Friday, November 16, 2012

Building Muscle: Herbivore-Style!

In order to build muscle, you need protein. This is the basic building-block of muscle.

You also need to make sure you are eating enough of the right kinds of carbohydrates to keep up with your energy demands. Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source of the body. At least 50% of everybody's daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates, while avoiding added sugar.  Endurance athletes may demand something closer to 70%.  If you aren't eating enough "Slow-burning" complex carbohydrates (starches), your body will convert protein into carbohydrates, which is undesirable. Good sources of complex carbohydrates are whole grain bread, brown rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and any other whole grain.

Remember: You've got to eat a significantly higher volume of food as a vegetarian to get an adequate caloric intake.  If you're bodybuilding on top of that, you're looking at bringing that figure up even further.

Back to protein:         

You need 0.5g Protein/lb. Bodyweight, Daily.

Eggs and dairy products are protein rich. Qinoa (a grain), amaranth (another grain) and hemp seed are all complete protein sources. Other plant foods have some of the amino acids that can be assembled to form complete proteins in your body but need to be complemented by other plant foods that have the missing amino acids, hence the term, "Complementary proteins".  A good, general rule-of-thumb is: Grain + Legume = Complete Protein

I generally shy away from recommending soy products like soymilk, tofu, and fake meat products that are popular right now because a) 90% of all soy in the united states is genetically modified, b) soy contains phytin, which leaches minerals from the body, c) it is a high-allergen food, and d) it contains phytoestrogens which are potentially carcinogenic and are counter-productive for those trying to build muscle mass.  Even in the Asian countries who we exported tofu from, people generally only eat the stuff infrequently and in small amounts. 

That having been said, fermented soy products have traditionally been used more liberally in Asian countries without any adverse side-effects, at least not that anybody has been able to identify yet.  One fermented soy product that is high in protein, is super-versatile, and is totally tasty is tempeh.  At 20g protein/serving, tempeh is a staple for me.  Natto is another fermented soy product that is traditionally used in Japan.  It is high in protein, considered healthy, and consumed in high volumes.  Due to a slimy texture and a smell that some don't care for, Natto is something of an acquired taste.

Get around GMOs by going Organic

Another staple for me is a protein shake.  When I'm training hard, it is way easier for me to fall short of my body's protein requirement than it is to exceed it, especially being vegetarian who only eats eggs and dairy in very limited amounts.  The one egg protein shake I've had mixed easily, tasted great, and was very high in protein without any sugar.  On the other hand, it made me fart like no other.  Sometimes I do whey protein, which is the cheapest route.  As one who takes issue with the meat and dairy industry for the sake of not wanting to consume unnecessary antibiotics and hormones, I generally shy away from whey protein.  Then there are the vegan protein shakes.  Some of these are just awful.  One that warrants my accolades however, is the VegaOne brand.  That stuff is delicious, mixes easily, and is full of vitamins and minerals that vegetarians and vegans could potentially be lacking.  The downside is that this option contains the least amount of protein per serving (15 or 16g) and is the most expensive by a landslide.

Vitamins & Minerals

This is an entry for another day but there are a few points I would like to make on the matter before calling it a day.  It should go without saying that a person needs to make a point of getting all of their essential vitamins and minerals but, just in case, I've just said it.  Vegetarians and vegans are potentially at risk of developing deficiencies in Vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12.  They are also at risk of becoming deficient in certain minerals like iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium.  All of these, with the exception of Vitamin B12, can be adequately supplied by a varied diet high in fruits, nuts, leafy green vegetables, and orange/yellow vegetables.  There are no sources of vitamin B12 that are not animal-derived.  For that, a vegetarian can eat dairy, eggs, and/or nutritional yeast/marmite spread.  A vegetarian would have to rely solely on an appropriate multivitamin or foods fortified with vitamin B12.  Also, a vegetarian/vegan is normally capable of synthesizing Vitamin D from sunlight.  People who don't eat animal products and who live far from the equator, where there is relatively little sunlight, need to supplement Vitamin D.  This particularly applies to people in these areas who have dark skin.  Eskimos accomplished this by eating whale blubber.  Today we have the luxury of multivitamins that are readily available.

There you have it.  That's everything you should need to start muscling up without eating meat or animal products.

Good luck & happy grazing!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

3 Must-Have Mobile Fitness Apps

MyNetDiary - Free

Essentially, this is a calorie-counter.  As a personal trainer, I can tell you that getting people accountable for their calories is both necessary & hard to do.

Why The Trainer Likes It:

    •  "I forgot my food journal" is no longer an excuse
    • Adding what you eat is easier than ever before
      • Inline bar code scanner
      • If your item isn't already on database, it will be after you enter it once
      • Add individual food components to a "recipe" entry to track the calories in your own cooking. (goes into the database just like everything else)
    • Tracks, charts, & graphs lots of stats
      • % of total calories for each macronutrient (carbs, fat, protein)
      • Micronutrients (vitamins, minearls, etc.)
      • Weight
      • Calories
      • BMI (Body Mass Index)
      • BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)
    • Creates a caloric budget based on your specific height, weight, & goal
    • Tracks caloric expenditure (calories burned)
    • Can further utilize features at


    • Occasionally, barcode scanner or database will crash
    • Free mobile/online app has all the fundamentals but does try to rope you in to various paid versions for more features

    The Bottom Line:

    This is a solid app.  The price (free) is right and it wouldn't hurt a person to shell out a little dough for MyNetDiary-Pro ($4.99).  That's what I use.  Either way, everything you really need to track a comprehensive fitness routine is in this app.


    Runkeeper - Free

    This app runs a stopwatch in conjunction with location services that track your position on the globe for the duration of your activity.  Running is one of my favorite activities to get clients performing.  With Runkeeper, I can now tell my client exactly how far he/she has run every time and vice-versa.  If running isn't your thing, Runkeeper can also be utilized for a whole bevy of other activities.

     Why The Trainer Likes It:

    • Tracks distance & time of past activities
    • Tracks elevation climb/drop
    • Notifies you when you've improved
    • Easily allows you to publish details of your activity to social networking media sites
    • Comes pre-loaded with workout plans (with option to buy more)
      • 23-week 1/2 marathon training
      • 20 Minute Easy Workout
      • 2.25 Mile Workout
      • 2 Miles with Rest
      • Set a Target Pace, etc.
    • Choose from at least 13 different activities
      • Running, cycling, walking, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, skating, swimming, wheelchair, rowing, elliptical, or input your own
    • Set goals and track your progress
    • Shows you & your friends (if you want) your entire route plotted on a map when you're finished 

    The Bottom Line: 

    This is a solid training tool.  I have used it for some time now and haven't experienced any drawbacks.

    The content is comprehensive.  The interface is streamlined and intuitive.  It makes it easy for people to get out the door, do what they need to do, and to report it back to me quickly, efficiently, and accurately. 

    It effectively brings to the table tools that can be put to good use  by noobs and pros alike.  Cardio wouldn't be the same without it.

    Also, as usual, the $$$ price $$$ is right!  Perhaps you are beginning to notice a theme?



    Gym Hero - Free

    Gym Hero is a tool for resistance training that lets you record the number of repetitions performed and the weight that you lifted for each set of repetitions.  It might take a little tinkering the first session but, the guided walk-through should iron out most of your questions.  After 1 or 2 sessions, it becomes much quicker and much less cumbersome than carrying around a notebook & pen. 

    Once you've entered a workout, it will be pre-loaded the next time you workout.  You can store multiple workouts.

    The advantage to this is that you can easily track and see gains in strength and endurance.

    After your workout, it summarizes everything you've done at the top of the screen.  

    It is very handy for me to easily be able to look at your device and immediately see your exercise volume.  Self-reporting is notoriously vague.  


    I hope you've found this list helpful.  This info, if properly applied, will definitely make your workouts more productive.

    If you enjoyed this article, don't forget to hit the "Subscribe" button/dropdown menu either below or at the top, right.  Don't miss an update!

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    Mind-Body Minute: Seated Meditation

    You've probably heard someone somewhere talking up the benefits of meditation.  There's not really any escaping it; it's a buzzword.  Studies are showing things like increased brain plasticity, neurological regeneration, improved cognitive performance, and reversal of cardiovascular disease, just to name a few practical results of meditation.

    Yoga and meditation are now common among athletes for improved performance.  Meditators of all walks of life attribute the ability to perform better in any situation, increased clarity, calmness, and reduced stress to meditation.

    I would do all these folks one better and put it to you that, while yes, these are some very common meditation fringe benefits, these are only milestones on the path to every human's ultimate destiny.  This stuff is small potatoes compared to the real goal:  Enlightenment.

    Imagine a state free of attachment and its doppelganger, aversion.  In such a state, desire has ceased to be.  One simply lives completely and fully in the moment, lovingly accepting every single fleeting thing that arises within awareness and then, when the time comes, letting it go; watching it dissolve again.  Without avoiding the things that we tend to dislike and clinging to the things that we tend to like, we are freed to see the beauty and perfection of each moment as it truly is.  We have Santosha, contentment.  We are freed from desire which, truly, frees us from suffering.

    For most people, this last part is a little out there simply because most of us are VERY accustomed to having desires and it has never even occurred to us that there is an alternative.  This message is not for everybody but at least now it's occurred to you! 

    Now that I've got all the airy-fairy stuff out of the way, lets get back down to Earth: Meditation is beautiful because whatever level of experience you are operating on, it sharpens latent skills and abilities that will enrich your experience as a human.  It nourishes body, mind, and spirit.

    "So how do I do it?"

    Being a Shaivite (a topic for another day), the method I will recommend is meditating on the initiatory mantra of my lineage, "Om Namah Shivaya" (pronounced: Ohm  Nah-MAH  SHEE-Vie-Yah).

    Sitting or lying, with eyes closed and spine straight, recite the mantra internally.  Synchronize it with the breath.  If you are feeling dull, sluggish, tired, etc.:  Repeat the mantra on both the inbreath and outbreath.  If the mind is restless and making it difficult to focus on the mantra, repeat the mantra on the outbreath only.  

    When you find that your attention has wandered to something other than the mantra, which it will almost certainly do, be kind to yourself.  Know that that is to be expected.  Simply acknowledge that attention has slipped and redirect it to the mantra.  Repeat as often as necessary.  If you have to redirect your attention 1,000 times in one sitting, that's OK.  This is a class where you get full credit simply for showing up and sitting for the duration.  Proficiency will come with practice.  This should be done for 15 minutes initially, up to 45 minutes and up to 2x/day.

    "So what does it mean?"

    The potency of the mantra has little to do with its explicit meaning.  The very vibratory quality of the mantra's syllables have an elevating effect on one's consciousness.  If the mantra is received from one who you are taking instruction from because they have already attained enlightenment themselves, the mantra can be considered even more energized; its effect more potent.

    If you must know the literal meaning, the most accurate translation from the original Sanskrit is, "I salute consciousness, itself" or, "I bow to the Supreme consciousness in which all is contained; which exists in every thing".

    There you have it, folks. everything you need to get started.  If you're interested in experiencing improved physical health, improved mental/psychological well-being, and/or the indescribably blissful transcendent state of true communion with your own spiritual essence, I would highly recommend giving it a shot.  Start right away, before you forget and give it a few weeks.  Then step back and re-evaluate how your life outside of meditation has been going since beginning to really gauge your success.  Happy OM'ing!

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    Friday, September 28, 2012

    Grand Opening Event!!!

    What Moves You this Fall?
    Opportunity to sign up for $19.95 memberships – limited offer
    September 29, 2012
    10am to 2pm
    Fremont Health Club 3601 Fremont Ave. N
    (corner of Fremont Ave. N and 36th St)
    • Live DJ, Prizes, and fun people refreshments and more.
    • Classes: Free 30 minute classes - Belly Fit, Power Pilate's, Core Cardio, Traditional Middle Eastern Belly Dance and more.

    Join our event & "Like" us on Facebook!
    Tuesday, September 25, 2012

    Trainer's Fitness Log

    Week 13

    I am now at 135.6 lbs; 4.0 % body fat.
    •  130.2 lbs. Lean Muscle Mass (LMM)
    • 5.4 lbs. fat.

    From Week 5....

    131 lbs.; 6.2% bodyfat
    •  123 lbs. LMM
    •   8 lbs. fat

    The Breakdown:

    Over the course of 8 weeks, I am.....
    • Down 1.8% bodyfat
    • Down 2.6 lbs. fat
    • Up 7.8 lbs. LMM

    + 7.8 Lbs. in 8 Weeks

    The smile of a man who is right on track =============>
    (Not to be confused with the smile of the man on those "Enzyte" commercials)

    Monday, September 24, 2012

    Cardio Duration

    I had a client ask me recently why I push for an hour of cardio 2-3x/week as opposed to more days of cardio that add up to the same total.  After all, an hour of the stuff can feel like an eternity thanks to boredom and/or fatigue.

    The short answer is fat metabolism.  In most cases, the reason a client is doing cardiovascular exercise is to burn fat.  It is important to be training at an intensity (usually monitored via heart rate) that is conducive to the utilization of fat as an energy source BUT, even with that variable dialed in, DURATION is a critical detail.

    From minute 0-20, guess how much fat your body is mobilizing to fuel your activity......The answer is none!  Until right around the 20-minute-mark, your muscles' activity is fueled exclusively by glucose (sugar) stored within the muscles themselves.  Right around that threshold (20 minutes) your body first starts utilizing its fat reserves as a source of fuel. 

    So why not stop at 20 or 30 minutes?  Well, that threshold isn't a switch that just turns off one pathway in favor of another.  At 30 minutes in, you have only been in fat-burning mode for 10 minutes and the percentage of calories burned in the form of fat is still WAAAAY lower than the percentage of calories burned in the form of glucose.  BUT as you carry on past that point, the balance begins to shift; The percentage of fat calories burned continues to increase and the percentage of sugar calories burned begins to decrease. 

    At about 45 minutes into your cardio routine, your activity is predominantly fueled by the body's fat reserves.  It is also at about this point that the body begins to release endorphins, the body's own natural feel-good hormones.  Once you hit that point, you've usually pushed past the wall and another 15 minutes is relatively easy.  If not, be persistent and you will start to notice this.  Anyway, back to endorphins: They help create an association between doing something healthy and feeling good.

    60 minutes of cardio is, in my opinion, the best tradeoff between workload, calories (especially fat) burned, and the natural mechanisms that promote the forming of beneficial habits.

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    Trainer's Fitness Log

     We'll call this week 8. 

    132 lbs.; 4.1% bodyfat.....

    So, according to this reading, I added about a pound of muscle and stayed about the same in terms of fat.  I actually weighed myself on the same scale a few hours before, before some activity and when I was better hydrated.  I weighed 5 or 6 lbs. more then. 

    These pictures and statistics illustrate an important point

    The scale is a fickle thing.  Body composition is hard to track precisely too.  These measurements are good for tracking broad trends but, as you can see, their function is limited.  I could say I gained 1 lb. in 3.5 weeks or I could say I gained 7 lbs....This is why it is always a good idea to take pictures.  The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. 

    My gut tells me I'm making progress and I am making performance gains but without photographic verification, the numbers might have gotten me a little bit discouraged.

    So I'll chalk that up to a win!  Go me!   

    On that note, please enjoy this picture of me looking like a goober.
    Can you tell I am not into having my picture taken?  :) 

    I have some negative space to fill here so I suppose I'll take the opportunity to wax philosophical for a moment:

    I think it's good to consider where we're headed because we all get where we're going bye-and-bye....Whether it's the destination we've chosen or the one somebody (or some random collection of events/circumstances/habits) has chosen for us.
    Once you've got that whole mess sorted out, it's just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. :)      

    Monday, August 6, 2012

    Ahimsa (Non-harming)

    It is so often that I either hear somebody criticizing somebody else in their general vicinity, speaking harshly of themselves, or both.  Even if these kinds of words are directed solely outward, I find that it reveals a lot about the insecurities of the speaker him/herself.

    "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" ~ Plato

    We all show up here with our own baggage to sort through.   I've found that the more willing I am to let others slide when it comes to things that tend to rub me the wrong way, the easier it is to not take myself too seriously.  Give yourself (and others) the permission to just be and to accept yourself unconditionally, faults and all, and suddenly you are able to look at yourself honestly.

    "Forgiveness is the act of admitting that we are like other people." ~ Christina Baldwin

    To somebody who has never been in that space, I suppose that kind of introspection might seem pretty insignificant.  Nothing could be further from the truth, in my opinion.  Everybody knows what it's like to have ups and downs.  A lot of times the sucky things that we experience seem to have no rhyme or reason behind them.  Most of the things that happen to us though, are actually happening because of habits and mental tendencies that we've had so long we don't ever think to question them.

    "All that we are is the result of all that we have thought" ~ Gautama Buddha

    When we stop being afraid to really examine ourselves and we set aside a little time to do so regularly, we start noticing, "Hey, this thing I'm always doing doesn't really seem to make sense." or, "This just doesn't seem to be working out well for me anymore."  In this way a lot of useless old junk that we've been dragging around for no good reason just gets dropped.  It can become a rapid evolution of a person's consciousness. 

    Cultivating this type of attitude and awareness is beneficial in every area of a person's life.  I bring it up here because the majority of the barriers to physical fitness and overall well-being that people encounter are these types of habitual patterns that have outlived their usefulness but are still being acted out.

    Break down those barriers.  Level up!
    Sunday, July 29, 2012


    One of the things that a trainer often has to do is to reframe the way a client thinks about things.  One client, a pretty trim-looking young woman, might come to me and say, "I want to 'tone up my abs."  The next, an overweight man or woman, might come up to me and say, "I want to lose about 50 lbs."  A 3rd, a skinny guy with a little bit of a spare tire, might come up to me and say, "I wanna get RIPPED!!!!"

    SO.  As their trainer, what am I going to do?  If you answered, "3 totally different things!"  Well you're right and you're wrong.  Let me lay it out for you like this:

    All 3 clients have come to me for what, in their minds, are 3 completely different reasons and they're going to be looking at different things when it comes to gauging their success.  When you think about what they're asking for on a really fundamental level, though, you begin to see that they're all asking for basically the same thing.  They all want more muscle and less fat.

    "No!  My arms are already big enough!", I can already hear someone out there say.

    That may be true but you know what I'm not afraid of?  My female client turning into Arnold Schwarzenneger.  Most women just don't have the right hormones in the right proportions to put on a huge amount of muscle.  Hell!  Even Schwarzenegger didn't before the steroids!  When you see a woman who looks, "Too buff", odds are she worked really hard to get that way because that's what she wanted to look like.

    Look right and you can see what 5 lbs. adipose tissue (fat) 
    looks like compared to 5 lbs. muscle tissue.

     So, as a personal trainer, I don't get excited about a person's weight alone.  You could be gaining weight but losing fat and getting smaller.  Again, look at the picture and you'll see why.  On the other hand, I am really keen to analyze a client's body composition periodically.  I love saying, "OK, you've lost 'x' amount of fat and gained 'y' amount of muscle!"

    How about the skinny chick who wants to tone up but isn't trying to lose weight?  If your muscles need to be tightened up, there's both subcutaneous fat surrounding those muscles, but under the skin, and there's also fat interspersed throughout the body of the muscle.  Same thing.  Make the muscle bigger and the fat smaller and you'll still end up smaller.

    Once in a great while....Wait for it....I'm WRONG!  Yep, you heard right! LOL 

    But don't lose heart!  If your genetic makeup dictates that you just put on muscle to a greater extent than you would like, we simply dial that part of the workout back a little and wait for them bad boys to shrink a little while we focus on something else.

    "OK, OK, we get it," you say.  "Shrink the fat stuff and grow more of the dense stuff.  But how do we do that?"

    To that I say, "Weights and cardio!"

     Actually, you don't necessarily need weights, per se, but you do need to work every major muscle group to exhaustion.  By 'exhaustion' I don't mean until you feel like quitting, I mean contract that muscle through a full range of motion until muscular failure occurs.  As you progress, you can increase the number of sets you do of each exercise.  You should work all your major muscle groups at least once/week.  2 or 3x/week is a good figure to shoot for.

    The key to burning fat is to work out at a low intensity for a long duration.  So, get a heart rate monitor, find your target heart zone and work out at that intensity for more than 20 minutes.  This formula will estimate your target heart zone accurately enough for our purposes:

    Min. HR = [(220 - Age) - Resting Heart Rate] * .65 - RHR  |  Max HR = [(220 - Age) -RHR] * .75 - RHR  |  Min - Max = Target Heart Zone

    Most people like to get on cardio equipment at the gym to do this but, if that's not your style, you can do anything that gets your heart rate up into your target heart zone and keeps it there.  "How long?" you ask?  The short answer (from me) is 45-60 minutes.  Do that twice a week, eat right, and you'll lose fat.

    Obviously, this is pretty generic advice (I'm not tackling diet because that's another blog unto itself and really needs to be addressed on an individual basis).  The guy who's trying to bulk up is going to be doing way more intense weight training than the other two clients.  He'll probably be eating a lot more calories as well.  The overweight individual is going to need to watch his/her caloric intake pretty closely, learn strategies for eating differently, and spend more time doing cardio than the other two clients.  The young woman who is already pretty close to her goal won't really have to exert as much effort as the other two.

    So what's the take-away message?  Sculpting.  Lift weights, do cardio and be happy.  Your body is an amazingly sophisticated instrument that possesses an innate intelligence.  Give it these two basic forms of stimuli along with moderate portions of wholesome food and it will look good in ways that you hadn't even thought to ask for it to look, you will feel good in ways it hadn't occurred to you that you could, and it will serve you well for the duration of your life.

    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Will Insurance Cover the Cost of Personal Training?

    Insurance companies tend to address things from a reactive standpoint rather than a preventative one.  Be that as it may, it isn't entirely unprecedented for insurance providers to cover the cost of personal training.  When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense that they would want to do this, especially for policy holders who are obese and/or are suffering from diabetes or some form of cardiovascular disease.  A properly executed fitness program reverses the disease process in all of these disorders, keeping you feeling healthy and happy while saving your insurance provider a small fortune in prescription medications and medical/surgical bills. 

    It's true that your provider may not cover this expense but the only way to know is to ask.  If yours doesn't happen to be one of the providers that sees the merit in taking a proactive approach to health and wellness, it wouldn't hurt to speak up about it.  It's definitely true that it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.  The world would definitely be a much better place if everybody that wanted expert, personalized fitness advice and supervision could actually get it.  Also, competent personal trainers are typically very genuinely interested in helping people, are expertly equipped to do so  and, as such, deserve to earn a good living.  If people start demanding the ability to have their health issues addressed in the most effective way, by learning to become healthy, service providers will eventually have to step up to the plate and cater to their customers' demands in order to stay competitive.  So don't be shy about asking questions and making it known what you want. 
    Monday, July 23, 2012

    My Fitness Log - Program Week 5

    Hey, everybody.  This is my very first blog post.  The pictures aren't anything to brag about...neither is my physique, I suppose....But that doesn't really matter!  I happen to have decided to accomplish some specific fitness goals and figured somebody might find it helpful for me to document it here.

    I know a lot of people have issues keeping weight off and have trouble empathizing with somebody who doesn't.  For some reason, I seem to have the opposite problem.  When I get lazy about my routine, my body kind of starts wasting away.  The typical response I get to this is something to the effect of, "Seems like a good problem to have".  Well, not really.  It gets to the point that even the connective tissue holding my joints together starts being broken down by my body and it literally starts to feel like my body is falling apart.  It's really a weird thing when you think about it.  I'm not exactly sure why this is an issue for me but it does illustrate a point: Everybody benefits from exercise.  I happen to feel my healthiest when I am very lean and muscular.  Other people have different goals, which are achieved a different way, and that's OK.  Consider this a case study.

    I am on a mission to increase my lean muscle mass and improve my body composition.  As of today, I am 131 lbs. and 6.2% bodyfat.  At this point, I am up about 4 lbs. 5 weeks into a program, a motivated and properly educated exerciser could reasonably expect to have seen a little more progress than we see here but I very recently got back into the gym after a motorcycle injury.

    So what can you expect to see here?  I am officially going to set my next milestone at 151 lbs. and 4% bodyfat with weight taking precedence for now as I am focusing on gaining mass.  I am going to go very light on the cardio and see where that takes me.  When I get at a weight/size that I am happy with, I will hit the cardio hard if I need to in order to lean out....but I've got a long way to go.  I will probably go up to at least 165 lbs. and I might even get as high as 175.

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