MARV IS BACK! TALKING RECOVERY & FITNESS
By: O. R. Marv
Hello everyone! I’m back! As you can see it’s been quite a few weeks since I last posted a blog on here. First off I want to apologize for my lack of productivity on Drunkless. Sometimes we have to be selfish in our Recovery in order to be selfless later down the line to help others. These past few weeks I have been doing just that. Gladly, I am excited to announce I made it through some tough life on life’s terms scenarios and emerged through the others side - still clean, sober, and free!
As penance for going MIA from my Drunkless family, I figured I would come back with a vengeance and give y’all a two parter for today!! The first part tackles me facing my addiction in early Recovery, while the second part focuses solely on fitness. I hope you get something out of one or the other, or better yet, both.
Regardless, I am glad to be back and be a contributing member to this wonderful platform of wonderful people! I hope all of our readers are enjoying their life as well as their Recovery, and that everything is going as well and serene as possible.
HOW MY ADDICTION SPOKE TO ME IN EARLY RECOVERY
The farther away I get from my last drink or my last drug, the easier it is to stay content with my clean and sober lifestyle. Over the years I learned to tune out that voice of addiction in my head rather quickly. As a result, I haven’t had a strong desire to drink or use in multiple years, but that wasn’t the case in early Recovery.
When I first got clean and sober I struggled with what I now call “romantic recall” surrounding my decade of addiction. My voice of addiction would whisper to me that my days of drinking and using always looked like something you would see in a typical beer commercial:
-Nothing but fun with zero consequences
-Beautiful women surrounding me
-Loads of close friends who we would all gladly “take a bullet” for each other
-Living the good “party” life with everything just working out perfectly
-Having nothing but nice things such as the house, the car, the toys, and more
-Etc, etc, etc.
And sure, I had my moments where it was pretty much like that; when the “party” was still fun, or it at least had the illusion of being fun. On the surface my college years were simply fantastic. But even in the best moments of my “party life” everything was little more than a charade of wild living and carefree fun.
On the surface of things it appeared I had it made. I was living my dream life that I had fantasized about as a young child – I was buff, popular, drove a nice car, lived in a large party house, did well with women, had nice things, etc. But deep, underling, and unresolved issues egregiously lurked in the background.
What issues am I referring to that were so insidious that they threatened to consume me if I ever broke my 24 hour drunk and/or high stupor?
-I hated myself with every cell in my body.
-I couldn’t look myself in the eyes in the mirror.
-I was afraid everyone would figure out that I was nothing but a fraud, that I wasn’t as cool as they thought I was, or that they would discover just how insecure I really was.
As a result, every day I had to portray this image of confidence bordering on cockiness in an effort to hide my true nature, my true self – that I was nothing but an individual with NO self esteem and NO self worth. It was exhausting and only contributed to me needing more and more substances to try to fill that hole inside of me.
So yes….on the outside that “party life” looked great, sometimes even like a beer commercial; but like I said, it wasn’t all rainbows and skittles. That’s something I had to work really hard to remind myself of when those romanticized flashbacks crossed through my mind in early Recovery.
The other reality that I learned to remind myself of was that those “party life” moments completely ended at the end of 2010, yet for another 3 plus years I continued to beat my head against the wall with my addiction.
After I graduated from college and moved back home, isolation became my calling card, and Netflix my only friend. I would isolate and get annihilated on multiple substances, then feel sorry for myself because I was “oh so lonely.” I completely fell apart and spiraled out of control. My body and brain shut down from the endless toxins I was pounding myself with on a daily basis. I lost 70 lbs. in 11 months and landed in the lockdown unit of a psych ward – suicidal, withdrawing, and miserable. I didn’t sleep for 8 days and had the worst auditory and visual hallucinations of my life.
That should have been enough to quit chasing the “party” but no no no – I’m that smart guy, the guy who could figure out how to “control” his addiction. I was the guy who would figure out why things got so bad and learn from my mistakes without having to commit myself to the type of Recovery based lifestyle I had just been introduced to at that point in my life.
Let me tell – that sh*t failed miserably! I quickly returned to the despair and incomprehensible demoralization I had experienced previously.
I would like to be able to tell you that I quickly recognized where I went wrong and say that I immediately asked for help. But no, for 2 full years I did the equivalent of pounding my head with a hammer in an effort to make a headache go away. I was constantly chasing those good “party life” times that my romantic recall told me were still possible; but that train had left the station years ago, never to return. I found myself needing to drink and use alone as I sat there in self-pity, resentment, and regret.
Thankfully, I ended the madness on June 22, 2013, and haven’t had the need to pick back up again. Even with all that experience, my voice of addiction really gave me hell in early Recovery. It spoke to me that I was too young to get clean and sober, that I was going to miss out on a lot of “fun”, and that I didn’t need what YOU PEOPLE were offering.
Fortunately I didn’t listen, and I held onto my GOD – the “Gift Of Desperation.” The further I progressed in my Recovery, the less and less I listened to my voice of addiction. Truly tempting romantic recall became something of the past, and with that change, my disease of addiction took up a little less space in my head.
By no means am I under the delusion that I am cured. No, for this drug addict alcoholic, a life of Recovery over everything is going to have to be my mantra. And you know what? That doesn’t sound bad anymore, in fact, it makes me even more grateful that I beat the odds and made it out of my addiction. Not everyone is as fortunate as me, or you.
To put that into perspective, let’s think about it this way. While you sat there, reading about my romantic recall, someone picked up a drink or a drug for the very first time, someone put down a drink or a drug for the very last time, and someone died not once ever being introduced to a concept of Recovery. We are amazing people and it would be a shame to go back out just because we started to romanticize our pasts.
Is it easy ignoring that voice in our heads?
But it is possible, and it does get easier. If you do the work, the results will come. They may not happen overnight or over the course of a single year. But I guarantee you if you keep trudging along, putting one foot in front of the other, following along the next correct indicated step, true freedom awaits you.
Trust me – I had it all while in my active addiction and all those superficial “perks” were never enough to outweigh the toxicity of living to drink and use and drinking and using to live. I wouldn’t trade where I am today to have all those things back in my life. And for that, I am truly grateful!
HOW TO PROGRESS WITH YOUR WORKOUTS
I am a big believer and user of analogies. What better way is there to get my point across or effectively get someone to remember a specific mental cue or tip to use while performing an exercise? I have yet to find one.
Analogy’s also work well with explaining fitness concepts as well which you are about to find out.
So today’s analogy I want to talk about is how one should progress when it comes to their workouts as we look to get fit. Typically, people find themselves in one of two camps when it comes to deciding they want to get fit:
-Grossly overweight and totally out of shape
-Grossly underweight and holding very little muscle
Now, yes, based on which camp you fall in determines what path you take, but the same analogy can be used with both.
What analogy am I talking about? Progressing with your workout routine from starting with a sawed off shotgun all the way to a sniper rifle! Let’s dive into the progression –there are 4 guns along the way!
SAWED OFF SHOTGUN (Step 1)
Simply move daily
I don’t care what the hell it entails, just get some movement in. This will change from person to person based on how bad things have gotten, but the bottom line is you need to move. This can be simply going for walks, using some cardio equipment, attempting an entry-level yoga class, or the ultimate exercise: resistance training – just do something to burn calories. There is zero need to worry about working on specific areas of your body or focusing on body parts. Burn calories by any means possible. Literally your only goal is to get some sort of movement in each and every day which count as your workouts for now.
Simply lift some weights 2-3 days a week
Right now you need to learn and master basic compound exercises. This means you are performing exercises that include multiple joints and muscle groups at the same time. Think lunges, squats, rows, and presses. NO ISOLATION WORK FOR YOUR ARMS! Yes that’s right I said it – no curls for your biceps, no press-downs for your triceps – none of that. You are nowhere near ready for that and trust me, your arms are getting plenty of work with all the back and chest exercises you are performing. Focus on working the largest muscles in your body following a full body workout routine which provide the most bang for your buck in terms of strength and muscle size. Nothing special is needed like drop-sets, rest-pause, or anything else you read in a muscle comic, I mean muscle magazine.
REGULAR SHOTGUN (Step 2)
Start to include resistance training 2-3 days a week in addition to your movement
While I mentioned it being the ultimate exercise in step 1, I didn’t insist that you incorporate resistance training into your exercise routine. We simply wanted to get the ball rolling with you getting some sort of movement in each day. Well, that’s about to change. Why is resistance training so superior to other forms of exercise? Resistance training keeps our metabolism boosted long after the workout session ends. It also helps with improving your insulin sensitivity (which is going to be an issue given you are grossly overweight) and as you build muscle your resting metabolic rate (meaning how many calories you burn on a daily basis just sitting there) will be rising. Similar to the underweight sawed off shotgun, you are NOT to do any isolation work during your new workouts – focus on compound exercises that include multiple joints and muscle groups at the same time. So, no curls for biceps, no press downs for triceps, etc. If you need to use machines then by all means do so. This means you are using machines such as leg press, chest press, seated rows, lat pulldowns, and potentially shoulder presses if you don’t have any shoulder pain issues.
Keep lifting weights 3 days a week but add some key exercises and strategy
Now that you’ve started to become familiar with basic compound exercises, it’s time to add in a few more elements. First and foremost is learning a hip hinge movement – whether that be a rack pull or Romanian Deadlift, that’s your call. Typically, I shy away from having people perform deadlifts simply because they are extremely draining on your Central Nervous System and crush our low backs. Plus the majority of people looking to get into shape have no intentions of becoming powerlifters so doing an exercise that can take up to a week to recover from just isn’t prudent.
The other exercise that I want you to include is an isolation exercise – although it won’t be nearly as exciting as you may think – leg curls for our hamstrings. These are incredibly important as people tend to neglect their hamstrings. Here’s a quick quiz….what muscle do you hear people “pulling” most often? That’s right our hammies….hell even professional athletes have this problem. Why? 2 reasons….1st our glutes don’t fire so our hamstrings try to do the work of the glutes and it’s just too much and they “give.” The 2nd reason is our quad to hamstring strength balance/ratio is one of the worst on our entire bodies so quads completely dominate our movements the hamstring should be involved with.
You can start to superset exercises which advances your workouts. What the hell is a superset? Supersetting is THE way to lift! It’s amazing more people don’t do this. You do 2 exercises back to back so when 1 muscle group is working the other is resting and vice versa. I like to pair with an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise or opposing muscle groups such as a pull exercise paired with a push exercise. I want you to do your best to limit rest periods in between exercise 1 & 2 when possible, yet you can rest after exercise 2 BEFORE returning to exercise 1. Shortening your rest periods will increase your training density (meaning how much work you are doing in a given time period) which is a total GAME CHANGER!
HUNTING RIFLE (Step 3)
Start to include HI-IT cardio 2 times per week with your resistance training which has now gone up to 3 days a week
The weight should be starting to fall off so long as your nutrition is in order and now it’s time to add yet another layer to your exercise routine. This means starting to include interval cardio sessions, also known as High Intensity-Interval Training. HI-IT cardio is alternating bouts of “sprints” and “slow” periods doing cardio of your choice. I recommend people start with a 10-20 second sprint to 90 second slow ratio for 4-10 rounds. Once you can achieve this move the ratio to 20 second/60 second….then to a 20 second/40 second. After this then move to 30 second/90 second and eventually move to 30 second/60 second. When I sprint I mean ALL OUT 100% EFFORT! The key is NOT to leave anything in the tank each “sprint.” I will caution you should take several seconds to “ramp up” your speed to 100% effort instead of going 0-100 mph in one revolution of the pedals/elliptical/rower to avoid injury. There is no way to sugarcoat this – doing this cardio is very challenging. Its health benefits are absolutely astounding though – HI-IT workouts burn fat, build muscle, recharge your body’s health by creating new mitochondria in your muscle cells, and strengthen your cardiovascular system. You only increase the resistance on the cardio equipment just enough so the pedals/whatever equipment you are using don’t lose tension and you “spin out.” I will caution you to not raise the resistance absurdly high – we only care about speed to get your heart rate high….and yes if you are doing this correctly you will have a burning/needing to cough sensation in your lungs – if you ever smoked cigarettes and quit you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Make the transition to a pull/push split done 4 days a week while adding in direct arm work and advanced techniques.
Some pretty significant changes should have happened in regards to muscle mass and strength gains and now we really get to start to target specific lagging body parts as well as increasing your training frequency. We transition your weight lifting workouts from 3 times per week to 4 times per week as well as adding in isolation work for the arms. I recommend a pull/push split and doing this 4 times per week. For “pull” this includes your hamstrings, back, rear delts, traps, and biceps. For “push” this means calves, quads, glutes, chest, shoulders, and triceps. Now is also the time to start adding in a little extra work for any body part(s) that may be lagging as well as direct arm training. We also get to add in some more advanced techniques such as drop-sets, rest pause, and MAYBE blood flow restriction work so long as you are not a former IV drug user.
Don’t neglect cardio, but we also want to be smart as far as which TYPES of cardio we perform. 2 days per week I recommend you start to follow either a HI-IT protocol similar to the Overweight group above, or weighted cardio in the form of farmer carries (you simply pick up some heavy dumbbells and walk with them as far as you can go). Both types of this cardio have to been shown to build muscle, which is still our primary focus.
SNIPER RIFLE (Step 4)
Start to target in on specific body parts that may be lagging or work on tightening up trouble spots
Now that we are really fine-tuning we get to focus in on your lagging body parts or “trouble spots.” This means you can finally start to perform isolation exercises and focus in on specific body parts versus simply getting you to move and lift with as many muscle groups as possible to burn calories. This will mean different things for different people, but it’s truly fun to get to target in on specific areas. Now, let me be very clear: there is no such thing as “spot reduction” of fat. But, by emphasizing resistance training where those trouble spots are, adding some muscle can change the look of them (i.e. the backside of women’s arms can get quite flabby but if you start to directly train the triceps in conjunction with a “smart” nutrition plan and HI-IT cardio amazing things will happen).
Determine what fine tuning you need to sculpt your physique to your liking.
By this point you shouldn’t be classified as grossly underweight or lacking muscle it all comes down to just how far you want to take your muscularity to (granted we need to be realistic of what is possible for each individual who is staying natural). If a body part is still lagging you can emphasize training that muscle more frequently than your more dominant body parts and really fine tune your physique to have the balance you desire. This will be a case by case basis and will vary based on what needs to be addressed.
As you can see we most definitely have a plan of action we want to follow instead of jumping straight into an advanced routine. We always want to leave room to employ a “trick up our sleeve” down the line instead of using our full “hand of cards” all at once. Follow the above suggestions and you’ll be blown away with how well you can continue to get results with your workouts while almost completely eliminating plateaus!
So…figure out which gun you need to pull out and start aiming and shooting!