNOW Texas has some good food!”  And the barbecue, I LOVE barbecue. This was going to be a trip of good eats as Alton would say.

I should go back and say that in the month or so preceding this trip, my physical well being was pretty sad. I haven’t been riding my bike much, actually not doing much of anything physically and coincidentally I have felt terrible. Getting up in the morning, it felt as if everything hurt, I was achy and felt like I was 70, not 45.  It got to be so bad that I started thinking that there was something wrong with me. Something felt off. I went to the doctor right before I came to Texas and told him my story.  He said that we better run me through the barrage of tests.  I did that but left on this trip before I could get any results.

So the day before I was to leave for Texas, I started thinking. You know, Texas is going to be pretty boring. Yeah there are a couple things to see, but for the most part, staying in Denton Texas was going to be pretty dull. I started to think, what if I changed things up on this trip? What if I joined a gym? Not the tiny useless gym at the hotel, what if I went to a real gym everyday I was in Denton? And not just one time a day TWO times a day.  What if I got up early everyday, went to the gym, ate just good food all day, no crap, no desert, no fatty foods, no BBQ, no fried chicken, hell no fried anything. Then what if I went back to the gym after work and worked out again? What if anything would come out of that effort? Would I lose weight? Would I look any different? After all it was only going to be 23 days. But 23 days of two times a day, good food, doing everything right. I decided I would enlist the help of a trainer and a nutritionist, this would be an experiment that would entail being able to eat the right foods at the right time and be able to do it while eating out for every meal.

Before I left, I found a couple gyms and called one in particular, Brickhouse Gym in Denton I asked if they would let me do a one month membership while I was in town, no problem they said.

When I got to Denton on the first day, I drove to Brickhouse and joined. I asked about a trainer and was introduced to 58 year old Mike Jones, Brickhouse owner. Mike is an unbelievably nice guy and built like I wish I was built when I was 20. He is ripped like Jesus.  At 58.  I told Mike my plan and asked if he could steer me in the right direction. Not only did Mike help me, he seemed excited to help me.  He liked my plan and was more than encouraging. I told him I needed diet help also, for this Mike said we would enlist the help of Dr. Quin Skains. Quin is probably the same age as Mike and in just about as good of shape. There is a picture of Quin on the wall of the gym maybe ten years earlier of him on a golf course with a gigantic belly, probably 100 lbs+ overweight. Then right below it, a picture of him competing in a bodybuilding competition, he looked amazing.  Dr Quin clearly knows what he is doing.

I told Mike that I was willing to do anything for the 23 days I had left to workout. Twice a day, cardio, weights, whatever he suggested.  Mike gave me a routine and cardio workout that involved cardio in the morning, and weights followed by cardio in the evening.  Quin told me that I needed to be eating 200 grams of protein a day divided into 6 meals. No bread, no fat, low carbs, lots of veggies, no alcohol, and god help me, no desert.  He told me what to eat and when to eat it.

For breakfast, I was to eat egg whites, at least 4 or more, and a bowl of oatmeal. Quin even gave me the name of two restaurants next to my hotel that serve egg whites and oatmeal. Then every two hours after that, more protein, my choice. It could be tuna, protein shake, not a sugary one, I suggested muscle milk which I have drank at home, he said that MM is bad because it has lots of sugar. Oh THAT is why it tastes good.  For dinner I was to have fish, chicken or turkey with a small amount of carbs, like a dry baked potato.  Oh man this is going to be tough.

I decided that I would take pictures of myself every few days just in case there was visible progress, I wanted to be able to see if there was a difference. One thing I didn’t do that I wish I had, was to measure myself.

Day one, I got up at 5am and went to the gym. I went right for the elliptical for my cardio. At this point, I wasn’t given any length of time that I should be doing cardio for in the morning. So I got on the elliptical machine and started a fast walk.  I haven’t been on the elliptical for 5 minutes when Quin comes over and says that today is the last day I will use the elliptical. He said people don’t generally think so but elliptical machines are hard on joints, especially at an incline. He said that its a knee killer. He said that starting tomorrow, he wants me on the stair climber. He said to use the “incline” setting and go for a half hour. He said my heart rate needs to stay at 60-65% over rest to be in the fat burn range and to set the difficulty setting accordingly.  He said that I will burn as many calories on the stair climber in a half hour as I would on the elliptical machine in an hour. Great, I HATE the stair climber.

That evening after work, I go to my hotel, change into my workout clothes and get back in the car and back to the gym. I start the lifting routine. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Day one, Chest, biceps. Day two, back, triceps. Day three, shoulders. Day four, Legs. Everyday do abs. After a week Mike comes up to me at 5am as I am about to do my cardio and says, “lets go work legs this morning”. Mike explains that legs are the most under worked part of the body. The legs house most of the muscle mass in your body and have the capacity to burn enormous amounts of fat if you work them hard. He said that with my leg size, if we can work them hard, we can start them burning a lot of calories.  Mike then puts me through an hour of legs exercises and when we are done, I seriously don’t know if  I can walk to the car.  This was on a Friday. For the next three days, I can hardly walk. I would put the pain level in my legs at about an 8 or 9. Its just about enough to bring me to tears at times. Everything is hard, standing up, getting in the car, sitting on the toilet causes me to scream out in pain.  I should have been pissed but I’m not, if they hurt this bad then Mike has done his job and they will start burning the amount of calories that they should be burning.

The eating part of this experiment winds up being incredibly easy. Red Lobster of all places is great. They have a daily fresh fish menu and you can get it grilled with a mountain of broccoli and a potato. I switch that up by going to a couple other places. Quin said I can have lean steak a couple times a week so I do reward myself with a steak once in a while.  What does become hard and was ultimately my only failure is eating every two hours. Its REALLY hard for me to eat tuna two hours after a big breakfast. I try but many times I just cannot choke anything down at the two hour interval.  Ultimately this means less protein in my system which means slower muscle growth. I’m not going backwards, just not going forwards as fast as I could be.

Lunch with the guys in Gainesville winds up being a bit of a challenge as they like to eat real food. Not the silly pansy stuff I am eating.  They have all been really cool about my quest though and have tried to take me to places where I could find something to fit my requirements.  One place we went to twice was a BBQ place close to the factory.  There was an old woman there that was quite disgusted with my order. I ordered a grilled chicken salad. When I ordered she said “What!?” “You aint from here are ya?” I respond “No I am from Seattle”. She says “Figures” and walks off. When we come in the next time, she says “Oh its you, you want another S A L A D?” in as disgusted tone as possible. Its hilarious. The guys apologize for her but I am about in tears from laughing so hard.  You might as well tell people you are gay than to order a salad. At one of the two places I eat breakfast, the Old West Cafe. When you order egg whites and oatmeal, I kid you not the entire place turns around to see who the queer is. There is head shakin and disgust a plenty  let me tell you.  People here just about git a rope when you send back the biscuits telling them you cant eat bread.

Ultimately I thought this was going to be really hard but its actually been really easy and one side benefit is that its made the time fly by. You know how time flies when you have something crappy coming up, yeah well I kind of dread going to the gym twice a day so the day flies by and its always time for the gym again.

I am kind of addicted to watching the Biggest Loser, despite its reality cheesiness, its amazing to watch the transformation of the people. I have heard the two trainers talk about what to order in restaurants and that there is always something you can eat. I can attest to that. One late night I ate at Denny’s and thought they wouldn’t have anything decent, but even Denny’s has low calorie dishes. They might not be that good, but they fit my requirements.

Anyway the 23 days are over. What has come of it? I have looked at the pictures and I don’t think I can see a difference, but I have gained a notch on my belt and my pants are much baggier. Mike did tell me that if we do this right, I shouldn’t lose much weight if any. He said, that he wants me to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. I have weighed myself and I am down about 5lbs. The nice thing is that I am sure that is 5 lbs of fat. Other than the clothes fitting differently, the biggest thing is that I feel great. All that pain and achiness that I had before I came to Texas, gone, completely gone.  There wasn’t anything wrong with me other than my body slowly getting very out of shape. Mike told me that our age the muscles really go down hill fast if we don’t work them. He said that studies have shown that our bodies do much better under physical stress. Besides the obvious strength benefits of lifting weights, the biggest benefit is that more muscle = more calories burned daily at rest. Want to eat more of what you want to eat? Lift weights. Work your legs until you feel like throwing up once a week and your body will burn a lot more calories.

I guess the real test will be if I can keep this up at home. Mike said don’t set my goal at two a days. He said lift 3 times a week HARD. Make the time count and feed the muscles what they need to grow and I will see results.  He said that he BETTER see me bigger the next time I come back to Denton. I am sure that at some point I will come back here and I don’t want to disappoint him.  This guy could throw me across the gym:)   I guess its back to Golds when I get home.

PS.  Thanks to Mike and Quin and the incredibly nice people at Brickhouse Gym in Denton. Mike did all my training and wouldn’t take a dime from me for it. He said he wants me to take this knowledge and use it. He said if I do that, then its worth his time.

PSS. When I got home, Sara ran up and gave me a hug and said, and I quote “WHOA you seem smaller around, did you lose weight?” None of my family knew I was doing this so I was anxious to see if they would notice. That would be my sign that it worked. Sara called Kate to look at me and Kate agreed with Sara that I am much leaner.  I guess we can call this experiement a success.