I started out on my health and fitness journey back when I was going into junior high.  I saw a picture of myself cliff jumping at the lake, and I had jelly rolls.  Dang.  I knew that my weight was starting to get a little high due to my mini-muffin intake, but it wasn’t until that moment that I got a slap in the face from reality.

Well, in that moment I made a choice.  I could do two things.


1.  Do nothing about it.  Eat mini-muffins to my heart’s content and deny the inevitable truth that I was in a precarious position that could lead to adult obesity and debilitating disease.

2.  Take Action.  Realize that having jelly rolls isn’t what I want.  I don’t want to be fat, and I don’t want to be limited in life.


I chose #2. 

Well, although #2 was the right choice, I didn’t know how to do it.  I grew up in a Midwestern home where we didn’t necessarily focus much on nutrition.  My parents encouraged activity, but most of us Midwesterners struggle with that whole “eat your fruits and vegetables” thing.

Incredibly, I did the most brilliant thing I could do without realizing the genius of it.  I chose to stop drinking soda.  I took the extent of my current knowledge and applied it.

After a month or two of cutting out soda, I took the next step I could think of at the time.  I chose to stop eating dessert.  That one was a little harder, but it was well-worth it.  I was getting rid of my jelly rolls without all that much effort.  I had only changed two things.  They were both small steps, and I only did one at a time.  Little did I know that later on some of the best Exercise Science and Dietetics professionals would have told me to do exactly what I did.  Nice job, junior high Tyler!

Now, what was the motivation for these two changes?  It largely came down to two things.


1.  Girls.  The fact that the most popular girl in my class in sixth grade told me, “No offense, but the thought of going out with you… Yuck!” (Like no offense would be taken out of that.  Sheesh.)

2.  Sports.  The cool guys are good at sports.  Well, that’s what I thought at least.  I had two main problems here.  I wasn’t very well coordinated, and I had no natural ability at any sport.  That’s tough to overcome.  But then, I figured out that with my smaller eating and exercise changes combined with a lot of thought, I was able to out-run, out-smart, and out-muscle my opponents.  All the fancy footwork in the world means nothing when the guy you’re up against has more speed than you, twice the strength, and twice the strategic mind.  That’s why I was good.


So, I played my sports and got girls to talk to me.  I wasn’t much of a dater, but I enjoyed being noticed more than a houseplant everybody walks by.  In sports, I played soccer, basketball, and track.  They were all pretty fun.  Once again, I didn’t have much skill, but I had a pretty good work ethic.  I got up early before practice to lift weights by myself, practiced with the team after school, and then ran outside with ankle weights by myself at night.  You can get away with that level of training when you’re a teenager.

Anyway, here’s what I looked like at the end of high school.

Me at the end of high school


This picture was after my first year of college.  I probably wouldn’t have been good enough to play college sports, and I wanted to focus on academics while having left-over time to just enjoy hanging out with friends.  It worked.  I started out as an Exercise Physiology major, I learned a ton, and I had enough time left over to spend a lot of it getting to know people.  Awesome.

After the first year of college

Anyway, I go through college learning more and more about exercise and nutrition from university professors.

After the second year of college


After the third year of college

Then, the time came for my study abroad semester in Cyprus.  During that time, my life-long friend David and I decided that it would be cool to lift heavy and eat as much as we could.  I ate around 5,000 calories a day.  That included half a tub of Nutella every day and those combo packs of Twix, Snickers, whatever.  Five candy bars after eating 4,000 calories already?  Yes, thank you.

Anyway, all of those calories, heavy lifting, and pretty much no cardio got me to a hefty but darn strong 210lbs.  At this point, I was Romanian Deadlifting 405 for over eight reps pretty easily.  All of my lifts were the highest they’ve been.

Tyler in Cyprus

After that, I did a pretty severe lean-down session that took about 8 months.  I’m sure I lost some muscle mass during this time, too.  Regardless, I was happy with how I looked.

After 8 months of leaning down

Then, something wonderful for my life but terrible for my physique happened.  I met Lisa.  Lisa was a cardio fiend.  She loves walking, running, and biking long distances.  Well, I had never been too into that before, but I finally met a girl that I wanted to get to know in a significant other type of way.  I wasn’t going to pass that up, and I knew that her favorite things were endurance exercises.  I chose to accompany her on those three-hour bike rides and four-hour walks.

Also, I’m a very all or nothing type of person.  So, if I’m going to endurance run, then I’m going to endurance run.  I started training for endurance running.  I tried to do that in conjunction with powerlifting/bodybuilding stuff.  That didn’t work.  It’s physiologically impossible, but I was trying to defy physiology.  Bad plan.

I became a ridiculously strong bro for my weight.  I could do sets of single-arm push-ups with a 45lb plate on my back.  Not bad when you only weigh 162.

After Endurance Running and Bodyweight Strength Training - August 20, 2011


Well, my dreams of endurance running were smashed because I pushed it too hard and hurt my ankle.  I had the beginnings of plantar fasciitis, and my extensor hallucis longus starting giving me grief.  To top it all off, I was doing single-legged box jumps and stubbed my toe on it.  I developed a stress fracture in my foot.  Running was out of the question for a while.

I decided to try my hand at a NPC Men’s Physique competition.  Why not?  So, I trained and trained.  I built back a lot of my strength, but it didn’t translate into muscle mass.  That’s just how the body works.  Before you gain muscle mass, your central nervous system has to become optimized.  The first six weeks are almost entirely central nervous system adjustments.  After that, you actually start building muscle mass.

I chose to bow out of the competition because I stopped kidding myself.  I weighed 162lbs.  Those guys at my height at least weigh 180lbs.  Some are up around 200lbs.  It just wouldn’t have worked.

I finally ended up gaining about 10lbs of mostly muscle by November.

Two months of gaining weight. 7lbs of muscle added. 3lbs of fat added. - October 2011

And that’s pretty much the story so far.  I’m up to 184lbs but a little pudgy.  I’ve had my ups and downs.  I’ve changed my goals too many times.  I seem to just get bored and move on to the next thing for fun.  That needs to stop.  I’m finally getting down to business and realizing that if I intend to make any sort of impact in this health and fitness field, I need to commit to a goal and achieve it.

The goal is to get into Men’s Physique shape.  However, I don’t know how long that will take.  Maybe six months.  Maybe six years.  I’m not sure.  What I do know is that I’m tired of slacking.  I need to achieve something.  I have the drive, but the commitment it takes is my weakest link.

The following workout log entries are my steps towards an IFBB Men’s Physique body.  That’s what I want to look like, and I know it’s what most guys want to look like.  It’s a strong physique but also functional.  Essentially, it’s just a more muscular version of a Greek statue.

Something like this (although he’s at the more muscular end of the spectrum for my own aspirations).

Steve Cook - Men's Physique Competitor