[Editor’s Note: Having Margaret be a part of the team in summer 2012 was fantastic. She worked her butt off and helped bring a lot more sanity and stability to our game mechanics :)]
Username and level
demonslayer, level 31
How did you get started in fitness and training Do you have any pics to share?
I was a scrawny, nerdy kid, never fat but definitely not athletic, always the last picked in gym class. Every once in awhile I’d get it in my head to try out for school sports, but I was always laughably bad, and didn’t enjoy it much. I’ve always thought fitness was interesting and enjoyed hearing about people’s transformation stories, but I sort of thought of it as something “other people” did. In undergrad I suffered from depression for awhile and realized that I felt better if I did a lot of physical activity. I started to run on the elliptical a lot and was also into rock climbing for awhile which didn’t last, which was unfortunate, because it was a lot more beneficial than the elliptical. Unfortunately, I started to put on weight after I moved to the suburbs and went from walking everywhere to driving everywhere and also pretty much lived on the all-frozen-pizza-diet. I knew it was a problem and wanted to lose weight but I didn’t really know what I was doing so I just ran on the elliptical a lot, which did basically nothing. I reached my heaviest weight of 165 (not obese by any means, but heavier than I’d’ve liked) around the time I got married. I think I’m one of the few people on the planet who waited until after the wedding to lose weight, lol.
First pic is me at my wedding in July 2011, at about 165 lbs.
Second pic I just took now (rockin’ the Fito shirt) at about 135 (sorry for lacking better progress pics. I’m camera shy ;) ).
How did you find Fitocracy? How has it changed your workouts?
I actually heard about it from the XKCD comic. I’d been studying fitness games as part of my research for my Master’s degree, and thought that something called “Fitocracy” might be worth checking out. When I saw what it was, I believe my exact words were “Holy cow, how did I not know about this before?” It was in closed beta at the time but I did a lot of Googling and eventually found an invite code that still worked (thanks, AntiochOG!).
As to how it has changed my workouts, I’d say 100%. In August of 2011 I did cardio almost exclusively with the exception of a few sporadic rock climbing sessions. But after interacting with the community and seeing so many people have fantastic results via strength training (extra props to the_doctor and ThePerry for kicking ass in their own member spotlights) I decided to give strength training a go. I remember I tried some knee pushups and it was so hard I thought I was going to die. I posted as much on my profile and the Fitocracy community was there, to tell me that it would get better, to keep going, that I would get better. I started experimenting with dumbbells and after years of my weight not budging, I (almost) instantly lost about 10 lbs. Encouraged, I progressed to heavier dumbbells, and again, members of the Fitocracy community were always willing to give me pointers, suggest I try heavier weights with fewer reps, that sort of thing. I knew if I wanted my Awesome New Internet Friends (TM) to think I was cool, I was going to have to try barbells. I did so, and I haven’t looked back since. It’s hard to believe that just a little over a year ago I would have never even considered lifting; now it is easily one of my favorite things to do in the world.
Do you have any long term goals or direction you plan to take your training?
My main goal right now is to get stronger. I reached my goal weight of 140 lbs around March of 2012, then lost an additional 5 when I was lucky enough to get to spend the Summer in New York working for the Fitocracy team as an intern. I really don’t feel the need to lose more weight just now, but I want to pull my big 3 lifts out of the “laughably bad” range and into the “somewhat commendable” area. I think it would be amazing to compete in powerlifting meets one day but I know I’m nowhere near that level yet.
What are things you’ve learned through trial and error? What areas do you hope to learn more about?
Pretty much all my early attempts at lifting were from trial and error. I didn’t follow any specific program, I just looked at some animated gifs of dumbbell exercises online and did whichever ones looked the most interesting, following the animation as closely as I could. I’ll actually claim I got fairly decent results from this, though I know it was just what the community refers to as “noob gains.” I’d like to learn more about why specific programs work as well as they do. I’m also really interested in the psychological aspects of fitness, and how one changes mentally as one gets into better shape physically.
Currently, where would you say your weakness lies? Where do you excel?
My biggest weakness is probably picking a program and sticking to it. I have this awful tendency to vaguely follow a program but mainly just do whichever exercises I want (generally the big 3) and say “meh, screw it” when it’s time for the lesser accessory moves. My best lift is deadlift, though my squat is starting to catch up, my worst is bench press by far. It takes months and months of work for my bench to increase even the tiniest bit.
What motivates you?
I think part of it is my family history — nearly everyone in my family really struggles with their weight, and that’s not something I want to have to deal with myself if I can help it. But I think more than that, I just have this love affair with doing things that are challenging, with constant improvement, with becoming good at things that I used to be bad at. I think there’s this big push in our culture to “accept yourself the way you are,” and while it is a nice sentiment and useful for some things, it generally always rubbed me the wrong way. Why be forced to accept yourself the way you are when you know you can be better?
Are you using any supplements or special dietary changes to achieve your goals?
For the most part I think supplements are a waste of time, though I suppose some can be useful. I do eat a lot of protein powder because getting enough protein has always been a challenge for me. I used to be vegetarian and when I first started at this whole fitness thing I was probably lucky to get 10 grams of protein per day. Cringe. I eat meat now, which helps, but generally I aim for 120-140 grams of protein per day which adds up to a LOT of meat (for me), so the protein powder helps things along. I loosely follow a LG-style macro breakdown, but I’m not always great at following it religiously. While I do try to eat as healthy as possible most of the time, I also think it’s counterproductive to be dogmatic about it. Bold claims of “You’re not allowed to have pizza/beer/donuts/insert your favorite food here EVER AGAIN” tend to scare people off of fitness altogether. I still have my favorite junk foods, just not every day. Mostly I just count calories using MyFitnessPal and try to keep the protein count as high as possible.
If you could give advice to someone starting off, what would you tell them?
That everyone was a newbie once. It’s going to be tough at the beginning, but if you push through, the rewards will be more than worth it. Also, hardly anybody likes exercising when they first start out. But you will love it eventually. Trust me on this one.
What’s your ‘secret weapon’, the thing that pushes you or you feel gives you an edge?
Fitocracy, of course :) In all seriousness, I attribute 100% of my success so far to this amazing community and all the wonderful people in it.
What has the overall impact of Fitocracy been in your life?
I don’t even think I’m exaggerating when I say my life has changed completely because of Fitocracy. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, in better shape than I ever thought I could be, and I’m doing workouts that I wouldn’t’ve imagined possible a year ago. I was also extremely lucky to get to work for the Fito team as an intern in NYC last Summer and that, in itself, was an amazing and life-changing experience.
One thing I want people to take away from my story is..
If you’re not seeing results with what you’re doing, chances are you’re not doing the right things. You shouldn’t despair over it, though, but be willing to keep an open mind and step out of your comfort zone. I believe anything (within reasonable laws of physics of course) is possible with the right amount of effort, and just because you’ve failed at something in the past doesn’t mean you’re destined to continue failing forever. I’m not Edison’s number one fan (Tesla FTW!) but his quote “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb” applies to fitness as much as it does to light bulbs.