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Archive for May, 2009

May 27th, 2009: Muscle-Bound Log #4: Responsibility is Control

     I try not to manufacture excuses about my weight, but diets make me nervous. When discussing them, I’m the first to admit that I lost weight on them before, but then I gained it all back. Never mind that either the diets were too radical or that they weren’t bad approaches (I just approached them badly). Regardless, I avoid excuses when I can. Taking responsibility for something is my way of controlling it as well.

     I’d just received my diet plan from Marshal, one of my trainers at Fitness Factory. This was after my first work-out with him when I was dragging and completely exhausted from the new routine. Maybe I should have been paying better attention, but I was flat-out broke-down from my session so I didn’t question what I was being handed too deeply. I showed my father the eating plan later that morning and we went over it together. He’s a retired doctor and a former dietician; he gives me sound medical advice and I’ve got every reason to trust him. Everything looked okay, but something was bothering him. Then he realized the problem.

     Six meals a day… okay, fine. We understood the principle from Atkins. It’s called grazing and it’s a way to keep your blood sugar low (with the right foods; the wrong foods will spike your blood sugar and lead you to nibble more or to crash) and your metabolism active (again… food choice). The problem came with the quantities.

● Protein count for the day was 120 grams (6/6 meals x 20 grams of protein).

● Carbohydrate count was at 200 grams (4/6 meals x 50 grams of carbs).

● Fat count was at 10 grams of fat (2/6 meals x 5 grams of healthy fats)

● As much green veggies like lettuce and broccoli as I wanted.

    When my father eyeballed the figures, however, he estimated that I was only ingesting about 1400 calories. That’s barely enough for someone half my size and it meant that the diet was going to chew through my muscles. Body builders eat about 1 gram of protein per pound of muscle and about 30 calories per pound of body weight. I was no where near that. And even without the exercise, I was still miles from my minimum requirements on a diet.

     So, I went back to the gym to discuss it with my two trainers, Matt (who I now call Marshal) and Matt (see why the other guy is Marshal?), and we took this up to their boss. Turns out that the figures were off… it was supposed to be 180 grams of protein a day (6/6 meals x 30 grams of protein each, not x 20), a typo that resulted in 60 protein grams lost. That said, Fitness Factory informed me that the diet had nothing to do with calories.

    The regimen I’m on is a weight-lifter’s diet. The goal is to burn fat while building up the lean muscle mass. It’s to salvage my muscles from beneath my weight, and losing weight is a by-product of the process.

     Okay, now it makes more sense, but I realized… I have to be a lot more critical with my approach to food. It’s the only way to learn. It’s the only way not to be victimized by the process of weight loss again. And the first step in that regard was to start reading more. I had to know what I was talking about when it came to my own health because that one little typo could have cost me the whole effort.

    Unfortunately, we are as a society wilfully ignorant of our own diets, me included. We rarely check the ingredients of products because of what we might read, or because we don’t understand everything we see. I think part of that is the fear of what that knowledge brings… knowing right from wrong means being more responsible for ourselves. Or we allow ourselves to become victimized by our foods. Food choice becomes the abusive lover whose ultimatum is: Lose my sweetness forever or endure my abuse.

    Well, I stayed years enduring it because I thought of myself as a victim. I had no choice, I told myself. I was predisposed to being overweight. I loved food too much. I had no willpower. I couldn’t live without certain things. I was addicted. I loved it fried and greasy and fatty and rich with sugars. Why couldn’t I eat what skinnier friends were indulging in and not suffering for it? Heck, I still salivate at the thought of a juicy 747 burger dressed in bacon and dripping cheese, or a Dolce Piu hazelnut cream pastry. But admitting I had control over my circumstances also meant admitting responsibility for my actions when it would have been so much easier to eat myself senseless, and I couldn’t abide that any longer.

     Part of my decision to lose weight and get in shape was me taking control of my life, taking responsibility for something in my power to manage. No more excuses. No more waiting to live life because I didn’t have the stamina to do it while I was overweight. And it remains a struggle, but momentum is on my side and I like being a responsible human being, even if I only have myself to answer to.

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May 27th, 2009: Getting the Hang of Things

Mea Culpa, folks. I’m still getting used to the new website and I just discovered that I don’t receive alerts when people leave comments for me. I’ll be checking up on that more often now.


Also, my Muscle-Bound Log has a new page, which you’ll find on the tab to your right! New article will go up later today!

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May 27th, 2009: In Stores Now: Renegade Wizards and Writing for Video Game Genres

I have two new books currently making the rounds at bookstores. The first is my second Dragonlance novel entitled “Renegade Wizards.” The second is a non-fiction book entitled “Writing for Video Game Genres.”

Wrtiing For Video Game Genres

Renegade Wizards: Tracy Hickman Presents the Anvil of Time

Renegade Wizards

The mysterious figure known only as the Journeyman is charged to use the ancient Anvil of Time to travel through history and find the lost stories that fell to no one’s notice. He is told to observe and not to interfere, a task that is easier said than done . . .

Tythonnia never expected magic to be like this. A red-robe in training, sent with Par-Salian and Ladonna to find and expose wizards renegade against the Towers of High Sorcery, she found instead that the world was larger than she had ever thought — and the questions it asked no easier.

Magic finds her darkest secrets, her innermost self, and reveals them to her, but the knowledge she finds is never comforting, nor what she wants to believe. Tythonnia struggles against what she should do and what she wishes to do, trying to find the path that winds between the two extremes.



Writing for Video Game Genres: This book, written and edited by members of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Game Writing Special Interest Group, follows the acclaimed Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing to deliver practical advice from seasoned veterans on the special challenges of writing for first-person shooter games (FPS), role-playing games (RPG), and everything in between, including massively multiplayer online games, real-time strategy games, sports games, horror games, serious games, casual games, handheld games, and more. Game writing samples are included with the book, and more are available online.

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May 7th, 2009: Muscle-Bound Log #3: Success Through Failure

One month has gone by since I started this project, but before we get into the results, let me walk you through my weight-lifting program. Or you can skip right to the end… I won’t hold it against you.

I’m training in ways I never considered before. Previous research and forays into weightlifting taught me the following, among other things:

1) Repetition to failure. This is when you lift weights for 12 to 15 reps, and then increase the weight each set (usually three sets total) until your maximum reps at maximum weight terminates at failure… when you can’t possibly lift one more pound. You see this in the gym a lot when the weightlifter has nothing left to give and drops the dumbbells with a loud crash. Not me, mind you. The other guys.

2) Lifting to a 2—1-3 tempo. That means two seconds on the exertion, one second hold at the apex and then three seconds on the release. That not only helps strengthen the muscle, but it forces you to exert control over your form. Control is important not to hurt yourself by jerking weights. Control is also critical for targeting the right muscle group (you see it in guys who do bicep curls by jerking their weights, thus using their shoulders and back to lift… big no-no).

3) One minute rest between sets, so that my body can bleed off some of the lactic acid build-up and I can push further. I later decreased this to 30 seconds.

My results with these techniques were decent; I was slowly getting in shape, but felt like I could do more. That was before my trainer, Matt Marshal with Monster Gym’s Fitness Factory, showed me entirely new ways to hit the weights, and the results had me floored. Or maybe that was the training that left me exhausted? Either way… I saw results more quickly. Now my skin feels like it’s constantly generating heat and I’m less foggy. So, what does my new training schedule involve?

1) Day 1 (2x a week): Chest, Biceps, Front Delts, Quads, Stomach.

2) Day 2 (2x a week): Back (Upper and Lower), Triceps, Hamstrings, Back Delts.

3) 5x a week: 60 minutes of Cardio.

Where the pain comes from is in the way I’m being trained.

1) Sets-and-a-Half: These are murder, frankly. Instead of lifting to full extension and release, I lift the weight fully, then release half-way, then back up again before releasing to starting position. That counts as one rep, and while I do it at a slightly diminished weight, it builds up the lactic acids fast. On a good day, I only need to do three sets of 12 reps, but on bad days, I have to do three sets of 15 reps plus a little extra. I think I’ll talk to Matt’s girlfriend and bribe her to give him plenty of good days… but I digress.

2) Super Sets: I frequently alternate my sets between two machines, with no break between machine one and machine two, but a thirty-second breather from two back to one. That’s to get my blood pumping or because Matt enjoys my facial contortions as I try to work through the burn.

3) Cardio Bursts: We don’t do these all the time, but on occasion after every two machines, I get put on the treadmill or elliptical walker. The former entails running for two minute spurts, three times over 10 minutes. The latter is one minute spurts, three times over six minutes.

4) Drop Sets: I was just introduced to this recently. I believe the Inquisition used this on heretics in the 1500s, but I have absolutely no proof to substantiate it so… take my word for now. After doing one set of one-and-a-halves, Matt immediately drops the weight by 20-30 pounds and has me push out 10 normal reps. And by normal, I mean, hellish because your muscles have got nothing left. After a 30 second break, it’s back to one-and-a-halves with another dropped set “weighting” in the wings. That last bit was actually a typo before I turned it into an awesome pun.

So, where has all this taken me after a month? What’s my progress? Here’s where we stand:

April 6 May 4

Weight: 282 lbs 268 lbs

Fat Ratio: 36% 31.20%

Muscle Mass: 180.48 lbs 185.76 lbs

Fat Body Mass: 101.52 lbs 84.24 lbs

Now, what this means is that I’ve lost weight a bit quickly, and over the next few months, the results should be more even. A loss of 3% body fat per month is more reasonable, but damn if I don’t feel… alive. And not just because of the results. I feel awake and alert and happy. Happy hasn’t been in my body chemistry in a while, but I’m energized and optimistic. I know endorphins play a big role, but I don’t care right now. My IBS has been under control as well, and while it was getting better before this, it feels like it’s almost gone. I suspect that (with me) it has to do with eating less fat.

So that’s where things stand for the moment. Month One is done and Month Two is underway. And I can’t wait for my next review.

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