I won a trip to Hawaii!

Loyal readers of this blog (hi dad!) will remember that in 2010 there was a fitness challenge at work, and that I won. As it turns out, work has been doing challenges like this every year after that, since it was a success. I didn’t partake in last year’s because we were going to be in Europe for about 25% of the challenge and it was preposterous to imagine that I’d want to skip on eating and drinking like a tourist.

The challenge consists of having a DEXA scan to determine your start body fat percentage, and have one at the end. The person who dropped a higher percentage of their start BF%, wins a trip to Hawaii for 2. Pay attention there, it’s tricky. To make it simpler to understand, let’s say that someone starts with 30% body fat and ends the contest with 25%. This person lost 5 points of percentage, but the percentage compared to the start was 16%. Someone who goes from 25% to 20% also dropped 5 points, but compared to the start they lost 25% of what they started with, so the second person wins.

I went in for my body fat scan, and the result said that 21.7% of what one could call “Nico” that day was basically fat. This wasn’t too far from my start point in 2010, so I knew what I could accomplish, and I set my goal to get that prize.

Lucky for me, I’ve been really into reading about fitness in the last year. I spend hours a week between SomethingAwful’s “Watch and Weight” forum and reddit’s “Fittit“, ending up reading all sorts of blogs, articles, research articles and of course tons of anecdotal evidence. From all the knowledge broscience I’ve acquired it was easy to develop my program. Since all the information was readily available for me, it wouldn’t really be a secret for me to keep my plan to myself. So, here’s what I did:

  • LEANGAINS : Diet? Yup. This one is pretty simple, which for me meant not eating for 16 hours, thus only eating during an 8 hour window (for me, it was 11:30am to 7:30pm).
    Every single day, I aimed to consume at least 160g of protein. On the days that I did weight-training, I’d shoot for a target of 2300 calories, with most of them coming from protein and fat. On the days that I wasn’t pumping iron and acting like a meathead, my calories intake could only be around 1700 calories.
    This whole Intermittent Fasting thing was actually easier than I thought. Waking up and working for hours? Sure, bring it on. I was actually very clear-headed and as pleasing as always! Other people doing this also share in their experiences that they are far from cranky or sleepy monsters, but that they feel pretty good. Besides, try not eating for 16 hours:  That first bite tastes so good it’s totally worth it to not eat for 16 hours everyday so that lunch tastes like a gourmet meal.
  • HEAVY-ASS WEIGHTS: Not only did I weight train, I committed to actually improving. I followed the classic Starting Strength method. One thing that made it easy to stick to the program and track all my sets done was Fitocracy. You can see for example my last gym workout before the final DEXA here: http://www.fitocracy.com/view_workout/5606365/. Squat: 245 lbs for 3 sets of 5 reps… Bench press with 155 lbs  for 3 sets of 5… Deadlift 265 lb for 5 reps. And after all that, come out feeling like Ronnie Coleman.
  • FASTED CARDIO: Even more eyebrow-raising than not eating for 16 hours: don’t eat for 16 hours and try to do cardio right before eating! It really isn’t hard to get the heart pumping even if you haven’t eaten in the last few hours! I just imagined fat melting off my body as I headed out for a swim or a walk instead of for the lunchroom.
  • EVEN MORE CARDIO: On the days that I didn’t go to the gym to lift things and put them down, I needed to do something on the evening. So, I would either go for a run or use the bike on the trainer.

And that was the plan, the easy part. Next up was sticking to it and hoping that no one else was going to be willing to hack their body so much to win a trip to Hawaii.

Low-and-behold, executing the plan was easy and enjoyable. I kept receiving positive feedback in many different ways: lifting a weight a little heavier than the week, props and comments on Fitocracy.com, seeing changes in the mirror after about 5 weeks and then having people comment on my changes in person… that’s what kept the fire going.

The fire that melted 43% of my fat. Because on March 28th(exactly 10 weeks after my first scan), my body fat percentage was of only 12.2. Boom! I was very happy with the product of my hard work. All that sacrifice, commitment and perseverance paid off. If I were to give one piece of advice to anyone trying to figure out just how I did it, it would be to stick to the plan and give it time. Everything else is easy to find, it’s not a secret. The only thing that’s missing is having what it takes, which is hard to find if what it takes is a lot or hasn’t been found in a while.

Anyway, my part of the challenge was done then, but there was the little detail of having to wait for all the other 150 contestants to get their final scan, which wasn’t going to happen for over 3 weeks. The final results of the whole challenge were announced yesterday, and fortunately for me, no one else beat me, and the trip to Hawaii goes to Kelly and me. That’s the part of winning the challenge that I feel was up to luck.


But seriously, (and very aware that it might come off cocky): I feel like I also earned it.



PS: as a true follower of the W&W forums and fittit, here are my before/after pictures for evidence, motivation, comparison and further anecdotal evidence.



Fitness challenge complete, and I WON!

Welp, it’s finally over. This whole fitness challenge thing has come to an end, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job for myself.

The official results from the final DEXA scan:Dexa Scan results

You can see the results of both scans, the one in March and the one in May. (if you’re wondering about the Android/Gynoid ratio like I once was, read here: http://www.answers.com/topic/gynoid-fat-distribution). I lost 7.9 pounds and my body fat level went down to 14.8%. That’s well past my goal of reaching 18%, and evidently reason enough for me to win the challenge at work! I’m now $250 richer, and I have my membership to 24-hour fitness paid for a full year.

Training for my first Olympic-length triathlon has definitely helped in getting fitter. I’ve swam twice a week for the last 3 months, and it’s my biggest indicator of how much more fit I am. When I started, I would get winded after swimming 4 laps; this week I was able to swim 50 laps non-stop on Tuesday, and two sets of two sets of 30 laps on Thursday!
On top of that, I’ve been running a bit, and riding my bike another bit.

However, I think the biggest impact was that of my diet. I’ve always been a believer that it’s not about what you eat, but about how you burn it… but this time around I tried it the other way around, and while I certainly exercised a lot, I’ve been a nutrition nazi, and watched what I ate meticulously. Kelly even endearingly called me “anorexic” a few times as I passed up things that I’ve always loved: potatoes, pizza, donuts, ice-cream. I basically stuck to a diet low in carbohydrates, and it seemed to help shed the fat while giving plenty of nutrition for lean mass development.

Blah, blah, blah, I could write about stuff you can read about anywhere if you were so inclined, so I won’t. However, since one of my motivation was from looking at before/after pictures from real people that committed to fitness, here’s my little evidence:

Before and after
Before and after

176 lbs and 23% fat

Well, I had my DEXA exam yesterday, and the results are in:

  • I weigh exactly 80kg, which is more or less 176 lbs. I guess I need a better scale to weigh myself, because I thought I was at 170.
  • 22% of my body is fat. Now, for males the normal range is 4% to 25%, so I’m not technically in a bad spot… but I’m at the upper end of that range, and I would have never known.

The study is pretty cool, you get to lay down on a cushioned bed (very much like this video, except for the knee rest) and hold still while a robotic arm hovering above you zooms around. There is no pain involved, and the best part is that now I know of a bed-like surface to go take naps on if I ever have the need.

Anyway, the report gives some interesting details, broken by body parts. For example, my trunk tissue is 26.7% fat, my legs are 22.6% and my arms 14.6%. Talk about storing the fat in the middle of my body, eh? There are also some more obscure measurements, like “Gynoid: 30%” and “Android: 28.6%”, and I’ll have to wait until I meet with the trainer to find out what those are.

So with that knowledge, I have a better idea of what the goal will be: BF% to somewhere between 12% and 15% range, which will probably take way more than 6 weeks, but that’s ok with me!

Spring fitness challenge

Today is the first day of a “The Biggest Loser” kind of competition at work.

I have 6 weeks to meet my goal, which is set after an assessment with a personal trainer. I like that, because it wouldn’t be fair if it was a weight loss competition, since I’m not overweight. It’s a lot easier for someone 50 lbs. overweight to lose 20 lbs, than for someone at their “ideal” weight to lose 20 (specially since they have no reason to do so!). Additionally, even if it was a body fat percentage loss competition only, it still wouldn’t be fair: It’s easier to go from 30% to 25%, than from 25% to 20%. So the trainer’s assessment will establish goals, and for those of us who are already at a decent level of fitness, the goal will be something else.

The way it works is:

  • Day 1 (today): DEXA Body Fat scan. We do those here at work, so that’s convenient.
  • Day 1+n (undetermined yet): The trainer appointment happens, and she’ll come up with the goal to meet.
  • Day 42: Another DEXA Body Fat scan. After this, the trainer will re-asses everyone, and determine the winner.

The big prize is quite nicel: $250 in cash, a year membership at the gym of the winner’s choice, and 4 tickets to a Reno Aces game.

Today I weighed myself, and I came in at 170lbs. Standing at 5′ 10″, this is the top of my ideal weight (according to the BMI magical formula), and I really don’t want to get any thinner or lighter. My goal however is to get more “ripped“. That is something I’ve been planning on doing to get ready to look good on our honeymoon pictures in July, so this just helps me stay on track, and perhaps speed things up. In other words, my goal is to reduce my body fat percentage. It all sounds pretty vane, and that’s probably because it is.

I’ll be “working on my fitness” by being more mindful about what I eat, and stepping up my work-outs. I’ve doing Starting Strength at the gym for about 2 months now, and I’ve enjoyed getting back into lifting weights regularly. Along with that, I hope to be able to ride my bike to work at least twice a week, now that the weather is much nicer and there is plenty of daylight for the ride home at 5pm. Lastly, there’s always volleyball (the season starts this Sunday, and I’m on two teams!), running and swimming (to be prepared for a triathlon, perhaps) and any other kind of activity that I end up getting involved in one way or another.

My DEXA scan is in 4 hours, and that means that I can’t have any food or water until I’m scanned and given the green light. The suffering begins, NOW!