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I Spent A Year Trying To Bulk Up And Get Swole And This Is What Happened

Let's get real.

Hey, I'm Spencer. Last March I started this cool, intense fitness project where I basically tried to gain as much muscle mass as possible.

I ultimately gained 20 pounds in 12 weeks, and after the project was over I decided to continue with the workout and nutrition plans. Here are the most important things I learned in the last year.

1. Be patient, because you probably won't see changes immediately.

2. Celebrate the small victories as you're trying to achieve your overall goal.

3. Understand that your goals may change, and that's totally OK.

4. Keep in mind that there are some things you literally just can’t control.

I had a few setbacks throughout the year, ranging anywhere from a blizzard closing down my gym (shown above) to my getting sick.

Getting sick caused me to lose a ton of weight, which was the opposite of what I wanted. I ended up with the stomach flu at one point and missed multiple days at the gym, ultimately causing me to lose 9 pounds. I also had to get my wisdom teeth removed, which resulted in even more pounds lost and days off.

These random, uncontrollable obstacles totally sucked, and it took a lot of time and hard work to gain the weight back. But I learned that missing workouts was totally OK because it gave my body a chance to get extra rest and recovery, which actually helped my progress.

5. If you’re ever away or on vacation, be creative about new ways to get your workout in.

6. To make working out more fun, change up your routine and join classes tailored to your interests.

7. Don't set out to change the rest of your life — just start by making a 30-day commitment.

8. Find a way to make cooking less of a chore.

9. Try to keep track of all your workouts.

10. Instead of comparing yourself with other people, compare yourself with your old self.

I remember spending so much time looking at other people in the gym and in magazines and wishing I looked like them. I compared our bodies as a way to measure my success. It's totally fine that some people have specific goals tailored to their body composition, but doing this made me doubt my own progress.

To counter this, I started looking at old pictures of myself and thinking about all the things I couldn't do before starting my fitness journey. This allowed me to see how much progress I've actually made, and it motivated me to keep going.

11. Consider trying to become a morning workout person – it may help you meet your fitness goals.

12. Don’t deprive yourself of certain foods just because of your diet.

13. And don't give up on your social life or quit eating at your favorite restaurants.

14. Teach yourself about the foods you're eating and how they affect your results, but try not to obsess over it.

15. Find someone who's as committed to your journey as you are.

16. As a way to hold yourself accountable, share your goals with friends, family, or even coworkers.

17. And most importantly, you should continually try to discover new reasons to love yourself.

I spent my whole life questioning my own self-worth, and to be honest I sometimes still do. But my fitness journey helped me discover new things that I actually liked about myself. Some were physical attributes, like my butt, but others were about my character, like how determined I can be.

My relationship with my body has definitely changed too. I never thought I’d weigh more than 150 pounds (let alone hitting 165 when I finished my project). I just accepted it as a fact, because no matter how much I ate or worked out I could never put on the weight. But there was a moment last year when I got really sick and my weight was getting closer to that 150-pound mark again. Instead of letting the fear of falling below 150 control me, I tried to own it. I asked a friend from work, who’s a professional photographer and typically takes half-naked pics of guys, to take some photos of me (shown above on the left). Something clicked for me during the shoot, and for the first time I truly felt comfortable with myself. I’d normally be so shy in front of the camera and hate every picture that was taken, but this time I was actually feeling my look. My relationship with myself became less about the number on the scale and more about how I was actually feeling.

Being totally OK with my weight and body was sort of groundbreaking for me. I learned that my body and determination were a lot stronger than I originally thought. Wanting to look more fit was one thing, but actually feeling stronger was another.

Overall, continuing with my fitness journey has totally helped me push the boundaries of what I thought my body could do.

If you want to keep up with the rest of my journey, you can follow me on Instagram @SpencerAlthouse.