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This morning, I weighed 171 (45 pounds less than when I first met Clarence). My waist has gone from over 40 inches to 32, and my pants size has dropped from 38 to 32--for the first time in my adult life.
The Albuquerque Experiment: A 6-Year Follow-Up Report
By Kevin Vost, Psy.D.
* * *
How long do the effects of an encounter with Mr. Ripped last? Six years ago I wrote about my personal consultation with Clarence Bass [#50, Personalities]. I described my "Albuquerque Experiment" as an "ongoing personal quest." Perhaps some readers have wondered if this quest has indeed lead to a fit and "Ripped" life style. Well, just sit back and Iíll tell the tale of the long-term effects that visit has had on me, my physique, and my family.
Of course, the "Ripped" life style Iíve adopted has grown from more than that visit alone. All of Clarenceís books and his monthly web site updates have added to the knowledge that makes a lean and healthy life style possible. Knowledge about diet and exercise is very important, but as Clarence himself points out time and again, you must also be motivated to put your knowledge into practice. In recent months, a happy confluence of factors has finally led me to reap the full effects of the "Ripped" lifestyle
Last year, I completed a practical book on mnemonic (memory-aiding) techniques. I remembered that Clarence once described how he gained fat while writing a book about losing fat, and I came to appreciate how the sedentary hours involved in writing are not conducive to maximum leanness. As my book writing drew to a close, my 45th birthday also approached. I also recalled how the legendary Father of Progressive Resistance Training, the ancient Greek Milo who lifted a calf daily as it grew into a cow, had reportedly gone downhill physically beginning at age 45. What a great age then to try to buck the trend and get "ripped" once and for all!
When I met with Clarence on March 15, 2000, I weighed 216 at 5 foot 9. As I noted in my original article, soon after my visit I discovered the Highland Games heavy events competitions. I decided to forestall the full application of the Ripped life style for a while. I focused primarily on staying as big and strong as possible to manhandle the ponderous stones, hammers, iron balls, and cabers (tree trunks) that sport entails. I did improve my dietary habits and add some cardiovascular training in my workouts following the initial visit, but my primary focus for the first few years was not on attaining true leanness and total fitness. As youíll soon see, 2006 has become my year of full employment and enjoyment of the Ripped life style!
Well, this morning, on 05/21/06, I weighed 171 (45 pounds less than when I first met Clarence). My waist has gone from over 40 inches to 32, and my pants size has dropped from 38 to 32--for the first time in my adult life. I have also maintained my strength levels better than ever before while losing weight.
Kevin and younger son, Kyle, in 2000...............................and in 2006
I continue to emphasize whole, low-fat foods and frequent eating. I do not eat much in the way of special foods or supplements, except for Bill Pearl's High-Protein Oatmeal, and 1/2 teaspoon of creatine on lifting days. Like Clarence, I do not keep formal counts of calories or other nutrients. The major change I have applied recently involves portion control (and the more calorie-packed the food, the more important it is to control the portion size). Iíve trained myself to be satisfied with smaller portions, bearing in mind the maxim "Enough is as good as a feast.Ē I have also given up "helping" family members finish their meals!
I continue to love sweets, so my solution has been to have some very fine chocolate every single day. I just have one piece though. Take Lindor chocolate truffles, for example (whiteís my favorite). Three make a serving and contain 220 calories. I eat only one, and I take my time and thoroughly savor it. I know every day that I can have this and I do not crave other kinds of candy. (Clarence has written about the importance of not letting yourself feel deprived.) If I should eat another kind of treat one day, (It seems people are always offering something tasty, and I donít want to turn them down all the time), Iíll have a small piece, just one cookie for example, instead of the chocolate truffle that day.
The same principle applies to beer and wine. Iíll allow myself one bottle of beer (perhaps a Guinness or a honey lager) or one modest glass of a soft red wine per day. Iíve joked to people whoíve asked about my fat loss that Iím on the "white chocolate and beer diet." Of course, as Clarence might point out, Iím not really "on a diet" at all. Iíve simply acquired more sensible eating habits.
In my original article I mentioned four brief training sessions, in contrast to Clarenceís one whole body session per week. During my fat loss this year, Iíve moved closer to Clarenceís system. My main whole body session is done on Saturday morning. Since I love to lift, and they are relatively undemanding on the bodyís reserves. I usually throw in a set of neck work on Tuesday and a set of calf work on Thursday. I try to lift as heavy as possible, but I emphasize form like never before. I try to start deliberately and slowly and I briefly pause at the start of every rep to avoid bounce and momentum. I usually stop a set just short of failure and my preferred number of repetitions is about 8. After minimal warm-up, I do just one set. By keeping training intense and avoiding over training, Iíve not shrunk away my muscle while burning fat.
Since mid-January, I have done a moderate aerobic session every single day, 7 days per week, for over 120 days now without ill effect. I workout for 35 minutes, alternating on different days between a treadmill (mostly uphill walking), revolving stairway, elliptical trainer, or recumbent bicycle. The various machines usually report that I have burned between 500 and 600 calories per session.
Sample Week Lifting Workout (May, 2006)
Med X Dip Machine, complete large and small stacks for 10 reps
Med X Pullover, both stacks x 8 reps, one arm at a time
Hammer Plate-loading Preacher Curl 102Ĺ lb x 8 reps
Hammer Abdominal Machine 90 lb x 10 reps
Low Back Hyperextensions 12 very slow reps
Nautilus 4-way neck machine 60 lb x 8 reps in each direction
Nautilus Multi-Station Calf Raise, stack + 25 lb extra plates x 10 slow reps
Note: I rarely train the quadriceps and hamstrings because these are natural strengths for me and my intense aerobic training keeps up satisfactory size and strength. I would not recommend this practice to everyone. When I train legs, I usually do one intense set of leg presses and one set of leg curls.
Sample Dayís Menu (May, 2006)
Bill Pearlís High-Protein Oatmeal with Ĺ cup 1% milk
2 pieces wheat toast with Smart Balance spread, one of them with sugar-free jelly
6 oz. juice -- usually pomegranate or a half-and-half mixture of orange and carrot juice
One Lindt Lindor White Chocolate Truffle
Grilled chicken breast
Small cottage cheese and fresh fruit plate
12 oz. bottle dark or honey beer before dinner
Whole Wheat pasta with ground sirloin and red sauce
Green Salad with vegetables and fat free sweet Italian dressing
One bowl of Wheaties with 1% milk
I also drink a few cups of black coffee throughout the day and have bottled water before every workout. If I start to get hungry between planned meals or snacks, I often have a small mint like a Tic-Tac. They are very low in calories and just one does the trick to stave off the craving for anything I really donít need.
Too much or too little gymnastic exercise is fatal to strength.
Similarly, too much or too little meat and drink is fatal to health,
whereas a suitable amount produces, increases, and sustains it.
~Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Book II
Three keys to my significant fat loss involve psychological outlook.
1) Iíve always been highly impressed by the ancient Greek emphasis on excellence in mind and body. One of their most important maxims involves the idea of moderation or finding the "golden mean" just right for you -- and then living by it. Coincidentally, my memory book grew out of a medieval discussion of the "cardinal virtues," one of which is "temperance" or self-control. It occurred to me that if I was really to acquire this virtue, then I would have to apply self-control and discipline to my diet and exercise. A very beneficial side effect, once a virtue becomes a deeply ingrained habit, is it's actually quite enjoyable!
2) More specifically, from all my years of heavy lifting, including youthful years of bulking up, I developed the idea that lots of food meant strength and that restricting food intake mean getting weak. You see, I found that my idea of the "golden mean" for food intake was way too high! Sadly, this applies to the great majority of Americans today. I no longer look at food intake this way. I "think strong" even though Iím not eating a great deal. I "tell" my body it can borrow energy for growth from my fat, if it needs it. Of course, I keep the notion of the mean in mind in both directions, monitoring my strength to make sure I am not actually eating too little.
3) I had also acquired the idea that I could do aerobic training every day only at great cost to strength and muscle size, not to mention mounting fatigue. Iíve found this idea to be quite unfounded. As long as I vary my exercises and do not strive for new personal records every session, I can quite profitably and enjoyably do aerobic training every day, just as Clarence does with his walks in the open space above his house.
As a very early riser, I start most of my aerobic sessions between 5:00 and 5:30 AM. Indeed, there is a very dedicated cast of regular early AM trainers I see at my gym every morning. Making this early training a firm habit has been essential to my fat loss. When I wake up in the morning, I donít even ask myself if I feel like training, I just do it!
Positive Effects for the Whole Family
A most delightful side effect of really settling in to the "Ripped" lifestyle, has been its effects on my family. They were with me during our meal with the Basses, and it made a lasting, favorable impression on Kathy, my wife, and on my young sons, Eric and Kyle. Kathy had maintained a weight of about 115 for the 23 years Iíve known her. After making similar dietary changes and restarting lifting and aerobic training this year (4 sessions per week for her), sheís down three pants sizes at 100 pounds even. Eric, now 19, is back in training, and Kyle, 13, has been "bitten by the iron bug" as they used to say, in a big way. Kyle just graduated from 8th grade last week and was one of only two boys in his class to win the Presidential Physical Fitness Award for strength, flexibility, and endurance in both the fall and spring terms.
Indeed, his prompting by poking me and calling me "fatty" months ago was also a motivator for me. He also scoffed when I proposed to uncover my six-pack again. A few months into the year he called me only "part fat," and now even he reluctantly admits that the abs have resurfaced.
The Moral of this Story?
The moral of the story is that the Ripped life style does work and it keeps on working if you work with it. Learn the principles thoroughly. Adapt them to your own body, your own psychology, and your own life situation. Cultivate the ideas and goals that will motivate you to put them into practice. Find your golden mean and train yourself in self-control. Enjoy the process. Be thankful that Clarence keeps on keeping us informed and enthused by his example, so that our stories can be successful ones.
Pax et bonum (Peace and goodness).
Kevin Vost, Psy.D., is the author of Memorize the Faith! - and Most Anything Else: Using the Methods of the Great Medieval Memory Masters. (Sophia Institute Press -- available from Barnes&Noble.com, Amazon.com, or SophiaInstitute.com). He has lifted for over 30 years and competed in powerlifting, Olympic lifting, bodybuilding, team tug-of-wars, team human tractor pulling races, and Highland Games competitions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or comments.
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