Monday, June 20, 2005

Attack on the flats...

Yes, it's another bike racing story. The year was 1987. American Greg Lemond, probably the strongest cyclist with the strongest team in pro cycling at that time, had been in a hunting accident in the off-season and was not racing the Tour de France. That left a huge opportunity for someone lesser known to step in and take the race. This person turned out to be Irishman Stephen Roche. Roche was a great cyclist, but he was missing one component for winning the tour and that was the ability to win in the mountains. Well, he was leading the race in the early flat stages, but most experts predicted that he would probably give up the overall lead in the very first mountain stage.

But he did a most unexpected thing, something so crazy that no one saw it coming. You see, in the mountain stages, there are always a few flat sections. Quite often, the big climbs are at the end of the stage. Most riders don't push the pace too much on these flat sections since the climbs require so much energy. Since the biggest time gains can be achieved during the climb, everyone tends to concectrate their efforts there. In the first big mountain stage, Roche did the opposite. He attacked on the flats before the climb. Most of the other riders didn't follow him since they were trying to conserve energy. By the time they realized he wasn't just toying with them, he had a huge lead. So, all his rivals suddenly had to race like crazy just to get close enough to him to catch him on the mountain climb. Because of all the energy they used up in the chase, most of them were unable to climb at their best potential. Although several of them did catch him (he was pretty well spent from his efforts in the flats), no one was able to overtake him for the overall lead. The big climbers never did recover from that day and Roche was able to hang on to his lead and win the overall category.

On the bike yesterday, that was what I was thinking about when I started. I decided to go hard and fast right from the getgo. I was at sprinting speed through the first few minutes and managed to maintain it even at the higher resistance levels. I actually managed to get my heart rate over 160 a couple of times. It was a great workout, if I do say so myself!

We decided not to do our pictures on Sunday. We both had too much to do, plus it was Father's Day and I wanted to visit my parents. We have three days from the end of the Challenge to get the pictures done, so we are doing them on Thursday. That should be a little less stressful than trying to cram them in between other obligations.

I seem to have lost another couple of pounds last week, bringing my actual weight loss very close to 13 pounds. Keep in mind that I started the challenge after just having lost five pounds because of the flu, so since about fourteen weeks ago, I've lost something close to eighteen pounds! I would have liked to gain more muscle, but I'm not complaining. I'm very happy with my results. I'm going to take some final measurements today. I'm a little behind on putting them on the web site, but a complete wrap up of all our results will probably be there sometime early next week. I'm going to trim down the number of pictures since several people have complained that they take forever to load.

Today is the last day of the challenge, and it's an off day. I feel good about being done, but I don't really feel like I've finished yet. First of all, there are the pictures to be taken. Then there's the fact that I haven't met all my goals yet. Then there's the fact that I always intended to do this challenge twice in a row, so I have the next one to plan and begin. And then there's the fact that I know from past experience that I need to keep working just to maintain my muscle gains. They don't seem to last long with me if I let them go for any length of time. So, I'll probably be doing resistance training the rest of my life. So this really is just the beginning.

Hey, isn't there something about that in the title of this blog?!?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Final Weight Workout!

This morning was my final weight workout of the Body for Life Challenge.! Hmmm...immediately, I feel the need to qualify that statement. First, I plan to do an abbreviated weight workout before the photo shoot, which, ideally, will be tomorrow, so this is actually the final official weight workout of the Body for Life Challenge. Second, I am planning on doing my second challenge almost immediately and I will continue working out whether I start the next challenge right away or wait a few weeks. So this isn't my final workout in the Body for Life Challenge, just the final workout in this Challenge.

Having gotten through all the disclaimers, I still have to say that I'm excited to be this close to finishing. I checked my weight this morning and I'm actually down close to twelve pounds from the start of the challenge. Of course, that could change tomorrow, but I'm pretty happy about that. The scale estimated my body fat pretty high, but it varies a lot depending on how well hydrated you are. I've gotten much better body fat numbers from it in the early evening right before a meal than first thing in the morning.

I finished my weight workout, did my supplements and my post-workout Myoplex shake, then I went out in the sun for about an hour and a half to hopefully get a little bit more tan for the pictures. (Yes, I can hear Cheryl laughing as she reads this. I guess I really have become Zonker Harris). I'm going to go swim some laps to burn a few random calories.

Wow, I'm excited, psyched, weary, tired, sleepy, jazzed, buzzed, fired-up, mellowed out, tuned-in, turned-up, proud, flustered, focused, calm, nervous, centered, zenned, tai-chi'ed, tae bo'ed, here, there and everywhere all at once! I don't know what to feel. But, general....

I feel good!!! (as he starts singing the James Brown song) More tomorrow....

Friday, June 17, 2005

L'Alpe d'Huez

I've mentioned my passion for European bicycle racing. This dates back to college, when several of my friends were seriously rabid bikers and Greg Lemond had just become the first American to win the Tour de France. During that tour and several others after it that were televised on actual network television, I fell in love with the sport. I think a large part of it was that, unlike football or baseball where I sat watching people with talents completely unlike mine, I could really be cyclist. I wasn't as fast or as strong as my idols in those televised races, but when the race coverage ended, I could get on my bike and ride fast ( for me). I was in awe of those riders who covered a hundred or more miles a day, sometimes in mountainous terrain, in all kinds of weather. At the same time, I could attain a degree of that greatness myself by getting on my bike and riding fast and climbing hard.

One of the perennial features of the Tour de France is the Alpe d'Huez, a mountain with a climb so steep that it is known in the system that ranks such climbs as hors categorie (which I understand means "beyond classification"). I believe that Greg Lemond, in his three victories in the Tour de France, never won the Alpe d'Huez stage. Andy Hampsten won it a few years later, becoming the first American to ever win the stage. That one stage win and his unexpected winning of the Giro d'Italia (the Tour of Italy, which he won by pushing on through a screaming spring blizzard during one of the mountain stages) were the two highpoints in the career of this ground-breaking American cyclist. I don't honestly know if Lance Armstrong has ever won on the Alpe, but then Lance doesn't often go after winning a particular stage. He's more of a "take the whole damn enchilada" kind of guy.

Well, this morning was my Alpe d'Huez on the stationary bike. I was just really in the mood to hit it hard and I did. Unfortunately, I'm already doing my high point at the maximum resistance that the bike is capable of, but today I rode it faster and longer. I actually hit the top of my final interval, which is supposed to last one minute, but I went for five! I also did an extended sprint during my cool down to burn a few extra calories. I finally had to end my workout so that I would have time to get ready for work, but I really didn't want to get off the bike. I just felt so strong that I wanted to keep going. For the time that I spent today, I went a longer distance and burned more calories than I ever have before. It was just one of those moments when I felt like I literally could climb mountains.

I had a similar experience with the weight training last night. I had a limited time to work out, so I was flying from set to set. On the rowing motion, I decided that, since I was working left hand then right hand in each set, the left hand should be rested by the time I finished the right hand. So I didn't take any time between sets on those, except to change weights. I also went back to the bench press. I think flyes are more effective at isolating the pectoral muscles, but there's just something primal about the bench press that really fit my mood. Anyway, when I finished, I had a good ache in all the muscles I worked. Believe it or not, I like that feeling. It lets me know I've actually accomplished something.

Last night, someone who hadn't seen me for a few months came up to me and informed me that I looked thinner and asked how much weight I had lost. I told him that I had lost ten pounds. He replied that I looked so different that I must have lost more than that. I explained that it really only was ten pounds, but that it was ten pounds in the right places. I told him that is was more than just a diet, that I had been doing aerobic conditioning and weight training. He told me it was really showing. I felt good about that. I had a similar experience last week with someone at work. It's nice to know that I'm getting some visible results.

My lovely wife, Cheryl, wrote a lengthly blog entry the other day about me. It was well written and quite funny in places, but she eventually retracted it because she felt it might embarrass me. Why? Because it was all about my obsession with my tan. Yes, yes, I know someone my age is supposed to be concerned with weightier matters than obtaining even color and avoiding tan lines in inappropriate places. But, really, I just don't want everything I've done in this challenge to be ruined because I have a "farmer's tan" in my pictures. Also, we're going to Florida at the end of the summer and, for once, I don't want to be on the beach blinding people with my pasty white skin. Objectively, though, I agree that the whole thing is a bit silly.

Anyway, this is Friday and I've gone slightly lower carb for the day. Tomorrow, I plan to cut back even more. I need to deal with a few final details for the photo shoot, and we'll be ready to finish this thing off.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

End Game

In a game of chess, the final few moves are called the end game. There are some pretty good chess players who play a strong opening, are capable and logical in their defense, but can't finish off the opponent once they've established an advantage. In other words, they've got no end game. In raquetball or tennis, there are players who can volley all day long but don't win because they don't have a kill shot. In sales, there are some salesman who can't close a deal. In the stock market, it's not just which stock to buy and when to buy it, but when to sell. In many areas of life, it all comes down to the end game.

In highschool, I played chess against the second ranking chess player in my school one day and he accidentally sacrificed his queen. So I pushed my advantage and quickly took most of his other key pieces (I wasn't such a bad chess player myself, you see). Then I methodically set him up for checkmate. While I was still several moves from finishing him off, he stopped me and suggested that I could beat him in one move and showed me an elegant solution to our current position. Even while losing he had an end game.

So, here I am in the last week of the Body for Life Challenge and I'm hoping I'm playing a good end game. Last Friday and Saturday, I tried for a slightly higher calorie burn by doing extra aerobic work. By Saturday afternoon, I had a persistent headache of the kind I used to get when I ran long distances and didn't refuel properly. On Sunday, I was a little more careful about keeping my nutrition stable and not overdoing the cardio, but I still burned more calories than usual and the headache started to come back. I ate a little more than usual for the evening meal and gradually felt better. Back when I started the challenge, I set out to lose 17 pounds of fat. As it's turned out, I'm going to be closer to 10 pounds, or maybe a little more. It seems if I push my fat loss much faster than about a pound per week, I start to have problems.

So, I'm going to be short of some of my goals. I won't have a completely flat stomach and those annoying love handles won't be completely gone. I haven't really gained much muscle at all. But I've decided not to do anything drastic this last week. I'm going to up my cardio slightly and I'm going to make my remaining weight workouts count as much as I can, but I'm not going to add any workouts or change my diet in any major way, except possibly for the last day or two.

After all, I've made a lot of progress. My aerobic capacity is higher. My basic metabolic rate is higher. My body fat percentage is down while my lean mass is up. I look thinner, my jawline is back, my face is less rounded and I have muscles (or perhaps they just show better now). I don't want to do anything to mess any of that up.

So, really, the end game plan is to keep doing what's been working so far and to do a really good photo shoot to document all of it.

And then, I can think about the next challenge.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Ten things you're not too old to do!

I'm always surprised at the places that inspiration will turn up. Today, I was browsing the financial headlines in Yahoo and came across an article about "ten things you're not too old to do". I look at the financial headlines for more than just my amusement. About the same time that I started Body for Life, Cheryl and I started an investment program (actually, we already had some investments in various retirement accounts and profit sharing accounts, but this new program is aimed at generating income and building wealth). A lot of times, in addition to the hard financial news, there are several links to feature articles about what to do with financial freedom once you have it.

I think the presence of such information on the financial pages is a reflection of something I've observed about successful people in my age group. I've noticed that many people I know are focused on financial success, about obtaining wealth and retiring debt, but most of us are not focused on money as an end unto itself. Many of us see financial success as just another tool to use in building a meaningful life. So the financial pages will have articles on travel, on education, on raising a family, and on other things that look beyond the accumulation of wealth towards the actual living of one's life.

All the same, I was pleasantly surprised to find this article:

Among the suggestions... have a kid, learn a foreign language, pick up a musical instrument, take a year off from work, get a college degree (or add one), mend fences, change careers, or...

Yes, "get skinny". In addition to the enticing photo of the slim bikini-clad example of "skinny", there's actually some sound advice in this one-paragraph article, which recommends a combination of dietary modifications and exercise. It also quotes James O. Hill from the "National Weight Loss Registry" ( I checked out the NWCR website and there's some interesting stuff there. While perusing the links page on the NWCR, I found "Shape Up America" ( with it's 10,000 step program and it's "Shape up and drop 10" program (it looks like they have programs tailored for people at all different levels). All this from one headline on the financial pages.

Returning to the "ten things you're not too old to do" concept, you might wonder if the shapely form in the "get skinny" picture belongs to someone old enough to ever be concerned that she was too old to get in shape. Well, check out Debbie Dye, 2004 Body for Life Champion on the Women 40 to 49 years of age categorie or Michelle Lee, 2004 champion in the 50 to 59 years of age categorie. Honestly, I think those two look better than the winners of the lower age brackets in 2004. You can find them both here:

I decided I need to do some planning for the last week of my challenge. I went back to John Hussman's page ( to see what he had to say about preparing for the final photo shoot. I liked what he had to say. It seems like a good moderate approach. I've seen some suggestions on other sites that involved nutritional approaches that seemed very extreme and very unhealthy. As for what I'm going to do with John's suggestions, I think I'm going to step up my aerobic workouts through the end of the program by adding more moderate aerobic activity (not just walking). I also will probably cut back on carbs the last few days, as he suggests. I doubt I will use a diuretic. It just doesn't seem healthy to me. I'll also probably do the carbo load the night before the shoot (although I don't think I'll be eating two bowls of fruit loops). I actually did this by accident one time. I had been on pretty low carbs for two days, sort of by accident, and I had a slice of french silk pie for dessert on my off day (about six hundred calories of pure sugar). Wow, did my muscles ever expand!

So, I have a plan, I have inspiration and I have the end in site (at least until the next challenge). I feel good about what's coming up. I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Making the Turn

From years of distance running, I can tell you, the worst place to be in a race is that last long straightaway where you can't quite see the finish line yet. Particularly on an unfamiliar course, you don't know how close you are to the finish. You don't want to peak too early and have no kick at the finish, but you don't want to go too slowly and have that finishing kick be a moot point. It's not until you make that final turn and can see the finish line that you can really turn it on.

Today, I think I'm finally making the turn. I'm close enough to the end of the twelve week challenge that I can see where I'm headed. I can count the workouts that remain. I could even calculate how many more Myoplex shakes I'm going to have between now and then.

I still plan to start a new challenge right after I finish this one (with a week or two in between), but, for the moment, I'm trying to stay faithful to my exercise schedule, my eating plan, and everything else that I've been doing.

This whole challenge has been like one of my aerobic workouts, only on a grander scale. When I get on the bike, I take a few minutes to get warmed up. The first interval seems pretty intense and I'm not sure how I'm going to make it to the end. But I keep going and I go through my routine of checking my pulse, drinking my water and fiddling with my CD player and suddenly I realize I'm halfway through the final interval! The challenge has been like that. There've been times when I wondered if I was going to finish it, but I've been working it day after day, and now I'm down to less than two weeks. It's really been a lot easier than I expected. Or maybe I was just so desperate to make a change that the difficulties that have been involved haven't registered with me.

Actually, it seems like ten weeks has gone by pretty fast , but then again, I look back to when I started and I realize how far I've come. I've made a lot of changes in this very short time.

Rehearsals for the play I'm in started this week and I already feel like I'm a month behind on my sleep. I have to wedge my weight workouts in between when I get home from work and when I head off to the theater.

For the next challenge, I want to re-read the Body for Life book and all my web research and start the whole program from scratch. I think there are some things I changed from Bill's program that I'm going to change back. There are also some new changes I want to try. But I really think it's important to take a fresh approach instead of just extending my current challenge for another twelve weeks.

I've got that finish line in sight though, so first things first.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Okay, I changed my mind...

Yes, I finally posted some of the pictures that we took last weekend. I've only done the ones of me so far. I don't want to post anything of Cheryl until she's had a chance to look them over and decide what she wants on her page.

...And I know I said there was absolutely no chance that I would post any of the pictures of me in my posing suit, but I was going through the pictures and two of the better ones of me were while I was wearing that suit. So...I posted them. They are near the bottom of the page with the other silly flexing shots.

Here's the address again: Go see them now before I change my mind and remove them.

Before you ask, yes, we did use some oil in some of the pictures to highlight the contours and add some reflectivity (you'll see it in some of Cheryl's pictures too). Body builders and the occasional country music performer (Kenny Chesney) use it all the time, and many of the Body for Life "after" pictures employ it. We thought we would try it out now and get some idea of how to use it. It actually was a huge mess, but the results were pretty good in places. Keep in mind that both of us were handling the camera during the shoot, so we had to keep wiping oil off our hands and had to be super careful about getting it on any of the optics.

A few technical notes about the shoot: the backdrop is so wide that it would only fit in our exercise space at an extreme angle to the rest of the room, which forced us to place the camera much closer to us than in previous pictures. This caused some parallax distortion in some of the pictures. We used only the on-camera flash for these shots, which left some hard shadows on the right side of all the photos. The one exception is the profile shot of me in my speedo, where the shadow is on the left. Um...that's because we shot it with me facing the wrong way and I had to flip it when I created the image file so that it would match the others. I had a devil of a time matching these pictures with the ones that were already on the page since I didn't have the doorway to give it scale.

"But Tom, we don't care about that. How do these pictures make you feel?" Hmmm...well okay Dr. Freud and company, that's a legitimate question. When I first saw them, I was not thrilled. I didn't think they had turned out very good and I wasn't too keen on my lack of visible changes since the last pictures. But...well, once I posted them side by side with the previous ones, I started to feel pretty good about them. Heck, I felt really good about them. Actually, "great" might be a better word. I felt great! I look at that first picture of me in my biking shorts nine weeks ago and compare it to the one of me flexing in my posing suit this past weekend and I have to say that those are two different people. That's the reason I finally decided to put the posing suit pictures on the web site, even though it's not something I'm completely comfortable having people see. It's not just the extra muscle or the changes in the contours that you can see in my face (look, I actually have muscles showing in my neck...and a jawline...and only one chin!!!). What really strikes me about those two pictures is my expression. I seem confident and comfortable. I look like I'm having fun...which I am.

I teach women's self defense (although I'm not doing so currently). I always end my class by telling my students that one of the big keys to not becoming a victim is to appear confident. The bad guys stay away from someone who has their chin up and a bounce in their walk. So, as I tell my students, anything you can do to inhabit your body more fully and comfortably, be it martial arts, rock climbing, ballet, yoga, soccer, roller derby, or whatever, will benefit you in a self-defense situation and in many other aspects of life as well. And now, I find myself taking my own advice.

After all, any guy who would put oil all over his body, be photographed in a microscopic swim suit and then post those pictures on a web site for all to see is a person to be reckoned with!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Numbers, pictures, and other scary things

We did our nine week pictures on Sunday. I thought I would have some of them posted by now, but I don't yet. I will probably do that tonight. I did update my weight and body fat numbers on my page (go to and look at the very bottom of the page). I'm pretty happy with the trend, which continues to be positive and seems to indicate that last weeks numbers might have been an abberation. They showed me losing weight while my body fat percentage stayed the same, which would mean I'm losing lean mass (not a good thing). I said at the time that I thought the numbers were probably bogus. This week, they were back on track.

Okay, bear with me while I do some math. At the start, I was at 183.4 lbs with 22.7% body fat (both these numbers are from the Tanita body fat scale), which means I had 41.6 lbs of body fat and my lean weight was 141.8 lbs. After five weeks, I was at 178.8 lbs with a body fat percentage of 20.6%, so I had 36.8lbs of body fat and a lean weight of 142.0 lbs. As of Wednesday, my weight was 175.4 lbs and my body fat percentage was 18.8%. This means I had 33.0 lbs of body fat and a lean weight of 142.4 lbs. So, three quarters of the way through the challenge, I've lost a little less than nine pounds of body fat and my lean weight is up by not quite a pound.

These are not the staggering numbers that we're used to seeing from advertisements for various fad diets and such. There are two key points, though. First, I've lost fat without losing muscle, so everything I've accomplished is totally sustainable. In a lot of fad diets, you lose a lot of water and lean weight (muscle). When you go off the diet, the water comes back and the lost muscle is no longer there to burn calories and so your metabolism uses fewer calories and stores the excess as (drum roll please) FAT!!! The second thing is that I'm not just losing weight, I'm changing the way it's distributed. I'm thinner through the middle with a flatter stomach and more shoulder and arm muscle, and my legs, although always pretty solid (thanks to my Mom and Dad, who both have great legs) really look good now.

So, I said I wanted to lose seventeen pounds of fat and I'm probably going to be closer to twelve. But I'm very happy with everything that's happened so far. Whatever I fall short on this time will just be something to accomplish in the next challenge!

As for the pictures, there were some technical challenges, including not having the lights I wanted. So they didn't turn out as good as I expected, but we still got some good stuff, including the first pictures of this challenge that show both of us together! Cheryl did a few pictures in her new posing suit, some of which I will post if she will let me. We did a few of me in my posing suit (which I am NOT going to post, sorry). Hopefully, we learned enough about the process to get some good final pictures.

So, I really need to hit it these last three weeks. Since my body composition is changing, my metabolism should be up, which will help, but the main difference needs to come from me. For the next challenge, I want to change my focus to building muscle, so I'm going to be doing the nutrition slightly differently. But right now, I still have three weeks to close in on my goals.

Having said that, I need to go walk for awhile and burn some calories. The first and foremost thing is to keep moving!