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Those who have made it to the next level?


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It's been a while since I have been back.  Health issues and life have gotten in the way of any really consistent exercising efforts on my part.  That's not to say I do nothing.  I try to get out a couple of times a week to ski, and I noticed a couple months back that I am at my old high school weight (though with less muscle and more fat).  After finally getting in to see a specialist, it was thought Celiac's might be the culprit.  I got back from the meeting with the doctor yesterday, where I found out the colonoscopy biopsy tests were negative.  So not Celiac's, but also, no solid answers.  Maybe gluten sensitivity?  Could be IBS, or leaky gut (the leaky gut suggestion is mine).  Long story short, I had to take a course of antibiotics a few years back, and my system has been buggered up ever since.  While I do eat reasonably healthfully, I am trying out a few more things that I hope will improve my gut and overall health - working on a crock pot of bone broth as I type this.


As for the main reason I'm posting.  I recently turned 37, and I have got it in my head that when I turn 40, I want to be the healthiest and in the best shape of my adult life.  I have friends who are in their late 30's, early 40's who are in fantastic condition, so I know it's possible.  Getting a Celiac's diagnosis was originally going to be my jumping off point, because it would have given me an answer to my health issues, and a starting point to begin rectifying them.  That's out the window now, but I am firing ahead with this being the starting point anyway.  In past attempts to get in better shape, I have reached the first major level of being able to sustain physical activity for an extended period of time (i.e. playing a soccer game), but have always lingered at that plateau.  It's easy and reasonably quick (about 1-2 months of moderate exercise) for me to go from sedentary to reasonably active.  But I have yet to make the long grind to what I would consider the next level of activity endurance (i.e. being able to skip rope intensely for 10+ minutes).  In another example, I can ski at a moderate pace for a couple of hours, but there are those folks out there that are in such shape, they can go for that long, and have the speed to blow by me like I am standing still.  And most of them are older than me, so being young isn't necessary.


I'm curious to hear from people who have taken things to that next level.  The speedsters, the marathoners, the people who have made the long climb.  I know everyone's life experience will be different, but I am interested in getting a rough framework idea of how long your ascent was.  Is there another level, or is it just a long grind to get better a little at a time?  I'm wondering, with you higher up on the hill of success, now that you look back at the valley below you, what do you see?  Is my 3 year goal too ambitious?



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I've been sitting looking at this point for 30 minutes trying to organize my thoughts.  And part of that organizing was trying to figure out if I fit what you're asking.  But I think in the end, that mental debate of mine actually answers your questions.


When I joined NF I was 250-260 pounds.  In the 4 years I've been here, I lost 50 pounds, have done a couple races, lifted thousands of pounds of free weights, done hours and hours of aikido, run up countless amount of big ass steps, survived a 14 hour endurance challenge....  And yet I still see a lot of goals of mine as being way off in the distance.  And it's not to say I haven't come far, but as I've traveled my perspective has drastically altered.  Things I once viewed as impossible, or not me, or weird I now take as a matter of course.  I'm aiming to hit the 1,000 pound club in my Big Three Lifts.  Two years ago I would have been happy with lifting 200 pounds between the three of them, let alone five times that amount.  But all I know is that I've slowly climbed to the point where not only do I think it's possible, it's also within reach.


So I'm rambling here.  But the point is, there really isn't "The Next Level."  There's the next goal, the next benchmark you'd like to hit, the faster time to tackle.  The closest you could say to there being the next level is knowing that The Next Level is just forward movement and habit.  


Can you get there in three years?  Absolutely.  You could probably get there in 12 months given the right program.  But the sustainable side of it is what will get to there and keep you there.  


I could probably ramble longer, but the baseline is: Figure out what "Healthiest in your life" means to you.  Implement a plan to gradually get there.  And assuming you keep at it, at some point it will become habit, and not moving will feel so alien that you'll just keep going without realizing it.

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RisenPhoenix, the Entish Aikidoka

Challenge: RisenPhoenix Turns to Ash


"The essence of koryu [...is] you offer your loyalty to something that you choose to regard as greater than yourself so that you will, someday, be able to offer service to something that truly is transcendent." ~ Ellis Amdur, Old School

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I think I'd qualify as someone who's reached that kind of next level. I used to need 42" waist trousers, now down to 34". Went from being moderately active to very active, took up running etc and so on.


I'd suggest looking at things slightly differently, because regarding is as a "long grind" is - in my view - entirely the wrong way to think about it. Don't stare at the summit, stare at the ground ahead. The summit feels distant and unattainable, and likely climbing the next slope/achieving your next goal pales into insignificance compared to the distance to the summit. The danger is that you don't appreciate your successes, seeing them only as tiny steps towards some larger, far off goal. That's bad for motivation and it's bad for being aware of your own accomplishments. You can end up comparing yourself to people who should be way outside your comparator group, rather than comparing yourself with you last week, last month, last year.


When I first started on my journey (and a while before I found Nerd Fitness) my thinking was that I wanted to see if I could live a better, healthier lifestyle. I'd got fat because of the consequences of hundreds and thousands of smaller decisions which added up over time. I wanted to see how far a few little relatively painless changes would get me. If I got down from my 42" waist trousers to a 40" or a 38" and then I realised that I loved food and TV and computer games too much, that would still be a satisfactory result, because I'd be a bit healthier, a bit fitter, and I'd know that I consciously chose that kind of life/weight etc. As it happened I achieved that and I found I wanted more, was ready to make diet and lifestyle changes that I would never have dreamed I'd be ready to make. I got fitter and fitter, found running, loved it.


In other words, the best is sometimes the enemy of the good. If I'd started with the ambition of 34" trousers, running a sub 3:30 marathon and then tried to work out how long that would take me, I doubt I would have achieved it. That just seems so far off, so distant from my starting point, so unachievable, that I wouldn't have taken the right amount of pleasure from each new notch on my belt and my first 5k run or breaking 90kg on the way down. I would never, never have got the same kick out of my first 5k, my first 10k, my first half marathon if I'd only seen them in the context of an eventual and still far distant marathon goal.


TLDR - pick realistic short term fitness goals, work towards them, achieve them, pick new goals.






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 Level 4 Human Adventurer / Level 4 Scout, couch to 5k graduate, six time marathon finisher.



Current 5k Personal Best: 22:00 / 21:23 / 21:13 / 21:09 / 20:55 / 20:25 (4th July 17)

Current 5 mile PB: 36:41 35:27 34:52 (10th May 17)

Current 10k PB: 44:58 44:27 44:07 44:06 43:50 (29th June 17)

Current Half Marathon PB: 1:41:54 1:38:24 1:37:47 1:37:41 (14th June 15)

Current Marathon PB: 3:39:34 3:29:49 (10th April 16)


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Both great replies - thank you. :)  I'm not sure I have a quantifiable idea of what end goal I am thinking of when I am looking to be the healthiest and fittest I've been, but rather I have an aim to do better than when I was younger.  Healthier, in terms of eating well and balancing out my nutritional needs, should be relatively easy - I ate like crap when I was young.  There are certain aspects to my physicality when I was younger that I can't replicate.  For instance, when I was in high school, I was in 3-4 hours of athletics every day during the week.  I obviously don't have anywhere near that amount of time these days, but I can however be much smarter about what I do, and how I do it.  I was fit for what I needed to do, but never pushed myself beyond that.  For example, I could run hard nearly non stop in a soccer game, but the day after completing the 18km race my school held every year, I could barely walk.  My running technique was lousy too.  It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned how to run properly.  The immediate result was taking my 5km run from 42 mins one day, to 35 mins the next, just fixing form and breathing.


As with most everyone else, long term commitment has always been my biggest problem.  I learned the hard way that trying to do things the way I think they should be done, based on how others have done them, was a recipe for failure.  I've identified my faults, and I've stopped trying to do things I know I wont keep up with.  For instance, I hate wasting money, and enjoy x-country skiing, so I purchased a pass at my local Provincial Park.  The pass costs the equivalent of 10 visits, so to make it worth the cost, a person needs to go out at least 11 times.  My desire to get out and not feel like I have wasted money, ensures I get an extra push to get out the door.  I have also joined the local ski club, and begun participating in night skis.  People know I'm coming, and I know they are expecting me, so it is again that extra little push when I might otherwise think about skiing "another time".  I have also been trying to set goals that will motivate me to work harder.  For instance, I am looking to sign up for a 40km canoe race that occurs in a few months.  My desire for competition will fuel my efforts to prepare for the event.  I need that focus, otherwise I founder and quit.


Perhaps most importantly, I have in this last year come to terms with inner competitions that had been driving me to quit out of frustration.  Firstly, I have stopped trying to compare myself with my younger me, and what he could do.  Beyond feeling inferior, it was a risk to my physical being (I put my back out for nearly a month last year trying to do too many chin-ups).  Secondly, the people out there who are older than me, and more fit, have now become an inspiration.  They are a reminder that my best days don't have to be behind me, they can be in front.  There are few things to remind you that you have plenty of time to improve your life, than seeing someone in their 70's whiz on by you on the trails.


Thanks again.  I think we all can use a hand to pull us up, whether that be literal or digital, slap us on the back and encourage us forward once more.


One last thing.  Was I reading that right RisenPhoenix, you have increased your lifting strength by almost 5x in 2 years?  Sweet Moses, I didn't know something like that was possible.

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11 minutes ago, Shamus36 said:

One last thing.  Was I reading that right RisenPhoenix, you have increased your lifting strength by almost 5x in 2 years?  Sweet Moses, I didn't know something like that was possible.


I mean, when you start at ZERO pounds, anything is a crazy increase.  But yea, when I started I think my big three lifts were maybe 300 pounds total.  My deadlift yesterday was an easy 305# for reps.  Squats aren't as good, but I was doing 205# for a 25 reps total.  And while my shoulder is borked right now and preventing it, my last bench was roughly 210 for reps.  Still a ways to go for my 1RMs and ultimately 1,000 pound total, but I'm much closer than I was a while back, and I've had to fight through more than a few injuries to get back to where I am currently.


Slow and steady.  Definitely the way to be.  That and not comparing yourself to anything other than who you were yesterday.

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RisenPhoenix, the Entish Aikidoka

Challenge: RisenPhoenix Turns to Ash


"The essence of koryu [...is] you offer your loyalty to something that you choose to regard as greater than yourself so that you will, someday, be able to offer service to something that truly is transcendent." ~ Ellis Amdur, Old School

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I don't think it's necessarily bad as seeing the route to improvements as a daily grind, because that's what it is.


Those who compete at a high level don't have an amazingly awesome session every time they train. Most of it will be a daily grind and the difference (other than those odd genetic outliers) is the willingness to just stick it out and push through.


I started out at 28 as a borderline obese, comparatively inactive, telly addict recovering from post-viral fatigue syndrome who had never lifted a free weight in her life.


I turned 33 a couple of weeks ago with enough powerlifting medals to decorate a Christmas tree, both a health BMI and body fat percentage, and I'm a qualified fitness professional (albeit just starting out).


The strength came on quite quickly to begin with and now it's really a slow grind for every kg added, but I have competitions to look forward to and I try really hard to inspire others around me. I'm an annoying one in that I do compare myself to others and I strive to compete with (and beat) people rather than just looking to better myself. It's too easy to become complacent when you started out pretty much nowhere so any improvement is huge.

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On 2017-02-22 at 5:15 AM, Average To Abs said:

I wouldn't call it a long grind, but it is a process.  Back in 2013, I was 185 pounds (I'm 5'6, so on me that's FAT).  I'm now almost 145 pounds, the strongest I've ever been, and getting close to single digit bodyfat.  Honestly, getting here was really just a matter of installing some good habit, and doing that shit CONSISTENTLY.  That's the main thing.  You just have to be consistent with it.  I'm in a somewhat similar situation as you.  I'm turning 31 this year, and few years ago when it sunk in that I was closing in on 30, it was like "damn, I better kick things up a notch!"


Ha, it's not often I come across someone with a very similar body story.  I'm 5'7, and back in 2013 I was 186 pounds.  There are few things that snap your condition into perspective like having your young child innocently ask you why you have breasts.  The rare times I look at a scale these days, I'm somewhere between 145 and 150, though it's a bit more fat than muscle compared to my 145 high school weight.

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