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Now that the Mr. Olympia is Over...

What an exciting and interesting Mr. Olympia contest this year. Reigning champ Phil Heath came in with unsurpassed size and conditioning, a look he hasn't had for a few years. He was awarded a well-deserved, yet close, win. Several other bodybuilders are breathing down his neck, veterans (Dexter Jackson), improving-all-the-time (Big Ramy, Shawn Roden), and young up-and-coming (William Bonac, Dallas McCarver). The return of Kevin Levrone at age 52, after more than a dozen retirement years, sparked much debate and attention. The absence of Kai Greene creates debate, too, of course. I loved it.

But, now that the Olympia is done, set your sights on Columbus, Ohio and the Arnold Classic! Coming up March 2-5, 2017, bodybuilding fans will have no trouble spotting and talking with (and taking selfies) the biggest names in the sport. Whether they are competing in the Arnold Classic or not, the line-up of athletes working booths and sigging autographs and posing for photos encompasses everyone you've ever heard of, plus other amazing bodybuilders you won't even be familiar with.

Here are a few of the top IFBB pros I ran across at the last two Arnold Classic Expo events. In all cases they are relaxed, happy to chat with fans and pose for photos. You'll never have a better opportunity to see and meet the top bodybuilders in the world. Everyone who competes in the Olympia shows up at the Arnold, plus everyone else (Kai Greene won the Arnold Classic last March).

Journey to Columbus in March for the Arnold Sports Festival. You'll wonder why you didn't come before, you'll have a great time, and you'll have the chance to meet everyone who is anyone in the world of bodybuilding.

@arnoldsports, #arnoldclassic, @Flex_Wheeler, @PhilHeath, @mrojaycutler

Did anyone ever have a better physique than Flex Wheeler?Chris Cormier, still in great shape.


The Arnold Classic Continuing Coverage: Victor Martinez

Even on the eve of the most highly-anticipated Mr. Olympia contest in many years, I'm reminded the next Arnold Sports Festival is coming up in March. Going forward I'll be spotlighting people, products and events from the 2016 Arnold Classic, counting down to the 2017 celebration of all things fitness and nutrition. In my opinion, as someone who's been attending the Arnold since it's inception, there remains no question the Arnold Sports Festival is the biggest, best and most important gathering in the field, in the world.

I spent a bit of time with Victor Martinez at the MHP Nutrition booth at the Expo. Victor is a good example of a working professional bodybuilder, someone who has spent several years working his way back from a serious knee injury. At the time of his knee, many wrote him off as a contendor and assumed his career had ended. Talking to him at the show, Victor was a bit upset that in 2016 anyone still wondered if he was able to compete at the highest level. I like that attitude.

Only a few months later, in July, Martinez won the IFBB Pro Baltimore, hopefully putting to rest any surprise that he's back, in a big way. I look forward to seeing him continue to compete.

The opportunity to talk with Victor Martinez and spend a few minutes is a great example of what can, and does, continually happen at the Arnold Classic.



Challenges... and hot dogs

My weight has fluctuated the past couple of weeks, for those of you keeping score at home. I never did go truly ketogenic for more than a few days. Then I had a five day stretch with increased workload in the gym (training clients), and some additional high-glycemic carbs (crap).  Meaning, two nights I enjoyed some popcorn. One night I also had ice cream (low fat protein ice cream, but still).  Oh, and I had three bottles of wine over the course of the week. My starch eating went up a little bit, too.

Weight-training went ok, but I remained hobbled by my sciatic nerve issues and pain, continuing my protocol of no lower-body exercises. For several weeks now I've only put myself through repeat bodybuilding-style sessions.  Push - pull.  Overhead press coupled with pullups and prowler pushes. Bicep and tricep workouts. On and on. I enjoy these sessions, and they're a bit of a nice change of pace, but dammit, I can't squat or deadlft or clean!

I broke down and saw the spine doc, the same guy who successfully injected my spine five years ago.  I wanted that magic again. Of course he won't do a thing without a new MRI.  Makes sense. But a week and 1/2 has passed and the MRI isn't even scheduled yet! No action on the part of the insurance company. They haven' said no, but they don't say yes. The crazy thing is, my sciatic nerve pain is decreasing by the day (thank you, 12 iboprofin each day), and I'm now at the point where if/when they call, I don't feel there's any point in having the MRI now, 'cause I'd prefer not to have the injection if I don't need it.

Hopefully I'll continue to improve. I'd like to begin some light back squatting next week. Yesterday I put myself through an entire half hour of leg extensions and leg curls (seated). Didn't light up my sciatic at all. Fingers crossed.

Today during meal prep I changed it up a bit and added chicken hot dogs (gasp! hot dogs?) to my vegetables. I'm working on doing a better job of eating smaller meals more often. This crazy work schedule the last two weeks has messed up my eating, but that's my fault.

Listening to Mark Bell's podcast this week, IFBB pro bodybuilder Jon Andersen was the guest. He's an interesting guy, used to be a professional strongman, then a WWE wrestler, now a giant bodybuilder (he was recently competing onstage at 279#, which is ridiculously big for someone in low single digit bodyfat condition). Anyways, he eats a lot, to put it simply. And he's a longtime ketogenic athlete, so I found him worth listening to, and quite entertaining. Get this: he eats ten pounds of chicken daily! Yup, 10-12 small meals. Once a week, for a treat, he adds a handful of Quest Bars to one day of meals! The dude puts in the calories! Andersen says the magic to building muscle and getting or remaining lean is to stoke the fat-burning fires with many small meals. I'm still wrapping my head around ten pounds of chicken each day. They shop at Costco, needless to say.

Weight crept up to 180# but I feel I've added muscle to my upper body. Not bursting any seams yet, but pretty full. I feel strong.

Remember, eat more vegetables, consume more protein, let the carbs in at the end if at all.


Sciatic Nerves

Sometimes I’m stupid.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days doing a great deal of driving. Hours. Ten at one stretch. The couple of days inbetween were mostly sitting, too, other than one great long workout and some walking. 

So call it four days of a startling level of non-activity, then throw in three nights sleeping in my vehicle (I call it my tour of the Walmart parking lots of upper Michigan). 

Result:  the tiny bulging disc in my back, hibernating for months, awakens and decides to mess with me. How best to screw up my life:  why, activate my sciatic nerve! By the time I return home my lower right foot is numb, and sharp pain is beginning to move up and down my calf. A familiar, constant sensation. 

I know the drill, the stretches, how sometimes if I catch this early I can stuff it back down. Dr. Alex Tapplin has fully instructed me in the necessary tactics, and I began performing the stretches.

But here’s where I got stupid. That first morning back I went to the gym. No, working out isn’t dumb. Training is a critical part of my life. But getting on the platform and deadlifting was. Even with sufficient warmup I could feel my sciatic nerve pulsing and firing through each rep. So what did I do? Oh, my entire planned deadlift workout! So stupid. I didn’t go as heavy as I’d anticipated, but I stubbornly hammered through the sets and reps. Feeling nerve pain increase along the way. 

By the time I limped out of the gym I knew I was in trouble.

That was two weeks ago. It got bad. The kind of constant, sharp, never-ending pain that digs into my brain. Makes standing still tough. That finds me walking around with my right hand on my ass and hamstring, trying to massage invisible pain away.

Dr. Tapplin has fought the good fight with my body, giving it his all several times weekly. I’m constantly stretching. Six days of Prednisone helped a great deal. In fact, for the first two days I felt nearly healed and thought magic had taken place! Yay drugs. But the pain remains.

My workouts at CrossFit Green Bay have been significantly altered. I’m doing things like a solid hour of pullups, strict overhead presses from the rack, and weighted pullups. An hour, back and forth. I’ve had two of those sessions! At Xperience Fitness and The Exercise Coach I’m limited to upper-body machines; no leg work at all. I’ve attempted lying leg curls and leg presses but putting my lower back into the wrong position instantly sends me a strong message! 

So my bench press is going well, my overhead press has gone up ten pounds even as I’ve dieted (I cannot push press, I can’t dip whatsoever with a bar in my hands), and I’m having fun with the varied bodybuilding-type upper-body sessions I’m getting in, but I dearly miss squatting, deadlifting, cleans, barbell rows. Hell, at this point I even miss being able to do burpees! 

What’s the plan? Yesterday Dr. Tapplin made some progress with my back, finding the verbal cue that effectively moved me into a position where he could manipulate around the nerve. Some improvement took place. Pain is moving up into my hamstring and glute, a condition that excites Alex.


Today he’s going to perform more extensive ART upon me. And he’s bringing out the big gun, his new K-Laser tool. I’m expecting magic. 


Five years ago when this bulging disc first reared it’s ugly head, I had an injection into my spine at the Neurospine Clinic. That treatment held up for years. It may be time again. I called them and see the doctor there next week. I’m ready for the big needle. 

In the meantime, the dieting is going well! My bodyweight remains at 175#, pretty consistently. I believe my body-fat continues to dip, but I’ve not had it checked. I’m tempted to publish a mirror-selfie showing off my abs. But I won’t. My appetite is good, and I’m keeping my carbs to only vegetables and no more than 1/4 cup of white rice daily. And no wine, with the exception of last weekend.

Showing once again that exercise cannot out-run a shitty diet, I spent 2 1/2 days on a beach. Drank wine, ate pizza two nights running, enjoyed a scone one morning with coffee, watched Star Wars one night on the beach on a big screen, read nearly three great books. Exercise consisted of walking around a marina looking at boats costing more than my house. 


Gained three pounds. No worry. Returned home and took the three pounds off in two days. What’s critical is not allowing weird dietary disturbances in the force to throw you off your plan, and let your brain think wine, pizza and baked goods are normal. Get back on track, get into the gym, move around in life, and return to meat, eggs and vegetables. 

That continues to be what I eat. Tuna, avocado, eggs, meat, pork, and tons of vegetables.

I’ve not yet gotten into the ketone products I talked about last week. No need yet. I anticipate perhaps next week using them. This week I’ve been learning more about ketogenic diets and the importance of MCT oil. Chris Masterjohn, the brilliant mind behind The Daily Lipid, says “adding MCT oil to your pasta is more ketogenic than restricting our carbohydrates to ten percent of your calories.” I’m investigating.


175# breakfast!

An hour after weighing 176 pounds, with a couple of cups of coffee in me, I stepped onto the scale again. Took off my gym shorts and t-shirt, and voila, 175# Magic!

Here's what I just had for breakfast. This is typical, other than most of the time I don't add both bacon and sausage to my eggs. I had two pieces of bacon left in the fridge, and one sausage - they spoke to me.

A half tablespoon of coconut oil. Scissor the bacon into little pieces. When half done, cut up the sausage and add it to the pan. Continue cooking.

Next comes a good helping of vegetables - about one cup. Then a big handful of spinach. Stir and heat until the spinach cooks down.

Add five scrambled eggs to the mix. A bit of salt and pepper. Cook until just done, but not hard or browned. 

Be gentle with your scrambled eggs; they're not in the pan to be punished!

Repeat daily. I'll have another meal today of vegetables and spinach and a hamburger patty; that'll be mid-afternoon. Between now and then I'll workout, so my post-workout shake will have protein-BCAA-15 grams of carb powder (CarboLyze today)-creatine.

Tonight's meal, at work at another gym, will be protein-fat only.