Calories burned don’t matter for fat loss. What does?
How many calories you burn during the workouts is not a marker that should obsess you as fat loss is a physiological problem, much more
This is the story of my sports and fitness background. I reveal how and why I went through 4 BODY TRANSFORMATIONS until the age of 29, but also how I got into outdoor calisthenics and running on mountain trails. Hopefully, my life experience will leave you with a better understanding of fitness and body mastery.
I started practicing sports with military discipline at around 9. My parents signed me up for swimming lessons because I had huge problems with my lungs and thus, I couldn’t breathe properly. Swimming seemed to be the only viable option left for my full recovery. Luckily, it worked! From that point on, I only enhanced my swimming skills and cardio capabilities. In less than 3 years, I was competing as a pro in national competitions with other kids of my age.
The discipline required for these competitions is tough for a kid. My training began at precisely 7 am. I had to wake up at 6, from Monday to Saturday, month after month. Also, in less than 30 minutes I had to eat, wash, make my bed, dress, take everything needed for school, get the equipment, walk my way up to the pool, and be ready to begin the warmup at 6:45 – all that while being very sleepy and tired. I was on autopilot.
I trained 7 times a week the whole period I was involved in swimming. I also had to attend the second evening workout quite often. In several years, I reckon that I swam a lot more than I covered by walking or running. I rarely swam less than 7 km per workout. Sometimes, our coach extended it up to 15 km. School always started at 11 am and up until 3 pm. To be honest, this felt like a lot for me. It was a tremendous amount of effort and work ethic I had to pull out, at an age that didn’t allow me to see the bigger picture.
This may sound like I feel sorry for myself, but even though it was hard at that time, I feel grateful for that period. Because even after I quit competitive swimming, I applied the same work ethic and military mindset in my calisthenics training and later on, in my mountain running sessions. That is why the training methods I follow in calisthenics are considered high-volume. I realized even as a child that If I want results then I have to train more often, more frequently and with more intensity. I learned how to do more by keeping a simple recipe.
Furthermore, if I take a closer look at my trail runs, I see the same training strategy applied. I started to run throughout the city for a few kilometers and ended up, a few years later, running over 30km on mountain trails, pretty close to a mountain-marathon. As I became better and my legs handled more, I gradually built up from running 25 minutes on a flat surface to running 4 hours up and downhill on rough terrain. Going to calisthenics again, I went from 100 pushups and 50 pull-ups per workout to 200-400 pull-ups with 500-1000 pushups per workout. I started from the most basic level.
Now that I look back, the progress is pretty impressive. But you have to take into consideration the time it took. I am talking about a journey that took more than a decade. And I am not planning on stopping here!
After what I stated above, if you are not an athlete yourself, you must think “So Adorian was always into sports and kept getting more and more fit. Why would his methods apply to me? I don’t have a decade to get into shape”. Actually, things are not that easy. Even if you are not an athlete, your journey could be more similar to mine than you think.
I talked before about my progress in fitness and sports up until now, but what you also have to keep in mind is that I’ve been through several body transformations since I quit swimming. Maybe this comes hard to believe but I lost my whole physical condition and became chubby, repetitively. So let me tell you more about how that happened and what you can learn from that.
Swimming established the foundation for the athlete I was about to become later on. I learned the discipline and work ethic which, applicable over everything else. This is why, from that moment forward, I never needed someone to tell me how far to push myself to become good at something. Swimming also developed my bone structure and it may be the reason why I now possess a balanced physique that is equally athletic, as it is muscular (courtesy of calisthenics) and strong. It is why I always recommend to any parents to teach their children love sports and practice them as often as possible when they are little. It develops the whole body correctly.
“Swimming established the foundation for the athlete I was about to become later on. I learned the discipline and work ethic which, applicable over everything else.“
After years of swimming, I had to quit. I couldn’t stand those difficult workouts anymore. I wanted to relax a bit, do something else and on top of everything, I also got bored.
Swimming is not like team sports. These are more fun, more enjoyable. It depends on the environment as well. In Romania at that time, nobody cared about us being athletes nor supported our effort. It was a post-communism country and the mentality derived as expected. I can honestly say that many still have it even after 30 years of democracy. Somehow, suffering was part of the routine. If one found it hard? Screw him. Go train! Nobody is doing well around here either way! It is a consequence of living a poor life and full of survival problems which our parents had to overcome somehow.
Nobody had the time nor the will to support us emotionally. The only moral support I and my colleagues received was the occasionally slaps from our coach when we were trying to cheat on training and not behave accordingly. Our parents were more interested in school grades than how well we perform in the pool. That is why the coach had the whole authority over us. He was like a parent, with good ones and bad ones.
Besides all that, nobody saw any future for an athlete or a successful profession in sports whatsoever. As a consequence, it was seen as useless and we’ve been told by society to focus more on school instead.
So here I was, a skinny boy with a huge amount of stamina and swimming skills. Even though I didn’t quit sports altogether. I can tell you that everything else felt easy in comparison with my previous training.
I started playing a lot of soccer. I was also riding my bike all the time, as it was my only way of transportation. On top of these things, I was running on the athletic field with consistency. I had too much energy and I couldn’t stay inside the house.
Soon after I went to high school, I attended the gym with my new colleagues. I was 15, skinny and very athletic. I needed to get stronger and build some muscles. I couldn’t do pull-ups very well nor bench press with great resistance. I was a total newbie into bodybuilding.
In the 4 years of highschool, I was playing football, ran throughout the city and lifted weights. To be honest with you, I found the gym too easy and I still consider it a fart in the wind compared to hardcore training. Nonetheless, I had great results. I enhanced my aesthetics and strength a lot.
All the knowledge I received back then about bodybuilding came from the bodybuilders next to me. There were no free programs or Youtube channels you could learn from. Part of that information I received back then, I find it to be ridiculous today, but it was enough for me to get me started. They had good advice too. I just needed a little bit of know-how, which those guys provided successfully, the rest like work-ethic was already known of me thanks to my swimming training.
I loved the gym and kept doing it for about 4 years without interruption. Even if I am dedicated to calisthenics training nowadays, I can find a lot of similarities between the two of them because I, basically, brought all I knew about muscle-building, plus what I learned after, into calisthenics today. Everything is connected and as my results speak for themselves, I dare to say that I also know how to do bodybuilding with bodyweight training only or by running.
The gym provided me with my first huge body transformation. I finally looked muscular and strong. And honestly, I got stronger and better than those guys who taught me how to do it in the first place. I had results pretty quickly. In less than a year, I had muscle definition and was able to bench press with 90-100 kg. My body weight didn’t surpass 75 kg. I also used 20+ kg dumbbells for bicep curls, which again was something only the strongest in my gym were able to do. Those guys were all adults, I was just a kid.
I don’t care what anyone says, cardio is the foundation of fitness and performance. We should begin with it and master that before strength training! It is not about building stamina only. It is about building athleticism and enhance our metabolism to its maximum potential. We should first become fit and athletic, muscles and super strength comes secondly. Because once the metabolism works very effectively, then you will be able to lose weight, build strength, grow muscle, get better, feel better.
That military discipline prepared my whole body and taught it to work to my advantage. People were surprised by how fast I can evolve and said that it happened because of my great genes. I was pretty ill as a kid and signed up to swimming because of survival issues, to improve my health, not to become muscular and performant. This is what mattered to my parents so I can live a normal and happy life. They never stopped me from doing sports or gym. It made me feel energized and healthy.
Now, what if I tell you that after high school I lost everything I worked for? I went to live in another city, to study for university. Here, my priorities changed rapidly and all I did in the first 2 years was to occasionally swim and play tennis or soccer with my buddies. But I wasn’t pushing it as I used to. I mostly did it for pleasure, to free my mind and feel active.
On that topic, we don’t say we go to train tennis or soccer because it’s playable and not trainable. Training is damn hard, playing is fun even if it can be very challenging and physically demanding. When I was a pro swimmer, I was competing, not playing in the water to win the game. Trust me, I know the difference between real training and fooling around believing is hard work. Of course, I am not talking about professional athletes in those sports, because that is a whole ‘nother level. The hard work isn’t as much in the competition itself as it is in the routine that prepares the proficiency level.
I often meet people who complain about their physique. They train a lot if you’d ask them and have no idea why they aren’t getting anywhere. But if I am to train alongside them, I almost always add extra passion and work than they do, and that without taking into consideration the rest of the aspects that build the work ethic, which is very often more important. When they were kids, they played soccer or whatever was fun as a way of hanging out while I was swimming 10 km a day. It’s pretty obvious then why I achieved a certain level in fitness and why for others it is so hard. If I sum up the whole time in which I trained, I can compound at least half a decade of serious commitment.
Therefore, I didn’t have results because of that 1 year-gym alone. I evolved as a consequence of those several years before I actually lifted weights, plus the gym itself. And they expected results to occur at the same timeframe and speed as for me when they fooled around when I was working out hard.
If you never committed to such a high degree to sports or fitness, then you have my word that you need a couple of years to reach great results. When we start as kids, time is our ally. We only have to face hard work and discipline. As adults, on the other hand, we have to work and deal with a lot more of life. Time suddenly becomes limited, and so does our energy level, mindset, mood, etc. You can, however, obtain great results even starting as 30-year-old or 40, but you will endure more and you’ll need to cultivate patience and the right mentality.
Because of my financial situation and because I had to get many part-time jobs, I had to quit sports and fitness altogether.
I can’t remember how long exactly, but for 2-3 years, I was totally sedentary. As a result, I lost my muscles and cardio condition. I didn’t know how bad I performed because I was inactive.
This was the time I got back to my hometown. I suffered a lot from internal battles as the sport was missing from my life. I only became aware of this later on, when I got back to training hard. I was an emotional mess, trying to figure out my life and to take over my financial situation. It was tough, but I was only 22.
With little money in my pocket, I went back to the gym and renewed my monthly membership. I could afford to pay for 2-3 months only and what was left wasn’t enough for me to buy the right food so I can train the way I liked.
So I did lift again but my nutrition was pretty inadequate. I was also surprised to find a place full of gym rats, an environment that didn’t seem alright in my eyes. It wasn’t the same gym and people I was used to. Everything was different, from the atmosphere inside to how equipment looked. I didn’t like it!
They pretended to work hard but in reality, they were just fucking around on machines. They were just yelling, throw weights on the floor, lift and discuss bullshit the whole time. I knew that performance is built with hard work, in silence, with seriosity, and without bullshit.
Decisions had to be made again, hence, I stopped my membership. I also saved some money this way and got rid of stupidity and mediocrity. I think this experience has influenced my view on some of the gym and meathead community, even though some of them are doing good work.
I lived 5 minutes away from the athletic field – a communism ruin that also held a bunch of rusted pull-ups and dips steel bars, but it was enough. By the way, it looks the same even today!
Nonetheless, I had what I needed. Performance-wise, I knew I don’t need much equipment, high tech stuff, apparatus, etc. It was my own will of making a change that determined the actions to reach peak performance once again.
At that time, I was pretty fat, out of shape but strong enough to do a couple of deadlifts, pull-ups, bench presses, and curls with decent resistance. I didn’t know yet and about to find out that my cardio was ruined.
So I planned to run for my first workout. I went on the track to jog 10 laps of 400 meters each, meaning 4 km (2.5 miles) to cover in total. Soon after I started to jog I felt my legs pretty heavily. In 3 laps (out of 10) I was on the floor, collapsing, almost passing out and vomiting. That little exercise was enough to tear me apart and force me to go home!
It was on that night when I reflected on what I was once and what I’ve become now. I couldn’t imagine possible to lose all of my physical condition. In the following period, I went swimming again to see how well I can do. After just a few laps, I faced glycemia and calcium dropdown. I almost passed out again and my face turned yellow.
Back home again reflecting on what should I do first. I grabbed a sheet of paper and started to write down what I have to work on:
I began reading articles, books and everything seemed to be interesting and helpful. I read about running, swimming, personal development, bodybuilding, you name it! All this time, I didn’t know that I have it all. I just needed to trust myself, and in my instincts, to unlock the potential. I had the know-how but it was just that for the first time, I felt weak and helpless.
So I said to myself that I am going to start running and improve each time possible. I also adopted a never-quitting mentality and decided to stick with it until I got rid of all the extra poundage. I thought a lot about how my coach used to prepare me, more precisely, about the period when I crossed from amateurs to proficiency levels.
I knew I had to gradually build it through enduring the pain and increasing the frequency of my workouts. Therefore, I went back on the track and jogged several laps again. I failed, tried to improve and got back almost every single day to try better and for longer.
I also included a few pushups, dips and pull-ups, but nothing important yet. Weeks passed and I managed to finally jog every single evening for at least 30 minutes now (that was about those 2,5 miles I first aimed for). In about 8 months, I managed to eliminate the whole excess of body fat and learn nutrition the right way.
Besides that, I could now run for 1-hour straight or more, covering distances as long as 12 km (7,5 miles).
I wasn’t as performant as in high school, of course. But I finally achieved my second body transformation, from fat to very slim.
Then I knew is about time to grow my mass back, but as I told you already, the gym was simply not a viable option anymore. And then, I could only do outdoor bodyweight fitness. It was spring and I was out in a public park doing some pull-ups and pushups when a friend observed me and approached to ask whether I do calisthenics. I said that I don’t know what the hell that is but I am doing some pull-ups and pushups instead. Then he explained that many practice bodyweight fitness like myself and the sport itself goes under the name of calisthenics.
I wasn’t paying too much attention but when I got home, I texted him to ask again about the name of this bodyweight fitness culture.
I soon started to browse the whole internet about calisthenics and also got my hands on a few books. I fell in love with the sport at first sight. I said this is it! I am not only practicing this sport, but I will be damn good at it. I wanted to build the Greek God body and master those difficult exercises too.
Through trial and error, over the years, I found my way back to might and muscle. I put on at least 20 pounds of mass, all possible with eating properly and mastering the basics. This was my third body transformation.
I don’t know if I looked the same as I did in high school, or better. I was massive enough and pretty jacked at the same time, stronger and more powerful than ever (that’s for sure). In terms of cardio though, I had plenty of endurance, but not the same as when I was swimming. Throughout this period, I went from vegan and vegetarian, to eating meat again. I wanted to experiment and make my conclusions because I read a lot and it raised curiosity.
Here was the point where I started Old School Calisthenic. I wanted to offer that part of the training and mindset that was genuinely mine. I created my style of training. The methods I used were rapidly categorized as high-volume calisthenics or military calisthenics. This happened simply because I grew up with that mentality.
In a few years though, because of many new influences in my life, I lost control over my lifestyle. I ate a lot of junk food too and my habits, in general, weren’t supposed to be in an athlete’s life. I got rounded and pretty fat (96kg ~ 212lbs). I did have developed muscle tissue but it was covered by fat reserves. My abs weren’t visible like they used to be. I had to cut off at least 20 pounds of body fat.
“I don’t care what anyone says, cardio is the foundation of fitness and performance. We should begin with it and master that before strength training!“
“I lived 5 minutes away from the athletic field – a communism ruin that also held a bunch of rusted pull-ups and dips steel bars, but it was enough.“
I started to cook my meals and pay attention to what I eat as well as in the restaurants. Because it was autumn and winter, I had to quit running and for this reason, I got back in the pool. I committed to swimming and sauna along with my outdoor calisthenics training.
Then, as spring made its presence, I reintegrated running into my schedule and slowly dropped on swimming. I needed to get jacked and build the best shape of my life!
I kept my calisthenics training, but with less volume and frequency so I could add more cardio. Once I got better and the legs adapted, I continued running on trails with elevation gain. I started to challenge myself in the mountains on even rougher terrain. Here I had extreme elevation gain, beautiful scenery, and plenty of fresh air that served the purpose big time.
I went from struggling with running throughout the city for 10-15 km (6.2-9.2 miles) to running mountain semi-marathons (23km ~ 14.3miles) with an elevation of over 1300m (800miles). I even ran 30+ km (19+ miles). I pushed it to the edge of my limits as I once did with swimming, bodybuilding, and calisthenics. The work paid off eventually!
I burned a lot of body fat and increased the muscularity of my legs. I achieved the best shape of my life, a body that performs in any situation. I am now very strong, durable, powerful and on top of that, I can swim, run a lot even if it’s rough terrain. I am not scared of running a marathon or doing a pull-up with 60 kg attached. I can say that I’ve been through several body transformations and I have no regrets. Maybe, without failing so much, I wouldn’t be who I am. It took me more than a decade to achieve this form and learn all of this.
To top it all, I am not getting injured anymore. I found a sweet spot that serves my goal of progressing and staying safe. I am also aware that calisthenics isn’t the answer to everything so I encourage you to step out of the comfort zone, and integrate any kind of training that suits better. I couldn’t get the body I possess now without my cardio training too.
I made myself a promise to never let go again. I hope you learned something about myself and made some conclusions about your fitness journey. Don’t be afraid to fail and learn that with time, you can grow a lot!
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