After a few years of retirement, two-time Olympic runner Nick Symmonds felt it was time to get back in killer shape, and decided to embark on a transformation challenge throughout May 2020, documenting his progress as well as the training and nutrition advice he took on board along the way.
At the start of the 30-day timeframe, Symmonds weighs 178.6 pounds, with 15.9 percent body fat and 42.5 percent muscle mass. He set himself a specific goal: to lose 2 pounds of fat, and gain 6 pounds of muscle.
However, with the gyms in his state still closed, he's forced to improvise his own home workout using whatever equipment he can find in his garage. "What the hell am I doing?" He says. "After 20 years of competitive running, I know how to run in circles and cut weight, but that's about it. I have no idea how to bulk. I have no idea how to put muscle on."
He recruits the help of Ryan Hall, the marathoner who put on 40 pounds of muscle after retiring. "Your goal when you're lifting is to contract the muscle as hard as you can to get the most out of it," Hall tells Symmonds. "And if you're doing that, then the excess calories you're eating, most of them are gonna be going to the muscle, but not all of them, which is why we need to lean down from time to time."
Symmonds' daily workout consists of a 1-mile jog in a weighted vest to warm up, followed by 10 exercises to failure: deadlift, push press, back squat, thruster, bench press, obliques, truck bed situps, pushups, double under jump rope, and pullups. Adopting the mantra "today's strong is tomorrow's weak," his strategy is to be able to add one more rep to his max on each move the following day. He also builds two days of active recovery into his week.
By the end of the second week, however,, halfway through the program, Symmonds hits a wall.
"My joints hurt, my muscles hurt, I can't recover between workouts, I'm drinking three protein shakes a day and my weight's not going up at all," he says. "After 14 days, it gets to be almost insurmountable. I am really, really struggling. And not only am I struggling physically, I think I'm really struggling mentally; I'm a guy who loved to be part of a team, whether that was the cross country team or the track team or even my pro teams... I'm a guy who likes to work out with other people. The quarantine has really taken a toll on me mentally. I'll be honest, I'm having a hard time getting up each day, going into my garage, and cranking out this workout."
After talking with sports psychologist Jeff Troesch and reaffirming why he's doing this, Symmonds is able to climb out of that "valley of despair" and keep going with the transformation for the remaining two weeks. At the end of the 30 days, he has met his fat loss target, having dropped 2.3 pounds.
"I'm really proud of the transformation I've been able to make," he says. "In just 30 days I've lost some body fat, I've put on some muscle — but this is just the start for me." He adds that what works for him isn't universal, and that a healthy lifestyle is a highly personal thing; he encourages people to find what works best for them.
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