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I’m A Happy Camper: Interim Progress Update

Things have been going quite well. Since publishing my last series of personal progress updates nearly three months ago here and here, I went through a couple of months bouncing between 180 and 183 (5’10). Then, last week, maybe the week before, I suddenly went to 178. Then it was back to 180, and, now…

176 this morning, right after my workout. The last time I recall being under 180 was about 1994/5 after a fairly disciplined few weeks of Atkins. I think I hit 179 at the lowest, from somewhere in the mid-190s. Of course, you know the rest of the story: I eventually topped out at 230+, which is even more than I was in this photo from about five years ago on a trip to Kauai, getting ready to board the helicopter. Man, I’m surprised they even let me on.

Richard Nikoley Comparison
Richard Nikoley Comparison

The one to the right was just taken a bit ago.

So, I’m very happy to be well on track, and probably near about 10 pounds from where I’ll be able to relax. How easy is it going to be to maintain a lean body composition for life, given what I’ve gone through. Cakewalk.

On another note, and what’s most amazing to me is that I am by far the strongest I’ve been in my life — by far. At 230, I may even have had more lean tissue — who knows? — but it was certainly weak. Now I do static holds with the lat pulldown stacked at 300# (with assistance to get it in place). The chest press machine too: stacked at 300#. In terms of free squats (I don’t like the Smith machine), I’m lifting more than my bodyweight — 205#, and I could do more but want to take that one very slow. I typically warm up at 135 for five reps, then three at 185, and then several sets of 2-3 reps at 205. My signal to stop on each set is degraded form. Then I like to finish off with 10 reps at 135 in very rapid succession, getting very low and keeping perfect form. I like the whole body exhaustive intensity of repping out on dead lifts, rather than going way heavy, so I typically do 3 sets of 10 reps at 135#. That is just one of the most awesome exercises ever. And then, following Keith’s advice, I’m really getting into dumbbell snatches with 30 pounders right now.

I could not do a single pull-up — not even close — when I began, and now I’m up to 7 (dead hang, no kipping allowed!) on the first set, then 5 and 4 in the subsequent sets.

All in all, it’s a great place to be, lovin’ life.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

45 Comments

  1. Robert on September 11, 2009 at 15:00

    Beware of those claiming to be happy!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGFXGwHsD_A

    (at about 1:25 in the clip)

    Great job Richard and we are happy for your happiness.

  2. Mark Sisson on September 11, 2009 at 15:11

    Way to go Richard. And you are right; as you get closer to your ideal body comp, it gets easier to maintain it (unlike with almost every popular diet plan out there). Congrats, man. Grok on!

    • Richard Nikoley on September 11, 2009 at 15:14

      And as always, Mark, big thanks to you and Art De Vany, my personal
      gurus.



  3. dotmpp on September 11, 2009 at 15:19

    <Richard>… 178. Then it was back to 180…</Richard>

    That's what you get for sampling my pizza… 😉

    • Richard Nikoley on September 11, 2009 at 15:26

      Ha!

      That's right! You saboteur! Well, when you can make three pizzas out
      of one Trader Joe's bag of dough that's intended for one, a slice
      every now and then is gonna be OK.



    • Aaron Blaisdell on September 11, 2009 at 17:28

      Great progress report! I had a similar “off the wagon” experience last weekend at my daughter's fourth bday party. We ordered pizza (agash!) and ice cream cake. I had 4 slices of pizza, 1.5 slices of cake, and two sodas! Yikes! Gained a couple of pounds since then but they've been steadily coming off again now that I'm back on paleo.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 11, 2009 at 15:27

      Ha!

      That's right! You saboteur! Well, when you can make three pizzas out
      of one Trader Joe's bag of dough that's intended for one, a slice
      every now and then is gonna be OK.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 11, 2009 at 15:29

      Ha!

      That's right! You saboteur! Well, when you can make three pizzas out
      of one Trader Joe's bag of dough that's intended for one, a slice
      every now and then is gonna be OK.



  4. Patrik on September 11, 2009 at 15:27

    Nice job dude. Keep it up! Also keep the insightful analysis and opinion coming.

    BTW I suggest practicing both kipping and dead-hang pull-ups. Both are great movements and complement one another. The stronger you get at one, the stronger you get at the other.

  5. tzalgud on September 11, 2009 at 16:00

    Very Cool! Just stumbled upon your Blog, recommended by an office mate…We were talking about food intolerances, and how some foods like those with glutens and sugar can really cause some people some damage. All I know is that I've been doing a modified Zone-Atkins way of eating since 2003, weights and some cardio…in 2005 my husband did atkins, lost about 40 lbs. We both feel great.

    Good job on your hard work.

  6. Patty Boykin on September 11, 2009 at 16:31

    Good job, Richard. You are an inspiration.

  7. Mike Gruber on September 11, 2009 at 16:32

    Kipping pullups aren't pullups. I'm with Melissa Byers on that one. 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  8. MarkJD on September 11, 2009 at 16:55

    Richard,

    I enjoy your posts, which are always fun, insightful and often a little bit anarchic. Although I follow a slightly different “diet” regime from you, I still find your website inspirational and check it out a few times every day. I'm delighted with your progress, and also thankful to you for showing how a normal mortal can progress on a paleo /Ef lifestyle (I subscribe to Arthur De Vany's website and he seems almost superhuman).

    Many thanks for sharing your experiences and opening your “soul”

    Congratulations on your progress

    Cheers – Mark Donkin

    • Richard Nikoley on September 12, 2009 at 09:51

      Thanks for those sentiments, Mark. I enjoy being anarchic. It's
      definitely on purpose.



  9. lutenik on September 11, 2009 at 17:39

    Well son, needless to say you look great, and I am a proud dad for your accomplishment, congratulations. Keep up the good work so the rest of us get inspired to do the same.

  10. MikieK on September 11, 2009 at 18:33

    Awesome Richard. I read your blog often and appreciate the time you put into this blog. I definitely have a strong interest in the paleo approach to exercise. Kudos on the dumbbell snatches. The power movements are great to incorporate. Sprinting and box jumps are other great power exercises. If you enjoy the db snatches I would recommend taking a look at barbell complexes and Olympic style lifts. There really is nothing more humbling then trying overhead barbell squats for the first time.

    Keep up the good work and congrats on the weight progress.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 12, 2009 at 09:50

      Yea, I've done some of the overhead barbell squats, as well as lunges
      with a lighter barbell. I don't sprint as much as I should but have
      been doing box jumps all along the way.



  11. johncampbell on September 11, 2009 at 18:47

    As MikieK said so eloquently – AWESOME! Enjoy your accomplishments! Rock on.

  12. KetoWarrior on September 11, 2009 at 18:30

    Inspirational indeed. Congratulations. Well done. I think that someone who knew only the old you would not recognize you now on a chance meeting. Thanks again for providing so much useful information here.

  13. michaelbender on September 11, 2009 at 21:24

    Great progress!

    Pullups are the ultimate equalizer in strength training – they require strength, but within a context (your bodyweight). Zero to seven is strong stuff and absolutely something to be proud of – in my humbple opinon more so than the other strength related accomplishments that you list.

    Out of curiosity, do you know (or are you willing to find out) how many pullups you can do today with 50-60lbs added? I am just curious because that is what you were attempting when you started out, but at that time you had not yet had the benefit of multiple, full-range of motion, reps and consistent training I am wondering if or how much your absolute strength has increased incrementally with your relative strength.

    I have a number of reps in mind based on my experiece. I am curious to see if I am in the right neighborhood

    • Richard Nikoley on September 12, 2009 at 09:46

      While I don't recall thinking of this before, I have used the pullup
      assist machine with some weight added, though not recently. I found it
      more effective to use a step on the plain old bar to jump into a fully
      pulled up position, hold, and do very slow negatives.

      I might have to see how many I can do with 50-60# added.



  14. jtkeith on September 11, 2009 at 21:43

    Ditto on the pullup reps! I'm at about exactly the same place w.r.t. initial set and followon sets. My weight hasn't changed (still about 5'9″ and 160lb), but strength is much better. So I assume that means fat loss and muscle gain. I'm not as strong as I was in my 20s, but now that I'm nearing 50 (next month) I'll take this gain, for sure 🙂

  15. Arlo on September 11, 2009 at 22:09

    Good stuff man! My pull-ups are SLOWLY getting better… but I love eeking one extra one out.

    By far my favourite exercise right now is the overhead press. It seems like every time I work out I'm able to do another rep or increase the weight 5 pounds. And it's a great exercise to push out that ONE…… LAST…… REP…… so damned rewarding!!

    Take care!

  16. George Kerkhoven on September 12, 2009 at 01:36

    Great progress and I feel also very happy with this life style….by the way I noticed one little bit of non effective mindset: you say:”….probably near about 10 pounds from where I'll be able to relax”..”able to relax”…..why don´t you relax already now? Reaching your goal won´t relax you at all, because you´re a living organism in a living context . It´s based on false hope (equals an illusion). Just try to find out what keeps you from being relaxed already now…and enjoy your lifestyle now and the goal will be reached almost unnoticed…Arthur De Vany also repeated this many times and I agree with him! Goals help to organize behaviour, not more, not less, but are never meant to be reached or to make you happy

    • Richard Nikoley on September 12, 2009 at 09:56

      Yea, George, good advice. It was more just a manner of speaking. I'm
      relaxed. I simply mean that it will be nice to not have to think about
      it (losing more fat) anymore.

      On the other hand, I don't really plan on changing anything other than
      that I will probably IF a bit less. So, my “goal” may not end up being
      my body's goal for the way I live. And that's fine. Even if I just
      stopped losing fat now, I'm fine.



  17. jon_w on September 12, 2009 at 01:39

    congratulations richard. I dont have the motivation or time to write, but if I did I would sound like you. when people ask me why I look, eat, and exercise differently, I point them to your blog.

  18. Charles1234 on September 12, 2009 at 07:50

    First off, i should confess that I'm a vegetarian. I haven't eaten meat for over a year. I have been following Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book “eat to live” and have basically followed a nutrient dense, plant based diet for the past 10 weeks. I've lost an incredible amount of weight in those 10 weeks (at least for me compared to previous attempts). I follow your blog because i really like your enthusiasm and passion for the subject of health and nutrituion. I think a healthy debate about health must surely include many different viewpoints. My vegetarian diet is not based on any political opinions (i believe in mans range and dominion etc) or even so much on the potential health benefits of a meat free diet. My decision is based on the fact that I just don't like the texture and taste of meat. Anyway, I enjoy your blog, enjoy especially the info about working out, and hope you don't mind if a vegetarian tags along for the ride. I guess you'd say I'm more on the “gatherer” side of the paleo diet.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 12, 2009 at 09:39

      No problem at all. Looks like you can stand the heat, so that makes you welcome in the kitchen. 🙂



  19. Marc on September 12, 2009 at 10:22

    Congrats Richard! Love the blog

    If you're worried about squat form and injury, try front squats instead of back squats (assuming you aren't doing front squats already). The difference in mechanics means I can usually move 2/3 the weight on a front squat as on a back squat with same training effect. Less weight means less chance of injury and the movement of the front squat itself forces you to keep much better form. Also, it's more “real world” in the sense that when you pick stuff up outside the gym it's usually in front of you.

    Keep up the great site.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 12, 2009 at 11:39

      I've done some fronts but prefer the back squats. But I do also like
      to carry a heavy sandbag in front and do lunges.



  20. MuleFace on September 12, 2009 at 15:54

    Thanks for sharing, Richard. Your blog is one of my regular stops & helps me keep my mind on the right track. Last time I mentioned it, I had lost 53 lbs since May. Make that 67 now. Just staying primal every day.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 14, 2009 at 17:03

      Wow. Great work. Keep us in the loop on your progress.



  21. keiththomas on September 12, 2009 at 18:19

    Great work, Richard. And thanks for posting the weights for each exercise as well as the reps. You are right in thinking maintenance will be easy – but only if you stick with it. If someone like you who exercises pretty intensively slacks off (on a holiday, for example), you'll feel unusually good for the first couple of weeks and can find it psychologically difficult to return to sufficient frequency and regularity. The longer you are at it, however, the more it becomes part of your life – but I find maintenance still requires vigilance.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 14, 2009 at 17:01

      he good thing, Keith, is that I have been pretty liberal and flexible with my time off all along. If I'm headed on vacation, out of town, I never sweat it, I take the time off, and have yet to be unmotivated in getting back into the swing of things.

      In fact, I'd say it has positively contributed to my staying with the whole thing up to now. I suppose it's just like a cheat meal now and then. I don't beat myself up over it, and I think that keeps me in the game.

      Thanks, as always, for your encouragement and advice.



  22. keiththomas on September 12, 2009 at 19:38

    Great work, Richard. And thanks for posting the weights for each exercise as well as the reps. You are right in thinking maintenance will be easy – but only if you stick with it. If someone like you who exercises pretty intensively slacks off (on a holiday, for example), you'll feel unusually good for the first couple of weeks and can find it psychologically difficult to return to sufficient frequency and regularity. The longer you are at it, however, the more it becomes part of your life – but I find maintenance still requires vigilance.

  23. epistemocrat on September 12, 2009 at 22:51

    Exemplary example of self-experimentation; awesome job, Richard. You've no doubt provided the venture capital for many other people's healthy self-experiments as well, spreading the good news along the way. Thanks for your 'Public Health' work.

  24. Paul BELIZERE on September 13, 2009 at 08:55

    Congratulations Richard,
    I just wondered wether you ever tried training with a trap bar (google Al Gerard trap bar). It allows a kind of hybrid squat and deadlift movement with a lot of weight, and with less risk for your lowerback. Great for working out alone without spotters and going VERY intense.
    You definitely look a lot better than you did a few years back, no doubt, but I just wonder about your waistline with your fat oriented diet. would it be possible for you to show us the progress on pics or videos, or at least post a few comments about it ?
    Salut de Montpellier (France)
    Paul

    • Richard Nikoley on September 14, 2009 at 17:03

      Paul:

      Nope, never seen that and my gym certainly doesn't have one. I have done similar things with heavy dumbells.

      As to the waistline, well, I began at 40″ pants that were tight and ow 34″ pants are loose. I actually had to go get a pair of dress slacks Saturday in advance of my wife's birthday party. Everything I had was massive on me, even from suits that are 20 years old.

      I'll probably end up around a 32″ waist size.



  25. Julie on September 13, 2009 at 12:15

    Congrats on your success, and thanks for your blog!

  26. Michelle on September 13, 2009 at 16:16

    Very inspirational indeed and you look great!!! 🙂

  27. robgarza on September 13, 2009 at 22:43

    Great Job Richard!

  28. […] Here's an interim update as of mid-September; down to […]

  29. Jeff M. on October 23, 2009 at 14:15

    Great job, Richard. You look much healthier.

    Is there any particular reason you don’t look to progress on deadlifts? I like high rep deadlifts for the metabolic effect, like you, but since incorporating heavy, low-rep deadlifting, I can do better metabolic work (20 rep sets with 315 at the moment). It isn’t either/or — you can do heavy Monday and light/high-rep Thursday, for instance. I’d bet you’d lose more fat and gain more muscle if you did.

    Also, does your gym have dumbells and/or barbells? If so, transitioning to dumbbell chest presses instead of machine presses, and dumbbell rows instead of machine pulldowns, will shoot up your strength even more.

    Then again, if you’re working out just to keep active, and not looking to get stronger or have more lean mass, disregard!

    The site is awesome — the more paleo success stories, the better, so we can pull more people out of this grain-fed era of disease.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 24, 2009 at 09:42

      I have been doing heavier, low-rep, but not at that weight. I began at 105 I believe and now do lower reps (3-4 per set x 3-4 sets) at 205, which for me seems to be enough for now.

      Just went to 405 on the leg press, an increase of 90 pounds from where I was and I feel it.

      Yep, we’ve got dumbells and I do a lot of chest presses and flys, as well as shoulder presses & such. Mainly, I like to mix it up as much as possible.

      Well, off to the gym. It’s gonna be more of a crossfit routine today, with lots of pullups and jumps.



  30. Tom Pierce on January 18, 2010 at 16:18

    I just came across your blog today through a laundry list of links from other sites and I have to say your progress is absolutely amazing! You are an inspiration to all who read about you. Good luck to you in the future and keep up the good work!

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