You know what the best part is? I never went to a gym, never hired a personal trainer, and every bit of what I needed was easy to get and very cheap! Every workout I did I was able to do from home, and both men and women can do this!
This post is going to be a long one, but what I did really worked, and it worked well. The pounds were literally falling off. I'm hoping to share this information with you, in hopes that if you want the same thing I did, you'll realize it is easier to achieve than you thought...with a little discipline.
The above is my 'after' photo. I really wish I had taken a 'before' photo, but I never learned about doing that until after I had lost the weight!
(I just did a word count, and this post is a 6,000 word monster! If you're running short on time, feel free to bookmark this and come back later! It's worth the read though, I promise!)
Let's look at my numbers real fast.
Before: 183 pounds
After: 157 pounds
Total weight loss: 26 pounds
Total weight loss percentage: 14.2%
Waist size before: 34 inches
Waist size after: 31 inches
Body fat percentage before: 21.7%
Body fat percentage after: 9.1%
Here is a Body Mass Index calculator: BMI Calc
So with those numbers, let's talk about my what those mean. I am 5'11" and 'overweight' for that height is over 180 pounds. I was 183. I have a slender build, so I've pretty much been slim my whole life. I needed to lose at least 20 pounds to get back to my ideal weight.
But, marriage and the ensuing laziness that seemingly comes with it made sure that I went from around 165 pounds to 183 pounds in about 2 years. That's not bad, but the weight gain had really started to increase. I had a small 'beer' belly (I don't drink beer, but we'll use the term), my chest was starting to lose definition, and my face and neck were getting fatter. Yes, I said fatter. It was a horrible feeling.
Early in December I decided enough was enough, and if I didn't do something soon, I was likely to continue to put on weight at an increasing rate. I was out of shape, couldn't run the length of my street without getting winded, and couldn't even bench press 100 pounds any more.It was horrible. I could barely do 15 push-ups without collapsing. This was not what I was used to. And, honestly, it scared me.
The first and foremost part of deciding to lose weight is the motivation to do so. I had always talked about starting to work out again, but always found very good excuses not to do so. One morning though,I woke up and looked at my 3 month old daughter, and realized I wanted to be around for a long, long time. I wanted to see her grow up, get married, and have kids. I wanted to celebrate my 50th anniversary with my wife.
Being overweight increases the chance for so many illnesses, diseases, and conditions, not to mention cardiac and respiratory issues. I wasn't having any of that.
So, my motivation was my daughter and my wife. Every time I wanted to rest, I put them in my mind. Every time I finished an exercise or sprint, I thought of them and pushed myself just a little bit further.
They are the most precious things in my life, and if I want to spend as much time with them as I can, I needed to take care of myself.
I did a TON of research on how to lose weight. I educated myself on the value of protein and fiber in a diet, the breakdown and building of muscle, the way oxygen is used when working out, how the heart is strengthened through exercise, how to boost metabolism to keep it working for up to 48 hours after I finish working out, and much more.
After understanding what I needed to do, I needed a structured regimen. I knew that if I tried to make my own routine, I would not obtain my desired results. However, I really couldn't afford the time for a gym membership since I'm a stay-at-home dad, and trainers are way overpriced. So, I set out on an internet hunt for a solid, reliable workout routine that would not only help me with exercises, but with interval training and diet.
How I stumbled upon this site is kind of lame, but I was on youtube and was looking up the 300 workout, which is what the actors from the movie 300 did to achieve those hard-cut bodies. Tucked away in my search results was a video from Arnel Ricafranca. Again, this isn't designed to be a promo for him or his site, this is merely what I did and used for successful results. But if it turns out to be so, give him his due credit for creating a free website that helped me completely burn off all the weight I wanted to. (His 16-week workout plan is what I used, though I tailored it a bit to push myself harder on some of the exercises)
Notice how I am listing diet first? It is because this is THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR of losing weight and burning fat. If you want a cut stomach, great legs, and a toned butt, you absolutely MUST nail down your diet first, or all the rest of the work you do will be for naught. To see results, you must stick with your diet plan. Have I said it enough yet? Diet, Diet, Diet!
Combined with what I had already learned, I incorporated Arnel's advice as well. I had to make some major changes, and have been the better for them. First was to cut out,and I mean COMPLETELY cut out all the unhealthy crap foods I was eating. Here is what I was consuming on nearly a day-to-day basis:
- Softdrinks (1-3 a day)
- Fast food (every other day)
- Sugary snack foods (cookies, brownies, all those Little Debbie snacks)
- Chips (lots of chips)
- Any food with high saturated fat content
Cutting out those foods was the number one thing I had to do, and it was hard. The soft drinks just about killed me, and not because of the caffeine. I'm addicted to the taste and the tingly feeling it gives the back of your throat!
Here is what my diet included after the changes:
- 97/3 Ground Turkey
I was able to make hamburgers with ground turkey, which I seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and even threw in some finely shopped jalapenos into the mix. Don't ever say ground turkey doesn't taste the same. You can always spice it up.
A big no-no is mayonnaise and even ketchup. Mustard was okay though.
The nuts and eggs gave me a quality source of protein as well as the good 'unsaturated' fats. Completely stay away from the 'saturated' and 'hydrogenated' fats.
Veggies / Fruit
- Green / Red Bell Peppers
- Honeydew Melon
The fruit is very important, as those natural sugars give you pure, healthy energy to replace all those soft drinks, coffee, and energy drinks we a re so conveniently used to now.
Berries, in particular, are especially healthy choices, as they are packed with vitamins and antioxidants. These were usually my snack of choice. Normally, the fresh berries can be quite expensive. But here is a trick. Go to the freezer section and buy the frozen berries. Not only will they be cheaper, but they might even be healthier, as they are usually put straight through the freezing process very close to when they are picked. This allows the berries to maintain most of their nutrients.
Bread / Grains
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole wheat pasta
- Brown Rice
Here was my trick to flavor up that brown rice. This also works for Rice-A-Roni, which I had as well as a splurge item. Those are actually fairly healthy and have a good protein content, but the sodium is wickedly high. Make sure to get the low sodium kind. Herbs & Butter and low sodium Chicken were my favorites.
Anyways, to flavor these up, sautee some onions, celery, green pepper, and tomatoes and add to the rice when it's done cooking. Let it sit on low heat for about 5 minutes so the flavors can combine. Not only does it taste great, but your packing more healthy contents into the rice, as well as nearly doubling the content of the dish. A normal box would give me 4 servings alone, but adding the veggies nearly pushed me to 8.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 100 Calorie low fat yogurt
Garlic has so many healthy benefits, that it is impossible to list them here, but to name a few we have the potential to lower heart disease risk, as well as bwing another heavy source of antioxidants to protect your body.
I'm a garlic fan, and I use garlic in just about everything I cook. You just can't go wrong with it! Ask Emeril!
- Orange Juice
- Cranberry Juice
- Whey Protein Shakes
Whey protein is the by-product of milk when turned into cheese. To keep my protein intake where it should be, I used these as a supplement. Unfortunately, I hated the taste, and since I hate milk, I had to find another alternative to mix it with. Luckily, strawberry flavored whey protein mixed with orange juice is pretty darn yummy.
A little factoid for you. Often, when people have little hunger cravings, they are often thirsty instead. The mind plays a trick on you making you think you are hungry, when in fact you are really thirsty. Next time you have a craving, grab a glass or bottle of water instead.
The Meal Plan
Now that I have shown you what I ate, here was my meal plan. I figured out I needed 2000 calories a day for goal. This was not a diet in the sense of eating less. This was a diet in the sense of eating right. It is important to distinguish between the two.
Often, many people think eating less means losing weight. While this may be true to some degree, people often take it overboard, which basically starves them, leading them to break their diet, and ultimately abandon their weight loss plan all together.
It's best to consult someone such as your physician or a dietitian on what the best caloric intake for you is. I myself already had some knowledge in this area, and since I was just on the edge of being overweight for my age and height, so I knew 2000 calories a day was what I needed.
- 5 meals a day at 400 calories each
- 1 scrambled egg with diced tomato, jalapeno and bell pepper mixed in
- 1 slice wheat toast
- 1 orange
- cranberry juice
- 1 protein shake (drank during and after workout)
- 1 apple
- turkey sandwich on wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, pickle
- 1 cup raw celery and carrots
- 1/2 cup peanuts
- 100 calorie low fat yogurt
- 1 grilled chicken breast
- 1 cup brown rice mixed with tomato, onion, bell pepper, celery
- 1 cup berries
- 100 calorie yogurt
- 1 slice wheat toast
- 1 cup cantaloupe
- orange juice
- 1 protein shake (drank during and after workout)
- 1 cup berries
- turkey burger on wheat bun with jalapenos, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mustard
- 1 apple
- 1 cup celery sticks
- 2 tbsp peanut butter (for dipping!)
- 6 blackened shrimp
- 1 cup Rice-A-Roni mixed with tomato, onion, bell pepper, celery, crushed red pepper (YUM!)
- 1 cup honeydew melon
Each meal was roughly 400 calories. I'm not going to nitpick an extra 40 to 50 calories here and there. I wasn't going to stress over my diet.
My list is what I wanted and knew I would enjoy, but there are so many other healthy options out there. Salads are a great side item, as well as broccoli. Anything high in protein and fiber, or with healthy oils and antioxidants is going to be a wonderful choice.
Even with this lovely meal plan, and even after drinking all the water I could, sometimes I still had cravings. Here is my best snack that will fill you up: Blueberries and Strawberries. Get them by themselves or mix 'em up. Either way, if you absolutely MUST have a snack, gRab about a cup of berries and some water and you're all set!
Now, after beating diet into you, let's move on to interval training. This is the second most important part of losing weight and burning fat. I'm going to steal from another blog post of mine. So, if you feel like you've read some of this before, maybe you have.
There are many different types of interval training, but I follow a custom routine that focuses on my individual skills and abilities. As I get better during these workouts, I gradually increase the intensity and duration.
By definition, interval training is a repetition of short bursts of medium to high intensity activities, followed by brief periods of rest. For example, I use an advanced form of interval training called high intensity interval training, or HIIT. My exercise of choice is sprinting. Biking, rowing, and jump roping are other types of workouts that comply. The idea is to find a high intensity activity that uses as many muscle groups as possible. Sprinting is widely recommended as the best option, but for those that have limitations disabling them from running, the other forms mentioned above are decent alternatives.
I would love to cover the benefits of interval training in regards to weight loss, but intervaltraining.net does a MUCH better job. Check them out, it is very informative reading!
When I first began my interval training, I aimed for three days a week. I started out by stretching for five minutes, followed by 30 jumping jacks. Then I ran a light jog for about three minutes to warm up. I did three sets of 30 second sprints as hard and as fast as I could, followed by three minutes of rest (walking). Let me tell you, I about passed out after my first time. The second day was still tough, but the third was much easier. I followed this routine for 3 weeks. Then I moved up to four days a week, with stretching, warming up, and doing four sets of 45 second sprints followed by two and a half minute rests. This is currently the level of intensity I am still at. I hope to push myself to five days a week, with five sets of 45 to 60 second full-out sprints, followed by two and a half minute rests.
Interval Training vs Cardio
One quick little subject I would like to cover is the fact that many people do various forms of cardiovascular workouts, with the goal of increasing the duration of performance and boosting metabolism. One little factoid that slips by many people is that cardio workouts only boost metabolism for the duration of the exercise. Interval training can boost metabolism for up to two days!
Also, I have seen people proud of the fact that they started jogging for 30 minutes, and burned x amount of calories. They assume that when they can start running for 45 minutes, then an hour, the calories burned will scale accordingly. Wrong. When performing a cardio workout like jogging, the body gets used to performing at a certain level and burns x amount of calories while doing so. However, as the body gets into better shape, it starts taking moreand more of the same activity to burn the same amount of calories. To burn x amount of calories in 30 minutes, the body will eventually take 45 minutes to burn the same number. Our bodies get very efficient at using energy, so, at a certain point, cardio workouts stop burning fat, and starts converting muscle to energy, thus creating muscle loss.
Interval training continues to burn calories long after the workout is done, due to the vigorous intensity of exercising. In doing so, you maintain lean muscle, and continue to burn fat.
Tabata is another form of interval training, and I started this around my second month of the regimen. This is NOT for the feint of heart, or someone who is not in decent athletic shape. Tabata pushes you to your very limit, so don't attempt this unless you're ready for a 4-minute hardcore workout that will kick your tail, and push you to your limits. This really works, and just 4 minutes of Tabata will replace a full high intensity interval training workout. However, only do tabata once a week, as it is not meant to be done on a day-to-day basis.
Stealing from another post of mine, here is my write-up on tabata. Feel free to skip this section and move on to Workout / Exercises if this does not interest you.
Tabata is one of the best, fastest, and hardest forms of interval training you will ever do. With it being so blasted cold in the winter at times, it is hard for me to get outside to do my normal interval training, in the form of sprinting.
I tried to do a couple different forms of interval training inside, including jump rope, burpees, and squats.
The jump rope did not work because I have no ceilings high enough. I kept hitting the ceiling with the jump rope. The one ceiling that is high enough has too much furniture that would have to be moved.
I managed to do burpees very successfully, but they just were not challenging enough with the routine I was doing. The same went for squats, as I did not feel I was pushing myself hard enough.
So, I needed a form of high intensity interval training that would allow me to stay inside on days I could not get out. Enter tabata.
Tabata is a form of high intensity interval training discovered by Dr. Izumi Tabata, for whom it is obviously named after. It consists of a 20 second exercise at very high intensity followed by a 10 second rest. This is repeated eight times for a total of four minutes.
Now, before you shrug this off as 'only four minutes', let me tell you this has kicked my butt! When I say maximum intensity, I mean go as hard and as fast as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, burst into another 20 seconds, rest for 10, rinse and repeat until you have done four minutes straight.
Tabata vs Cardio and Aerobics
Tabata is by far more efficient than normal cardio and aerobics. Before I explain, there are two related abilities I want to briefly cover.
- VO2 Max - This is the maximum capacity of oxygen a person is able to use and transport through their body while working out, or doing interval training. The more in shape a person is, the higher their VO2 max will be.
- Anaerobic Capacity - Measures the body's ability to perform exercises at maximum effort.
Tabata is considered superior to aerobic exercises and normal cardio routines because it increases VO2 max , and anaerobic capacity. In Dr. Tabata's study, doing the specific high intensity interval training routine increased VO2 max by 14% and anaerobic capacity by a whopping 28% as opposed to normal cardio workouts.
So what does all this mean?
For me, everything adds up to metabolism. For those of us trying to lose weight and burn fat and calories, interval training is the way to go (Tabata being an advanced form). Keeping your metabolism at a high level will help you break down food and burn fat and calories to use as energy even when not working out.
Normal cardio routines only boost metabolism for the duration of the workout.
Tabata training, along with weight or resistance training (which is what I do) can help keep your metabolism high for up to 48 hours. That means even burning calories during sleep!
The key to my losing 15 pounds in only 6 weeks was the interval training, and eventually adding tabata into the mix. Do no let the 15 pounds fool you, that was 8.5% of my original bodyweight when I started working out! Pretty big weight loss for me, and it puts me exactly at the weight I should be.
Exercises for Tabata
There are several exercises for the tabata method, including some of the following:
- Thrusters - Squats with dumbbells. Squat, then raise up and overhead press the dumbells.
- Burpees/Squats - For those starting out that want to slowly work up to harder tabata routines.
Keep in mind you do as many of these exercises as hard, and as fast as you can for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, then do seven more sets. If using weights, do not set them down during the 10 seconds rest periods.
Interval Training Summary
Right now, my preferred method of interval training is sprinting. At the current moment, I am doing 5 sets of 30 second sprints, each followed by a 1 minute cool-down. It takes me a total of 10 minutes from start to finish.
Remember, doing interval training can be simple jumping jacks, squats, or burpees. Even if you are away from home, you can still do these very easily!
At last, we finally come to the working out part. Most people think this is the number one priority, when it fact it is last! Diet is always first, then interval training, and lastly exercise.
Here is the equipment I had to buy:
- Resistance Bands w/ door anchor - $40
- *Pull-up Bar (fits in door frame, no screws!) - $24
- Resistance Ball - $15
- Rope - $1
That's it! I had some free weights already, but I didn't really use them until much later. I only used them to add weight to my backpack, which I wore during bodyweight exercises to make them harder.
The way I did this was to follow Arnel's week by week workouts, for which he has written and video explanations. For week one, here is an example video from his site:
Personal Trainer Reveals His 16 Week Journey To Six Pack Abs - Funny home videos are a click away
The specific routine was to do:
- 3 sets of push-ups x20
- 3 sets of body squats x20
- do each back to back without rest called a "superset", 2 supersets total. Rest 20 seconds in between each superset (for me).
- 3 sets of stationary lunges x20
- 3 sets of pull-ups x20 (I only got to 3, 2, and 2, man was I out of shape!)
- These two form a superset
- 3 sets of burpees x20
- 45 seconds in plank position x3
- These two form a superset
Bodyweight exercises are a great way to start getting in shape and getting you on the road to burning off all that extra weight! Here is a list of my top 10:
1. Jumping Jacks
The most basic, and easiest of the 10. Jumping jacks work out a large number of muscles in the entire body, and can help build endurance and work on cardio conditioning.
I used these as warmups, and did a full 60 seconds of these before each workoout session. The first day, I was breathing heavily just after these alone. By the end of the first week, I was completing the full minute with minimum effort. Such a huge change in a short period of time!
Push-ups are probably my favorite exercise to do because of how effective they are for your arms, chest, core, shoulders, and back. The trick is to make sure and do them in the correct form, else you risk injuring your back.
At first, my goal was to do three sets of 20 push-ups. I was so out of shape that I did 20, 15, and finally 13. The second day I was at 20, 20, and 15. The third day I pushed myself to 20, 20, and 22!
I know 20 push-ups sounds easy, but after a long period of time with no intense physical activity, they are much more to take on than you anticipate.
Now, after two and a half months, I can do 20 normal push-ups easily, with me advancing to do three sets of 35. I even timed myself to see how many I could complete in 60 seconds, and I managed to get 50 push-ups in that time frame! My goal is 60 in 60 seconds by the end of the month.
Most people think of walking lunges, but I tend to do stationary lunges. With limited room to walk back and forth, this is a much easier way to complete the exercise.
I never really had any trouble doing these until I progressed to jumping lunges, but that is a whole separate topic I will post about at a later date (a la Advanced Bodyweight Exercises).
4. Prison Squats
Prison squats are squats done with your hands placed behind your head. Next to the jumping jacks, this was probably one ofthe easier exercises for me to comlpete. My goal was to do three sets of 20 squats, but instantly realized that was way too easy, so I pushed it up to three sets of 30.
There are so many variations of crunches, and I have done quite a few of them, but the one I started out with was the basic crunch. It is not as challenging as the other forms, but it is a good starting point for core training.
My first day I did three sets of 40 crunches, which was right on target for what I needed.
Planks were new to me, and I was really surprised at how tough they were. I really felt the burn after each workout from these. They focus almost ocmpletely on the core, but I also felt them working out my calves and shoulders.
My starting day I opened up with three sets of 45 seconds. I barely made it to 45 the first set. The second set I collapsed at 35 seconds. I got back up and completed the last 10. The last set I made 30 seconds and could not finish.
By the end of the week, I was able to complete all three sets for the full 45 seconds, but was definitely struggling with the last set.
Pull-ups are still the only exercise that I cannot complete my sets. I orignally began with a goal of three sets of 15 pull-ups, and managed to do three, two, and two. That is just sad, but this is the exercise that most people have difficulty doing. I had to substitute a dumbell overhead press to finish my sets of 15, because they closely resemble pull-ups and the muscle groups used are almost the same.
Now, I can do sets of eight, seven, and seven. That is not nearly the progress I had hoped for, but each week I am trying to add one more pull-up to each set.
Pull-ups are phenomenal for the biceps, shoulders, core and back muscles. The trick to doing more reps is to just keep doing them, pushing yourself to get one more completed each time.
8. Chair dips
Here, I actually am to use a prop. Chair dips are easily done with, you guessed it, a chair. I have a small workout bench, so I used that instead so I did not have to leave the room I was working out in.
These were relatively easy, but I really felt the burn in my triceps. Starting out, I completed three sets of 15, and by the next week I was doing three sets of 25.
9. Calf Raises
Another exercise that requires a 'prop'. You can use anything from a step stool to stairs to an extra 2x4 lying in the garage. I opt for the stairs because it is just a little bit more challenging and my heels never hit the ground below me.
First day I was able to complete three sets of 20 easily, but definitely felt it in my calves later on.
I always finished my workouts with burpees, as they took the most out of me. This is a full body workout, and although I completed each set, the quickness at which I completed each rep got slower and slower.
On the first day, I started with three sets of 20 burpees. Being out of shape, it was tough to complete these, especially after doing all the other bodyweight exercises first. But at the end of the week, I was already in better shape, and was able to complete all the sets with much less difficulty.
Make Bodyweight Exercises Tougher
After the first two weeks of doing bodyweight exercises, I got used to the amount of work for each workout. The exercises were becoming less difficult, so I altered a few of them to make them more challenging. I added jump squats, jump lunges, and explosive push-ups. Even those became obsolete, so now I wear a weighted backpack (about 20 pounds) with all my bodyweight exercises. Definitely adds some 'oomph' to my workouts!
Each Week's Routine Gets Harder
With each new week the workouts got harder and I had to push myself further. It was just crazy how much I could accomplish in such a short period of time!
There were times that I really had to push myself and think of my motivation, my baby girl and my wife, and that pulled me through.
I was seeing results from week one. I lost a steady 3 pounds each week. By week 8 I had already lost all my weight! I was shocked. I still had 8 more weeks to go through the program. I continued all the way through week 14, at which point I started customizing my own workouts. At that point, I felt I had learned enough about my body and my limits to push myself as hard as possible.
The key thing to remember when working out is to focus on ALL muscle groups. This ensures that every bit of your body is working hard to burn fat. Focusing one one area, such as just your legs, or just your abs, will get you nowhere. Sure that area may be stronger, but you won't be burning fat.
Doing 1000 crunches a day won't get you a six pack if you aren't working out the rest of your body as well. To burn away that stubborn belly chub, you have to do a complete workout, in addition to core exercises. The muscles in your body need to work extra hard to repair and build themselves, and only that will allow the muscles to pull extra energy by burning fat from those hard to melt places.
From Me to You
Again, these are my results!
This is hard, and it's a challenge. But it is SO worth it. I feel better than I have in almost 5 years, I am in shape, I am stronger, and I look so much better! My stomach is gone, you can see my abs now, I have that V at my waist that all guys want, and my face is much thinner!
People always are shocked to hear how much weight I lost, but then I tell them how much I weighed and they couldn't believe it. I guess I hid it well.
This works, I promise, you just have to set your mind to it and follow through. Don't give up, because the work ethic you create will deliver results.
Some weeks may be better than others, and some weeks may be worse, but keep your goal in sight. Setbacks happen, so just rekindle your focus and plow right through.
Any questions about what I did, feel free to email me at Khordaddy@gmail.com!