Posted by on May 21, 2012

Member Spotlight

This week we profile user cabi, a man who needs no washing machine. Just look at them abs! Oh, and he’s also a great guy all around. If you have anyone you’d like to nominate for a member spotlight, contact users lexyloowho or xJenx or email fitocracymemberspotlight@gmail.com.

Username: cabi
Level: 39

How did you get started in fitness and training? 
I was a skinny college kid (5’11”, 140 lbs) and wanted to gain weight. My roommate and I started to use the school gym. I just made it up as I went along, was horribly unscientific, and paid no attention to my diet. This was 16 years ago, and I’ve been lifting on and off since then with some very long breaks along the way. There was one really long break after my marriage where I got up to 220 lbs. I knew I needed to lose some weight, but the little push that got me rolling was a tongue-in-cheek comment by my wife: “You know I love you unconditionally, but you could probably shake off a few pounds.” Ha!

Here’s what I looked like at my heaviest (220 lbs):

I have a small frame, and I just looked and felt awkward. I was uncomfortably hot all the time, sweated easily, and fat hung over my pants’ waistband. I hated it, but apparently I liked cheesecake more than I hated being fat because I tolerated this for a long time!

Here’s an album (originally made for my Facebook friends, so pardon the giant disclaimer) that shows my progress from fat to thin: http://imgur.com/a/fSS0d
The album starts shortly after the above picture of me by the lake and ends about a year ago.

Here’s an update about a year after the last photo in that album (my current profile pic):

Finally, this one was taken after the Reddit Body Transformation Fitness Challenge #3 where I focused on cutting my body fat. I think I got under 7%: http://i.imgur.com/soYrK.jpg

How did you find the site? How has it changed your work outs?

I actually learned about the site through an XKCD comic! I later found an invite in a forum somewhere. Remembering the comic, I joined right up! Who doesn’t like to keep score? People who don’t admit it, that’s who.

Although by the time I found Fitocracy I had become much more scientific about my diet and exercise, I wasn’t recording my exercise. I was operating within constraints to make sure I worked my muscles evenly and gave them time to recover (a traditional 5-day bodybuilding split), but I was pretty much “freestyling” otherwise, with plenty of what I now know to be time-wasting tomfoolery.

The scoring system in Fitocracy encouraged me to start tracking my exercises, and that has driven me to work harder. I’ve always said that in order to reach our fitness goals, we must make healthy decisions. We can make healthy decisions only if we have good data. I had applied this to nutrition, but not to exercise! Fitocracy was just the encouragement I needed.

One of the things we deal with in fitness is that our progress is not always noticeable day-to-day. You probably won’t weigh less or be measurably stronger after a single workout. It takes time. With a scoring system, though, you have a way to see your progress between those visible changes.

Another benefit has been my exposure to new exercises. I had done most of my training with dumbbells in the past, and Fitocracy has gotten me into more barbell training. Nearly every day, I see someone doing a new exercise that I need to try!

Do you have any long term goals or direction you plan to take your training?

For the first time, I am training for strength as opposed to hypertrophy (muscle building). It’s exciting to see the numbers go up. I’m what you’d call a “recovering upper-body warrior”. Due to an unhealthy body image that lingered far too long, I was working my upper body disproportionately more often than the rest of my body. My goals this year include improving my squat and deadlift. The bad news? My lower body is weak sauce. The good news? Linear gains!

What are things you’ve learned through trial and error? What areas do you hope to learn more about?

Over the years, I have come to appreciate form more and more. We all know it’s important, and with some guidance from our peers, YouTube videos, etc., we can improve it. Even when we recognize this, we can sometimes get a little “too comfortable”, and one lazy malformed rep can take us out for weeks due to injury. What I have learned is to be conscientious of form ALWAYS, and to make every attempt to lift with perfect form even when I am warming up with very low weight. Great form is accessible to ALL OF US. It’s an interesting thought that while you may not be able to be the strongest person in the gym, you CAN be the person who has the best form! Be that person. Show them how it’s done 

One thing I want to learn more about is the development of abdominal muscles. I keep hearing that squats and deadlifts are all one needs beyond fat loss in order to develop a strong, aesthetically-pleasing core. I don’t buy this for a second. I do not believe the isometric contraction of the core is enough to sufficiently build muscle. Until I see evidence that makes me think otherwise, I am going to assume that we build abdominal muscle in the same way we build other muscles—through concentric and eccentric contraction under heavy resistance.

Currently, where would you say your weakness lies? Where do you excel?

I have back problems (scoliosis and other spinal defects) and have been afraid of squats and deadlifts for as long as I can remember. Last year I finally grew a pair and saw a doctor. He said my spine was indeed curved, but not enough that I should be avoiding squats or deadlifts. He said that I could—and absolutely should—do them, as long as I progressed slowly and carefully. He said, “Really, anyone lifting heavy objects should be doing that. Your strategy will not actually be any different.” If you’ve been meaning to talk to your doctor about something fitness-related, I urge you to do it. You’ll probably get some good info, and I figure you’ll be giving your doctor a nice break from being sneezed on, removing warts, and digging things out of kids’ ears. My doctor was visibly excited to be talking about exercise and spent a lot of time with me.

At 160 lbs, my 245 lb. (1-rep max) bench press is above average (the one good thing that came out of overcompensating for an unhealthy and inaccurate body image). However, my squat and deadlift leave a lot to be desired. I started those lifts for the first time about 6 months ago. In that time I have progressed slowly but steadily. My deadlift has gone from 95 lbs to 205 lbs (5-rep max), and my squat has gone from 45 lbs to 215 lbs (5 reps x 5 sets). If I can get them each over 245 lbs, I’ll be pretty close to graduating from “upper body warrior” status 

My biggest strength is my ability to burn fat. I mastered the diet (I admit I could be eating higher quality food, but from a net calorie / fat-burning perspective I have it nailed) and can lose fat pretty rapidly, as needed. I’ve started working on a “Guide to Cutting” with everything I’ve learned.

What motivates you?

It used to be just my imagination. Since joining Fitocracy, however, I have a lot of friends that motivate me. I still fantasize about being a Kung Fu master when I lift, though.

Are you using any supplements or special dietary changes to achieve your goals?

I take whey protein to help meet my protein goals (1g per lb. body weight). I also lean a little on meal replacement powders like MetRX shakes, but that’s just out of laziness . Dieting for fat loss is my specialty. I’m a hard-core calorie counter, having tracked every single thing that’s gone into my mouth for the past 4 years. I realize that level of tracking isn’t required for everyone, but a hyper-structured diet works best for me. I was able to get my body fat from 33% down to under 7% that way. I like the mathematical guarantee you get from net calorie tracking. I hear keto and paleo are great too, but I have not yet studied those topics.

If you could give advice to someone starting off, what would you tell them?

Be skeptical and be scientific. There’s too much dogma in fitness.

What’s your ‘secret weapon’, the thing that pushes you or you feel gives you an edge?

I can’t say I have anything that isn’t accessible to everyone else, but I would emphasize that being scientific about everything I do is a great strength. Patience is important as well. I like to take the time to “reboot” an exercise every now and then. I drop to a low weight, re-invent my form through visualization in a low-pressure setting, and work my way back up. I’ve broken through many plateaus this way.

What has the overall impact of Fitocracy been in your life?

Fitocracy has encouraged me to apply the structure I already had in my diet to my exercise. It’s been the missing link of sorts, and it’s helped me take weight training to the next level. I’ve also made a lot of friends. I wish I could take a road trip around the country and work out with everyone 

One thing I want people to take away from my story is…

Don’t just “learn to be happy with what you have”. In my opinion, the “body acceptance” movement is poison. When I was overweight, I had these conflicting fantasies: 1) Get a ridiculously ripped, superhero-like body, and 2) Learn to be happy with what I have.

I started by trying the latter, but I just wasn’t happy. I wanted to look and feel better! Being satisfied with “normal” in a country where “kinda fat” is “normal” just felt like a cop-out, like I wasn’t addressing the root cause of my feeling. Pure “body acceptance” would be intellectual dishonesty. At the same time, however, it would be dishonest of me to suggest I could look like Brad Pitt in Troy, even if I worked my tail off. The only reasonable thing was to make every possible effort toward “getting ripped” and discover my potential. ONLY THEN, maybe, should I “accept” what I could do within my limits. But that was a long time ago, and I have a lot of experience under my belt now. And you know what? Fuck limits.

 

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