Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hello, Seth here....

So I realized that it has been a little while since Michael started this blog up, and I have yet to post, so I thought that I would rectify that.  Hello, my name is Seth Bosch.  Alright, well that is my post, thanks for reading.....  Oh, it needs to be longer than that.... And needs to be more.  Alright fine...

I have known Michael Ball for around 20 years; he is my best friend, and I miss getting to workout with him so much (1000 miles makes that difficult).  Whereas Michael is the Science Guy, I have always been the Math Guy, because of that I am not as good of a writer as Michael, so I ask you to bear with me as I find my voice in this blog.  When Michael asked me to do this I was not sure if I really wanted to do it, because I am not a strong writer, am not sure about how interesting my posts will be, and my workouts, that I have been doing by myself, have not been that interesting as of late. But then in thinking about it, I realized that those are the exact reasons why I should do it.  I need to push myself in areas that I'm not strong in, because after all That's How We Build.

To give you a little history, I grew up in Rutland, Vermont, where I met Michael. I was there from just before I turned five to a few months after I turned 24.  I went to a small Christian school that had its largest graduating class to-date the year I graduated, with seven students.  During high school I played Soccer all four years, and Basketball for my freshman year, and weighed around 200 lbs.  I have never been in super amazing shape, and during high school, it was only the afore-mentioned sports for exercise, and that was it: no gym, no weights and definitely no running.  Then college came around, and I went to a state college with a full scholarship, one of the benefits of graduating from such a small school and being second in my class.  People talk about the freshman 15, and I honestly don't think it was in the freshman year that I put on my weight, but I don't remember for sure. I worked out once during that first year in college that I remember, and I still have the scar to prove it (and the nickname Mortal Head Wound Seth from Michael's brother, Daniel). I will share that story in a later post.  I had a few stints in college where I was very active; I took a racquetball course for an extra credit and fell in love with the sport. I met a friend that started working out with me and for a semester we were exercising 5 times a week.  Eventually our schedules got out of sync, and I stopped going as regularly for quite some time.  Then I got out of college and was working one job full time.  I used the extra time that I had at the gym, going five days a week for, at the minimum, an hour a day.  At that time I also became much more regimented about what I ate. Looking back at it now I was probably only eating 1500 to 2000 calories a day, which helped me lose about 65 lbs. When I really got into working out at this time, I was between 280 and 300 lbs, and a year and a half  to two years later I was down to 215.  This was the weight I was at when I moved to Florida, and when I got here I didn't keep all of my good habits: I stopped being as regimented with my diet and didn't work out for about 6 months.  In that time I put back on about 35 lbs.  I stayed at that weight for quite some time, roughly 2 years, but that has been changing as of late.  As of writing this I am at 225 and dropping, and there are several factors that I can attribute to this, which I will get into later.  I am very excited about my progress and have my goal set for lower than I was content with before.

My Current Stats (I don't have some of the accuracy that Michael does):
27 years old
6 ft tall (like Michael am really just under, but nobody asked you)
225 lbs
36-38 inch waist
rough estimate of body fat% - I would say between 20% - 30%

Stop aging
Grow Taller
Lose Weight
Lose Inches at the Waist
Lower My Body Fat %
Get Stronger
(Well, the bottom four are my real goals anyway)

I look forward to sharing my progress and insights as I travel on this journey with Michael and any of you out there that dare take it with us.  

P. S. If you think that my writing is not that bad, my wonderful wife, Stephanie, helped me fix it up so that it was not a jumbled mess!  Love you, Stephanie!!

P. P. S. I decided that my post needed an unusual Arnold picture!  Hope you enjoyed it!!  Because "It's fantastic!"

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Body Fat % (feat. BMR & TDEE)

It has always been important for me to record my progress in some way. For example, I record what weights I used the last time I did a particular workout and how many times I moved said weight from point A to point B. If I don't have a planned workout where I can document my progression day to day and week to week, I cannot feel motivated. I think it's important to have not only an objective but also, inherent with many goals, the ability to observe success. There should be some relatively consistent metric of success that is directly pertinent to your objective.

What is your objective in fitness? What goals do you have in mind, and how are you measuring your success?

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but my current immediate goals strictly pertaining to my natural fitness are simply:

My Goals

  • Gain strength (gain 5-10 pounds muscle in as many months)
    • Maintain BF%
  • Discover a diet (read long term changes in nutritional health) that works for me
  • 3-5 days of exercise a week
  • 2-3 hours of cardio. a week
My first goal may seem very broad or generic, and that's why I included the parenthesis including a potential indirect measurement. I believe that increasing my strength is probably the most realistic and important thing I can focus on right now regarding my fitness and what I'm looking to achieve (here's looking at you, Captain America). I fluctuate in weight daily by about 1-3 pounds, and someone that is larger than me and wanting to lose weight will differ even more day to day. Additionally, for someone who is looking to gain healthy weight, the truth is that one can expect maybe 1-2 pounds of muscle gain a month with proper and dedicated nutrition coincident with a consistent workout regiment.

For the past four weeks, I've increased my caloric intake (trying for lots of protein and some carbs on workout days, and protein and fruits and healthy fats on off/cardio days) and have spent a minimum of 3 days at the gym a week, with strength training workouts that last typically 1 hr 45 min to 2 hours. I have gone from a weekly average weight of 171 lbs to 170 lbs. So, I don't believe that using weight as a readout on it's own is a very accurate or healthy way to gauge success. At least for me. I am getting stronger, and my musculature in general is looking a little more defined, so there is a better way to determine my success. In my research thus far, aka reading endless opinions, blogs, and forums on the internet (and inevitably Nerd Fitness), diet seems to be the #1 aspect of success regardless of what your goals are (lose fat, gain muscle, perfect djent crab-core rocker stance). Following that, the next integral ingredient is just unpasteurized, calcium-laden determination. I'll get there!

I want to include here, as if this wasn't obvious (though I think we do all forget from time to time), that everyone is different. Genetic predispositions can lead one to retain fat at a much higher rate than others, while for others gaining muscle seems to happen in their sleep. What's important is that we discover for ourselves what we've been given at the starting line, and not use any of it as an excuse. We all have different propensities in all areas of fitness, and if something comes more arduously and painfully for us than for others, it's important we get our mental attitude about it right. It doesn't mean we can't do it, or it just isn't fair, but instead simply means we have to work that much harder for it. The truth is, you are the only one that can live your life. It doesn't matter if someone else can "eat whatever they want and stay so thin without even trying!", they're playing a different game of life, and their rules don't apply to you.

So now I'll describe what I've decided to try as my metrics for success. Firstly, my goals are to gain strength and get bigger. I don't want to ride 200 miles on a bike, or run a 6 minute mile, or lose 10 pounds, or do a back-flip. Maybe do a back-flip. Regardless, I won't be gauging my success by how well I can do those things - makes sense, right? 

My Metrics For Success

  • Am I lifting heavier weights?
    • Use a couple benchmark lifts (bench press, dead lift, squat...)
  • Measurements
    • Chest, waist, thighs, biceps, etc... I use this tape measure.
    • Body Fat (BF) %
    • Weight (yes, weight so I can get a calculation for BF)
  • Progress Pics
    • Sometimes it's hard to see the changes in the short term.
  • Attitude
    • Am I happy? Gotta be honest with yourself.

Now brace yourself. What follows is a series of screen shots detailing what I use to calculate my BF%, my basal metabolic rate (BMR; how many calories my body needs to stay alive and function optimally), and my total daily energy expenditure (TDEE; how many calories I need to maintain the weight I am at). Also, my opinions. So, if you're interested in these things for curiosity sake or to try yourself, here it is.

The site I use for the calculations is falled

The first of these tools we'll be looking at is the Military Body Fat calculator. I've tested other versions of tape-measure based body fat calculations, and I have found that the Military Body Fat calculator tends to lie in the middle, and from what I've read, is typically only ~1 % off of the more accurate caliper measurement methods. For the absolute best BF % calculations, you will need to find a facility where they do submersion analysis, where you float in a tank. Yes, it does sound like fun!

Here are my measurements:

The math if you're interested: 

Male = 495/(1.0324-0.19077(log(w-n))+0.15456(log(h)))-450
Female = 495/(1.29579-0.35004(log(w+h-n))+0.22100(log(h)))-450
Variables: n = neck, h = height, w = waist, h = hips

And the readout:

Here is a chart of what your body fat calculation means, according to the American Council on Exercise: 

Mine was 12.6% last week, and 13.4% this week, but that difference could be simply be because I took measurements at different times of the day. So, consistency is key - for me, I am choosing to take my measurements on Saturday mornings, after coffee but before food from now on.

Now, onto the calorie stuff! Again, everyone is different - a unique snowflake of predisposition, predilection, and environment. Our bodies interact with calories differently from each other, but the basic premise of more calories out than in (for weight loss; reverse that for weight gain) stands true for everyone. Some individuals have inefficient fat cells, which means when your body needs energy, they are greedy and won't let energy (fat) out, make you crave more input (food). Luckily, I learned from my favorite fitness site that several studies have demonstrated that regardless of genetic differences, we all fall within 200-300 kcal of each other on the scale of metabolic efficiency

Moving on.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

Your BMR is how many calories everything in your body burns excluding your fat tissue (aka, lean body mass). These are the calories you need to live. TDEE, is a calculated estimate of how many calories you need to consume in order to maintain or achieve increased/decreased weight. Now that I have my BF%, I can calculate these numbers.

The reason you put in your CURRENT weight into both the CURRENT and GOAL weight section is to determine your TDEE. If you want to lose weight at a certain activity level, aim for calories below that number. For example, my BMR and TDEE:

It's the Katch-Mcardle Formula that takes into account your lean body mass based on your BF%. 

[Maths, because Seth likes that sort of thing]

Harris-Benedict Formula: 

  • MenBMR = 66.473 + (13.7516 x weight in kg) + (5.0033 x height in cm) – (6.7550 x age in years)
  • WomenBMR = 655.0955 + (9.5634 x weight in kg) + (1.8496 x height in cm) – (4.6756 x age in years)

Katch-McArdle Formula:

  • P = 370 + (21.6*LBM)

My understanding of the derivation of these coefficients and combinations of numbers is that they were formed based on indirect measurements of metabolism via gas exchange rates amongst large populations. Additionally, the TDEE calculations are based on multiplying the Harris-Benedict results by some coefficient depending on which activity level category you fall into.

I'm not big into calorie counting, though I've tried it at times, like when I used to think I needed to lose weight, and it was unhealthy for me. But, in my quest of building mass now, I may need to start paying a little more attention to it again.

This has already become a very long post, so I will sign off for now. I hope some of you are able to use this information to form an adequate series of metrics to measure your success towards your fitness goals. For me, this is my starting point. In a few months, or maybe even sooner, I plan to post some progress pictures.

Thanks for reading! Go forth and be fit.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Making fitness a priority

I have decided to make fitness a priority. 

Not just because of the sweet, sweet gains. Not because I’m vain and want mirrors to shatter on the edges of my startlingly chiseled rectus abdominis, and certainly not because I have too much time to kill.

The reality is I am making it a priority because I know it has the potential to supplement, power, and drive all other aspects of my life. Steve Kamb, author of the fitness/health website Nerd Fitness, recently published an article talking about this very topic and his personal experience with it: Why You Need to BeSelfish And Put Fitness First (contains some adult language). I highly recommend Nerd Fitness to anyone wanting to get fit, and especially those that are nerds at heart like me, and enjoy thinking of things in the context of our nerdom. In brief, he relates how he has put fitness first the past 13 months, and seen remarkable changes in his life, not just physically, but in all aspects. Some of the key points:

  •  Simply, if you put fitness first, you will get fit.
    • "Not today" or "I can’t" are not even options.
  • You will be forced to be efficient to make time for your health.
    • At work, at home, everywhere. And you’ll have the energy to do it!
  •  You will save money in the long run (efficiency is key)
  • You will realize that you have more time than you thought.
    • You will find what has been taking your time and what isn’t a priority to you.

Sure, it sounds all well and good. But you actually have to do it. So many of us are convinced that there just isn’t the time or means to do it. But there is! Our lives feel packed to the brim and overflowing, but a lot of that is perception and a lot of that is unnecessary (hardest word to spell ever) garbage that doesn’t reflect what we truly want out of our lives or for ourselves. There is a way to do it. We could complain all year long about how we wish we could stick with it/be healthier/start eating better, or we could make the commitment and necessary sacrifices to do it. One point of advice that was particularly helpful to me from the Nerd Fitness article was to stop thinking about fitness in terms of days and weeks, and think about it in terms of months and years. It’s about months and years. This is a lifestyle, with real benefits, but you have to live it.

In my personal experience, and I would expect many people can relate, I would work out consistently for a few months, and feel the best I’ve ever felt. I would say things like “I just feel so much better when I’m working out!” or “I know that when I’m working out and getting enough sleep I am at my best: positive, energized, confident - I need to keep this up!” Then, inevitably, the late night study session or sleepy mid-week-workout-wimp-out occurs, and I’m off my game. One thing leads to the next, and before I know it I’m sitting at my computer 4 months later wondering where all the time has gone, and resembling the chair-bound blimp people in the movie WALL-E. I can no longer accept “I just want to relax” or “I need to skip the gym to get this work done” as excuses for not being committed to my health. If I ever do accept these things, then I will never get to where I want to be.

This all of course is in the context of being the healthiest I can. So, in case of an injury or medical situation, I will obviously do what I need to and limit what I need in order to get better and keep making progress. That brings us back to thinking in terms of years, not weeks.

Lastly, I will say that this has much more to do with my being as a whole than my physical body. If I want to succeed and excel in the physical realm I need to interact with it in an optimal and efficient way. By making fitness a priority, it begins to filter out the excess garbage (as Steve Kamb says, "yes, you’ll probably need to give up a few crappy TV shows"), builds discipline, and clears my mind and only facilitates my conversations in my spirit. When I think about my body ‘as a temple’, I don’t think about it all religious-y with the idea that I have to make it pretty for Jesus to come live inside. But instead, it makes much more sense to think about it in the context of 1) yes a temple should be beautiful and well maintained, but mainly 2) if things are supposed to get done and business is supposed to be taken care of, the temple must be clean and efficient and able to move. It makes me think of Howl’s moving castle, but more elegant of a machine perhaps.

What are your thoughts about making fitness a priority? What are your reasons for not being able to? I am trying to convince you that you should care about it, why aren’t you convinced? Why are you convinced?

Live long and prosper,

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Little About Michael

Another welcome to THWB! Now, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Michael Ball, and I am graduate student at Dartmouth College studying tumor immunology; specifically the function and regulation of tumor associated macrophages within solid tumors, such as breast tumors. These cells are an integral part of your immune system which, in a healthy context, engulf pathogens (bugs), activate your adaptive immune system (antibodies and cells that kill other cells!), and produce many factors with a wide variety of inflammatory effects (ice until the swelling goes down). Conversely, they also play a pivotal role in immune-suppression so as to prevent autoimmunity (for example), dead cell removal, wound healing, and the development of new blood vessels.

The mighty macrophage, valliantly overthrowing
a tiny pez-worm regime! I think.. ::squints:: ... trust me. I'm a scientist.
This varietal, and even antithetical, repertoire of functions macrophages possess is critical for your body’s homeostasis. In the tumor, macrophages are tricked to believe there is a wound to heal and normal self-tissue to protect, and set about dampening immune responses that would otherwise get rid of the caner, encouraging new vessel growth that provides nutrients and oxygen needed for tumor growth, and even assist in destabilizing the extra-cellular matrix holding the tumor together allowing for potential metastases. My research is looking at reversing the role of these macrophages, convincing them engage in a more appropriate reaction to their surrounding environment. Macrophages that would enter the other potential activation state of inflammation and initiating an adaptive immune response would be detrimental to the cancer cells of most solid tumors. I personally believe that we, like the multifaceted macrophage (objectively the most important cell-type in the entire world), have such a capacity to interact with life and the universe. There is no strict dichotomy with regards to macrophages, i.e. pro- versus anti-inflammatory, but instead they exist along a spectrum of activation states, modifying their response via cues from, and interactions with their environment. We do it too. And sometimes, we don’t quite get our response right. And sometimes, we get it completely wrong, or are tricked by what’s around us that we are interacting with to perform in a manner entirely detrimental to the body.

Part of my desire in writing THWB is to address the reality that there are aspects of my life, each instance to the next, that I can react in much, even much much, dare I say much3, better. Not all of them need to be addressed, but then again, one can live a very long time with a host of ailments. Grand analogy/ research tie-in aside, the way we treat our bodies and what we put in them has remarkable consequences for our health. For example, research done in the United Kingdom suggests that 32% of the most common cancers in the UK are entirely preventable by lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise, not smoking/ reduced alcohol intake[1]. Overweight and obesity is a category that as of 2008, accounts for 68% of our adult population here in the USA[2] (obesity accounts for over one third of the US population, or 35%[3]). The stats for ages 2-20 year olds isn’t much better. There is a host of diseases associated with overweight and obesity alone, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and different cancers. And those listed are some of the main causes of preventable death. For a list of some of the cancers currently known to have attributable risk associated with overweight and obesity and some information in regards to the research, you can look at the National Cancer Institute’s website[2] (albeit a little outdated in my opinion). In reality though, talking about overweight and obesity only acknowledges the symptom of many changeable life-style choices. I’m not making a point of writing about this in order to condemn anybody or even myself. Instead, to me, this is some of the most hopeful information available in the news these days. I know I can make a difference in my own life, and not just decrease my chances of a slew of diseases (a nice effect though), but increase my ability to experience life and all that I am capable of; all that I was created to do. I’m not so foolish as to believe I won’t get sick if I work out constantly, or even that I’ll attain enlightenment from eating a Paleolithic diet, but I am equally not so foolish as to believe that simply because I have a relationship with my Creator that I can forgo the realities of his creation. If anything, those realities and necessities of life are part of what make it worth living, and what hone us and shape us into what is our true nature. Some people might think they don’t need medicine, to pay attention to what they eat, to exercise, because they want to enjoy life and because God will protect them. To that I would just say, paying attention to what goes into my body (oh man do I need to work on this!) and exercise only enhances how I enjoy life, and I do feel protected, but for some reason I still have to sleep, eat, and breathe. And that’s just the easy stuff.

Oh right, so about me. I am a graduate student, a musician, I’m learning to snowboard, and I want to be fit. 

My stats currently:

  • 6 feet ::read 5'  113/4''::
  • 170 lbs
  • Probably about 15% body fat (I will be posting about this later)
  • Work out 3-4 days a week (ideally)
  • At the moment eating whatever

My goals: 

  • Gain 1/4" in height ::deletes heading titled, "I can dream..."::
  • Gain 10 lbs while maintaining 15% BF or less (or whatever I'm at, better estimates to come)
  • Be conscious of what I'm eating, understand it
  • Make fitness a priority (some adult language)

I want you to be fit, too. I really do. I’d like you to get fit and to get fit with you! Let’s not just talk about what we’re going to do, let’s talk about what we did and what we are doing. Ask yourself, “am I going to workout/ eat a small dinner/ drink plenty of water today?” The answer is either yes or no. Pick one, and nothing in between. That’s how we build.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Welcome to That's How We Build, a blog about exercise, fitness, health, and et cetera! Before this fitness/progress/health science/pumped up kicks/opinion blog, I attempted something similar several years ago that quickly became my online food diary and then quickly died. Food diaries are a great and useful tool when trying to control your food intake, and I highly recommend doing it. If you take a picture of every meal you eat with your smart phone and let your eyes feast upon your gallery of gorging at the end of the day, a pretty profound realization of how much one actually consumes sets in. Regardless, I never intended that to become the entire focus on my blog HoldStronger, but nevertheless it did. What I was after was a place that I could use for delving into whatever health related topic I was on, keep track of my progress to hold myself accountable, and would essentially be an expression of the multifaceted reality of what it means to be healthy - and maybe even help someone looking for that same thing. It's a lot to keep track of, and the reality is no less daunting for each one of us that is trying to better ourselves. It is possible however, and I intend to see myself become all that I can be, mind and body. Today we begin again, not on my own this time but bolstered anew by my co-blogger and greatest of friends Seth Bosch, who thoroughly understands what it means to say "that's how you build!" A very real inspiration to me.

I'm not sure what form this blog will end up taking on as it develops, but I'm excited to see.  I have a feeling Seth and I can put together a mean blog. Feel free to join us on this adventure, message us, disagree with us, get fit with us! If there's a personal story you would like to share or something you would like us to look into, let us know. There are literally thousands of exercise blogs and health web sites that have tips, tricks, and topics galore, so what you'll find here is our exploration through all of that information, in search of truth and health and happiness and the elusive pump.
That pump.

Thank you for reading, and we hope your journey leads you to success in all you need to accomplish.

"I will persevere until I hold in my hand the dream I hold in my heart." ~ Apostle F. Nolan Ball