On Nearly 17 Years Of Training

I’m going to turn 34 in 11 days. By sheer coincidence, I have photos of myself shirtless almost exactly half a lifetime ago. It reinforces what I’ve told clients for a while now: you’ll get most of your gains in the first 2 years. Biology does not adapt to infinity.

First, here’s a photo of me at almost 17 years old:


That is a testament to terrible diet and skinny-fat genes. I had been “training” for 2 years at this point, but a steady diet of cream cheese and 2 hours of basketball each day. Also, notice how flipping long my legs are…36″ inseam! I weighed ~165lbs in this photo.

After high school, I gained ~16 pounds of muscle, and then tried to eat my to more gains. This resulted in an awesome “before” photo, where I’m 207lbs:


Twelve weeks later I had the sweet greased-up after shot, weighing 183 pounds:


Some months later, around 20 years old, I had this photo taken. Very nearly the same weight (~185lbs),  but as you can see not much in the way of abs. The Mark McGrath goatee was a nice plus though:


Now what should be plainly evident at this point is that I do not have the genes for huge muscles. I’m the prototypical 800 meter runner/fitness model: 6’2″ & 175lbs. It took me a long time to accept this, but I eventually did.

Now at soon-to-be age 34, I look like this:


Or if I’m really getting my flex on:


I weigh 175lbs and have for the past 7 years. I spoke about this in my “On Progress” post. I feel fantastic and I train less than 1 hour per week, with only 12 to 20 minutes of strength training per week. I eat unprocessed whole foods, and I don’t count calories or macronutrients. I fast, sorry “time-restrict” my feeding. I love to cook and share food with friends and family. I have so much more time for my family and other activities than I would being a gym bro, which never made me huge because that wasn’t my body.

So even though the delta is only 10 pounds, I think I’ve done a pretty good job over all these years:

If there’s a better fountain of youth than strength training, I don’t want to hear about it! Though I may have “tapped out” my muscular gains 10+ years ago, the value of this training for my health and longevity cannot be understated.

13 thoughts on “On Nearly 17 Years Of Training

  1. Great (and very honest) post Skyler.

    Efficient and simple strength training can add so much quality to our lives even if we don’t all have Arnold genetics. Personally, I’ve always preferred the Bruce Lee look anyway – ultra lean and athletic rather than big and bulky.

    Keep up the great work and Happy Birthday!

    1. Thanks Carl. I certainly agree: the best athletes don’t look huge, but there’s certainly a long period of psychological unpacking from those early days of training. Even with great mentors it was hard to ignore the muscle mags!

  2. Great post. Awesome transformation. Not many look MUCH better at 34 than they did at 17. It really is the fountain of youth. Just takes effort and some metacognition…and not much at that.

  3. “and I don’t count calories or macronutrients.”

    I assume that you’ve never really had a problem controlling weight? It looks like the only time you’ve been a wee bit ‘fluffy’ was when you were intentionally bulking. I guess the upside of being ectomorphic is that you have more flexibility around eating than someone who puts on fat easily.

    “I fast, sorry “time-restrict” my feeding.”

    I’ve read a lot of positive things about intermittent fasting, so I was fairly surprised when I saw this negative report:


    I’m curious if you have heard any anecdotal reports of intermittent fasting of any kind leading to eating disorders?

    1. Craig,

      You’re correct that I’ve never been obese and also correct that I have greater bandwidth compared to someone more endomorphic. It’s much better now that I time restrict my feeding, as I certainly was never able to maintain leanness like I do now, because skinny fat.

      To your second point: 65 year old woman who claims that eating “the same way” that let her lose weight made her regain it. Thermodynamics still abide; suggesting it lowered her estrogen is challenging because the E:T ratio in women changes with age anyway.

      My glib response to your final question: eating disorders have been on the rise since long before IF was popular. Certainly some individuals with a psychological propensity toward extreme and/or destructive behavior may be wise to steer clear of something like time restricted eating. It’s not the fault of the plan, however.

      1. Quick thought. The problem is that many individuals do not realize they have a propensity towards extreme/destructive behavior until the behavior has become an addiction or obsession. As exercise instructors and/or nutritional advisers we need to be aware of this, and advocate moderate methods that allow the person to maintain a sense of “normal” socially. When my clients start to speak with pride about how they abstained from a Sunday morning brunch, a late night movie showing, or a hike with friends because it interferes with their workout or nutritional program…red flags.

        Keep up the great work and blog, spreading the “inconvenient truth” (Loenneke).

      2. Do slightly overweight (BMI 25-30) clients achieve similar bodyfat percentage as you or Doug McGuff when put on a whole food evolutionary type diet and maintain it long term? Thanks.

      3. They get closer, but what you’re seeing in either of us is years of work. Incremental gains.

      4. Skyler,

        Thanks for your comments. It was just such an atypically negative report that I wanted to get your reaction.

        On re-reading that post, I didn’t take her comment about “eating exactly the same way” to mean that she lost and then regained at the same calorie intake. Rather, I took it to mean she followed the same eating pattern, but eventually her appetite changed and she began eating more of the same stuff, and binging at meals. I guess we would have to ask her what she really meant.

        As for hormonal changes: she is 68 now, and did this fasting experiment when she was past 60 and (I assume) well past menopause. There still could be hormonal changes related to aging, but I think those might be a lot more gradual than the onset of menopause.

        The comment about more giggly belly fat was interesting because while subcutaneous fat might be less aesthetic than visceral fat, it is supposed to be less damaging to your health. I also know that women sometimes complain that the onset of menopause (with changes in estrogen level) does shift the distribution of the fat in the body, resulting in more belly fat, which was one of the things she observed after long term fasting. But again, it is just an n=1 observation.

        I do wonder if her unsatisfactory outcome could be more a consequence of getting to an unhealthy level of leanness, where unhealthy depends on the individual?

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