I turned 30 year old in November 2018. For most people, mentally this is where we start getting comfortable. We tend to distance ourself from the younger version and start to accept certain limits of our abilities. If you are like me, we used to party all night drinking and eating whatever we want but still miraculously manage to be in good shape in our early 20s. But at one point we realized that we started to put on a few extra pounds then we told ourselves sure I can burn those fat off. Sadly it never happened … Then we told ourselves, sh** I ‘m just getting old.
It was back in 2017, I hit a low point of my life. I was overweighted, stressed out from work, not eating healthy , and it was just a mess. I wanted a change, desperately trying to get my sh** together.
It was in a lounge in SFO that I had hours to kill. While aimless watching Youtube, a group of Calisthenics and bodyweight training athletes’ channel such as Chris Heria’s OfficialThenx and Calisthenicmovement came to my attention. I was sucked into it and almost missed my flight. The thing about them is that they all have lean fit physique and great strength. It was so motivational to see them performing all kinds of crazy movements: handstand, muscle-up, planche etc. I had my moment right there and started a two-year journey of body transformation following them:
I am very average in terms of my athletic abilities. Grew up in China, I used to play sports at high school but there was nothing competitive. Now my day job is a data scientist and I don’t have a lot of time to spend at the gym either. However, even for an average person like me, through consistent training and nutrition routine, I was able to get to a much better physique in my 30 than I was in 28 (my body fat went from 20% to 12%). In retrospective, here is what I think why Calisthenics and bodyweight training worked for me (and maybe it will for you as well):
It’s easy to start
No matter what your fitness levels are, if you can already do squats, crunches push-ups, pull-ups etc, you already get a good start! The barrier to train Calisthenics is really low. However you can get to the super-human level through consistent training and progression. For example, when I first started, I can’t do a pull-up. So I fell back to an easier movement — Australian pull-up , which mimics the pull-up movement with your feet on the ground. Once I can do about 10–15 Australian pull-ups then I move on to the real pull-ups. Once I can do about 10–15 pull-ups then I started to train muscle-ups (a high pull-up with your waistline above the bar). You get the point. The feedback loop is crucial for me to measure my progression.
The world is your gym! It’s not so hard to find a park in your neighborhood with some kind of pull-up bars, dip bars and benches and it’s free! So don’t let the no gym excuses stop you from starting. If you are lucky enough to have gym access or some space at home, I recommend the Nike Training Club App, which includes mostly bodyweight workouts with great instructions and an intuitive UI .
What if you are traveling? That’s where you need to get creative. Move around the couches to create some space for burpees. Do some Bulgarian Squads with one leg on the bed. How about some Tricep Dips on the couches? Or simply just do some air squats. There really is no limit and you start to see everyday objects as workout equipments :)
It is motivational.
Though lifting weights is for sure rewarding and help tremendous muscle growth, I’m not too excited because they way we measure progress is by lifting heavier weights. Sometimes we even sacrifice the proper form for lifting heavier, which is very prone to injury. Personally, I found great motivation and satisfaction seeing myself completing Calisthenics moves along the progression trajectory: from Australian Pull-ups to Pull-ups to High Pull-ups to Kick Muscle-ups to Straight-form Muscle-ups. At the same time you are getting stronger by finishing harder moves and build great muscle awareness and mind-body connections.
It teaches discipline.
If you ask all of the fit people walking around how do they keep fit, they might have various workouts and diets but one thing in common is that they have developed some sort of routine and stick with it. Routine sounds boring, but only consistency will get you there. Calisthenics has taught me a great deal about consistency in my training and that’s how you can progress. With that mentality, it lifted everything for me: from workouts to nutritions to meditations. Gradually, I’m doing all of these not for achieving any short-term goal , it simply becomes an essential part of my lifestyle.
It transforms your physique.
If you are looking for a ripped lean-fit physique, doing Calisthenics is a great way to achieve that. Combining with HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), you can lose body fat rapidly while maintaining the muscle mass. It’s about time to start now so you can get in shape for the summer !
Hopefully my own journey of body transformation can be some inspiration for you to kick start your own health and fitness goal for the year ! Ask me anything about my experience and I’m happy to share more details about my workout routines and nutritions plans.