In February 2009 Felix Jaber joined ironguides after he had decided to make important and dramatic changes to his life a little over a year earlier. Tipping the scales at 130kg and facing health problems, Felix had committed to improving his health and losing weight. Along the way he realised that alcohol was part of the problem so he did something about it. Then he decided to become a triathlete. Working with ironguides coach Alun Woodward, Felix started with a goal to complete Cancun 70.3 in 2009. He did and is now training for his first Ironman. Here is his remarkable story.
“On October 2007 I was tipping the scale on 130+kg and about to become sick as I was diagnosed with border-line high blood pressure and my blood profiles were off the charts. I knew something had to be done so I started to walk my dog and to go to the gym occasionally to ride the stationary bike as I still thought at that time that it could be done effortlessly and without major changes in lifestyle. Was I wrong. Like that I would go one week exercising and doing healthy things and the next doing nothing but drink and eat.
“At least something good had happened: I had decided not to be fat any more. I just had to find out the way to do it. The months went by and I would lose 2kg and then gain 1 1/2 kg back. In April 2008 I realised that I was not going to have a lasting weight loss until I stopped drinking as alcohol triggers my overeating and the laziness.
“So just like that on April 27, 2008, I stopped drinking with plans of re-starting down the road when I had achieved my weight-loss goals. In June I started to attend AA meetings where I found out that I had a bigger problem with alcohol than I thought. Meanwhile kilos started to vanish little by little as I would walk in the mornings and do some stationary bike in the afternoon before the AA meetings. After three months in AA I was starting to get depressed and I was eating more and more, besides the doughnuts in the meetings, for the same reason. I hit my first plateau. I was already down to 119kg.
“I like to think outside the box, so I started to investigate alternatives to my alcohol problem: I didn’t buy the AA claims that they are the only treatment to alcoholism and that you are forever an alcoholic and all their mumbo jumbo. I came across an internet page named Rational Recovery http://rational.org and it was as if they took a blindfold from my eyes. I just did what they said and, voila, I was cured and rescued from the slavery of going to daily meetings for the rest of my life. I haven’t gone back ever since.
“As I was feeling better I started to train a bit harder. In November I decided I was going to do triathlons so I ordered my bike. I even committed quite a large sum of money on my brand-new Cervelo P3C–I had neither ridden a bike in 20 years nor swum in 20 years. I was down to 112kg in January 2009.
“On January 3, 2009, I went for my first bike ride in 20 years after swimming my first lap in also 20+ years the previous day. I signed up with Mark Allen online for six weeks as a trial and with all the volume I started to lose weight very fast.
“Then, again me thinking outside the box, I started searching the internet for other methods of training until I ran across the ironguides page from which I downloaded whatever there was to download. I got in touch with Marc who convinced me of the merits of The Method so I signed on in February to start working with you. My weight was down to 105kg and descending. It started to go down very slowly and by the time of Cancun 70.3 it was down to 95kg. In the two weeks prior and after the 70.3 race I went back again to 98kg and there is where we started this conditioning phase. The addition of weight training and the beach sprints, coupled with the primal diet, have made a remarkable change: I’m down to 85kg and a size-30 waist.
“Now people are starting to tell me not to lose any more weight! I have also the problem that even if my waist is 30, most pants are made with slim legs so I have to buy 32s and reduce the waist as they are too big. I never thought I would ever have to do that! New wardrobe on the way.”
Coach Alun on Felix:
When I started working with Felix in February of 2009 the goal was to get ready for Cancun 70.3. That gave us a great 7 months in which to develop, gain fitness and lose weight along the way. This enabled us to perfectly adopt the BRICK by BRICK approach we use at ironguides and show just how effective it truly is.
Given Felix’s health and weight, our plan was to develop fitness with the swim and bike. We kept run-training to a minimum and the focus was on developing solid motor patterns and leg strength to reduce injury risk down the line as we increased volume. This was highly effective as we are now 12 months further and Felix has remained injury-free.
Through the whole process communication was very important. Getting a detailed weekly report from Felix allowed me to monitor progress and ensure all was well. Looking back it’s amazing to see that he improved every week, without stalling. It truly was step by step and it was great to see Felix finish Cancun 70.3 in 7hrs 23mins to achieve our first goal together. Along the way to finishing Felix has shown a great talent on the bike and his sub 3-hour bike split in Cancun is just the start!
FROM FINISHING TO PERFORMANCE
While the first goal with Felix was simply finishing 70.3, the aim now turned to performance. Felix has moved from back of the pack to mid-pack in his local races and this advancement is sure to continue on this race season. The past few months have been so successful that Felix is now entered and aiming for Ironman Cozumel, held in November 2010.
NUTRITION AND WEIGHT LOSS
Training does play a part in weight loss. But especially in the beginning of a weight loss plan the nutritional strategy plays a much bigger role. With endurance training most athletes looking to lose weight miss the point that more training makes you hungrier, not less hungry, and this can work against continued weight loss.
With Felix my plan was a gradual, step by step process–TOTAL change from the start does not work as it is not maintainable.
This was simply structured training, no big changes in nutrition. The key here is to not over-stress the body as too many changes at one time can be too much.
Once a training regime was developed and moving along well we cut carbs from the evening meal to promote better sleeping and increased fat burning at night. This was a big step for Felix and the changes were amazing, in his own words:
“I would like to share with you now that you ask about the quality of my sleep, not just my sleep has improved but almost every part of my life: now I sleep better, I eat better and enjoy food more, my mental sharpness has become like when I was younger, I’m way more agile and stronger, even sex has become more enjoyable. My work has also become more enjoyable and I have become more productive as I have more energy throughout the day!
“When I was doing just endurance training I was always tired–I even had to rest one or two full days a week. Now I haven’t stop training for more than 3 weeks. I have traveled (me driving) more than, 3000km or 2000 miles, not sleeping in my own bed. As I’m writing this I feel very energetic and it is past 9:30pm. I know that when I hit my bed I´ll be asleep in no time. Our wake-up time is 5:45am every week day! Of course I have some aches and pains, but of a good nature–the kind that you have when you know that you had a great workout and that you will improve as a result of these aches and pains!
“The weight has been coming off at a rate of 500 to 750 grams per week and I haven’t been home much. I have been eating out a lot. The next three weeks I’ll be staying home so I’ll be more careful with what I eat so I’ll be more successful. Also I have to note I have been bulking up in my upper body so the fat net loss must be higher as I’m already starting to see some abdominal muscles through my still large layer of fat! Thanks for your concerns and I’m really glad I found ironguides!”
Back to coach Alun:
Using the off-season to maximum effect. After Cancun 70.3 and in the off-season we decided to take the weight loss on again as his weight had stabilized for some time. I added one more restriction to Felix’s diet, that of NO WHEAT, and I added highly anabolic sessions to his training to really boost growth hormone production. These sessions were beach sprints and weights.
BEACH SPRINTS – This is a great session and was always done fasted on a Sunday morning. This session of 8x 40 seconds ALL OUT sprints with 3 minutes minimum recovery is probably the most effective TOTAL body workout. Take into account I built Felix up for this with at least eight months of training first– jumping straight into a session like this is a recipe for injury. This session takes 40 minutes and gave Felix a full day with his family feeling great with hormones flowing through the body. On these Sundays the priority was to not eat ANY CARBS to ensure we did not turn off the hormone production!!
WEIGHTS – Again this was purely for the hormone effect over specific strength gains. As the sprints, it was a short session but with heavy weights. We followed a simple routine of 3 sets of 5 lifts on exercises that stimulated the central nervous system to ensure maximal hormone secretion. Dead Lifts,
Squats, Pull Ups are classic examples of such exercises.
The results have been amazing and we have seen another 10kg loss in just over two months. The elimination of wheat has further increased energy levels and resulted in a huge loss of stomach fat. One of Felix’s only worries with the weight loss was that he would need to have excess skin removed via
surgery but (you can see from the photos) this is not required. I think this speaks volumes for following primal nutrition and allowing the body’s genes to express themselves as nature intended. I loved reading Felix’s updates and he was always off to eat “HALF A COW” after his sessions!
So we have seen Felix go from more than 130kg to 86 right now and our goal is to get his weight below 80kg. As we approach the season we are working on our first true speed block with running and it’s great to see the progress. We are both excited to start racing and see the rewards. Our next big goal will be Orlando 70.3 this May and I will be making the trip out to see Felix in action and meet his family!
Alun ‘Woody’ Woodward, Certified ironguides Coach – UK/Hungary
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