The Short Version
My body type is tall, lean, and (now) muscular. I am 6″3″ and currently 190 lbs with 9% bodyfat.
Growing up, I was always tall, and athletic. I played soccer and tennis. I was in overall average shape, nothing special.
Unfortunately, being average while also looking like a nerd lead to bullying.
I had a few fights in school, but between Karate and wrestling with my brother I had enough skill to deal with kids being jerks. Still, it’s demoralizing being a target and having kids pick at you.
In my junior year of high school, I started to take fitness seriously. I’d had enough. School and adolescence were frustrating for me because I frequently felt powerless. But one thing I could control was how I looked.
After my sophomore year, I was finished with braces, and my parents finally let me get contacts. I worked out, cleaned up my diet, and also started training in martial arts. I gained about 10 lbs, and over the course of my senior year of high school I became lean enough that I got a 6 pack.
I remember thinking that getting a 6 pack would change everything. It didn’t. I was just a stronger version of myself. I wasn’t getting picked on the same way, but I was still an outsider.
Gradually I realized two important things:
1. Consider the source of the opinion – just ask “Do I need to care what this person thinks?”
2. I’m walking my own path, not trying to win by playing other people’s games.
This was a gargantuan relief to shake off. Between MMA and getting my first serious girlfriend I was beginning to see it was possible to enjoy life.
I stayed around that weight for another year, doing mostly bodyweight training and MMA. In college I realized that I was still significantly under-muscled. I was weak. I was a skinny guy with abs that could still kick ass.
I switched my focus to building muscle and getting stronger. I lifted heavy and hard. I had a lot of conversations with people after they’d comment, “oh my god, you eat so much!” The difference between me and a fatass is that I actually use the food as fuel.
A few years later, I’ve made significant progress. I went from 170 to 190. I have a respectable level of strength and muscle, while still having abs.
The trap I had to overcome is that it’s tough to see yourself honestly. When I got a 6 pack, I thought I was hot shit. It took years to realize I was under-muscled.
It’s important to find that trigger, what is going to light a fire in your soul and get you to take this seriously.
The other part of it is not letting fitness dominate your life. Some fitness enthusiasts will feel guilty if they skip the gym for one day, or if they eat a french fry. The point of having a great body is to help you enjoy your life. It shouldn’t consume you.
As you can see from the pictures, it took over 2 years to get a solid level of muscle, and I still have plenty far to go. Could I have gotten here faster? Yes, probably. after all, all the infomercial fitness products promise to get you ripped in 30-90 days. 2-3 years? What a joke.
The point I want to make is to think long term. It’s significantly easier to maintain a lean body than to get there. I got a 6 pack over the course of my senior year of high school. In college I went up about 15 lbs, but I had abs the whole time. I didn’t want to negate all the effort I put in to getting lean just so I could bulk up as fast as possible. Instead, I gradually built up muscle, knowing every time I work out and eat I’m giving my body the building blocks it needs.
I think the biggest key for me is consistency. Day after day, year after year, I’m still always trying to get stronger, better. The gym, dojo, walking, playing something. That includes consciously taking days to rest. There’s a difference between that and skipping the gym because you’re too busy.
It’s the same thing with diet, it’s a constant series of choices. It takes time to develop the willpower not to throw your efforts out the window and down a whole pint of ice cream. When you get used to eating healthy and training, it becomes automatic. Like, cruise control, you don’t have to think about it.
This is important because you don’t want fitness to be your main goal. It’s not like writing a book, where it’s possible to just write and write and write all day every day. You can’t change your body with one epic workout. You need to challenge your muscles, and then let them recover and grow, and then do it over and over. This takes time, so you need something else to do. That will make you a much more interesting person. You can’t have a conversation with abs and biceps. You need to be more than just a body.
The takeaway here is to figure out an approach and goal that’s manageable and enhances your life. How your body looks is up to you. What do you want to see in the mirror?