I’ve been a fan of physical exercise since… Ugh, I can’t lie to you. The truth is, I’ve hated exercise for most of my life. It’s always been a drag and the last thing on my mind. My brain needed nothing more than a chair to position my butt into and a computer. For the most part, that has been my life for a very long time. Things started to shift around 2010 and have been changing ever since. In the last five years, physical exercise has become a part of my morning routine and a habit I now love and can’t live without.
Exercise as an Integral Part of Life
Although it’s been a while since I’ve written on the subject of health, I haven’t stopped experimenting and keeping up with my process since the last article. If you haven’t read my prior articles, I have started on a very aggressive Keto + Intermittent Fasting + Exercise path in April 2018. Between then and now, I’ve written more blog posts to document my journey. Here are the links in case you want to check them out:
- My Keto Journey to Weight Loss and a Healthy Lifestyle
- My Keto Journey – Intermittent Fasting Results
- Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting
In this article, I will tackle the exercise portion of my plan of action.
As I mentioned in the introduction, I have constantly considered myself an active person over the past ten years. I’ve run races, including half-marathons and one full marathon, I’ve done several workout programs, and I’ve been a constant visitor to the gym or on the running trail. Besides, during my tenure at Next Jump, I also enjoyed a 24×7 gym in our office.
This being said, I’ve never been able to get the results I’ve always wanted. I have a heavy metabolism; I accumulate fat around my waist fast, and I am a hard-gainer, so it’s difficult for me to gain a lot of muscle fast.
This being said, once I started the Ketogenic diet back in 2018, everything has changed. Once I added Intermittent Fasting, things only sped up. So, by and large, I am attributing my weight loss and the general improvement in my health by 75% to my nutrition. However, during the same time, I continued to experiment with different types of workouts.
The question I’ve asked myself a few times was: Is exercise truly needed? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. I don’t have the drive to experiment, dropping my workout routine to test out what happens. After over one year of waking up at 6:00 am and then 5:30 am (last 18 months), the morning workout has become such a ritual that I almost cannot fathom starting my morning without it.
So, from that perspective, this is how I am rationalizing my need for exercise in the morning:
- It gives me a reason to rise early and start moving.
- At the end of the exercise, I feel delighted to have completed such a hard task first thing in the morning.
- It helps with toning my muscles and improving my mobility and flexibility.
- Exercise contributes to my heart health (I suffer from high blood pressure)
- It puts me in a sort of peak state physically.
So, although I cannot directly link the results of my workouts to my overall weight loss and health, the above reasons are good enough for me to keep going.
Over the past year, I’ve been cycling between the following types of workouts:
- Interval Training (as part of a video workout)
- HIIT (as part of a video workout)
- Weight Training (both on my own and through guided workouts)
- Running (3 / 6 / 10 miles – read my thoughts on the benefits of running or learn how to start running)
- Yoga (yoga helps with balance, strength, power, endurance)
When it comes to the guided workouts, these are the ones I have used over the past year. I am not affiliated with these; I am just linking them here because they are awesome:
- T25 with Shaun T
- Morning Meltdown 100 (my favorite to date)
- 22 Minute Hard Corps with Tony Horton
- Rev Abs with Brett Hoebel
- Body Beast with Sagi Kalev
- Hammer & Chisel with Sagi Kalev & Autumn Calabrese
- Transform:20 with Shaun T
- P90X with Tony Horton
- Method Makia
- Gymnastic Bodies
To get a holistic approach to my fitness, I have decided to split my year into four separate CUT / GAIN sections stacked one after the other. So, it would go something like this:
Q1 – Jan-Mar – CUT
Q2 – Apr-Jun – GAIN
Q3 – Jul-Sep – CUT
Q4 – Oct-Dec – GAIN
It doesn’t have to be that exact, and it hasn’t for me, but you get the idea. Here’s what happens in each of these cycles:
- Mostly HIIT and Interval Training for max shred (+running)
- Full Keto diet (macros C: 5% / P: 20% / F: 75%)
- Intermittent fasting 5 days/week
- Weight-loss stack from Legion Athletics
- About 5-10% weekly average calorie deficit
- The idea is to lose mostly fat and very little muscle
- Mostly heavyweight training + Yoga
- Modified Keto – mixed with Slow Carb (macros C: 10% / P: 30% / F: 60%)
- Intermittent Fasting 3 days per week
- Weight-gain stack from Legion Athletics (incl. Creatine & Whey)
- About 5-10% weekly average calorie surplus
- The idea is to gain most muscle and only very little fat
By alternating three months of intense cutting followed by three months of intense gain, my idea is that the proportion of lean muscle to fat will increase over time in favor of muscles. So far, I have had a lot more success with cutting and not so much success with muscle gain. I’ve gained a lot of strength and power, meaning I can lift more, and I have increased my grip strength and resistance, but not so much when it comes to the overall muscle on my body.
Right now, I just finished my gain period, and I started my cutting zone, but for my next session, I will try Athlean-X’s Mass Size program and see where it takes me. UPDATE: I did the full Athlean program, and I did like it. However, the format was not completely to my liking, and shortly after the Athlean program, I returned to Beachbody On Demand.
Overall, this is how my weight oscillated over time:
You can see the steep curve of weight loss when I introduced keto, followed shortly after by intermittent fasting. After that, I basically kept that lifestyle and experimented with adding exercise. You can observe the up-down-up-down curve as I am going through the various phases of cut and gain while remaining within the 170 lb – 180 lb confines, which is where I would like to be.
In terms of fat percentage, which is the bigger factor in my plan, I have gone down from 25.5% to 18.5%, although I’ve touched a min of 15.5% during the most cutting phase. I hope that during my current cut cycle, I will get down to 15% again. The goal is to get to 15% and hover around there. I don’t think I could go lower, although I might try to push for 12%… We’ll see.
Timing of Exercise
Another critical thing I’ve done in the last 7 months was to work out fasted. Initially, I experimented a bit with taking BCAAs or EAAs before workouts (Leangains-style). Still, upon further research, I have concluded that these break my fast, so I abandoned the idea. Given that I am fully fat-adapted at this point, my body can sustain very easily, even a tough workout after a full 12 hours of fasting.
So, in general, I eat my last meal at 8:00 pm the night before, and by 6:00 am the next day, I am doing my exercise. My first meal follows at around 12:00 pm. Initially, I was afraid that putting so much strain on my body might create issues and imbalances, but that was not the case. In fact, I am honestly saying that at this point, I feel at my peak from a physical standpoint. The combination of workouts and fasting is working really well, and I do not intend to take a break from it.
I feel like my recovery is fast; the bouts of fatigue don’t last that long and overall, I sleep better and wake up more rested. So, all signs point to this regimen working quite well. I will continue experimenting with this for at least one more year before I cast the final verdict. One critical point will be at the end of this month when I will do my annual blood tests and visit with my doctor (which, by the way, you should absolutely not skip no matter how much you hate needles).
I mentioned that I am using the supplements from Legion Athletics (fat loss stack). The pre-workout powder with Beta-Alanine is a great way to start the morning. It makes you feel super itchy and irritated, as though you are getting an allergy attack, but once you start exercising, it all goes away. In the end, this is supposedly helping with fat burn during the workout.
After the exercise, I take their recovery drink, which is carb-free and contains creatine.
I drink Bang soda for an extra energy boost during the day, which is sugar-free and packed with CoQ10, creatine, caffeine, and BCAA (I don’t drink it during fasting times).
To track my progress, I’ve implemented a system where I take the following measurements:
- caliper fat reading (this is the caliper + tape measure I use)
- DEXA reader for body fat calculation
- waist, chest, arms, legs, hips
- blood pressure (I Use the Omron 10 Series)
- EKG (KardiaMobile – it works with the Omron app together with the blood pressure machine for easy tracking)
- caliper reading
For weight tracking purposes, I am averaging the daily readings for the week. I’ve noticed an interesting fact: my weight on Monday and Tuesday is always about 5% more than the rest of the week. Sunday and Saturday, my weight seems quite random, while Wednesday through Friday, it decreases. By looking at the weekly average, I am getting a much better reading that is more relevant to the trend. I do the same for the caliper reader to assess the % of body fat.
As I’ve been working through my habits and rituals and figuring out ways to make them easier and more convenient, particularly since I’ve read Atomic Habits by James Clear, I have created a little corner gym in my basement. It wasn’t a huge investment, and I’ve accumulated the objects over time. I only use a space of about 12 by 15 feet on one side of the basement, and I wanted to share my setup, hoping it might inspire some of you to do the same. It’s definitely cheaper than having a gym membership, and the commute from the first floor to the basement is crazy short…
First things first – you need a good set of weights. Because I was trying to save space, I have purchased the Bowflex weights. There are several others out there, but I liked this one. Also, I bought an adjustable kettlebell from Amazon. Together with a handful of generic weights, this is good enough for upper-body weight training.
Because some exercise programs require a bar and because it’s a versatile piece of equipment, I invested in one straight one and one curled. I use the latter mostly for bicep curls. And, of course, there’s the yoga ball, which comes in handy quite often.
If I am to recommend an absolutely needed piece of equipment, and possibly one of the more expensive, it would be a good workout bench. Make sure it’s the kind that can go full upright and also decline. The one I got is also from Bowflex. There’s nothing fancy about it–it just does the job. If you get the bench, the dumbbells, and the barbells, you are well on your way to a home gym. As you can see from this pic, it all fits in just a small corner.
Next, I got myself a variety of resistance bands. Bands are a good alternative to weights and also can be used extensively in conditioning and recovery. Also, the bands’ force on the muscles differs from the weights, so I think this is a cool tool in your arsenal.
This is my workout “cabinet,” which looks a bit of a mess right now, but let me pinpoint a few things that I think you could get:
- a forearm resistance machine
- push-up helpers
- Weight lifting belt
- Yoga mats and yoga blocks
- Foam roller
(And, indeed, you can spot gymnastic rings over in the top corner. I’ve installed them because I wanted to do a program from Gymnastic Bodies, but I never got to it. So, I still have them but haven’t used them.)
And, of course, if you have space, make sure to add one pull-up bar. You can see my static bar (you cannot remove it) together with a pull-up assistant band, which is really good if you are struggling with pull-ups (like me…)
Of course, since I am doing many video-based workouts, having a TV in the same place is paramount. On the wall, I have plastered a few workout posters. You can buy these off Amazon for about $20 each. I know… a bit expensive, but I thought it was worth it. The ones I have are Band Workout, Kettlebell Workout, and Dumbbell Workout.
A step stool is one thing that I find very useful (and essential if you do Shaun T’s Transform:20 program). The one in the image has three height levels, and it’s pretty sturdy yet not very heavy.
Last but not least, I have accumulated a bunch of recovery tools. These are massage devices, foam rollers, balls, pressure pointers, and so on. Rest and recovery are essential parts of general fitness development, and some of these gadgets really come in handy.
My entire setup allows me to exercise from heavyweights to cardio and yoga and stretching. I can’t do things like power squats with the bar on my shoulders, but I’m not at that level yet, anyway. My point is that without a huge investment, you can create a small corner in your room, which will make a habit of exercise easier.
Well, that’s about it so far. In my next health post, I plan to present a lot more data as I am currently working on a master Excel sheet that can extract and display all Fitbit and MyFitnessPal data in one comprehensive dashboard… But that is a story for a different time. Until then, happy exercising!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!