Bronze Colored Waters

North Carolina native Clay Aiken may have said it best:

“On my way here, where I am now, I’ve learned to fly I have to want to leave the ground; I’ve fallen hard but I’ve been loved, and in the end it all works out. Faith has conquered fear. On my way here […] I’d rather try and fail, 1000 times denied at least whenever you feel pain, it lets you know that you’re alive.”

 The beautiful shores of Hawaii. Is there any site better on this planet?

Best view of Hawaii!!

Best view of Hawaii!!

 

Today,  I do something I never thought I would. I conquer my swim fear. I’ve already posted the story of how the fear came to be. And how it’s stayed with me. What I haven’t done is talk about what it means to get rid of it. It’s official for me. I signed up for lessons. And my first one is today. I have my swim trunks. I’ll probably buy goggles later. I even have my sandals.

You see I’m a runner. I run. Running is calming. Running is safe. Running is an old habit that I am prepared to do at any minute. I haven’t run in months, yet earlier this evening I told myself that I was going to run due to the stress from school and the fact that I do miss working out daily. I’ve given myself visions of racing in and winning a 10K. A half-marathon. Who knows how far I could take it if I really submitted myself to daily training, and a strict diet. I could take running far, because I’ve done it for years. Well over a decade. But as I ran this morning, a thought occurred to me. Running is a lot of things to me.

But running is also a crutch. It doesn’t require work. It requires almost nothing from me save the investment in a new pair of nikes, which I absolutely need at this point (Orange preferably, size 11-12… in case anyone is keeping score… ). I run a distance of 5K pretty much whenever I want to and to be completely honest, in 3 weeks prep, I could run a 10K. Easy. When I lived at the beach, I would come home from school and run that distance nightly. In life both figuratively and literally, running is always the easiest option for me. Always. Just put foot to ground and keep it moving. I can use running to hide. You see, I will tell myself that I am doing it to get fit. That I am doing it to train for a future race. I’ll deceive myself that I am doing it to start my day off on the right foot. Or end my stressful day that I just endured. I might even post a picture to Instagram because well, fitness selfies are in vogue right now.

But the truth is, I’ll be running is the best way for me to control the anxiety that goes with thinking about swimming. this morning I got up early and ran because it’s the last chance I’ll have to run away from what I have to face. It’s not everyone’s challenge. But it’s mine. To put on swim trunks and walk into the recreation center, and meet a trainer. That is exciting yet difficult all in the same breath. I have to face the one thing I’ve been running from forever. The water.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve taken pictures like this at the beach or at fancy hotels:

Managing the Water...

Managing the Water…

Me nervously smiling while my legs dangle in the water. In a pool that’s 3 feet. What the picture doesn’t reveal is that by the time I’ve sat down on the edge, I’ve already calculated how deep the pool is, and how far out I can walk in it and still have my arm on the guardrails, as well as the location of all 4 lifeguards in attendance. Just in case stuff goes south.

A funny memory: Senior Beach Week in Myrtle Beach, SC. My friends and I had rented out a hotel for a weekend. It was awesome! But I remember we also had a large pool in the back. Not very deep at all. I had walked out and somehow in the actual pool had tripped or lost my footing. I remember I began to panic and I said, “I’m drowning!” My guy friends all looked at me and laughed, deservingly so… one of my friends simply said, “Why don’t you try standing, Calvin.”  Sure enough, the pool was about 4 feet deep…while I was 5’10 tall. “Oops…right,” I remember squeaking out. It was all in good humor but I remember being incredibly embarrassed.

So there I sit always on the edge, but never quite in the deep end of the pool. Always with my head above water, never holding my breath and going under. How does one maintain two identities that simply don’t go together: I absolutely love the beach. I LOVE the Beach. The beach is my element, it is my home. And yet I don’t go in the ocean. A deep desire of mine I’ve never really shared is that I want to learn how to surf one day. You can have the skateboards (especially since every day on campus at least 5 of them crash into me or into each other). But to put on a wet suit and ride the waves across Hawaii, Bermuda, the Carribean. Wilmington. Miami. That is my dream. Now I understand that I might not look as hot as my baby here crashing surfing on her boogie board…

 

"That's dangerous...!"

“That’s dangerous…!”

But I think I can come pretty damn close!

I refuse to live with regret. I refuse. It’s why that line, “I’d rather try and fail— 1000 times denied” is so powerful to me. I have to try to swim because the only alternative is never to learn to swim and miss the joy of swimming in a pool with my family. I can’t imagine never kissing my baby in the open ocean, especially given the choice of places we want to go for honeymoon. Never enjoying a cruise for fear of what I would do if we had to abandon ship.  Never really enjoying the reality of purchasing a house on the beach. Not really having an alternative as I know one day my knee is going out on me and running won’t be something I can do as often.

Never crossing the finish line of a triathlon with my baby’s hand in mine. Or never finally going scuba diving or snorkling, both of which I have admired and dreamt of doing since I was a kid.

Who wouldn't want to get in the water with that pretty lady in green?

Who wouldn’t want to get in the water with that pretty lady in green?

The easy thing is to run. I can run past the recreation center as I have done since I was 13. As I have done everyday since being on campus. I can run. I can run forever. But running won’t cause me to grow. The water will. So to steal a phrase from my very best friend, my support system and the woman that pushes me harder than any PhD program ever could…

It’s not time to jump. It’s time to swim.

 

 

Supplement Review: BSN Dessert

I have found it.

The mother load.

I have my all time favorite protein ever.

This is it. THIS is the big one.

The one I’ve been waiting for.

If there is such a thing as having a staple supplement,as in something you will always find in my kitchen, this is it.

BSN Lean Dessert. This has got to be the best Protein on the market. Seriously. Let’s get right into this.

This is a protein blend product that has 6 forms of protein in it. It’s made a little thicker than their staple Syntha –  6 product. If you’re someone like me who struggles with sweets, this is the perfect supplement. I have a problem with balance when it comes to sweets. I either eat the whole bag of peanut butter M&M’s or I swear off all sweets for 3 years! I can’t seem to get the proper moderation that is necessary.

Also, I’m one of those people that gets hungry at night time: which is one of the worst times to ingest a lot of carbs. I have the stretch marks to prove it.

How does one get a great taste of sweets while remaining fitness and nutrition minded? I’ll tell you how. By calling up your local BSN Rep and saying, “BRING ME SOME DESSERT…ON THE DOUBLE!!!”

And that’s what I did…

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Where’s my manners? Before doing anything, you always need the proper gear. And this time, it would be the limited edition BSN Shaker Cup, brought me by the greatest girlfriend a guy could be blessed with. I love you, sugar, with all my heart!!! Armed with her love and this shaker bottle, it’s time to conquer Earth life!

The Pour. 

IMG_3898I like to add a packet of Quaker Oats, just to make it even thicker. It’s a great quick meal replacement, especially if you add a banana to it.

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I elected to try the Cinnamon Roll flavor.

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Incredible.

To say the taste is fantastic is an understatement, that’s for sure. This fills me up for a few hours and keeps me going through the night time. Also, on those days at school, where I know it might be longer than I wish before I can get my next meal, I usually opt for this instead of the Syntha 6 since I tend to burn through that quite fast. This is just a great supplement, and the price? Almost unbeatable. On Amazon, this hovers around $25.00 making it one of the cheaper proteins. The quality is great for the price and will last about a month.

I’m really surprised. Normally with protein shakes I suffer gas or some type of gastrointestinal issues. I’m amazed that with this? Nothing. I fully expected that my stomach would be bothered, but not at all. As part of a nutritionally rich diet, I can say that I will be ready for this summer as long as BSN (and the love of my Pretty Lady) are around.

Thank you baby for helping me to Finish First!

 

 

Identity Crisis

I’ve had a struggle with this blog lately.

The truth of the matter is, I am having a crisis of identity of what to actually do with this blog. I don’t know if it’s writer’s block, so that I can’t get the words my from head to the blog. I don’t know if I need to scale back…if there’s actually the opposite problem where I have TOO much I want to write about and not sure how to move forward.

Lately, whenever I log onto this thing and begin to write, I inevitably have the same problem.

Somedays, I want to post meals I made (yes…I actually eat more than protein shakes, believe it or not).

Other days, I think about posting about workouts or new fitness routines.

Some days, I just want to post about the love of my life. Because really…nothing else matters more.

Still other days, I want to go on rants about the fitness industry. There’s a post that’s been rotating in my mind for weeks about how bikini models are overtly objectified in the fitness industry.

India Paulino Nude

Of course, that speaks to a bigger problem about the objectifying nature of bikini competitions. But to a further point, seriously, though, do I even have the right to write such a post? I’ve read the article behind this latest picture of the current Bikini Champion, India Paulino, in this months Muscular Development. She’s worked hard for that body so she should be able to place photos of it wherever she likes.  Who am I? Plus, I don’t know anything at all of her “real life” and where she learned that her value comes from how well her body looks or her ability to turn others on. Or maybe it’s far simpler— maybe she just likes taking pictures!! So I can’t really write that post or write it fairly. She indeed takes nice pictures, but at the end of the day, I don’t know her “story”.  Not to mention the other problem— she probably is a very nice person and just signed with one of my favorite supplement companies. Conflict.  Of.  Interest. I’m not trying to burn any bridges right now, since I don’t know what opportunities might lie ahead.  Not to mention a post like that is just begging to raise the ire of my feminist readers. Put your guns down ladies. I come in peace.

I’ve recently figured out that my body is very carb intolerant. I need less carbs to function and higher protein and healthy fats. A simple change and acknowledgement of this would see me drop loads of weight in less than 3 months. Does anybody actually care about that? Why would someone care that I ate an avocado today instead of the cheese pizza?!

If I’m going to be honest, (and I always am!!!) the truth of the matter is, that all these things…seem done before. I’m not sure what the “unique” thing is that I bring to the plate of fitness blogging anymore. This could be the result of all the time I spend at school (it’s Friday, I am supposed to be working on several various papers. I’m taking a short break right now to write this post before spending the rest of the night crying over analyzing my data). Somehow I have lost my way, the owner of a blog that is trying locate or perhaps revamp its voice.

I’m just not sure what to write about anymore. I don’t know what to say on here that you can’t just find on Youtube said in a far superior way. I’m not sure what to say on here anymore that you won’t find on Twitter or Facebook. I don’t know what my “THING” is, to where someone would be online and think to themselves: “I need to check the Orange Mask…that’s where the answers are that I need.”

So besides the crazy hours of work at school,  I have a blog right now searching to find its place. It’s niche.

Even supplement reviews are becoming a little troublesome— I’ve made the mistake of having several favorite supplement companies now. SO spending $$$$ to test out other lesser products to see if they work seems silly, and not financially smart (especially given that I’m a graduate student). Also, my hunch is that for Supplement Reviews, most prefer to watch them online on Youtube.

We’re coming upon the 2 year mark of this site, so maybe that’s why I feel I need to shift gears and change focus. I’m not trying to figure out what to do in the gym anymore. If I’m going to be mature, I already know what foods to eat and not eat. I just need to adhere to that. I have a good idea too, which supplement companies are good and worth your time as a consumer and which are using you. I’m not a newbie starting out anymore going to Planet Fitness. I actually want to “bring it” with the big boys at Gold’s Gym.

On an even more personal note, I’m not under the faulty assumption anymore that my value comes from how my body looks. When I started this site that was a basic premise. It was actually a basic premise in my life.  “My body looks bad, I will work out, it will look good and you will like my stories of how I made it good. Then you will like me.” But my belief in myself comes from something a little more sterner. As my baby says it best,

”In all honesty there is really only one answer I have for that, and its: God. God is a very important part in my life. He is the Love of my life. And it wasn’t until I got to a place where I realized that beauty DOES NOT come from the outside, but from within. No amount of makeup or fitness can create it. I had to open up the Bible and read what God said about me. He created me. He said I was beautiful. He said that everything He created was good. When I started to believe THAT, that is when I found my confidence. But remember my confidence is not in MY LOOKS. So on my bad days, which I have— I have cellulite, I have acne scars, I have stretch marks—even on those days, I still know I am beautiful. Because I know that God created me. That Jesus loved me so much He died for me. My confidence is in the God who gave me my looks, not the looks I was given. Time and age will quickly put an end to what we define as “beauty”.  Apart from the Lord, I would still be struggling. The idea of “beauty” will always change. So what you base your confidence in needs to be something that is unchanging. For me, that is God.”

Whether my bodyfat % is 30% or 10% (which I may reach one day…maybe), I’m still loved and still valuable. My baby loves me so well, she loves me perfectly, better than I have ever been loved before. In the time we’ve been together I’ve fully learned and accepted it’s not the gym that defines how good I am or how great a personality I have…OR how deserving of love and respect I am. Until I met her, I was pretty convinced it’s what a person does that merits all that stuff. And when you stop doing stuff, you’re no longer worthy of love. She taught me, it’s who a person IS. That’s a long winded way of saying, God loves me for me…not for how many macros I ingested today. So does my Queen. If I show up bloated from too many carbs? My baby says, “I love you”. If I show up fitness model ready, looking like a million bucks with abs you can bounce a penny off of? My baby says, ” I love you”. It is unchanging and for that I will always love you, sugar.  Truly, deeply and eternally. So it’s hard for me to write a post detailing how many lbs I lost, or how many inches I gained on my biceps these days. It just seems superficial.

A freshness needs to be added here. A new direction. A change of pace. An Orange Mask 2.0, if you will. Still fitness related…but what? And that’s my central problem right now. I don’t know the next evolution of the site.

This could be a reflection of a larger issue with life. Maybe I need to add some new things in to get inspired to write. Enter a bodybuilding competition? Enter a triathlon? Enter some 5K, 10K and train for that? Attend a competition and live report from there (that’s actually something I DO want to do, with my baby sometime in the future…I would love to turn this into a fitness news site at some point. Whenever I can get out of my lab, haha).

I’m still around. The site will always be around in one iteration or another. There will always be an “Orange Mask” around to inform you, defend you, and give you fitness insights. It’s just that my “heroically superior adventures in fitness”, don’t seem grandiose enough to write about at the moment.

I need to figure out where my place in fitness blogging / bodybuilding blogging is now.

Supplement Review: BSN Syntha-6

Let’s waste no time getting right into this one. Today’s supplement is BSN Syntha-6 Protein.

Instead of giving you my usual description, here’s a video for you to see.

As if I really need to say anything further, this was so good, that I actually purchased some for my girlfriend.

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I almost feel that this whole review can be summed up in the words: “BUY THIS STUFF”. One of the best proteins on the market, I have to say. Pretty much every good thing you’ve ever heard about this stuff…TRUE.

I DO think the price is a little high end (around $52 per canister). YET…it’s worth it. But I think it might be smarter to get the smaller canister, (2.91 pounds as compared to 5.04 pounds) and you can get this from Amazon for about $26.00. You know how I support Bodybuilding on a budget.

The taste of this stuff though…my word, that’s good stuff! I need to get my body in shape for the summer and you can rest assured BSN is going to be the center piece of those efforts.

Supplement Review: BSN Amino X

Today, I have the pleasure of presenting to you the 2012 BCAA Supplement of the year, BSN’s Amino X!! One taste and it’s very easy to see why it won such a prestigious award.

You’ll remember that sometime ago I received a special care package from BSN. Here’s the first of some of the reviews of the products I received from them. It takes a lot to win my heart…well…unless you wear your invisible crown. But BSN has slowly crept in as this company that I thought was vastly overrated to an actual brand producing high quality products.

Let’s begin!

As stated from the website,

Over the years, BSN® has supplied the supplement world with a host of novel muscle-building products. In our undying quest to bring exciting and innovative products to the marketplace, we have developed the newest supplement breakthrough with BSN®’s highly-anticipated entry into the amino acid market: AMINOx™ – the first Effervescent Instantized Amino Acid Endurance and Recovery Agent. AMINOx™ is designed to support:

  • Protein Synthesis*
  • Muscle Sparing*
  • Recovery*
  • Endurance*

Are these true? Let’s see…

I began by drinking Amino X as a way to do three things: 1) Replace Soda and high sugary drinks in my diet and 2) as a pick me up after a long day of school and 3) to help power me through my workouts—as an intraworkout or post workout, since I’m not taking a preworkout right now. The flavor I received? Green Apple!

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First and foremost, the taste is amazeba—-, er… quite satisfying. I can say this is the best Amino tasting product I have ever tried. BSN definitely knows how to flavor some stuff, that’s for sure.

I would come home from a long day, and have one of these and I felt my energy return to me for about 2 hours. When doing cardio, at the end, it was a great refreshing drink as well. And quite frankly, this tastes better than many protein drinks on the market, most of which upset my stomach.

Online, you are looking at about $34.99 for a month supply. Unless we go to Amazon, and you get it for anywhere from $18-$26. Bodybuilding on a budget strikes back!

This was a great product! I will probably get this again, and definitely this as the clear favorite among BCAA needs.

Wednesday “Win”spiration: Mighty Warrior edition

Super Fit woman

 

I think about all the ways that there is to describe her. And this picture pretty much covers it all. You all know I love super heroes, right? Well, she is mine. She’s so brave. So strong. So tough. So wise. So knowledgeable.

She can perform permutations and combinations in under 20 seconds!

She can without the use of a calculator, determine the variance, standard error and confidence interval for the population!

She even knows when child psychopathology was first entered into the DSM (even I couldn’t figure that one out)!

She can eat as much cake as she wants and still sport a mean set of abs!! (by comparison, merely writing the word “cake” has given me 5 extra pounds AND 2 new stretch marks!!)

In short, when I am weak, her bravery inspires me. When am sad, her giggles, bring me joy. When I feel bad about that extra slice of pizza I had…she joins me and offers some southern style dishes…just because!

She knows that fitness isn’t something that you just get in the gym. It’s your inner beauty. And I’ve never seen anyone more beautiful on the inside than her.

I just finished stats about 4 hours before pulling yet another all nighter. But I had to write this before going to sleep. I had to. At her best, and with whatever so called “flaws” she might find with herself, to me, is and could only ever be perfect.

I love you, baby. You’ll always be my Mighty Warrior. You’ll always inspire me. I know you have a big day ahead, baby. But we go through it together. Afterwards, we should do some cookies and cream ice cream, with caramel on chocolate cake. Then to pretend we’re really healthy, wash it all down with a Protein shake :-)

Seize the day, my love. And know that with prayers backing you, you will conquer all. I love you!

Supplement Review: MHPStrong Dopamite

Here it is, a long awaited supplement review, my first in forever. I spent some time on this one because quite frankly…my heart was involved. I have to start out by saying that this particular supplement review would not have been possible without the love and support of my baby. Thank you, sugar for your undying support and unwavering encouragement. I love you! We’re partners so I fully dedicate this post to you and the strong presence of love, faith, truth and joy that you place in my life. Thank you for all that you are…and for never forgetting to wear your invisible crown. You are a princess.

Let’s get right into this.

This year, I wanted to change the focus of the site some, with less emphasis on just pre-workouts but also with other stuff: Proteins, BCAAs, and also Fat Burners. Fat Burners have long enthralled me, and this goes back to my days as an obese 20 year old, entering freshman year at college. The very first fat burner I ever tried was Hydroxycut by MuscleTech. I had long been a reader of Muscle and Fitness as it was my first fitness magazine (trivia point: today I do not read this magazine because I consider the men in it to be too “puny”. This is what happens when your mother’s favorite comic book super hero is the Hulk).

I tried Hydroxycut for a bit in the early Hey days of MuscleTech. Man, that formula was awful! It was like 95% caffeine, 5% other stuff you can’t pronounce. I didn’t lose a single pound on that stuff. Instead, I broke out into a cold sweat, and I started having heart palpitations.  Then of course, there was Stacker and Stacker 2. That stuff was filled with Ephedrine and it was the worst stuff on the market. I’ll never forget, my 2nd week of taking it (this was I’d say near the middle of my first semester of grad school),  I suffered a crazy reaction. I started being able to see sounds and after a few days, I could see about 4 seconds into the future.

Not. Making. That. Up.

So in having the thought of reinstituting fat burners into a supplement stack, I searched long and wide to find one I’d be interested in trying. Sure enough, in looking at the companies that I really love, MHP Stands out. I wondered if they made a fat burner, and sure enough…they did.

I give you, Dopamite.

Going on the company’s site, MHP has uploaded a Youtube video that tells us:

To find more scientific information, you can go to a website, I’ve linked…here!

In layman’s terms, unlike most fat burners which raise your heart rate and resting metabolic rate in order to burn your adipose tissue, this pill works by stimulating the release of dopamine into your system, and activating your pleasure center. Additionally, a feeling of energy is supposed to overtake you as well as reduce cravings. You’ll hear that a lot in the Youtube video above. This in turn is supposed to help you not eat as much since eating is such a pleasurable thing though being on a cut is not. I wondered if those claims were really true. Sure enough, a happy, giggly angel decided to quell my curiosities and before I knew it, Dopamite was in my hands.

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To give basic stats, I’m 5’11 (hold up, now I’ve been 5’10 forever but I come up at 5’11 on trips to the doctor. I’m claiming it, give me my 1 inch!!!) and about 190-192 pounds before taking this stuff. Now, I’m not the delusional type (regardless of the fact that I named my site after a super hero and sometimes I wear a costume at night. Let’s just ignore this, ok?).  It’s unrealistic to take a fat burner and then hope for the best. Instead not only did I take Dopamite, but I am on a bit of a cut right now. I lowered my calories by 500, cleaned up the diet (no more Crown and Cokes, I’m afraid) and increased my cardio. Remember folks, it’s a supplement. It’s supposed to support what you’re already doing, not do everything on its own.

I started by taking one pill a day for a week. By week two I couldn’t “feel” the pill working anymore. So I started taking 2 pills every morning before heading off to school. There’s  a great mood enhancing quality to this supplement. I would almost qualify this as more of a mood enhancer than a fat burner. It felt like I had eaten a whole chocolate cake for breakfast and could come back for seconds. Funny since really, I’m not a fan of dark chocolate. From a starting weight of 192 lbs, my off season weight, I am currently down to 187. That’s remarkable. Cutting calories always is hard. You have to meet your nutritional needs, while not starving but still having enough energy to get through 20-40 minutes of cardio, which in my case was running on a treadmill. I definitely think the mood enhancing qualities helped out a lot. Dropping calories usually makes you grumpy but I felt good all the way through.

Now, here’s the downside. This pill has caffeine in it which is designed to promote your metabolism and give you energy. But I honestly didn’t feel a thing. I flirted with the idea of taking 3 pills at a time to see how it would feel but then thought better of it since this was a gift and I didn’t want to run through the bottle. This is definitely not for someone with a high caffeine tolerance. Also, it’s not for “body sculpting”. It’s to help you get over the mental hump of lowered calories. I didn’t find my alertness or focus anymore increased than before I took the product. Another downside is just basic physiology: if you keep releasing high levels of dopamine, you’re going to need to reduce larger and larger amounts to feel the same amount. So I don’t think this is the kind of pill you take for a long period of time. I think you cycle it and I’d be conservative: maybe one bottle every 4 months if you were just sticking with the MHP Brand.

The price of this is competitive: You can find this on Amazon for around $20-$25. I almost never recommend buying directly from any supplement company if you’re on a budget. In this case if you do, the price jumps to $40. Try to be smart with your finances since supplements can be expensive but I’d say it’s worth the Amazon price.

Overall, you can’t go wrong here unless of course you don’t have a sweet tooth.

MHP will long be one of my favorite brands just because they have superior athletes, great supplements, fairly priced items and was one of the first brands given to me as a gift from the love of my life. So they will always be special. I say give this a try. It’s one of the lower intensity fat burners out there and is probably good for a beginner.

As with all products though, you only get what you put in. Workout, clean up that diet and get 8 hours of solid sleep. Adding this into the mix will easily help you achieve the body you want. Then, like me…you’ll be happy and giggly.

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