Growing up, I was obsessed with basketball and I eventually played in college at the University of Great Falls. Once my basketball career was over, I became more interested in fitness and nutrition. I lifted weights as part of training for basketball, but I never made as much progress as I wanted. Now that I had more free time I began learning about proper strength training.
The strength training I did for basketball incorrectly focused on the upper body. My lower body workouts consisted of plyometrics, isolation exercises, and the occasional squat with awful form. I gained size and strength in my upper body, but my lower body strength limited my speed and explosiveness.
While watching the Crossfit Games on ESPN, the strength and physiques of the competitors impressed me. I started doing the workout of the day they post online—this is also how I heard of Paleo—which taught me the importance of compound lower body exercises. I made some progress, but Crossfit’s insistence on muscle confusion meant I wasn’t doing each exercise frequently enough to see the progress I wanted.
This is when I read Starting Strength, which helped me improve my form and led to me simplifying my workouts. Since I finally squatted and deadlifted, with correct form, on a regular basis, I progressed faster than ever before.
Now I create my own workout plans that are simple and focus on progressive overload.
While studying strength training, I also focused on my diet and tried out a few different ways of eating. My coaches always taught me that protein was the most important part of your diet, which now know is false, so I tried out paleo first. Eating like a “caveman” drained my energy and my wallet. I struggled to eat enough calories without overspending on groceries, the lack of carbs drained my energy levels, and I didn’t believe the claim that “cavemen” really ate like the creators of the paleo diet claimed.
I still believed a high protein diet was the best way to build muscle while maintaining a low body fat. My strength kept increasing and I maintained a low body fat, but I always felt stuffed and my energy levels were still low. I also had to watch my calories more closely and my weight fluctuated more than I wanted.
About this time, I investigated plant-based diets and learned we don’t need as much protein as I thought. I was hesitant to try a diet lower in protein because of all my exposure to pro-protein messages. The first time I tried a plant-based diet, I still drank whey protein shakes because I was scared of not getting enough protein. Eventually I eliminated the protein shakes and ate animal products only during my cheat meals.
My energy increased and I continued getting stronger while eating a plant-based diet. So I eventually stopped eating animal product completely. I recommend a plant-based diet, but it is unnecessary to eliminate all animal products. Eating them in moderation can be part of a healthy diet, they just shouldn’t be the focal point of our meals.
After I finished playing basketball, I lived a sedentary lifestyle. I worked out regularly, but other than that I lived a pretty lazy life. I worked at a desk job, attended online schooling, and spent most of my free time watching TV or playing video games. Those are two passive activities that don’t work your body or your mind. At the time, I knew this wasn’t fulfilling but I had no idea of the health effects.
My first step towards a less sedentary lifestyle was purchasing a stand up desk I used at home. This helped me move around more while doing my schoolwork, but there were still plenty of other areas where I could be more active. So I reduced the amount of TV I watch, I stopped playing video games, and I started walking and hiking more in my free time.
I saw the difference these changes made in my life. I didn’t feel lethargic and felt like I was growing as a person again. These changes brought me into alignment with my priorities.
My ongoing journey taught me me that quick fixes don’t exist. So my goal is to simplify exercise and nutrition to help people make lasting changes in their life.