Pictures in order:

Feb 2021, April 2018 – pre/post Mexico, Summer 2006 – 6 months out of testing for my black belt/2016 – few weeks out from shooting the firefighter calendar, 2014 – competitive (or ”wanting to be competitive”), CF – 2009 just started personalized mixed modal programming, 2004 – no real semblance of training and/or nutrition.

I’ve posted about the whole vacation thing before. People don’t blow up on vacation unless they go batshit cray and eat/drink like maniacs. I had some great food, had drinks every day. Walked a lot, surfed a bit. But this post isn’t about visiting Mexico.

I’m pretty damn happy where I’m at at 47. It’s taken me a looooooooooooong time to figure out what works, and what doesn’t.  Scroll through the photos and you’ll see the transformation since around 2004. Yeah. 17 years. Folks want rapid gains, mad cuts, in 6 weeks? That makes me clench my jaw, seriously. And social media doesn’t help.

If you were to ask me my body weight in those previous pictures, I’d have to guess. Lightest? Maybe 163-165 when I was in TKD, pre-CF. “Fat” Mike in Mexico? 185, I think? That was pre martial arts. CF days? Got up to a leaner 185 eventually, but I was also eating untracked, lowAF carb, initially in the early years. These days, I hover around 200, and leaner than I have ever been.

Well, what worked to get me to where I am today?? This is my simple list:

Consistency. I’ve been training (as in, resistance training, of some form, and aerobic training, some form) since 2007. I have weight trained since I was in my late teens, but never targeted, focused. And I also did NOT train when I was in school/college, so a good 4+ years.

Nutrition. I didn’t pack on LBM until I started eating a fuck ton of carbs. NO, CARBS ARE NOT MAGIC. But they can be synergistically anabolic with a high protein environment and a hypercaloric intake. And NO, they will NOT make you fat. Lots of things do that. Lots of things don’t do that. It’s more complex and variable than black and white, as folks want to make it. Also, of VERY important note: It took a LOT of hard work and discipline to get lean. I have never been genetically gifted to be lean. Trust me. From the time I was self aware enough to care, I NEVER had abdominal definition…or muscle definition (this is key…want to look shredded? You have to have SOMETHING to shred to! Unless you are going for that melted candle look…) The double standard, though, of getting lean and staying lean is “easy”, is somewhat relatively true.  But low carb didn’t do it. High carb didn’t do it. High protein didn’t do it. You know what did it? Being in a CALORIC DEFICIT…but not fucking up my metabolism. It’s not as hard as people think, but its not as easy as people think, either. I also never got into a large T-shirt until I was near my forties. Think about that. For those that are half my age.

Training.  Disclaimer: I am NOT a programmer. For me, high frequency, lower volume (relative) sessions work very well. I see it as constant elevation of RMR, and not blowing myself up in a single session, so I can train 1-2x/day, 6+ days a week. Consistent adaptable stress, and the accumulation of progressive volume.

Training, Take 2. This is such a MASSIVE, and potentially inflammatory/opinionated/biased topic regarding body comp, I’m even hesitant to dig into it. Disclaimer 2, my thoughts/opinions ONLY: Training STYLE is a huge modulator of where body comp goes. Yes, some people do WELL with whatever stress is thrown at them…and some coaches throw all their eggs into this basket. “Train fast, frequent, & heavy”. Weeeeellll, let me tell you this: over the years, I have had nearly 1000 client consults. And that formula does NOT work for everyone. Just like the fucking bullshit mantra “train more eat less” does not work all the time, either. I have seen many, many clients who have had:

  • Dialed nutrition, both quality and quantity
  • Personalized programming geared for performance
  • Lifestyle factors (sleep, stress, social) in order.

And they could NOT achieve the body comp they wanted—which, I might add, was not unreasonable. Calories in calories out, right? Not a fucking chance. How you train MATTERS. Sorry folks, CF might not be your answer *cue the mad sobbing from the crowd now…

Stress. That is the factor. Mixed modal performance training in the glycolytic/anaerobic energy system is MASSIVELY demanding on the steroid hormone pathway. Cortisol is upregulated. Sympathetic nervous system activation is dominant.  Parasympathetic activation is lowered. Oh, folks get fitter. Without a doubt. But body comp does NOT always follow. But WHY, scream the masses! Why is it not black and white? Why does hard fucking work not yield results?

The body is not black and white. Your hormones are not static. One person’s damaging stress is another person’s adaptive stress. If I had an easy canned answer for why it works for some, and not others, trust me, I’d give it. I killed myself daily for years, peeling myself off the floor, dry heaving into dusty chalk buckets. Mixed Modal training for sport they said. It’ll be fun they said. Sure. If you are a masochist. But in all seriousness, I have seen countless folks bust their ass, and not achieve the body comp goals they want. Yes, all the TOP athletes looking fucking stellar, male and female. They are the top athletes for a lot of reasons, and its not just work ethic.

Back to me:

  • What I found works for ME is a mostly functional bodybuilding approach. When I prepared for the FF calendar, I did STRICT BB, with mono structural fasted cardio. COMPLETELY different than anything I had done years past. And it worked. Why? Lower stress. Nothing was glycolytic. Nothing was taxing. When muscle started to fail when training, I stopped. The cardio was boring, lame, maybe a light sweat. This was a means to and end.
  • After that, I jumped back on board w/ OPT and Michael FitzGerald training me. For a while, I trained for the Firefighter Combat Challenge. When organization and planning fell through, I switched to a hybrid FBB with aerobic energy system training. I’ll did everything from Assault bike intervals to 20 rep back squats to 40X1 tempo sets to super set pull/push to 30min sustained mixed modal aerobic.
  • When I ask Michael to describe my training, this is what he said, and I quote “Focus on improving muscular strength and endurance, not for sport…Focus on improvement of movements and skills for personal advancement, not for sport…Work volume is low to moderate, based on work schedule and lifestyle. Virtuosity and longevity > capacity and intensity”  Typical FitzGerald. But poignant, and specific. That “NOT FOR SPORT” is very, very important here. As is the consideration of lifestyle and schedule. Really, what are we working around here? STRESS. Managing. Titrating appropriately. This concept is TOTALLY fucking lost on most athletes, if not all but the top coaches. MORE is not always MORE.
  • I am not “unfit”. But I don’t Oly lift. I don’t do muscle ups. I kip nothing. For most folks reading this, there’s going to be confusion and maybe outrage. HOW CAN SOMEONE BE FIT AND NOT DO CF? Surprise surprise. It’s possible.  On the fireground, I don’t drain a 45min bottle in 12 min. Nothing feels heavy. I’m strong, I have muscular endurance, and I have (essentially) a better aerobic system now than I did in 2012, 2014, when I was training strictly for performance. I do not have the skillset for gymnastics.
  • These days, it’s a classic bodybuilding split coupled with aerobic/cardiovascular work, mostly on the assault bike. And I’ll stick to this until I’m 6 feet under pushing daisies. Why? It seems to be working.

My main point in this long diatribe: I have been tinkering with training/nutrition since well before 2004, but seriously since 2007, and focused on body comp FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS. Read: 6 week templates? Paleo Challenges? You didn’t even drop a SINGLE POUND in 2 weeks since I last talked to you? Think bigger.  Think farther.  

It’s going to take longer than you think. Much, much longer.