This article is so important I am going to write it in two parts. There is a lot to say here about my client JP’s incredible transformation. But first, check out these pictures — proof that a picture is worth a thousand words! This is incredible work by JP that just keeps on getting better. He is someone who has broken through and finally “gets it.”
He’d be the first to tell you that the break-through comes first in the mind, and then the body follows.
“the break-through comes first in the mind, and then the body follows.”
This is something I keep trying to tell people, but they don’t give it the attention it deserves.
When someone like JP makes this kind of incredible transformation everyone wants to read what diet he followed, or what program he did. But this is a perceptual limitation. “How” JP got there is via sound Coaching strategy so he could adapt “right thinking,” instead of just following a random guru's diet and training program. There is no one diet or magic program. JP’s programs change as we go along, and as his body changes.
In Part 1 I want to show you JP’s own words, and his initial “stinkin thinkin” of excuses he had when he first came to me for one-on-one Coaching. Some of these excuses were and still are legitimate, and some were not much more than convenience.
Another reason I wanted to make a big deal of JP’s transformation is because it has nothing to do with competing, or with some 12 week transformation contest or some other “gun-to-the-head” approach. This was about changing his life PERMANENTLY. I am going to highlight certain things in JP’s initial assessment information from when he first joined, then point out why these things are more about solid coaching and mindset than about a specific diet or a program.
When JP first came to me, these were his goals, and his listed “challenges.” And I will highlight below some of these pertinent challenges and then comment on them as his Coach. The following is in JP’s own words:
Goals: My initial goal is physique transformation (eventually including bodyfat burning and muscle building) along with improved health and well-being.
Challenges: Almost too numerous to write in depth about (Hahaha!), but I'll mention some of the bigger obstacles. Probably my #1 challenge is time. To say I “burn the midnight oil” or “the candle on both ends” is an understatement. First off, I work as a lieutenant on the Fire Department. My work schedule is I work 24 hours straight, then have the next 48 hours off. However, “48 hours off” is very misleading. I also am heavily involved in my religion, dedicating easily 80-100 hours per month…..on top of my firefighting work. That doesn't include the time I must dedicate to the weekly errands, family responsibilities, etc. Yes, I wish there was a 25th hour in the day!
A very close 2nd, in regards to biggest challenges, is lack of sleep. Yes, this is something that I must work on little by little for overall health. However, for several years I've had an awful sleep pattern, if any pattern at all. As mentioned, when I'm at work at the fire station every third day I'm up pretty much up that entire 24 hours. Sure, I MAY get a 45 minute nap here and there, but it's minimal most times. Then, I don't really have the time to go home and take a nap after getting off duty, as I have my other responsibilities to tend to. Honestly, I pretty much go a solid close to 40 hours straight with very minimal sleep several days per week (the 24 hours I'm at work until going to bed the following day's night). No, that's not a good thing nor do I condone it. Then, when I do finally hit the bed I have interrupted sleep most nights, mainly due to having to get up to use the restroom several times a night (as I do when at work) or I can't fall asleep right away. It's brutal. This is one of my biggest Goliath's that I must conquer.
Then, coming in 3rd, is the fact that the way I eat (as prescribed by Coach Abel and in general) 99% of the time isn't anywhere in line with the way whomever I'm around eats. Yes, firemen are known to cook and eat like kings while at the fire station, and that's usually pretty true. But, when have you ever heard of a king eating HEALTHY? Exactly. Eating good isn't the same as eating healthy, and that is definitely the case on the fire department. I realize that firefighters are thought and looked at as being one of the most in-shape occupations, but the reality is not as true, and a lot has to do with the rich, indulgent, high-calorie meals prepared at work. Oh, and firemen eat together, as a family, twice per day (lunch and dinner).
Well, for someone that's eating to get healthy, lean, conditioned, etc., fire station cuisine is a major obstacle. What I've had to do is tell my co-workers every morning before they go shopping for that day's “feast” is that I'm not going to be in on lunch (yes, I will have my own “lunch”, which is really Meal #2 for that day with them, just not the lunch they've made). So, I'll only eat the same dinner they have. (It's a give and take. I figure if all I have to worry about adjusting to is one meal per day when at work, I can do that while not giving the impression to my fellow “smoke eaters” that I'm being the “odd man out”.) So, I've learned to eye out the portion of protein the firemen make; if the carb is something not on my approved foods, I can simply double up on the salad and veggies, etc., etc…and I'll always skip the “automatically included in every dinner” staples of bread, butter, milk, and dessert. The other four meals on those work days I bring from home, per Coach's protocols.
Above are just some highlights of JP’s initial assessment information. But these things are pertinent to explaining the value of Coaching and ONGOING interaction with a Coach. Take a look at what I highlighted in bold and italics above. I highlighted them to point to you the reader that these are things that no training program or diet from me can solve. A training and diet-strategy doesn’t solve 24 hours work shifts, doesn’t solve sleep issues, and doesn’t solve overscheduling issues and doesn’t solve having to eat in a group where others don’t share “physique goals.” Now, these were JP’s initial “obstacles” to his transformation. He himself even uses the word “obstacles.” And these are things that were not going to change and these were things that diet and training recipes don’t just eliminate.
So the challenge here was to change the way JP perceived these things. Instead of seeing them “as excuses” for being stuck being overweight – we used cognitive re-framing strategies so he could see these issues as “challenges” instead of excuses. Since these realities of his life were not going to change – he had to change the way he looked at these realities. And he deserves credit for embracing that. As you can see Coaching mattered more than mere diet and training protocol and programming. JP changed his mindset first and his body followed along.
And now back to JP’s own words explaining his transformation –- with my interrupting comments in red.
Key / Crucial Factors to my Transformation:
As far as what are some key or crucial factors that play a major role in helping me continue to progress, there are so many things involved; but I'll narrow it down to one or two. Probably the most critical factor, by far, is PRE-PLANNING and PRE-PARING…..both my workouts, but especially my meals. I dedicate a good 30-45 minutes every night now to prepare any meals necessary that I'll have to take with me the following day, depending on what's on my jammed-packed To-Do List. [In other words, JP started taking control of things within his control, instead of pretending they were out of his control.] There is always a small cooler with one or more meals packed in my car 99% of the times. I simply cannot afford to “go with the flow of the day”, because that will just lead to me not having the proper meal around me by the time I should be consuming my next meal comes around. [It’s amazing to me how many people don’t get that, and write me and say things like “So I didn’t have any food or meals with me, so I just ate whatever.”] It also ensures that I don't have to rely on what's nearby or available (which 90% is going to be nothing but fast food, vending machine garbage, or the exquisite, indulgent foods I love but cannot have daily). [What we see here in this latter comment is JP taking “responsibility” for what he needs vs. what he likes or would like.]
It takes being organized and dedicated to pre-plan and prep meals every single night, day after day, week after week, month after month…..it is what it is. And now I accept that. But what some may consider a “hassle” or “an inconvenience” in having to always think ahead about meals, I now consider this to be a massive advantage in my life and for my life. I would much rather take my sweet ol' time the night before prepping my meals (while I listen to fantasy football podcasts…HAHAHHA!) than to be frustrated and angry the next day when I'm out and about not being able to find suitable foods for my goals.
It's actually very good for my peace of mind because I know my food is within reach, containing the right foods in the right amounts. And then I no longer have to think about food or meals either. For me, it keeps ME in control of my eating versus “the schedule of the day, or the flow of the day or circumstances of my day” dictating how or what I eat. Structure, organization, and discipline are things I thrive on and are what has helped me achieve many of my personal goals. Scott taught me that this was always within me. I just had to apply it. For instance – What I've had to do is tell my co-workers every morning before they go shopping for that day's “feast” is that I'm not going to be in on lunch (yes, I will have my own “lunch”, which is really Meal #2 for that day with them, just not the lunch they've made). [Once again we see JP here taking ownership and responsibility for his life and his goals; instead of pretending it’s out of his hands. You have no idea how often I hear from people “well I don’t want to offend anyone, so I just eat whatever they serve.”]
So, I'll only eat the same dinner they have. (It's a give and take. I figure if all I have to worry about adjusting to is one meal per day when at work, I can do that while not giving the impression to my fellow “smoke eaters” that I'm being the “odd man out”.) [And JP has done an excellent job at not letting this be an excuse to go wild on food. Instead he sticks as close to possible to the diet-strategy I outline for him. But he doesn’t stress over it either. For instance he continues…] So, I've learned to eye out the portion of protein the firemen make; if the carb is something not on my approved foods, I can simply double up on the salad and veggies, etc., etc…and I'll always skip the “automatically included in every dinner” staples of bread, butter, milk, and dessert. The other four meals on those work days I bring from home, per Coach's protocols.
In order to ensure that I get ALL of my prescribed workouts in week in and week out I workout “before the roosters make their appearance”, getting up at 4:30-5:30 am to workout first thing in the morning. [So now instead of claiming he has no time, he makes better use of the time he has! And this means prioritizing workout times, which then prioritizes sleep and wake times by association.] This guarantees that my daily responsibilities or whatever unforseen curve ball the day may throw at me doesn't get in the way of me getting my “Dungeon session with the iron” in. I have my own “Dungeon” at home where I “hang 'em to bang 'em” and “go butt to heals” as Coach says. So, part of my pre-planning is that the night before I look at my training plan that Coach has sent me, see what exercises I'll be doing that next morning before the crack of dawn, and begin setting up my equipment, radio, workout clothes, etc…..all ready to go. [Illustrating how JP is seeing and acting on more and more things are truly within his control than he acknowledge before. And notice none of these things are “solved” by me just sending him his diet and program. We work them out “together” over time.] I'll even have all setup my little coffee station (Ah, yes, coffee…….probably the #1 Secret Weapon for me. But that's a topic for another day. Hahahah!)
Also, I actually do, indeed, “enjoy the process”, not just only focusing on “looking good for that cruise I'm going on in September, etc.”
Although physique transformation and health, when it comes down to it, will start and end with yourself (since no one can actually do the eating, the training, etc., for you) [Yes! EXACTLY MY POINT], I'm happy to have support. Besides Coach Abel, my wife is also very into physical fitness. So, she completely gets the lifestyle and the sacrifices and structure necessary to lead a life that balances and keeps in its proper place work, personal responsibilities, religious responsibilities, fitness, etc. Having that in common with a spouse is awesome. Hey, many of the meal preps and such are done by her or with at least her help. It's funny now to hear some of the training/fitness conversations that take place in our household compared to before. It's also nice that we have a handful of close friends and relatives that have also been bit by the Iron Bug, as we can keep each other motivated and entertained, even if some of us live hundreds of miles apart.
And needless to say, being under the guidance and eye of Coach Abel has been a Godsend. The man is an expert and for good reason. We've had to ask several questions and sometimes several follow up questions on all kinds of matters and he's ALWAYS there to help out. More than once Coach Abel has replied to an email of mine in less than 15 minutes after I sent it to him! To know you are in good hands, to know that you are on the exact training and eating protocol that you as an individual should be on at that particular moment and time is priceless, knowing that you are on the right path to reaching your goals. To know your Coach just isn’t following some new trend everyone is jumping on – all this just breeds confidence in me that all I have to do is follow what he gives me. He also is very understanding of individual schedules and personal responsibilities; reasonable, flexible, and knowing that we live in the real world with real world responsibilities these things are always synonymous with his Coaching approach. He's told us on several occasions how to get around or deal with a particular scenario that could pose a challenge to eating or training.
Why Coaching? Ask JP and he’ll show you in pictures – “THIS IS WHY!”
As I always say, I can only “plan the work” for my clients. It is up to my clients to “work the plan.” Some, like JP embrace it fully – others do with a foundation of “convenience.” In Part 2 I will address the broader context of why JP was able to make such an incredible transformation… where so many others fall short. It’s all about mindset!