Super Hero Bodies
“She needed a hero, so that’s what she became”
Let’s face it, we all need heroes. Heroes show us the very best of humanity. They give us hope. They give us an exemplar, something to which we can aspire. There are fine examples of heroes everywhere: television, movies, even news media. People who show us what heroism means.
But sometimes the hero you need is you. Sometimes you need to know that you are the one who can overcome adversity. The one who can stand up when you’ve been knocked down. The one who reaches a hand out to help others. Or the one who places an ideal above their own needs.
Think of your archetypical superhero: tall, strong, and muscular. Male, female, and everything in between, you have to admit that they typical superhero is jacked. I mean, straight up yoked my friends. And while the proportions seen in television, movies, and most especially comic books are way out of proportion with what a real (read: normal, unenhanced) human being can achieve, it’s not worth giving up the goal of the superhero body.
(Note: yes, there are some *ahem* chemical enhancements that can get you looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman, Iris Kyle, or Angelica Teixeira we’ll leave that debate for another time.)
Now, I’m also going to assume that if you are reading this blog, you followed me for my writing, not my bodybuilding and are not an expert in the wonderful word of building that super hero body. For that reason, I’m writing this at a very basic level. Already an expert on lifting techniques and weight loss strategies? Awesome! Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what worked for you!
I’m guessing by this point you’re thinking, “Kay, WTF? I will *never* get a body like a superhero!” or something along those lines. “I’m too fat/thin/skinny/unmotivated!” Let me tell you a secret: I definitely didn’t start off with a super hero body!
Did I love myself? Yes! Did I feel like a loved and valued member of my community? Yes! Did I love my body? Yes! Did I like what it looked like? No. No, I did not.
So, I decided to make changes that shaped my body into what I wanted.
At its very heart, bodybuilding comes down to two things: fat loss and muscle building. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult, almost impossible to both at once. So now you have to make your first choice? Do I want to build muscle first or lose fat? That is a very personal decision and comes down to your current body composition and how you feel. If you have a lot of body fat to shed, I might recommend starting there (after a trip to your doctor for a check up and any information you need about the current state of your health.) If you don’t have a lot of body fat to lose, then start with building muscle. If you’re in the middle then I’ll give you food for thought: muscle burns more calories than fat, is more dense, and can assist in the weight loss process later. You are unlikely to get the scale moving at first, but you will see changes in your body.
Let’s assume you, like me, decided to lose weight first. And let’s also assume that you, like me, know nothing about healthy fat loss other than what you’ve seen on television and social media. You have to do excessive cardio, eat no carbs/fat/grains/etc, and be miserable all the time. Also, don’t forget your detox pills, skinny teas, and waist wraps… right?
At its very heart, the only way to lose weight is for your calories in to be less than your calories out. More accurately, you have to create a calorie deficit to ensure your body utilizes its fat stores for fuel. Weight Watchers, keto, Atkins, Primal Blueprint, Paleo, Beach Body, the Zone Diet… all the diets of the world seek to create a calorie deficit, many by reducing one type of macro nutrient to lower overall calorie intake.
Eat less than you burn moving!
At this point, it’s time for some self-education. I recommend studying up on how many calories you personally burn. Find your average, reduce it by about 250 calories per day, and lose a half pound of fat per week. 500 calories is a pound a week… 750 is 1.5 pounds per week. I don’t recommend or advocate losing more than that per week because now you’re getting to the unhealthy range and you will start sacrificing more of that precious muscle.
There are a plethora of ways to cut calories: reduce carbs, reduce fats, cut alcohol, cut soda, cut candy out. What I don’t recommend is going on a cardio binge. Why? First off, depending on how much you weigh and your diet, it may be impossible to create the deficit you need. For instance, if you eat a fast food hamburger, 600 calories, you will have to run an hour to burn it off. When I am well trained, I can run for an hour or more… but only if I’m training for it. Trust me, it’s easier to start by trimming down the diet, then working your way up to the exercise. (AKA – “You can’t outrun the fork”)
Now, eventually, you are going to hit a plateau: a point where your weight and fat loss stalls out. Likely, what has happened is that your body has lost enough eight that the small deficit you created is now what your body needs to maintain its current weight. Sorry, but you have to trim the calories back again. As an example, during the 16 week prep for a bodybuilding show, I usually have to tweak and reduce my calorie intake 4-5 times over the 16 weeks.
While you are trimming back the calories, I recommend a moderate amount of cardio and weight lifting. Firstly, it will burn that “calories burned” number just a little higher. Not a lot, so don’t think you can lift for an hour and then go eat a whole pizza! (Ask me how I know…) It will also get you moving towards Phase Two: Build muscle!
Oh muscle! That glorious, firm, and dense fiber that makes the shoulders round, the abs and glutes pop, and gives you legs for days! But, Kay, how do I build muscle! Glad you asked!
Lift heavy shit and eat.
Yup. This is why it’s incredibly difficult to cut fat and put on muscle at the same time. Unlike weight loss, you need to create a calorie surplus to build muscle. Oh, it’s just not fair!
The same way you figure out how much to eat to lose, do that same to gain, but instead of “cut 250 calories” add 250. I like 250 calories because while I’ll gain slowly, I find that I personally don’t put on as much fat as I gain muscle. If you are a larger person, you can add more because, proportionally, you need it.
Do I need a personal trainer? Well, that really depends on you. Are you willing to research basic, simple exercises online? (I recommend ExRX.net) Are you motivated and dedicated enough to go to the gym without having to pay someone to make you accountable? If the answer is yes, then go forth an conquer, hero! If not, or if you have underlying health issues, I do recommend at least a few sessions with a personal trainer to build a routine and learn to do the exercises safely.
From here it’s all about consistency. Become a regular at your gym. Make slow but steady progress. Be accountable to yourself.
Part of being accountable to yourself is tracking your progress. Whether you choose to lose weight first or build muscle first, this next section will help you keep accountable and track the progress you make.
Progress not perfection!
Not all victories come on the scale. Some weeks the scale won’t budge, but your pants will fit better, you’ll feel more energy, and you’ll notice the little things: the first time you realize you only have one chin, the first time you start seeing the soft lines that are the precursor to abs, or the first time your put your jeans from college on without a struggle.
Some other ways to track progress:
1) Track your weight. Yes, I know, I just said the scale doesn’t show fat loss, but it does give you an idea of how weight loss looks over time. Really, pay attention to the weekly change, don’t be as wrapped up in the daily change.
2) Track your measurements. Using the same spreadsheet, you can track the circumference of your chest, waist, hips, and arms. As you lose fat, you’ll see those numbers slowly get smaller. As you gain muscle, you’ll see them get larger.
3) Weekly progress pictures. My coach was adamant that I send a photo every Thursday morning. No matter how I felt or looked. Those photos were tough to look at and I didn’t see much change at first. But after a month, I could see minute changes. After three months, I could see my waistline narrowing. After a year, I was a different person!
It doesn’t come all at once. It took me years to finally lose the weight I wanted. It took me another two years to build up the muscle I wanted and I’m still building it up. (Gods, I love bulking season!) I’m constantly learning about myself: I’m cranky and always hungry when I’m <18% bodyfat, at 21% I’m the perfect balance between “looks good” and “energy for my day”, at 23% body fat I can run for days. How your body will react is different.
Listen to it.
Learn from it.
It takes a lot of work to build that superhero body, but it’s worth it!
Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below.
Love it or hate it, it has to be done. Ok, maybe it doesn’t, but not editing is just inviting shame and ridicule. I’m working to publish my first full novel, but I have years of writing academics papers, government white papers, fiction, magazine articles, and guest blog posts. So, I speak from experience when I say that unedited works look unprofessional. Why would you spend so much time and effort writing just to put out a work that robbed you of credibility as an author? Whether you’re writing fanfiction, a school paper, a fictional story, a magazine article, a blog post, or a master’s thesis, you need to edit! Good editing could be the difference between a rejection and acceptance. An A and a B. Finally achieving that dream and slogging along for another decade.
Yes, I can actually hear my mother’s voice asking “Did you proofread this first?” Yes, I’m also cringing. Never the less, it’s important.
Now that we’ve established the importance of editing, how do you edit? Everyone has a different technique. No one technique is better or worse than another. What I’m laying out in my personal technique and your mileage may vary. Love it, hate it, leave a message and tell me what method your use, I’m always on the hunt for ways to improve my own process.
Step 1: Finish writing.
Seriously. Finish writing first. No first draft is perfect. A first draft only has to exist to be “good” so don’t waste too much mental effort fixing mistakes as you go unless your typos are so bad they make your work incomprehensible. The only thing I might consider while writing is hitting that magical F7 key to spell check. But if you have your spelling/grammar check set up well, the red/green/blue squiggles will help you as you go along.
Step 2: Print yo’ shiz!
Yes, I go old school on this step. I have a hard time keeping track of where I am what, changes I’ve made, and what I’m trying to do if I start on the computer. I print every page. It wastes paper. It wastes ink. I don’t care. I can’t edit effectively on my laptop.
Back in December, I was editing Pantheon during the holidays and yes, I had 150+ loose leaf sheets of paper printed out, stuffed in a manila envelope, and I carried that bastard around on a 3,000 mile road trip so I could edit in the evenings. If it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid!
Step 3: Get that red pen ready!
Once I have my printed pages, I read through each page looking for spelling/grammar errors, punctuation that needs a tweak, and making notes on where plot needs a tweak or a point in my argument needs a citation. I will also read my dialogue out loud. I feel goofy doing it but you’d be surprised how many times you’re read a portion of dialogue then say “what the **** is that supposed to mean?” Make notes with your red pen. Not black or blue. Black/blue blend in too easily with the black ink of your printed words and you’ll miss small marks, like punctuation, in the next step.
Step 4: Highlights, booze, and bring the laptop back.
The next step is the worst. Find your favorite highlighter, pour a drink (if you haven’t already), and get ready to work. Now you fix all those errors you found. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are easy. Plot holes are why you have a drink. Once the error is fixed, high light over your red pen mark to know it’s fixed. Oh the heartbreak that highlighter will save later when you’re desperately trying to remember if you fixed an issue or not.
Step 5: Press F7 again!
Now that you’ve gone in an added new text, dialogue, etc it’s time to spell and grammar check again. I also recommend editing software that will scan for more if its in your budget. I’ve been using Grammarly since 2015 and it’s been worth the money.
Step 5: Save early, save often.
At this point, I hit save at least every half hour if not more often. I also back up my writing files on both an external hard drive and a cloud-based source once a week. When a manuscript is finished, I’ll burn all my files to a CD and put it in a fire safe. I’m paranoid and it’s worth too much time, effort, and money to me to lose a file because my cheap laptop decided to go to hardware heaven.
Step 6: Fresh eyes or relax.
At this point you could call it done, depending on how much you trust your own editing skills. If you have a beta reader, fellow classmate, or a professional editor, now is a great time to send your work out for a fresh set of eyes. I’m always amazed what a good beta can pick up.
Congratulations, you’re edited your work and even if it isn’t perfect, it’s better than it was!
Like this technique? Love it? Hate it? Let me know in an email, comment below, or hit me up on Twitter.
Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below.
Welcome to what is likely to be the first of many blog posts here. I can normally be found on Twitter, but 240 characters seems a tough limit for someone used to writing novels! I hope to use this blog to reach out to my readers, show them a little bit about my writing process, and occasionally just let my stream of consciousness meander.