Interview: Byron makes big changes in a year

Byron at 255 before the RRL

Byron at 255 before the RRL

TR: Hey Byron!  Congratulations on your 1 year anniversary at the RRL.  
I have loved getting to know you over the last year, but for those who might not know you...Introduce yourself…( Job, family, #kids, ages, background in sports…)   Can you describe where you were in your life, your physical condition (weight, energy level, blood work, cardio shape) how you felt one year ago?

BW:  This is my fifth year living in Chattanooga, and I moved down here from Virginia to teach physics at Baylor School.  I am, 29 and married to my wonderful wife (and great supporter of the last year of early RRL workouts), and we have an 8 month old son, John Henry David. We live on Baylor's campus, as I am also a dorm parent.

A year and a half ago, I decided to start working out, mainly cardio, and some body weight workouts.  However, I had hit a plateau, and was not making a lot of progress.  I weighed 255 lbs., had trouble sleeping, and my energy was crashing at the end of the class day.

TR: That is a very similar situation to so many people in the United States right now.  People get focused on their job and forget about their physical health.  What was the motivation to make a significant change in your life?

BW:  I was motivated to change my life and my health for my future children and my family.  I was finding myself worried about my health, and I could see myself getting heavier and heavier.  At my heaviest, I weight 268 pounds in the summer of 2014, and it was then that I started to turn around my diet and my level of activity.

TR: Having children or considering having children in the near future is certainly a major motivating factor to improving your health.  I know that was the primary reason that I regained my athletic life after a layoff to focus entirely on my job.  When I realized that I would be responsible for another life, it lit a fire.  When that fire starts, there are lots of things you could do to make a change, but you chose to check out, perhaps the far end of the scale.  How did you hear about the RRL?

BW:  Mike Drew!  One evening he told me about his workouts, and while it shocked me what he was describing you all were doing, I thought, "I want to be able to do that!"  Mike challenged me to join him the next morning, offering to drive.  I took him up on it, and was a crazy workout day.

TR: That is awesome.  Mike is a great role model.  He gives it everything he has and has also made some significant improvements in his strength and conditioning.  I often hear guys talking about their first day at the RRL.  I would imagine that it could be a little intimidating by all outward appearance, but exactly the opposite once you are a part of it.  What was it like for you?  Do you remember what we did?   How did you feel?  What did you think?

BW:  When I got into Mike's car to drive over, Mike said, "well, you picked a good day."  Mike showed me the board, and explained where the warm-up was listed and the spot for the day's workout.  There I read, "Young."  I remember doing the "warm up" and thinking, "Woah, this is what I do to 'work out,' and there's more?"

Young was a challenge.  I ended up doing 2 rounds of Young, and it was painful the whole way.  Also, that was the first day I did a burpee...

(Young is a workout that we do on a beautiful gradual hill that is about 1/2 Mile long.  We do 5 burpees at the bottom of the hill and 5 burpees at the top and we repeat this 5 times for time)

That day at Baylor, I had more energy all day than I had had in a long time.  I was fired up!  Now, don't get me wrong, I was also in pain!  I do not think I made it to the RRL the next day.

TR: That is quite a change from doing nothing or very little to Young x 5!  Good job.  I am sure you were sore. met a whole new group of guys willing to get up at 5 am and get after it.  What made you come back?

BW:  I thought the RRL was crazy.  But I was also attracted to the challenge.  I wanted to get stronger, and I wanted to push myself, and that's what happened on that hill.

TR: You have become extremely consistent in attendance.  How did you do it and what is your schedule like now?

BW:  At first, I was pretty inconsistent.  However, I found that the more I came, the better I felt.  I found myself growing stronger and stronger, and no doubt does this motivate me.  But, in addition, the RRL community is a motivating one.  When you miss a day, you not only miss out on getting stronger, but you also miss out on sharing that workout with the great men at the RRL.  They challenge you to grow, they help you learn how to work, and we have a great time.  

In all seriousness, whether it is Kevin running with me on my first 5k, or Matt Greenwell helping me pace my first 5 miler, or any guy motivating me with a kind word, the men at RRL build each other up.  I am grateful for all of them.

In the last couple of months, I have landed on coming Monday through Thursday.  I would come on Friday, but I am usually up until 12:30 or later because I have dorm duty on Thursday nights.

TR: Making big changes in your physical activity is one thing.  Over the last year, how has your diet changed?  How do you eat today?

Weight on the decline but still eating the cheese

Weight on the decline but still eating the cheese

BW:  I eat more vegetables and fruit.  I eat less bread, consume less sugar, eat far less fried food, and I have tried to be more mindful of how much cheese I eat, but really, I still eat a lot of cheese...I like cheese.

Anyways, In general, I am more mindful of what I am eating, making some changes.  But I do not feel like I have drastically changed my diet.

TR: Just looking at you, it is obvious that you have transformed in one year.  How much weight have you actually lost?  What results have you had inLifting, Running, Skills, etc…?

BW:  I now weigh about 240, having lost over 25 pounds.  However, I have lost a lot more than 25 pounds of fat.  I know I am getting more fit when all of my pants are too big.

While I do not know all my numbers, a year ago, I scaled every weightlifting workout we did 50-70% Rx.  I am now doing a lot of our workouts Rx, which is a lot of fun.  It has taken a long time to build up to it, but it feels great!

Before coming to the RRL, I had not run a mile on actual pavement in about five years.  Today, February 6th, I ran over seven miles on Stringer's Ridge (the longest run I have made to date).

TR: Man...that is incredible.  Great work!  Those are significant improvements.  Making big changes and getting better is alot of fun.  Is that your favorite thing about the last year or is there something else that you really like about the RRL and what we do here?

BW:  The community and the challenge are my favorite parts without question.

TR: What is your least favorite thing?

BW:  We don't play enough Coldplay during our workouts...

TR: Ha!  That is hilarious.  (Everyone at the RRL knows that I really don't like Coldplay on the workout playlist) It seems that everyone has at least 1 skill (bear crawls, cleans, handstand pushups, double unders, etc…) that they are pretty good at or even the best of the group.  What would you consider your best skill?  Is it picking the workout music?

BW:  I get low and dominate those squats!  I can kill some wall balls...

TR: You definitely can!  Rest assured...there will always be plenty of squats and wall balls.  We have done so many different things and types of workouts in the last yearCan you tell me what workout sticks out as the most challenging to you over the last year?

BW:  I am remembering a slog of burpees and thrusters...over and over and tough.

1 year later, Byron is a stud

1 year later, Byron is a stud

TR: Do you have an absolute favorite workout that we have done? 

BW:  My favorite is has a special place in my heart!

TR:  Ah...Young.  That is a good one on its it was your first with us.  How about a least favorite? 

BW:  I don't have one.

TR: Really...I take that as a challenge...just wait til Monday.  Do you track your workouts?

BW:  I track my runs, but not my numbers for our other that you mention it, I am going to start!

(We use  You can search Toms Garage/RRL and see the workouts and results daily.  You can also join the gym by sending me a request)

TR: Tracking is an excelent way to stay motivated by seeing your exact progress to this point.  Also, you can easily point out places where your training is not working based on your results.  Maybe you are going too hard, maybe you need rest.  Generally, your results speak volumes on the effectiveness of the training.  I really like to track everything because I can quickly see if I have done a workout before and I can have a target time or weight to strive for.  It makes it more fun for me.  Tracking is also a great way to set goals.  You can see your progress and forecast what an achievable goal might be and what a far reaching goal would be. Speaking of goals,,, What are your goals for 2016?

BW:  My goals this year:
Be able to do pull-ups unassisted,
Run in a race (and maybe more after that)
Get down to 230 pounds.

TR: You will be able to accomplish all of those, and I will help.  Here is a way you can help other people.  There are lots of people who find themselves in a very similar situation to where you were last year.  What advice might you give them?

BW:  You can do it!  It will be tough, but totally worth it!  The expense of time it takes to workout is paid back many fold by all the energy you gain!  All areas of your life will improve!  You will sleep better, you won't lose your breath when walking up steps, you will feel smarter, you will pick up your kids without worry of not being able to!

TR:  Thanks so much Byron!  Great work!  So glad to have you in the RRL.

Weight Loss Contest Comes To A Close

Post Selection...November.  Definitely heavier than I would like to be despite working out 6 times per week

Post Selection...November.  Definitely heavier than I would like to be despite working out 6 times per week

2 months ago, we decided to throw in $100 and have a winner take all weight loss contest.  I was interested because I gained alot of weight while doing the preparation for and actually doing Goruck Selection.  I read in Get Selected and other books, plus articles on Goruck main page that you should come in heavy and I did.  Rucking large loads over great distances did make me burn a ton of calories but I had no problem replacing them with 2 quarts of Talenti Ice Cream and a massive volume of food.  I did this pretty much every night. 

I ate more last year than I may have ever eaten in my life.  I also trained more than I ever have.  I guess the extended sessions and long miles kept it in check, but I did find myself seeing numbers like 187 on the scale and I was not happy about it.

I played around with dropping some weight and it worked on and off but I was not committed.  The contest gave me some added motivation. 

We had weight loss achievements of 18 pounds, 16 pounds, 10 pounds, 5 pounds and one guy gained 2 pounds.  

Today at 164

Today at 164

I started at 182 pounds on July 1.  Today I weighed in at 167 before the workout, 166 after and 164 after my favorite morning ritual in my private office.  Chris Curtis actually beat me by 1 pound at the start of the workout, but the guys said that the contest was based upon percentage of bodyweight.  They said I won, but I conceeded to Chris who said we should just put the money towards some more equipment.  I'm fine with that.

So how did I lose 18 pounds in 2 months? 

Zone/Paleo/Mike Dolce

I started out with simple 4 block Zone meals and 2 snacks.  I did feel better and my pants became a little looser, but I did not lose a single pound for almost 3 weeks.

I dropped all grains and processed foods while maintaining Zone portions and began to lose weight.  During this time, I read the book, 3 Weeks To Shredded by Mike Dolce.  I liked what Mike had to say and his track record of training fighters to make weight in the UFC was impressive.  Johnny Hendricks, and Ronda Rousey are 2 fighters that I follow and Dolce is their guy.  In the book, he gives the exact plan, exact portions and timing of the weight cut for Thiago Alves, another fighter that I follow. 

Mike's advice is similar to Paleo and Zone but even simpler.  I implemented what he said, incorporated some new foods like the Breakfast Bowl with Oat Bran and enjoyed the food and the results. 

I have never been a big vegetable guy and always felt that my leafy green vegetable intake was far below where it should be.  This was fixed on Fathers Day when my kids and wife gave me a Ninja blender.  I highly recommend this thing.  I thought it would just be a Vitamix knock off, but the more I use it, the more I think that it is actually superior to the Vitamix.  Lots of attachments and options come standard and I have been making a morning post workout shake like this:

4 leaves of Kale

3/4 cup blueberries



chia seeds



blend til liquid and drink.

It changes pretty much every day depending on what vegetables we have or are left over but that is the basic idea.  I have eaten or drank more vegetables since Fathers Day than I have in the last year.  I pair that with a few eggs and either drink butter with my coffee for fat or eat some nuts. 

Note: I am a big fan of the Vitamix or Ninja but not of Juicers.  Juicers extract the juice and separate the fiber out of the end product.  This is not good.  The Vitamix or Ninja just chops up the entire food into tiny little pieces.  It is a big difference and I far prefer the entire food over the extracted juice.  Its just like eating a salad, but faster and easier for me.

Other days, I eat Mike Dolce's Breakfast bowl and may have the shake for lunch. 

Dinner was meat and vegetables with a portion of fat pretty much every night.

I like to look at what 20% of effort resulted in 80% of the results.  In this case, what was it that I did that really made a difference?  The answer is preparation. 

I planned what I was going to eat and how much of it.  I took a cooler to Lacrosse Games, when traveling or when fishing and had my food ready.  I planned snacks and had them prepared the night before. 

This is pretty much the difference from what I was doing before, making no progress and actually seeing the weight come off.  When you are not prepared, you settle for what is available and that is usually complete crap, fast food, or what you think might taste good.  If this happens every now and then, no problem.  But when it happens 40% of the time, you wont make progress.  Despite what your mind is telling you, if you are not prepared everyday, the shit food gets in more than 30-40% of the time.  It doesn't seem like it, but if you were to keep a food log it would become obvious. 

That is what worked for me but here is what Chris Curtis said he did when I asked him:

"Portion control, reduced carbs. Carbs stick to me like glue. Ran a lot. I have a hard time with weight if i don't run.
Lets face it, when u start out over weight, common sense goes a long way. A child telling u, u have a belly, will provide good motivation!"

So now what?

I feel good at 164 and feel like it is a sustainable weight for me.  I would like to stay under 165 for a while and see how I feel.  Now that I am here, I can maintain this weight pretty comfortably if I stay prepared, pack food and have snacks ready.  I will also enjoy one day per week of cheat meals where I will truly eat whatever and however much I want.  Stay tuned for pictures of these epic cheat meals.