Erica Fricke: “How I Dropped 5% Body Fat”
Erica has undergone a noticeable transformation this year. What’s most important about the message from our perspective, is that she has done so through a mindset of addition, not subtraction. Here is her account.
Can you tell us where you’re from, age, what you do for work, how long you’ve been a member, and a little bit about yourself?
Hi! I’m 28 years old and I’m one of those native San Diegan unicorns people are always wondering about. I work at Qualcomm and manage our global WAN inventory (internet connectivity between all of our offices). While it seems like I’ve been here forever, I’ve been a member at P360 for a little over two years. Fun Erica Fact Time!: I have more leggings than jeans and shoes combined; only two are all black. Deadlifts are my favorite lift. I bake when I’m bored, and then give all the treats away. Favorite food is a toss-up between mac and cheese or cinnamon rolls. Can I just have a plate of both, please? Aaaaaand I’m saying it. Cats > Dogs.
What are your “highlight” results since joining?
Seriously everything. Strength has gone up considerably due to the coaching and programming. I came in with a 205# deadlift and just last month pulled 330#. The most weight I previously put above my head was a 45# barbell, now I can split jerk 145#. Thinking that a “clean” involved a vacuum to actually cleaning 145#. 215# squat. REAL pull-ups! 38” box jump with no shin damage! Shaving seconds off PPB’s during retests. Highlight’s aren’t just strength related either. My body composition has greatly changed from two years ago. I’m sitting at pretty much the same weight I joined at, but I’m leaner and have more muscle. Overall summary- I’m lifting MORE weight, I’m eating MORE food, taking MORE rest days, and working out LESS
How did you hear about the gym? What did you do beforehand and what caused you to join?
I probably didn’t step foot in a gym until I was 21/22. I didn’t play sports as a kid because I would rather be playing video games. When I first was starting out I tried a bunch of things. Running 5+ miles every day after work (believe it or not). Zumba classes. Boxing circuits. Eventually the gym I was at started offering strength classes and I fell in love with lifting heavy things and wanted a bigger challenge. My friend knew this and said I should come with her to a class at P360. I somehow remember my 6am trial class involved five minutes of non-stop burpees. As exhausted as I was, I was immediately hooked and wanted to do EVERYTHING (especially work on deadlifts). Which leads to the next question…
What was super hard for you at first? Has that changed at all now?
Balance and recovery. At first (and honestly up until recently), I wanted to do everything; so I did. You would find me at a 6am class, then I’d be back at 6pm for a “specialty” class. I was so excited about learning new things and making progress that I was working out 6+ times a week, and working out 2x a day a few days a week. Sure I was tired and I was occasionally so sore that I waddled around the office, but in my eyes- I was making progress so why change things? When I stopped making progress in certain areas, do you think I changed? Nope! Because I thought I needed to work out MORE to break through the plateau. And of course I was “cherry-picking” workouts that only included the moves that I liked (barbell movements and muscle class) and limited the moves that I didn’t like (anything running and cardio).
Oh, did I also mention that I thought the only way I could get “lean” was to eat a low carb diet under 1000 calories per day? Turns out I was wrong, really wrong with a lot of things. I was an asshole to my body and everyone around me knew it, except me. Through the support and accountability of people close to me, I began a complete shift in my mental attitude and beliefs to change the way I treated myself, both with training and nutrition.
What training factors do you attribute to your ongoing results?
At the beginning of the year, I got the chance to speak with Julianne to discuss all of my goals and hopes and dreams that I was looking to make in the new year. It was a lot. She has also seen me in the gym since day one and knew my strengths and weaknesses. She offered me the chance to work with her 1:1 for a six week time period, only if I could relinquish full control and follow all instructions. I already knew I was going to do a strict 90 day cut, so why not change up my training during this time as well?
Throughout those 6 weeks, I received a list of the PSCs I was to attend along with the recommended weights to use. There was no avoiding the things I previously didn’t do, there was no avoiding days with running and cardio. During PSCs, I was to follow the “middle of the board” rep scheme (5×5) for squats and deadlifts, whereas previously I chose the “advanced” higher weight option. In addition, I had to say farewell to my trusted belt and complete all reps beltless.
After every workout, I tracked my actual weights used and times for any PPBs. We used the tracking information to program next week’s weights, typically increasing 5# or 10# depending on the lift. In open gym, we focused on fixing my imbalances and weaknesses by utilizing a lot of single leg moves to help my weaker right leg catch up with my stronger left leg which was creating issues (hips shift and knee caving) during squats. I was also prescribed running distances to complete…for time to help improve my overall work capacity. Up until then, I have successfully avoided running the “PB King of the Hill” or the “CP Mile” for 2 years. While on those runs I had a few choice words flowing through my head, the sense of accomplishment I had after I could breathe again was incredible.
Recovery was prioritized; I attended yoga twice per week and had a minimum of two rest days per week which were centered around squat days or deadlift days (two main lifts I wanted to focus on). Depending on how my body felt, sometimes additional rest days were set. Old habits are hard to break and I was often asking Jules if I could do additional exercises or sets or workouts, and I was commonly given a smile and told “nope, just rest”. As uncomfortable as I was NOT working out 6-7 times per week, the changes that I was seeing in the gym from actually being recovered made it worth it.
During the training, I was able to set multiple PRs in varying lifts that we focused on. In addition, I have seen considerable strength improvement in lifts that I haven’t focused on in months. Conditioning wise- I’ve shaved seconds off of retested PPBs and running distances AND I no longer dread and avoid running. Lesson learned: The things you don’t want to do are typically the things that will benefit you the most.
Deadlift 5R: 255# (with belt) -> 275# (no belt)
Back Squat 5R: 165# (with belt) -> 180# (no belt)
Box Jump: 38” (previously avoided)
Deadlift 1R: 315# -> 330#
Back Squat 1R: 205# -> 215#
Same question, but with nutrition?
When I first started at P360, I was eating a low carb, low calorie “diet” that has worked for me in the past. Sure, I was able to stay my same weight and look decent, but I was miserable. 1000 calories a day was not sustainable for the amount I was working out, but I was terrified of eating more because I didn’t want to gain weight. After hearing people talk about Renaissance Periodization (RP) I decided to research it (hours and hours of research) and give it a shot.
My first 10 weeks following the RP templates I lost 10# and was eating more than ever. Quick RP Rundown for those unfamiliar: The templates provide a macro-based approach to nutrition depending on an individual’s gender, body weight, goals, and training schedule. RP does not provide exact meals, they provide a list of food options separated into categories (lean protein, veggies, healthy fats, healthy carbs, and workout carbs) so you can pick and choose foods you like. Whether your goal is fat loss (lose weight) or muscle gain (gain weight), each plan provides different meal timing options depending on when you train during the day and the workout’s intensity, OR if it’s a non- training/ rest day.
On training days you get 6 meals which includes a protein shake and carb source like sour patch kids to have DURING your workout. Non-training days have 5 meals. Putting all of that information together- RP varies your food intake during the day based off of your training with carbs being centered around your workout for performance and recovery. So if I train at 6am, I get the majority of my carbs in the morning. If I train at 6pm, majority of carbs are at night.
As a whole, each template provides different phases to alter your diet (typically reduce food intake if weight loss stalls) as your body adapts to the food so you are constantly making progress towards your goal. After that first “cut” experience in 2016, my mentality towards carbs changed and I was loosely (I didn’t say no to delicious swirls of fro-yo) following their templates for the next 2 years.
After a crash diet before a Cabo trip then a few too many holiday cookies and cheat meals, my body was a mess and I wanted to get back on track. I decided to do my second “cut” using the RP templates at the beginning of 2018. The next 90 days meant following the plan exactly as written- no extra heaping spoons of peanut butter, no cheat meals, and no alcohol. Seriously- no alcohol. Once committed, I had a DEXA scan (x-ray body fat scan) the first weekend of January and every 4-5 weeks thereafter to track progress.
By following the RP templates, I was eating 2200+ calories per day and felt amazing- energy was way up, clothes were fitting better, and my performance in the gym was improving. Even though I noticed the scale weight slowly creeping up, both the DEXA scans and my progress photos were showing a different story; I was losing fat while gaining muscle. I stopped using the dreaded bathroom scale and went against RP guidelines and kept my food intake the same even though I wasn’t losing “weight”. Between the training I was doing with Jules and PROPERLY fueling myself, my body was changing in favorable ways. Over the 90 day period, I dropped 5% body fat yet I gained almost 6# on the scale.
What are some tricks and tips that you used to stay motivated once you set your goals?
Tracking my weights and conditioning times were huge in continuously improving at what I was doing. By knowing what I did the previous week, we were able to assign a specific weight (or PPB time to beat) which was attainable to complete. Tracking also makes the mental aspect of lifting easier too. Knowing that the bar is “only 5# heavier than last week” versus thinking “I’ve never done this before” is a huge mindset change that can make or break a lift.
Progress pictures are huge. Without them, I would have seen the higher weight on the scale and would have immediately cut my food intake. By comparing photos, I was able to visually see that I was leaner and the number on the scale didn’t mean anything.
Don’t get me wrong, the 90 days wasn’t all glorious sunshine and kittens. I like to eat. Food is delicious so I was occasionally hungry. To help with the hunger, I chose higher volume foods such as sweet potatoes over rice. For 30g of carbs, I can either get 107g of rice, 175g of sweet potato, 250g of butternut squash, or even 375g of strawberries. By playing with my food choices, I was able reduce my hunger substantially.
For those who are still focusing on the words “no alcohol”. That was my personal decision. You can make progress while having a few drink here and there, but I wanted to challenge myself to see what I could do without any hinderance. I had the following mentality when I had a chow mein craving or someone wanted me to take a shot, “you can have anything you want, but do you have the willpower to commit and say ‘no’ to something for 90 days?”.
What are some of the most impactful things you’ve learned here about progress?
Progress doesn’t always have to be a number.
When I first started I was constantly adding weight to the bar and consistently hitting PRs. Slowly, those exciting moments of achieving a new PR went away and I became increasingly frustrated at myself that I wasn’t getting “better”. I only saw progress as my 1RM number and I was stuck at the same 1RM deadlift for over a year. I was stuck at the same 1RM back squat for over 2 years. It was only when Jules made me take a gigantic step back and work on the basics (ahem, and conditioning) for awhile, did I recently start to see progress again in both how much I lifted and how I lifted. I made progress with my weaknesses. I made progress in my conditioning and could recover from brutal KOTH runs faster. I made progress in my form with both squats and deadlifts.
Nutritionally, the same thing goes. If I would have used the number on the scale to dictate if I made progress, I would failed. By changing how I measure personal success, I was able to turn that failure into a positive. Sure, the weight on the scale is up- but I’m stronger, I’m faster, my clothes fit better, I’m eating more, and I have more energy. Most importantly, I stopped being an asshole to my body.
What’s the single biggest lesson you’ve learned that you’d like to pass along to others?
Listen to the coaches’ advice AND ACTUALLY FOLLOW THROUGH WITH IT. They know what they’re talking about. I’ve touched upon this above, but for myself actually taking rest days and following a set program (both training and nutrition program) were HUGE in attaining my recent goals. As much as we like to think we know everything, we don’t. For years I was always hearing I don’t eat enough and I work out too much, but I was too stubborn to change my ways. Change isn’t easy, but in moments of doing the things I hated, that’s when I changed the most. I had to learn how to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. As a result, I’m in a much better place both physically and mentally both in and out of the gym.
First, for Strength.
Hang Clean + Jerk, 20″ Reset, Hang Clean + Jerk
Complete 1 set every 4 min. for 16 min.
Then, w/ a Partner
A: 150m Run
B: Rotating Core Movement