Sunday, June 5, 2011

What's My Motivation?


We do things.  Period.  Things we want to do, things we have to do, and things we do without realizing.  

The things we don't have to do, but should do are the most difficult to do.  Those that fall into that category are often things that started out as things we wanted to do.  The things we want, like, or prefer to do are the ones that we get the most enjoyment out of.  Enjoyment is one of the greatest intrinsic rewards we can receive from the accomplishment of those "things."  Aren't you more likely to do something again that you've enjoyed?

See where I'm going with this?  At first, you sign up for the gym and can't wait to go.  You haven't enjoyed anything yet, but you enjoy the thought of a new and improved you, be it through weight loss, muscle growth, or enhanced physical ability.  The rewards of working out aren't instant; they aren't handing out new guts, butts, or biceps at the door.  You've got to work for those things and that is where a something you wanted to do turns into a something you don't want to do.  It comes in the form of a well though out excuse, "I've gone the past X days," "I woke up early and worked really hard today."  Armed with an excuse, you're not motivated to go, you're motivated skip.  You skip a day and find enjoyment in other activities, losing sight of your gym goals until you end up at square one again, thinking, "I should start going to the gym again."  This reminds me of a Benjamin Franklin quote, "a small leak can sink a great ship."

You can remove that entire possibility altogether by understanding yourself.  What motivates you?  I’m ultimately motivated to go to the gym because I want to get big.  Some days, I’m sub-motivated to go so I can listen to a new CD that I bought or even a podcast that I follow.  I’ve been motivated to go because at some point in the day someone told me I was looking good or even because I watched some contest footage.  I’ve been re-motivated at the gym when a fellow member told me I had good form and range of motion.  I’ve even become motivated because of my site, blog, and twitter work.  What works for you?  Maybe it’s your girlfriend/boyfriend taking notice.  

The most important piece of the puzzle is through the realization that progress is the result of tiny steps.  Each of those tiny steps takes time and commitment.  Whenever I feel like skipping, I think of all the tiny precursory steps that I've already done and committed time to.  Every day I make a conscience effort to eat several meals throughout the day; when I wake up, when I get to work, before lunch snack, lunch, post lunch snack/pre-gym meal, post gym meal, and a pre-bed snack.  Eating in this fashion allows my to mentally see myself in the gym that day.  When it comes time to go to the gym, I've already though about being there.  Each time I eat, I am thinking about my plans at the gym so by the time I get there, I'm just running through the same routine that I've already ran through in my head.  Whenever I'm moving slow or procrastinate in going to the gym, I think of the time and effort that I've already put forth to going and I hate wasting time and effort.

So maybe you're not in a position to eat like I do and that's fine.  Find something that does work for you.  Understand your reasons for not going, analyze the times that you get that, "I don't want to go" feeling, and learn a way to "motivate" yourself to go.  Change only comes by doing.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

NGA Mr. & Ms. Natural Philadelphia

I just got back from tonight's show, ate, and now am ready to do some posting about it.  This is the second year that I attended it at the Plymouth Meeting/Whitemarsh High-school.  It was the first contest I had ever seen last year and I've found it to be very entertaining both years.  It manages to fill up the entire school auditorium and it can get pretty vocal between the MC and the crowd; nice interaction - sometimes.

Pre-judging started at noon and lasted til about 3:30 or so. A few people stuck out, in good and bad ways.  There were some competitors I recognized right away from last year like Grand Master Ted Borodaeff who gave us an age and gravity defying routine after a dedication to his mother.

Out of the junior men's (23 and under), I had picked (#17) Ezequiel Daiz, (#47) Robert Murray, and (#4) Jared Bausch. (#1) Daniel Aleksa squeeked through and ended up winning, with Ezequiel taking 2nd, Jared Basuch taking 3rd, Robert Murray taking 4th, and (#73) Tyler ? (late registrant not on the program) in 5th.  I liked Ezequiel's entrance as he started off stage and came to center stage "carried" by his song's Spanish guitar intro.  Some guys start off stage, but come lumbering or lurking in which makes it awkward and almost a time killer; you only get 90 seconds after-all.

If you follow my tweets, you know that I was immediately impressed by (#19) Kingsley Deslorieux.  I will probably buy a recording of the show just to watch him conquer the crowd with his demanding presence.  He looked good; good size, good cuts.  He was thick in all the right places and gleamed of confidence.  His routine flowed like a smooth silken waterfall.  Everything just worked.  The guy was good all around and I knew he would be the winner of his Open Light Heavy Weight (173-189 lbs) class.  He would go on to win that and the Open Overall.  Kudos to him.

Results from the 2011 Mr. & Ms. Natural Philadelphia:

Junior Men's Bodybuilding (<=23)
5th - (#73) - Tyler ? Not in program, late registrant
4th - (#47) - Robert Murray
3rd - (#4) - Jared Bausch
2nd - (#17) - Ezequiel Daiz
1st - (#1) - Daniel Aleksa

Men's Over 40 Masters
5th - (#35) - Tony Malczon
4th - (#12) - Eric Carbone
3rd - (#48) - George Myers, Jr
2nd - (#39) - Chuck Meerasen
1st - (#46) - Michael Murray

Men's Over 50 Grand Masters
5th - (#54) - John Pizzo
4th - (#29) - Michael Ives
3rd - (#52) - John Parvel
2nd - (#8) - Ted Borodaeff
1st - (#12) - Eric Carbone

Novice - Bantam
2nd - (#47) - Robert Murray
1st - (#18) - Robert DeLeon

Novice - Lightweight
5th - (#39) - Chuck Meerasen
4th - (#51) - Frankie Panariello
3rd - (#24) - Albert Geddes
2nd - (#9) - Daniel Boyd
1st - (#26) - Timothy Gottlieb

Novice - Middleweight
5th - (#60) - Stephen Scalia
4th - (#43) - Christian Moore
3rd - (#17) - Ezequiel Daiz
2nd - (#44) - Erington Moore
1st - (#75) - Lamar ? Not in program, late registrant

Novice - Light Heavyweight
5th - (#75) - Charlie Smith
4th - (#82) - Matthew ? Not in program, late registrant
3rd - (#50) - John O'Donohue
2nd - (#46) - Michael Murray
1st - (#1) - Dnaiel Aleksa

Novice - Heavyweight
4th - (#71) - Ralph Yates
3rd - (#4) - Jared Bausch
2nd - (#27) - Patrick Green
1st - (#32)  - Ryan Kraft

Men's Novice Overal
1st - (#26) Timothy Gottlieb

Open - Bantam
1st - (#18) - Robert DeLeon

Open - Lightweight
5th - (#25) - Israel Gonzalez
4th - (#24) - Albert Geddes
3rd - (#81) - Gregory ? - Not in program, late registrant
2nd - (#9) - Daniel Boyd
1st - (#26) - Timothy Gottlieb

Open - Middleweight
5th - (#11) - Dino Campbell
4th - (#75) - Lamar ? - Not in program, late registrant
3rd - (#44) - Erington Moore
2nd - (#37) - David Marquez - cramped, left-early, won from pre-judging
1st - (#41) - James Mikel - left early
3rd - (#11) - Dino Campbell
2nd - (#75) - Lamar?
1st - (#44) - Erington Moore

Open - Light Heavyweight
5th - (#76) - Terrance?  Not on program, late registrant
4th - (#50) - John O'Donahue
3rd - (#1) - Daniel Aleksa
2nd - (#46) - Michael Murray
1st - (#19) - Kingsley Deslorieux

Open - Heavyweight
5th - (#?) - Left contest, not awarded
4th - (#71) - Ralph Yates
3rd - (#32) - Ryan Kraft
2nd - (#77) - Not on program, late registrant
1st - (#59) - Phillip Roundtree

Open - Overall
1st - (#19)  Kingsley Deslorieux ***

***NGA Pro Card Recipients

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Controlled Labs Stack: Mass/Bulking

The other day I noticed my random assortment, the “chemistry set” as they've been called, of supplements were running low. They were the basics, creatine, glutamine, BCAAs, ZMA, and beta-alanine. I've cycled on and off creatine before and have always noticed good results. In high-school, I was under the impression that the results I saw came from the additional water I was carrying around. True or not, creatine has been aggressively refined to be purer and more easily absorbed. One guy I was talking to at the gym, who is in a similar boat, just started creatine again. The last cycle he was on was 10+ years ago and it was plagued with stomach cramps and the poops. He said that he didn't notice a strength increase, but did notice better endurance in the higher reps of his sets.

I, on the other hand, see strength increases almost immediately. Relating back to my last blog post, it might be mental, but I am often able to surpass my prior, non-creatine sets from weeks past. I've notice that where I previously struggled and developed a sticking point, cycling on creatine will let me easily reach that point and then exceed it. A perfect example was my bench; I was accustomed to training with a partner, then switched gyms, and ultimately ended up training check alone. I'm only now where I was with the partner, but for weeks I struggled to pass 225. I'm sure initially that it was a lack of confidence, removing the safety net of a spotter works wonders on your psyche. But in the following weeks, I didn't progress like I did... I got stuck. I introduced creatine and have started increasing the weight again.

***Note*** - For future reference, I want to be as open and honest about topics as possible. Here I'm touting a time when creatine was involved with busting a plateau. However, do note that at the same point in time, I was unsatisfied with my shoulders and began putting heavy emphasis on them. Surely this did not hurt my bench. While I can't say it was strictly the creatine that helped my press, I can say that other sticking points (preacher curls for instance) also moved on at the time creatine was used.

Back to the point of this blog; I was running low and needed to order some supplements. I don't mind trying new things as I like to experiment and see what works, what doesn't. The first pre and intra supplements I tried were Gaspari's SuperPump 250 and SizeOn. The orange flavor of SP reminded me of an Orange Julius, was delicious, and the first time using it I felt a tingling in my muscles. Never felt it again after that. I had lemon SizeOn, which reminded me a those children's “Saf-T-Pops,” (you know, those suckers you got when you were a kid that didn't have a stick, but a loop your parents could use to dislodge the candy from your throat. Using SizeOn, I noticed a huge boost in endurance during my later reps. Rather than caving and putting the weight down, I was able to put more into the lift. The next stack I tried was from Controlled Labs. had a three pack – Green MAGnitude, White Flood, and Purple INTRAIN. Now, aside form the gimicky color scheme of all their supplements, each is flavored. Each recommends a good amount of water to be consumed. The first batch of Purple INTRAIN I had was disgusting. Purple Vomit Tainted w/ Grape would have been a better name. Someone, somewhere, in a forum said that it tasted like some sort of iced tea. Not this batch. I had a second batch a few months later that tasted a little bit better, still nothing like a tea. While I took it, I did notice an improvement in stamina and to my limited capacity, I noticed more veins. The appearance of veins are a great motivational tool.

When I bought my next batch of supps, I remembered my experience with that stack and went to and checked out the “Stacking Info” tab. I decided to go with the advanced mass/bulking stack, but left out BlackHOLE and GoldenGAINS.

With Breakfast: Orange TRIAD
60 Minutes Prior to Workout: Blue GENE
30 Minutes Prior to Workout: GlycerGROW
15 Minutes Prior to Workout: White Flood and Green MAGnitude
During Workout: Purple WRAATH
Before Dinner: Blue GROWTH
With Dinner: Orange TRIAD

Now after reading all of the labels, it was obvious that my water intake had to be increased. Most of the bottles recommend drinking 1-2 gallons of water. I figured that if while at work, I drink 8 ounces of water every half an hour, by the end of the work day, I'll have 1 gallon down. (16 oz x 8 hours = 128 oz). Add the additional amounts consumed over night, with breakfast, and before the gym I should be OK.

Initial impressions:
That's a lot of water – you better be able to make frequent bathroom trips at work. I'm curious if my body will adjust to the increased amount of water. Mentally I was pumped at the gym, to try the new stack and once there I found myself sweating a lot (it was also the warmest days of the year yet). Ideally, I should have waited a week or two to cycle out the previous creatine. I still felt strong, but is still too early to tell how they'll work, but I'll keep updating. I also think that it is important to understand what you're taking and what the ingredients are going to do to you. You can be sure that I'll have follow up posts with more details – but just to disclaim, I have no ties to any product manufacturers... but if your are Controlled Labs, feel free to throw some stuff my way.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easy as 1... 2... 3...

When I started lifting regularly, I got into the routine of doing 4 sets of 8 repetitions each. I did this for every muscle group and every exercise that I performed. At that time, I hadn't done much research into the number of sets and repetitions I should be doing for my goal. Starting out as an absolute stick, I was seeing and feelings results after a few sessions. One good attribute of starting out with the 4x8 pattern was that it allowed me to see what I was capable of and how I was progressing.

Every workout from the beginning has been logged and at the start, it was easy to see what I had done previously and work towards beating my prior goal.

Exercise – Set 1 Weight x Reps, Set 2 Weight x Reps... Set 4 Weight x Reps
Close Grip Preacher Curl – 40x8, 40x8, 40x7, 40x5

I would log everything like the example above. When I saw this the following week, I knew I previously started out strong and in sets 3 and 4 struggled. So now the next time I did close grip preacher curls, I knew what I should be able to beat the following week. In my mind, there was no reason why I should ever complete an exercise with equal or worse results than the previous week. This was before I realized how many variables can affect your your consistency (sleep, diet, attitude, etc).

Since then, I've used various amounts of sets and reps for different exercises. During the 8x4 days, I saw the greatest amount of strength increase. When I began adding additional repetitions to my sets, I noticed that I was setting myself up for a mental block. When shooting for 8 reps, I never had to worry about any more than the number 8. After a while, it was like I had programmed my mind to expect failure at the 8th rep. Further proof of this came from the times I'd lose track of counting mid set and my lifting partner would seem to “pre-maturely' prepare to help me out on my “8th” rep. In my mind, I was on 6 or 7 and my body was performing like I was on the 6th or 7th rep. This is just one of the many examples of mind over matter in the gym.

Now that I'm doing varying higher numbers of reps, I've learned that you can trick your brain into “thinking” its earlier in the set than you actually are. Normally you would count out your reps, 1...2...3... and so on, or perhaps you count backwards, 12...11...10... and so on. It doesn't take a lot of brain power to know when your nearing the higher end of the rep spectrum. Your sub-conscious is already on to the fact that your on rep number 8 and that you should be tiring.

By breaking away from your normal pattern, you can make it harder for your sub-conscious mind to tell your body when it's time to quit. By using a different counting structure, it's more difficult to tell when you are midway through. When I did 8x4s, I pretty much knew how many reps I would bang out once I made it to 4. 4 is the the half-way point and your brain can deduce fairly easily that if you're near failure at 4, failure is imminent by 8, and suddenly that barbell just got a little bit heavier.

You can use any pattern you'd like, start out simple by counting by 10s. Figure out what number you need to make it to and start counting them off. Counting by 10s too easy? Try 9.

Here are some others:
  1. Double count – 1...1...2...2...3...3...4...4...5...5...
  2. Pyramid count – 1...2...3...4...5...5...4...3...2...1...
  3. Stagger count – 1...6...2...7...3...8..4...9...5...10
  4. Top/Bottom count – 1...10...2...9...3...8...4...7...5...6
Have fun with it and see what works for you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Product Review: CytoSport Monster Milk

I received a 20 oz bottle of CytoSport Monster Milk at the Arnold Expo and gave it a shot yesterday.  It contains 2.5 servings with 130 calories (30 from fat), 7g of carbs, 3.5g of fat, and 18g of protein per server.

The bottle claims that it has both whey and casein proteins, a questionable amount of creatine, BCAA's (L-Leucine, L-Valine, and L-Isoleucine, lean lipid, and fiber.

They recommend to drink a serving 1 1/2 - 2 hours before your workouts and a serving within the first 30 minutes post workout.

How does it taste?  I loved it.  There is no way that future bottles of this will last 2.5 servings as it tastes almost better than chocolate milk.  That "dry" protein taste is barely present and I found the bottle to be quite enjoyable after my leg workout on Monday.  For the price ($39.99 for 12 bottles, $1.33~ per server), I would say if you need it in a pinch, prefer to have pre-measured/pre-mixed shakes, or don't mind spending a little bit extra go for it - based off of taste.  I have no idea how well the product performs as I only had a single bottle. does rate it at a 9.7/10.

The taste does intrigue me enough to see if the powdered variety can compare.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blogger > Wordpress

I was annoyed at the fact that I couldn't serve ads through the free version of Wordpress.  So I've migrated over to Blogger which seamlessly integrated with my existing Google Adsense account.  Beautiful.  I won't mind if you accidentally click on some ads either!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Arnold Classic 2011

If you've been following along with my tweets, you'll know that I've been out of town this weekend. A little over half of a year ago, my girlfriend brought up the idea of attending the Arnold Classic in March. Well that weekend has come and gone and boy would I do that again.

We started off by leaving Philadelphia around 7-7:30 after work, deciding to stop midway at my mom's in West/Central, PA for a few hours rest before continuing on to Columbus. We made it to our hotel around 8AM and immediately went to the amateur pre-judging held downtown at the Veteran's Memorial. Until about 3:30, we watched the women's figure and bodybuilding rounds and then finally the men's. Midway through, the lights flickered, dimmed, and then went out, triggering the flood lights to launch on. Within a few moments we were told there was a block-wide power outage. This lasted a half-hour or more - I was starving. Sure enough, the lights eventually came back on and the judging continued.

I studied the poses and tried to guess what my weight class would have been; I'm thinking welterweight.

I'm sure the standard poses done there were part of the regular pre-judging routine:
1) Front - Arms to the sides - Semi-relaxed
2) Front double bicep
3) Front lat spread
4) Quarter turn right for the side chest
5) Another quarter turn for rear double biceps
6) Rear lat spread
7) Quarter turn right for side tricep
8) Final quarter turn right for Abdominal/thigh
9) On occasion the most muscular as requested

After pre-judging was finished, we decided to eat and then check into the hotel and call it a night. After about 4 hours total sleep over the last 3 days my eyes slammed shut and the morning quickly. I didn't mind as I was pumped and ready to go for the day's events. Lesson learned from the previous day - have food ready and waiting in your car. That way you have it, you won't put it off until later, and you won't go crazy trying to find something between events.

When buying tickets, I opted to buy the pro pre-judging rather than the amateur finals. In retrospect, I wish I had done the inverse to follow those guys through from start to finish. Pro pre-judging was also held at Veteran's Memorial. Those guys were huge - Dennis Wolf had a massive presence on stage, Martinez looked happy to be there and Evan Centopani was clearly a crowd favorite. Those were my three picks for later in the evening. I did notice that my own judging of these guys was much more difficult that the amateurs. We were seated further back than we were during the amateurs (probably 2nd row of general admin then), so see details were much more difficult. Another tip for next year is to bring a small pair of binoculars. You can pay an arm and a leg for those tickets, but that doesn't guarantee anything as we found out. During this, I took plenty of notes on what I was observing (which I'll post later). Some were questions while some were impressions.

We left for the expo shortly after the men ended. It had begun to rain while we were inside and parked a few blocks away from the convention center. Downtown Columbus is amazingly easy to navigate - driving or walking. After the initial confusion of where to go in the center, we figured out which direction East was and bee-lined it straight to booth #1, Frank Zane's booth. I got my copy of the training manual, Hi-Def, a t-shirt, and his latest newsletter. All of that was pale in comparison to actually meeting and talking to Frank shortly while posing for a picture. This wouldn't be the last I saw of him.

After that, we walked around the expo, collecting our swag. I would learn later that night that Friday and Sunday are the best days to attend it. A few well timed stops later, I thought we made out pretty well. The benefit of bringing your girlfriend is that you actually leave with double the amount of goods. Plenty of exhibits and familiar faces. Ronnie Coleman was there; what a beast.

We left the expo to go back to Veteran's Memorial for the finals. The stage was drastically different, now with a different backdrop, lights, and the Arnold Classic globe in which the competitors would come out of. It started with a nice opening and led to Arnold opening the competition. If I recall correctly, it started out with a quick side by side of all of the men, then their individual routines. After that, they introduced a new round for side by side comparisons and pose-offs. Then came the announcement of the bikini winner and then a sort of Cirque du Soleil performance by two guys - absolutely amazing what can be done with sheer strength.

After that came the strong man finals in which the competitors had to lift a 242 pound dumbbell, 3 inch grip, to their should, press it skyward, and then drop it for as many reps as possible. These were massive human beings, I would have loved to stand side by side with these guys. I'm talking 400 pounds plus. The first few competitors were unable to complete an official rep. There were only six guys, coming out in reverse order of points attained. Eventually it was done and the crowd erupted. Then that guy was bested, and the next bested him. I would definitely like to spend some time next year watching these guys. I saw a bit of it on the GNC stage at the expo, but that was just a taste of the deadlifting done.

Prior to the announcement of the winners, Lou Ferrigno was announced the 2011 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award - this also wouldn't be the last I saw of him. Finally it was time to announce the winners of the evening, starting with the women. It's amazing how much less money the prize money the women received - collectively less than $20k whereas Brach Warren took home something like $130k, a hummer, and a Audemars Piguet watch. Pretty impressive! Dexter took 5th, Evan 4th, Martinez 3rd, and Dennis Wolf 2nd. Warren also took home his 5th Most Muscular award and Wolf earned the Most Entertaining Posing Routine.

As if the final show wasn't enough to ice the cake, I had learned that Frank Zane's band was performing at a little bar/restaurant about a mile away and what better way to eat and wind down for the day. We walked in and heard the sweet sound of a keyboard and Frank on harmonica. We quickly sat down at the bar and ordered drinks when suddenly my girlfriend turned to me and barely emitted the sounds of what I think said, "look behind you." I just assumed she was pressing the fact that we might be a little underdressed for the restaurant (we weren't in jeans and t-shirts, but we weren't in formal attire either). That's when I saw him staring back at me from the table directly behind. Almost Last Supper picturesque, there was Lou Ferrigno at the head of the table surrounded by the rest of the Incredible Ferrigno's. It seems that after the award they came to enjoy a dinner together.

Once my heart rate returned to a nervous normal, she grasped my leg looking past me. Turning my head, there was Arnold walking in his his entourage. "Look at Zane, he's a rockstar too!" I overheard him say. Heart exploding, I wasn't sure what to think or what to do. Arnold left as quickly as he came, security scoped out the remainder of the room, and the was the last I saw of him that night. A few minutes later, Evan Centopani was seated at the table to our left. This was unreal. Out of the 20 or so people there, 4 pros, 2 former multi-year Mr. Olympia's, and Doug Heffernan's next door neighbor. Eventually too, the Ferrigno's left and the band wrapped up for the night. We settled our tab and decided to turn in as well. We stopped by and nervously introduced myself to Frank again, thanked and then congratulated him on a good night.

We drove back to the hotel, reflecting on what we just lucked upon and called the trip a success. Look out 2012, we'll be back!