My genetic traits dictate that I'm naturally inclined towards having a linear physique with moderate to low body fat levels. Although these are positives, my genetic potential for muscular size and gain is less so.
It's rather easy to gauge your physiological traits (somatotype) in a semi or untrained state. As you can see in the 3-picture collage, mine were clearly evident as a child, during my teens – and into early adulthood.
WHY DID I DO IT?
I was always generally active. And as a young adult, I continued to maintain a fairly regular fitness regimen. My health and fitness levels were 'okay' and my physical shape was 'averagely' good. I wasn't overweight or unfit.
But of course, average effort = average results. I had a nagging wish, similar to Al's. And I eventually decided to put things into motion.
There came a day when I finally decided that I was tired of 'average', and to honor a wish I had since I was a young boy. You see, I kind of always wanted a lean, strong and athletic physique.
It dated back to my childhood. Had I done nothing about this, it would likely have remained an unfulfilled dream.
That 'unfinished business' in the back of my head probably had me primed for making the decision.
I was paging through a Muscle Media fitness magazine in a coffee shop one Sunday morning in early 2002. I got to an article about someone's account of a 3-month journey to complete physical transformation. He had followed Bill Phillips' Body-for-Life program.
Well, the rest–as they say – is history. If that guy could do it, so could I.
It was right there that I made a firm decision to change my body, and go against some of my genetic traits.
Going from average to excellent would require a comprehensive revamp of my fitness regimen.
I realize today when I talk to people like Al, that I managed that first physical transformation only because of an unconditional commitment.
How did I do it?
I put in the effort to plan and adapt that fitness program I read about, and committed to it 100%. It got me from 'average' condition to 'excellent' physical shape in 3 months.
My first transformation was an amazing accomplishment for me. I was rather proud of myself for sticking to the workout program and eating plan for the entire period – without compromise.
However, my condition in subsequent years has continued to improve. I have come to understand my physiological tendencies better, and also adopted more efficient and effective training and eating protocols.
By 2013, my workouts had become far simpler (and shorter), while my eating plan became even more flexible, instinctive and enjoyable. As it stands in 2016, my staple 'Sensible Fitness Program', is a further-optimized solution, and quite different to what I did back in 2002 – but provides even better results.
As you'll see, it is possible to alter your physical shape and body composition by an appropriate eating plan and exercise regimen. That doesn't mean you can opt out of being an endomorph and become a mesomorph. (More on these below.)
What it does mean, is that by working with, and battling your inbred tendencies (to an extent), you can become the best physical 'you'.
I hope my account and the images below are compelling enough in showing the potential reality of a physical transformation-especially if you're considering a similar journey to mine.
Waist - 28 inches
Body fat - 9%
Waist - 32 inches
Body fat - 15%
The Exercise Plan
The suggested workout plan involved high-intensity strength training protocols 3 times per week, alternating with cardiovascular exercise 3 times a week. It looked like this:
- Day 1: Upper body strength training; Chest/Shoulders/Triceps/Back/Biceps
- Day 2: Cardio
- Day 3: Lower body strength training; Quads/Hamstrings/Calves/Abs
- Day 4: Cardio
- Day 5: Upper body strength training; Chest/Shoulders/Triceps/Back/Biceps
- Day 6: Cardio
- Day 7: Rest
Again, I don't follow this design today, but this program was an excellent place to start. Where I was three months later was perfect place to continue optimizing my fitness regimen, going forward.
The Eating Plan
I wanted to try and avoid the pain of counting calories every day. Like Al, I was in a busy job. And I knew that I had 84 challenging days ahead of me.
Today is a far different story. I have the nutritional aspects of life nailed down. Things like calculating total daily energy requirements , playing around with macronutrients to switch out meals and snacks for more interesting eating, and so on.
However, back then, I didn't have that knowledge and experience, but I did need a reliable and sustainable daily eating plan. So, with the program's recommendation, a little bit of my research on nutritional density, calorie and macronutrient requirements, I managed to set up a workable protocol.
My nutrition plan for the 2002 transformation consisted of 6 meals per day:
- Breakfast at 08h00
- Mid-morning snack at 10h30
- Lunch at 12h45
- Mid-afternoon snack at 16h00
- Dinner at 19h00
- Late evening snack at 22h00
As suggested in that magazine article, I consumed meals from 'good sources' of both protein and carbohydrates, not forgetting fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats. Essentially, the program called for fist-sized portions of protein and carbs at each meal, and around 60 grams of fat per day.
What's my present condition?
Building on the self-discovery and success, I've continued to improve since my initial transformation in 2002.
At the time this photograph was taken (August 2014 - age 48), my condition was:
Waist - 28 inches
Body fat - 8%
As I said above, I'm very much in touch with my physiology now, and know exactly what works for me, and what doesn't. I've been able to optimize my fitness programs so that they are even more time-efficient than before.
The same goes for my nutrition plans and meal-frequency. Although I'll occasionally experiment with different fitness programs, the 'Sensible Fitness Program’ is my go-to solution. With this program, I easily maintain excellent physical condition all year round.
I eat instinctively now, because I know my nutritional needs and accordingly I get optimal results. I didn't have that experience back in 2002, but I strongly believe that my first transformation was successful because of my consistency with a 'decent' (even if not perfectly-accurate) eating plan.
Anyone can ultimately use this approach!
Not to be taken lightly!
People often scoff at the idea of physical transformations, implying they're an unnecessary waste of time, or "not for them." Or too difficult.
Ignore these naysayers!
If you want to become a stronger (physically and mentally), healthier and more athletic version of yourself, then go ahead.
Make something big happen.
Your life will never be the same again – and that's EXACTLY what you'll want.
Probably the most important aspect to consider before starting a workout routine (besides your Doctor's okay) is that you consider and work 'with' your individual genetic potential, or somatotype. I refer to this often throughout my Site, and I can't stress it enough.
In this way, you can 'realistically' visualize what is possible to aim for as your ideal physical condition.
We're still in 2016, but there's much more to come!