Updated August 10, 2019.
Please take that into account that I am not a personal trainer or a nutritionist or a doctor. These are my opinions and perspectives gleaned from my own experience.
My Instagram comments, my DMs, and my emails are usually pretty filled with questions like these:
“What’s your workout routine?”
“Do you just swim? Or do you do other kinds of cardio too? Do you lift?
“What do you eat? How do I lose weight like you?”
“What exercises do you do for you [insert muscle group here]?”
“How do I get a V-line like you??”
And the two most important things I have to say about diet/workout are as follows:
- Food & diet: I never diet. I do not endorse dieting. I believe in intuitive eating — feeding my body what it asks of me and enjoying my food.
- Exercise: I workout because I want to and for no other reason. Even when I was competing in college, I did so because I absolutely love swimming. I do not workout for looks, or to “be a man,” or prove my masculinity, or because I am “supposed” to. I workout because I love it.
Let’s dive a little deeper.
FOOD AND DIET
Now for a bit longer explanation, starting with the questions about food: it is really important to me to express: I DO NOT ENCOURAGE DIETING OR RESTRICTING INTAKE. (Except for allergy or other similar health reasons.) I don’t believe in calorie counting. I don’t endorse IIFYM. I don’t believe in reverse dieting, in low-carb-no-sugar-whatever-diets, in weight watchers – you get the idea. I don’t agree with the concept of restricting food for weightloss or so-called ‘health’ purposes.
I believe in wholesome intuitive eating. In summary, intuitive eating means giving your body what it asks for. Our bodies have been honed by literally thousands of years of evolution to provide hunger and fullness cues, and adapt when food changes. That is, our bodies know what we need and if we give them what they ask for, they will calibrate and ask for items in moderation. This philosophy rejects the idea that some foods should be ‘forbidden.’ Yes, some foods aren’t nutritionally great for you. But in moderation, your body is very able (again, thanks to evolution) to adjust. If these foods aren’t forbidden, you won’t get crazy cravings for them. You eat dessert every now and then and it becomes normal – not overly desired. And then salads become interesting and desired appropriately, too. (Salad is just an example I’m using because people tend to categorize it as the “Healthy” person’s food.)
As enumerated on their website and in their book, Intuitive Eating, the 10 principles of intuitive eating are as follows:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Respect Your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
- Respect Your Body
- Exercise—Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health
Read more about the science and practice of “intuitive eating” here.
My point overall point is that I don’t think that dieting or restricting is good for you unless you have food allergies or some other real medical reason. It’s obsessive, it can often lead to disordered eating and sometimes eating disorders, and, in my opinion, it can degrade the quality of life. So I do not subscribe to that culture nor do I promote it. I eat whatever I want. The only thing I try to do is make sure I have a good balance of protein and some sort of carbs but when I say that, I mean it incredibly loosely – I try to have some sort of meat and some sort of rice or bread or something on my plate at every meal. And sometimes that doesn’t happen. Maybe we have pasta night or maybe I have a huge steak; sometimes I don’t have a balanced meal and the world doesn’t end. In fact sometimes it gets a little brighter because who doesn’t love a giant bowl of hot ramen??
To reiterate: I work out and lift because I love it. It is a way to connect with my body. I have been an athlete my entire life and this is my peace — a time to turn off my ever-chattering brain, a time to just be with my body and really ground myself in my body.
BUT THIS DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THE SAME FOR YOU! You do NOT have to workout if you don’t want to!
I find the pressure to workout rampant on Instagram, in the media, everywhere, really. And especially among the trans masculine community. It’s like you take T and suddenly you have go the gym and turn into the hulk in order to be truly a man. This is so harmful and perpetuating of toxic masculinity. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GO TO THE GYM TO BE A MAN OR MANLY. You do not have to lift. You do not have to run. You don’t have to be big and strong to be a man. You need to do ONE thing in order to be a man: Identify as a man.
If you like working out, and YOU want to work out, go for it. I love it, and that’s why I do. But if I stopped, I’d still be me; a man. Manhood is not how many heavy things you can pick up and set down, or how many centimeters your arms are, or how many protein shakes or supplements you drink. Your manhood is yours. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.
Philosophy and psychology behind working out aside, explanation of my routine splits into two main categories: during my swim career, and after.
When I swam in college (on Harvard Men’s Swim and Dive), we had nine practices a week for two hours each. Usually 6-7 of these were all swimming, 2-3 were an hour of lifting and an hour of swimming.
I didn’t ever other cardio other than swimming. I biked and skateboarded around but that was just for fun and transportation and I wouldn’t consider it cardio. In terms of strengthening exercises and weights, like I said before, with my team, I lifted 2-3x a week. We did lots of plyometrics and core-stabilizing exercises on the TRX. Push-ups, rows, weighted split squats, pull-ups, etc.
Nowadays, my swim career is over (for the time being) and so I’ve begun to pursure other athletic avenues. I think I’d like to do triathlons, but running is an extreme weak point for me. So I’ve begun there. At the advice of some of my friends (namely, Chris Mosier) I’ve started very small. I began running 8-12 minutes pretty sporadically during June and towards the beginning of July, I got myself on a more regular schedule of 3-4x a week. Over the 5 weeks since truly committing, I’ve increased my time/distance to 20-28 minutes and 2-3 miles! I’m very excited about this process.
In terms of lifting — I absolutely love strength training so I’ve done a significant amount of research about these training programs just for fun. During the month of July (2019), I did a 6-day-split and lifted nearly every day. I very much enjoyed the challenge (I’d never lifted so consistenly and frequently) and the trying of so many new exercises, but I quickly learned that lifting that frequently was too much for me and I felt like it was taking over my life a little. So I’m currently (August, 2019) testing out a 4-day-split, and I’ll update this later about how that goes!
Here are a few relevant Instagram posts I’ve made about this:
View this post on Instagram
I work out & lift because I love it. It is a way to connect with my body. I have been an athlete my entire life and this is my peace — a time to turn off my ever-chattering brain, a time to just be with my body and really ground myself in my body. BUT THIS DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THE SAME FOR YOU! You do NOT have to workout if you don’t want to! I find the pressure to workout rampant on Instagram, especially among the trans masculine community. It’s like you take T and then suddenly you hafta go the gym and turn into the hulk in order to be truly a man. This is so harmful and perpetuating of toxic masculinity. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GO TO THE GYM TO BE A MAN OR MANLY. You do not have to lift. You do not have to run. You don’t have to be big and strong to be a man. You need to do ONE thing in order to be a man: Identify as a man. If you like working out, and YOU want to work out, man, go for it. I love it, and that’s why I do. But if I stopped, I’d still be me; a man. Manhood is not how many heavy things you can pick up and set down, or how many centimeters your arms are, or how many protein shakes or supplements you drink. Your manhood is yours. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. — Swipe also for a little reminder that flexing & angles & lighting & mirrors all affect what a picture looks like. That a picture is just that—a picture. That IG accounts are often galleries of everyone’s ~favorite~ pictures of themselves. That comparison is torturous and unkind to yourself. But of course, it is also human, and we all do it. When I find myself comparing, I try to instead to shift my focus to a celebration of the other person’s happiness. Of their fight. Because that’s really what all of this is in the end. Our lives, as a storyboard ❤️ — #transgender #trans #transmasculine #workingout #bodypositive #bodyimage #selfcare #selfcompassion #bodycomparison #comparisonisthethiefofjoy #iweigh
View this post on Instagram
Today during my workout, I watched myself do an exercise I previously hadn’t been able to do (due to shoulder instability) in college and felt immensely proud. I felt strong and powerful and so connected with my body. I have worked patiently through so many injuries – a broken back, 3 torn shoulder ligaments, genetic defects in both my feet, and more. But I have healed — with rest and (hard-learned) compassion for my body. So today I found myself thinking about a comment someone left on a recent post of mine: “I agree with your commentary [about how you do not have to workout to be a man] […] but that takes dedication and focus!” and I realized that sometimes I do not feel I can be proud of what my body looks like — I’m worried I’ll perpetuate toxic masculinity & the belief that everyone must work out, or enforce something about body standards that I do not intend to. So I had a little chat with myself: I am absolutely allowed to be proud of my body. My muscles, my strength, my healing, and my connection. I am proud of my body and how it looks because I have worked hard on it while simultaneously learning to accept and see beauty however my body is. And most of all, I am proud because I feel empowered & powerful — because this is something I choose to do. It is a way for ME to build a good relationship with my body. To communicate self care. And I am proud of this practice. And I am proud of my body. Thankful for this comment that reminded me to be proud of my hard work and dedication athletically. Thankful for all of you here for your constant encouragement ❤️ — #transgender #bodypositive #selfcare