“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
I bought Get Strong when it first came out at the introductory price, and eagerly read it in a day or two. I was no stranger to calisthenics and it looked like a great program… that I would start as soon as I finished up what I was doing at the time. At the time, I didn’t even consider entering the 16-week challenge.
I was also not paying close enough attention to my nutrition, even though I was keeping up with my workouts. Mostly owing to my love of craft beer, my weight had crept up to an all-time high. I remember feeling just blah. I didn’t move as well, and my belly was pressing into my shirt–worse yet, it was pressing into my Army (National Guard) uniform. That was it, I decided I needed to fix this! But, was the Get Strong 16 Week Transformation Challenge still going on?
So, I squeeked my entry in at the last minute, and took my Phase 1 Test on June 30th. Checking my log, I beat the test standards on every exercise except for the active hang. My grip gave out right at the 60 second mark on that one.
I got motivated to build an outdoor bodyweight gym, and did that as a 4th of July project.
Onward into Phase 2!
Phase 2 was a wake-up call for me. I had a solid foundation already, so I passed weeks 1-4 as written with no issues. Slow, controlled reps, I even spent extra time on the handstands. But, the Phase 2 test was another story. I failed on handstands, so it was back to weeks 3 and 4. I failed again, so rinse and repeat!
During this time, we also took our family vacation. Since Get Strong just relies on something to step up on and pull on (and the workouts are short) I could keep up with my Phase 2 workouts on vacation without it detracting from family time, even while camping!
Back from vacation, I was able to pass those pesky Phase 2 handstands and move on to Phase 3. Phase 3 was a lot of fun, I enjoyed the split routines and extra volume devoted to the upper and lower body on their respective days. Handstands remained a challenge and while I passed week 3 as written, it was at the raggedy edge of my ability. So, I camped out in week 4 for a few weeks and just passed the Phase 3 test on October 23rd.
I met my goal of getting to Phase 4 by the end of the 16-week challenge timeline. I know the real work is just beginning as I work steadily towards the Phase 4 test.
By focusing on my workouts, dialing in my nutrition, and eliminating most of the empty beer calories, perhaps dabbling with intermittent fasting (thanks for the tip Al!), I have made tremendous progress over these 16 weeks. The stats: I lowered my body fat by 7%–from 16% down to 9% (digital caliper measured). I dropped 23lbs and lost six and a half inches from my belly and over three inches from my waist! More importantly, I look and feel better than I did a decade ago when I returned from a tour in Afghanistan, and I was in great shape then.
The final bonus of this journey is that I witnessed a really cool culture of fitness develop within my family. The kids (8, 8, and 13) call the bodyweight rig the “ninja gym” after American Ninja Warrior and love playing on it. They also all knocked out at least one chin-up after getting inspired by watching me work out. My wife is feeling left out as the only one in the family who can’t do one. That won’t last, however. She’s now passed her phase 1 test and is determined to surpass her chin up goal!
Brian Stramel is the Grand Prize Winner of The GET STRONG 16-Week Transformation Challenge