Monday, January 12, 2015

My Challenge To Me

This year I am going to make a major lifestyle change to improve the overall quality of my life and health.  I plan to use my blog to record everything that I do so I can be honest with myself and track my progress each day, week and month.   I will keep track of my cardio workouts with my Garmin Connect account and I will use My Fitness Pal for my food consumption and weight training.  My account on My Fitness Pal is public and you can find me under Hazelmark.  I will post daily links to the diary in the blog as well.

This is a permanent change but I want set a 8 week challenge to see what I can do if I push myself for 8 weeks to jumpstart this lifestyle change.

 The Lifestyle Change

I am thoroughly convinced that long-term health, energy and well being are directly related to the types of foods we consume.  For many years I have eaten relatively healthy but I could never get the right amount of calories from protein and carbohydrates dialed in to achieve my fitness goals.  I also ate an enormous amount of red meat, poultry and dairy while trying to fuel my body as I exercised.  So many people have health related issues from the food they are eating.  Whether it is heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes I don't want to be one of those statistics later in life.

I just finished the book "Finding Ultra" by Rich Roll. It is an awesome read and I highly recommend it for people who are trying to make a change or break through a wall.  It will inspire you to push forward and find ways to achieve your goals.

The main thing I took away from the book was that you can train at a very high level (I’m talking elite athlete level) fueled solely on a plant-based diet.  Not only that, but some believe that a plant-based diet actually increases performance and reduces recovery time.  Rich, a former competitive collegiate swimmer, realized at age 40 that his health and standard American diet, was a contributing factor his the decline of his health.  Within 2 years of changing his diet Rich completed a Ultraman: a three-day race covering 320 miles on the big island of Hawaii, including a 10-kilometer swim, more than 260 miles by bike and a double marathon run.  Rich proved that you can excel as an athlete while not consuming the red meat and poultry that the fitness industry tells us we need in order to be a “real” athlete.

Food Plan

I have already begun to change the things I am eating.   I begin each day with a 8 ounce glass of water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a slice of lemon.  Apple cider vinegar helps the body maintain a healthy alkaline Ph level.  My wife purchased me a Vitamix 5200 blender for Christmas and it has been a huge difference maker in making juices and smoothies for breakfast.  Each morning I make a drink that consists of fruits and vegetables. I have removed all meats and poultry from my everyday food consumption.

While Rich follows a strictly vegan diet, I feel that, given my travel schedule over the next 8 weeks, that would be setting myself up for failure.  For my challenge, I will eat a mostly vegetarian diet but I will occasionally have some fish and I will continue to eat eggs.  I am removing dairy products where I can but will not get crazy when I am eating out and the chef cooks with butter or cheese.  All the foods I eat will be logged in My Fitness Pal and you will be able to see my daily intake when I post the diary into my blog.


I have been fortunate over the last 6 years to have worked out with some amazing trainers including Dolvett Quince (from the Biggest Loser) Antares Brown, and La'Mere Cornelius.  They have pushed me to my max. They have given me the tools and routines to be successful and obtain my goals.  The challenge for me is to push myself without any help and to apply the principles I learned from them to get through that wall and reach the next level.

I plan to weight train every other day to allow my body to recover while also leaving time to do longer runs.  I recently completed my first half marathon this past November and I never really thought that was something I could do.  I finished in 2:07 and got the itch to work towards completing another one in less than 2 hours.  My cardio will consist of quarter mile sprints and speed work on my weight training days and long runs on my off days.  I would like to be over 25 miles a week and be pushing for over 30 miles week when I am 3 months out from a scheduled race.

Here’s my current workout plan:
Monday - 3 mile speed run - Chest and Legs
Tuesday - 5 mile run - Abdominals
Wednesday - 3 mile speed run - Back and Biceps
Thursday - 5 mile run - Abdominals
Friday - 3 mile speed run - Shoulders and Triceps
Saturday - 8 or more mile run
Sunday - rest or make up long run

Goals For 2015 

This challenge has an immediate goal (to improve my fitness) but it’s also part of bigger goals – my 2015 goals. I’ve outlined those goals below. 

1. Run a Half Marathon in less than 2 hours
2. Complete a Marathon 
3. Bench Press My Body Weight 10 Times 
4. 10 Pull Ups 
5. 170 pounds and 10% Body Fat 

I look forward to posting my progress on here but also hope to hear from some of you – what are your 2015 goals?  How do you plan to get there?  Tell me in the comments or shoot me an email – I’d love to hear from you!

Weight – 185 lbs
Body Fat – 21.4%
Body Mass Index – 26.5%
Chest – 42”
Waist – 35”
Right Bicep – 12”
Left Bicep – 12”
Right Quadriceps – 22”
Left Quadriceps – 22”
Right Calf – 15 ¼”
Left Calf – 14 3/4 “

Weight 01-12-15
Body Composition 01-12-15

Before Photo 01-12-15
Before Photo 01-12-15


  1. Good luck with this endeavor. I can't imagine getting chicken out of my life, but at least for now I am trying to take out processed sugars (since I really don't have much of a choice). What about the wine consumption? X

    1. Xman - I felt the same way about removing chicken and red meat but honestly I am not missing it. Granted I am eating fish several times a week which was my trade off. I have not taken out wine or other alcohol and have marked them down in my food diary. I might only have wine once a week and red wine only has about 40 calories a glass.

  2. Awesome Mark! Good luck with your goals. I have a Nutribullet that I love & My Fitness Pal App works great!!! I also have goals for 2015. Thanks for sharing & for your inspiration.

    1. S Kruk - Thanks for your comments. I love the drinks I am making in the Vitamix blender. We have a Breville Juicer but I really like the thickness of the drink coming from the Vitamix. I think that is the main reason why the drinks are filling me up so much compared to a what would come out of the Breville Juicer. It is very cool that Garmin and My Fitness Pal have partnered up so your information can be synced across both platforms. I wish there was a way to track calories burned for weight training but for now this is great and as long as you enter the information throughout the day it takes no time at all.

  3. Congrats as you embark on this journey! As the old saying goes, "It won't be easy, but it will be worth it." Astragalus root works wonders for rebuilding cells, aids in recovery after workouts and gives you a non-caffeine energy boost. Keep rockin'!

  4. This is motivating me to kick it up another notch in 2015.

  5. I'm working towards a Mudderella this July (6 mile obstacle course) - so it means I have to get some weight off me and particularly strengthen my core and my knees and get back into running for an overall fitness. I've been vegetarian since 1997, but I'm working towards eating a lot cleaner, healthier and a lot more homemade meals. Looking forward to reading about your journey Mark. Thanks for sharing it!

    1. Reggiemonster - Good luck with the Mudderella. I think if I can complete a Marathon this year I am seriously thinking about a Ironman in the future if I can find the time to train for it. I might have to start with Sprint Triathlons to get the hang of it. You might want to look at a juicer or blender for eating cleaner. I cannot believe the difference I am seeing by starting my morning with a Vitamix blended drink. It gives me so much energy and I can make it through a long run or a gym workout before needing something else to eat.

  6. Mark, I commend you on your goals for 2015. Just a caution, when people remove foods from their diets, those foods become more important to them, so when you have a "cheat meal" I would incorporate a small piece of chicken or beef. This way you don't set yourself up for failure. My goal for this year is to eat cleaner, and after 3 years in the gym and becoming a zumba instructor ( even at my age) I hired a trainer to reset my goals, as I don't need to be pushed anymore, gym is my drug and I cant get enough. Oh, and PS, sent me some Dovette!!! lol just kidding he would kill me I;m sure!