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Full Disclosure: I hope to make this one of the most ridiculous “Before-and-After” posts you’ve ever seen.
Hopefully these series of pictures and explanations sheds some light on how I went from being a twig into a larger twig. Somewhere along the way, someone even told me I had a physique similar to Michelangelo’s statue of David. In all fairness though, I think she was referring less to my overall physique but to my undersized…master of ceremonies. Sorry, Dave. That one probably hurt you as much as it hurt me.
In any case, I hope you enjoy the pictures more than I do because pulling some of these old photos made me cringe a little.
Just kidding. My mind is bulletproof.
8th Grade: Sometime Over Spring Break
That’s me sitting on the rock. This was somewhere in China on a school trip, but the actual location escapes my memory. I probably would have floated away somewhere if the wind was strong enough. As you can see, I’m just hitting puberty and weigh a grand total of around 95 pounds (about 43 kg) soaking wet. My hair was super long
because this was before I discovered wrestling. I had done sports (mostly soccer and running), but nothing crazy. In fact, I believe this was a few months before I started doing extensive amounts of physical training (voluntarily). My mom also thought Jonny Depp with long hair was handsome, so there you have it. Che with long hair. And apparently skinny arms and legs. As you can see, my legs aren’t much thicker than my wallet. Not exactly a look that exudes confidence. Confidence would elude me for several years to come. Socially awkward? Check.
Senior year, Wrestling Postseason
That’s me immediately after winning third place at the Western New England Championships my senior year, which is the prep school equivalent of state championships. I would go on to take sixth place at New England Preps the week after, and ended my season as a Prep Nationals qualifier, missing the school record for wins in a season by one match. At this point, the only important things in my life have to do with school, wrestling, and maybe Greek yogurt. I competed in the 138 pound (62.5 kg) weight class, walking around anywhere from 140 to 145 (63.5 – 65.7 kg). That summer, I would go on to represent Thailand at the Junior Southeast Asia Championships, where I would lose a close match to Thailand’s returning national champion (at the time, multiple entries per country were allowed) and take fifth place. In short, I was a decent athlete by most standards. With this came some confidence and positive self-esteem. Still, though. Socially awkward Che.
As you can see, I don’t exactly look like I was carved out of granite. Fortunately, I stopped giving a damn about what people thought of me (and still don’t).
Freshman Year in College
I hit a growth spurt over winter break which made it painfully difficult to cut my weight down to the
141 pound (64 kg) weight class. I was also no stranger to the weight room at this point. Despite this, the learning curve for college wrestling was steep. I should have gone to a sports psychologist at this point in order to deal with my performance anxiety, which would continue to haunt me for a few more years. At this point in time, I’m starting to really dig into information about physical training and grow curiously fascinated by nutrition.
Yup, still socially awkward. Despite this, I’m happy to be in my own skin. My confidence takes a hit after the end of a disappointing wrestling season. Fortunately, I receive words of encouragement from my coach at the time. It’s all part of the process!
Senior Year in College
Finally, here we are. This is where most of my physique photos end because I’m terrible at taking pictures of myself. Having had a particularly painful season trying to cut down to 149 pounds (67.5 kg), I decide to put on some size and compete at 157 pounds (71 kg). One of two things I did to physically get to this point was to follow a consistent lifting program. More importantly though, I followed certain dietary guidelines because I knew I wanted to gain strength. As a side effect, I also gained a decent amount of muscle.
At this point, I’m finally having fun with wrestling. After reading books on performance psychology (I couldn’t actually afford to meet with a sports psychologist), I finally (for the most part) solve the performance anxiety problem that had been haunting me for decades, and competing becomes fun again.
I’m finally confident knowing that I had more to give, and was able to perform at a level I could feel happy about. At this point I’m not socially awkward- just a weirdo. Somehow I manage to give even less of a crap about what other people think of me. What a liberating feeling!
First and foremost, address the mental side of your game. Your physical gifts will only take you so far until you run into the same problems over and over again. That being said, the inverse is also true. If you’re very smart but you treat your body like a piece of crap, you’ll also plateau at a certain point. Mind and body don’t work in isolation, and tons of research has proven this to be true.
For best results, I followed a very specific lifting program. This program was focused on gaining strength (muscle was a side bonus). Sets and reps were also included, and I followed the program to the best of my ability (you may miss some of your targets, which is fine. Use it as a guiding tool).
I also went into serious detail with my diet plan. Based on my body type, my calories consumed were to be distributed as 30% protein, 40% carbs, and 30% fat. I would also be eating significantly more calories per day in order to recovery adequately while putting on size (as a side note, if you’re trying to lose fat, you may benefit from the same distribution of protein, carbs, and fat but with fewer calories). Your physical training matters to some extent, but without taking care of other areas, you’ll get mediocre results. You cannot outrun a bad diet forever.
Lastly, keep in mind that I wasn’t training to gain size or “look good” (though in all fairness my lifting program had two weeks where the sets and reps supported both strength and size gain. When you train for strength, your physique will follow. If you’re training strictly for aesthetic purposes, you can certainly get results much faster than I did.
Also, enjoy the damn process! Put in really solid effort in your training session today? Added 5-10 pounds (2.2 – 4.5 kg) to your max deadlift today? Woop woop! Awesome. Pushed yourself to that dark place in practice? Hell yes. Take some satisfaction in your personal growth. When you enjoy the journey, the destination seems to arrive before you know it.