"I think you are f***ing up.” Quite a way to start a conversation, but that was how it went for me.

I ran into an old friend of mine. I didn't get a “Hey, how are you doing?” or a “How have you been?” Nope. I got a "I think you are f***ing up.” The next statement out of his mouth was, “You aren’t meant to be big.”

He hadn’t seen me in three years, and the last time he had seen me I was 167 pounds and running seventy miles a week. That's 167 pounds at six feet and one inch. I had just qualified for the Boston Marathon. What he didn’t know was that I had had a string of injuries, borderline anorexia, and adrenal fatigue, and that I had no muscle left on my body. What he was referring to was the fact that I was now 200 pounds, a very hard-earned 200 hundred pounds, a 200 pounds of relearning everything I thought I knew about eating, lifting, and training in general. It was a total rebuild for me both mentally and physically. For me, 200 pounds is just the beginning.

A little history... in 2008, I woke up as a fat pile of too many cigarettes and Mountain Dews and a decade of sitting on my ass. I knew I had to make a change. My newborn son needed me, and my wife was following my bad example. So with a little bit of diet research and no research on exercise, I took off. We quit eating anything processed, and I started running (because running is a no brainer—just go). By only eating roughly 1,400 calories a day and running, the weight fell off. The miles increased without the calories increasing though. Eventually, the calories increased but not as much as the miles. Not a good plan. I did find out that I was “good” at running. Or too dumb to know that I was tired. I ran any race from a 5K to an ultra-marathon with some success and went from a 245-pound slob to a 167-pound weakling. Then the injuries started.

By late 2009, I was so banged up that running was out of the question. My next step was to “maintain” fitness. I tried the elliptical, P90X, and several other “Get Ripped” infomercial workouts and reduced my calories. I began to hate myself. I felt like a hamster on a hamster wheel spinning but not moving forward. Sure, I could do more push-ups and pull-ups than most, but month after month, I was using the same weights over and over. The coveted abs and looking “good” (not really, but I thought so) in my size small T-shirts didn’t mean crap to me. I wasn’t moving forward. The word “maintain” was always in the back of my mind. This went on until late 2010.

Then the change came. I had a good friend of mine ask me a simple question—“What are your goals?” This friend is a powerlifter. In 2010, he had started dabbling in Strongman stuff. I told him that my goal was to maintain my fitness level. He and I have always been honest with each other. He told me, “There is no such thing as 'maintain.' Only forward or backward. Trying to maintain is a death sentence.” He was right, and I started to develop a new plan.

It hasn’t been easy. Starting from the ground up on everything takes time. I had to develop a minimum level of strength to even begin to powerlift. I had to learn that food isn’t the enemy. I had to learn to rest and recover. I'm learning, and I have a great mentor in my friend Mike to help me. I have the greatest strength athletes in the world at my fingertips at elitefts™. Thanks to them, there isn't any such thing as “maintain.” There is only move forward. With Jim Wendler's 5/3/1, my progress is mapped out and it works.

I entered my first Strongman event a month ago. My friend Mike competed in the super heavy weight class, and I competed in the less than 200-pound class. I won’t sugarcoat it. Mike did great, and I got killed. I was dead last. Although I hate losing, I know that every competitor worked for and earned every pound that he pulled, pressed, and carried. So I know I have a lot of work ahead of me. Even though I looked like someone who got lost on the way to a local 5K and ended up at the wrong event, not one person treated me that way. I was treated with respect. More than that, I walked away with some great advice on training and learned a ton. Being humbled is one of the greatest motivators. My next step is the 231-pound weight class.

My plan for reaching that next step is more of the same. Add more pounds to the bar and more food on the plate. Wendler's 5/3/1 is simple, direct, and progressive. As far as nutrition goes, I haven’t gone on the dollar menu diet yet, but I'm continuing to add more and more calories from good food. One of the biggest things the folks at elitefts™ stress is to find a plan and stick to it. This one is working for me and I believe it will continue to work.

Back to my friend's opinion, the one who thinks I'm f***ing up by getting big. What he thinks I'm meant to be or not to be doesn’t matter. I know who I am and what I want to become. I want to become stronger mentally and physically. Every day that I train I'm one step closer to reaching that. There isn't anything I would rather be doing than what I am doing now. I also want to thank elitefts™ for sharing the knowledge to help me do this.