From Fat Ass to Bad Ass

Let me preempt this before I get the hate mail – I do not consider myself a bad ass.  I have a hairy ass, which can be seen as “bad” but I am certainly not by any stretch, a bad ass. But the title works, is pretty snappy and I can’t even take credit for it. It was recommended I title it this by Ryan Goldstone. So blame him.

Years ago I was a nimble, athletic, (somewhat) fast athlete or fooled enough people to let me wear a football uniform for a number of years and pose as a running back and then fullback. Sometimes these poses were done during games and actual plays so I couldn’t have been that bad. Not great. Not good, even. But just good enough to contribute.

When the pads were given up, I immediately began on the road to powerlifting. In my mind, I had paid the Running Gods more than they were owed so I decided that I’d give up the high knees for wrapped knees. And did I ever. In the five years of training for powerlifting I hadn’t run, jogged or even hustled. I did get strong in the three lifts but certainly wasn’t “strong” if I was asked to do other things – like going to the zoo and go walking. I know many of you are there now or have been there; wheezing and out of breath during even the most normal of life’s activities.

Fast forward to today and I can run, sprint, push and pull whatever I want and still am strong. My deadlift is stronger, overhead press is stronger, bench is down about 50 pounds and the squat – that’ s just hard to tell as I never tested my raw squat at that time. I’m assuming it’s not as strong but it’s very close.

And I weigh almost 50 pounds less.

So now that you know the back story, let’s look at how this transformation started. Everyone is going to have a different starting point so I’m just going to outline the basic steps I took to get this done. Each step can last as long as you want it to or need it to; you are going to have to use your best judgment. But no one ever got ahead if they didn’t push themselves or decided that their status quo was acceptable. Nothing great has ever been accomplished by being normal.

Stage 1:

AM – ½ mile walk with dog

PM – ½ mile walk with dog

This was done right after my last geared powerlifting meet. I weighed in at 274 but ballooned to well over 285 after the meet.  This “workout” was all I could handle. I did this until the lower back pumps ceased and my 900 year old dog wasn’t beating me to the finish.

Stage 2:

AM – 1 mile walk with dog

PM – 1 mile walk with dog

Notice I didn’t use the treadmill. I had tried that but it was far too boring for me and it’s a good excuse to get outside and do some thinking. Once the lower back pumps went away, I now had to deal with the calf and shin pumps. I’m sure they were there in the beginning but were ignored due to feeling like someone had injected my erectors with a gallon of blood.

Stage 3:

AM – 1 mile walk with dog

PM – 1 mile walk/jog with dog

The walk/jog part was embarrassing so I only did it under the cloak of nighttime. I highly recommend that or wearing a SunnO/Stonehenge type robe if attempting it during the waking hours of the sun. The robe will take any focus off a lumbering, heaving fat ass that waddles before neighbors.

The key to the walk/jog was that I live in a typical suburban neighborhood. I’d run (a.k.a. bouncy walk) from one mailbox to another and walk another mailbox length. The hardest thing wasn’t the conditioning rather the stress on my feet, shins and knees. Getting used to that was extremely difficult and very painful.

Stage 4:

AM – 1 mile walk with dog

PM – 1 mile walk/jog with dog

This is the same as Stage 3, only the jogging portion was extended. Each time I’d jog, I’d make a deals/goals with myself.  “If I get to the stop sign, I’ll walk the rest of the way.” Of course, once I got to the stop sign, I’d push a little bit further and go to the next mailbox. This sounds ridiculous but it was very fun to see how far I could push myself on each jogging trip.

Stage 5:

AM – 1 mile walk with dog

PM – 4 days/week – a Prowler or stadium stair sprints

At this point I thought I was in good enough shape to start pushing myself with some of the harder conditioning and let’s face it – walking is boring and not very manly (thus the inclusion of the dog).  I have plenty of time to walk when I’m old. But you can’t always push cars, Prowlers, run hills or sprint stairs. Plus the mental strength one gets when doing these things cannot be taught while farting around for 45 minutes on an elliptical. Carving the body will also carve the mind.

With the Prowler and stair workouts, I just started pretty light/easy to see where I was.  It’s not like I had to kill myself the first day as I KNEW there’d be a second. I believe I started with 10 stadium stair sprints (remember I live in London, Ohio so the “stadium” isn’t much) and six Prowler sprints. Rest times weren’t monitored – the only thing that mattered was WORK. Being slave to a watch sometimes takes away from the task at hand. The key wasn’t to push for more to be done every workout but maybe add another 1-2 sprints to ONE workout each week.

Stage 6:

AM – 1 mile walk with dog

PM – 4 days/week – a Prowler, hill sprints, stadium stair sprints

At this point the hard conditioning work was done at a higher level – more sprints, more effort. I added in hill sprints only because I FOUND a hill. Do yourself a favor and find one.

Please remember that each phase lasts a different amount of time for each person – depends on how out of shape you are and how committed you are to the goal. For most people, after two to three weeks of walking you will feel AMAZINGLY different. If your lifts drop because of walking, you have bigger problems than that, so I don’t want to hear that excuse. Or answer that question.

When you start the harder conditioning, your body is going to rebel for a bit. You’ll probably get weaker in the beginning, but the base you build prior will help. But the strength loss will only be temporary. You’ll be surprised at how fast your body adapts. When introducing the hard conditioning you may have to lower the overall volume in your training (keep the main lifts in). Lower the assistance work for a while or until your body starts adapting and you feel better. This is a new stressor in your training so you have to account for it.

It has become quite popular to hop on the “Get in shape/Get lean” band wagon as of late. I hear it all the time about “wanting to be around for my kids” or “my wife deserves better.”  That is horseshit. I know because I said it too. If you want to do something and make a change, you have to do it for yourself. This is a stronger statement to others and your children; that you are taking charge of your life and doing it because you want to do it.

Finally, and I can’t state this enough, the important thing is to just do something. The above plan is about as simple as one can get but too many times I see people hamstrung because they don’t know what to do, how to do it, how it effects their training, etc. It’s like a friend of mine asked me what to do with his deadlift. I asked him what he was doing now. His answer? “Nothing” I told him to do 315 for 5 sets of 10 each week. He then asked me if that was going to be good for him. My answer: “It’s better than what you are doing now.”

Get Jim’s 5/3/1 here.

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About the Author

Jim was employed as a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Kentucky, where he worked with several different teams including football and baseball. He played football and graduated from the University of Arizona where he earned three letters. Jim’s best lifts include a 1000 lbs squat, a 675 lbs bench press, 700 lbs deadlift, and a 2375 total in the 275 lbs class. View Jim’s Training Log HERE