Rock'ing For 30 Days

One Man's Journey to Eat and Train Like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

Month: March 2016

The Selfie Debate, Battling Vanity, and the Before/After Photos

When I started the Rock’ing for 30 Days Challenge, I viewed it as a test of determination and discipline. I have no aspirations to look like The Rock, and one month isn’t very long when it comes to the physical results of eating and training.

My diet and exercise journey over the last few years has been more about being healthy than aesthetics. Vanity is an ugly creature, and it’s wound up pretty tightly with working out. It’s easy to become obsessive with staring at your body in the mirror or fixating on a “problem area” when following a fitness program.

The motivation for getting in shape all comes down to my daughter. I am trying to adopt the healthy habits and values I want to instill in her. (Plus, I want to be around a long time.) I don’t want her to view fitness as just being about her body and looks. I cringe whenever I see workout programs talking about “beach-ready bodies” or “fitting into a dress.” That’s not how she (or anyone) should think about being active.

So I didn’t take many before photos, and certainly never planned to share any of them online. But this story has become quite popular over the last month, and I’m constantly asked about it. Shirtless selfies don’t seem like a great idea for a 37-year old dad. But against my better judgement, I’ve decided to share them. To both show the results of following a program like this, and to set expectations.

The Before/After Photo

Taken the day before the challenge, and the morning after.

Taken the day before the challenge (clearly looking worried), and the morning after (happy to have made it).

I became leaner and stronger during this month, and put on some muscle mostly in my shoulders, chest, and upper legs. I’m 207lbs in the left photo, which was taken the night before I started, and 208lbs in the right, taken the morning after the last day. I’m proud of the hard work I put in. There is a noticeable difference in the photos (I don’t think I’ve ever had a line down the middle of my abs in my entire life). But it’s not an insane transformation. There are no overnight transformations when it comes to working out.

Let’s Go Way Back, Before the Before

In the spirit of respecting the length of the journey, I also am going to share a photo from several years ago. This is an embarrassing photo. Not only because it’s not flattering, and I look stoned for some reason, but also because I let myself get to this point.

Taken several years ago, at my heaviest (251lbs).

Taken several years ago, at my heaviest (251lbs).

I’m 251lbs in this photo, the heaviest I’ve ever been. Getting to that point was a wakeup call for me, and I permanently changed the way I ate from that point on. I lost about 25lbs, settling around 225lbs. Then 6 months before my daughter was born (she just turned 2), I started working out several times a week and have been in the low 200’s ever since.

So What Can Get Done in 30 Days?

One month is a good time period to wrap your head around. It’s long enough to present a challenge, but short enough that it seems doable. By the time I got to the last week or so of this challenge, my routine had become second nature. I wasn’t dying to finish, and in fact, extended it three more days so the last week felt complete. If it weren’t for the cost and burden of food prep, I probably would have kept going.

Thirty days can be a pathway towards making a productive change in your behavior. If you can stick to something for a month, you should be able to permanently adopt some of those routines. But it’s not a magic bullet. And the results will be positive, but not transformative.

The journey is long, and should last a lifetime. It’s good to remember that. Perhaps some shirtless photos of someone’s dad on the Internet can help you keep that in perspective.


The Rock Works Out First Thing in the Morning. Should You?

The Rock’s early rising to hit the gym is no secret, with the big man often sharing a snapshot of his morning alarm with his 46 million followers on Instagram.

A photo posted by therock (@therock) on

His morning routine is to wake up early, throw back some coffee for his caffeine-fix, then do his cardio. This is followed by his first meal of the day, then hitting the weights (clangin’ and bangin’ in Rock-speak). He admits his workouts can get moved around based on his schedule, but for the most part, that’s the schedule he usually follows.

Does It Matter When You Work Out?

I’ve been getting a lot of emails and tweets asking about the specifics of the schedule, and whether it makes a difference when you decide to work out. Though there are numerous conflicting studies on the subject, there doesn’t seem to be a scientific consensus on different times of day leading to improved physiological effects from physical training.

However, the New York Times recently helped shed some light on the value of scheduling your workouts in the morning. There were two main reasons why you might want to do this. The first is that our willpower weakens throughout the day.

According to the Florida State University psychology researcher Roy Baumeister, one of the leading experts on willpower, “The longer people have been awake, the more self-control problems happen.”

That makes sense. As the day goes on, we’re bombarded by other things demanding our attention. Staying disciplined in the face of those distractions can be daunting.

But the second reason really resonated with me, and captured how I felt during this month.

Starting your morning by tackling challenges head-on will help encourage similar behavior throughout the day. And, it turns out, there’s a wealth of research to back up this idea as well. People who do hard things first tend to procrastinate less and get more done.

Each of these workouts was physically and mentally exhausting. But the moment I finished them, I felt a sense of accomplishment, and that I was starting my day on the right foot. I also found it was then easier to stick to the meal plan throughout the day. With such a strong start, you’re inclined to continue that momentum.

Get That Hard Workout Out of the Way

Credit: Carl Richards

The more you push, the more you’ll get back. (Credit: Carl Richards)

Even if you’re not a morning person, try the morning workouts for a week and see how it feels. You’ll likely be tired from the lack of sleep the first day or two, but your body will start to calibrate accordingly.

Perhaps you’ll find it has a positive impact on the rest of your day. Or maybe it won’t. But then at least you’ll know for sure what works best for you.

The 3 Things It Takes to Eat Like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

I get a lot of questions about eating like The Rock, so I put together this fancy graphic to show what he eats, the nutritional information behind the meal plan, and how much it costs. Enjoy.


Feel free to share this on Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog.
Download: Right-click “Save Link As…” / Download PDF

The Rock’s Thoughts About The Challenge (So Far)

Throughout the Rock’ing for 30 Day Challenge, The Rock has responded several times on Twitter.

First, about half-way through the month, I did a reddit post about what I was doing. AskMen wrote an article about the reddit post, and DJ responded:

So there was some doubt from the big man. But I persevered, and finished the challenge. Bleacher Report wrote about my accomplishment, which The Rock then saw:

I didn’t want to stop mid-week, so I ended up doing the challenge for 33 days. ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight shared some of the data behind this month, including the amount it cost.

ESPN shared the FiveThirtyEight piece. In that article, I explained my motivation for doing this challenge in the first place. The Rock appreciated the effort.

Overall, it’s been great to have The Rock respond. He has a reputation for paying attention to his fans, and from the looks of it, it’s well-deserved.

First Cheat Day: Old Favorites, Hello Booze, and Feeling Tired

This weekend was the first time in 33 days that I wasn’t eating and training like The Rock. During that time, I didn’t eat anything that wasn’t a part of his eating plan, and didn’t have a drop of booze. But for cheat day, everything was fair game.

The Rock’s cheat meals are epic. After he ate clean for 150 days while preparing for Hercules (the plan I’ve followed), his cheat meal consisted of 12 pancakes, 4 double dough pizzas and 21 brownies.

That's a lot of food.

That’s a lot of food.

While I’ve shown I can eat and train like The Rock for a month, I don’t think I can cheat like he can. I decided to play it safe and not go overboard. But I was looking forward to visiting with some old friends, like an egg and cheese sandwich.

Before the challenge, I was disciplined about what I ate during the week, but had whatever I wanted on weekends. My Saturday tradition is going to the deli with my daughter and ordering an egg, ham, and cheese sandwich. As a New Yorker this is, as required by law, one of my favorite foods.

I look tired as hell in this photo. Look at those bags.

I look tired as hell in this photo. Look at those bags under my eyes.

It didn’t last very long, as I wolfed it down quickly. I stared at the empty plate, with barely a dent in my hunger, debating whether I should keep eating. While my soul enjoyed that sandwich, my body was screaming for more. So I decided to make myself a bowl of oatmeal as well, and ate that almost as quickly. That did the job, and my first cheat meal was officially complete.

First Sips of Hootch

As part of being reintroduced into the world of normal people, my wife, daughter, and I met up with some friends for lunch on Saturday afternoon. I had my first non-water or coffee liquid in over a month, indulging in a Pacifico beer then a mojito.

To be honest, I was looking forward to have some drinks again, but they weren’t as satisfying as I thought they would be. I ended up missing alcohol less than I would have guessed. At this point, I could easily go much longer without drinking if it was part of some larger goal. Back at home we had some craft beers and red wine ready to be cracked open this weekend, but I didn’t feel like drinking them and they remained unopened. I’m becoming…lame.

The booze might not have satisfied me, but this chicken parm dinner sure did.

The booze might not have satisfied me, but this chicken parm dinner sure did.

Pure Exhaustion

I thought that after eating clean, my stomach wouldn’t be happy with my cheat meals. Surprisingly, this wasn’t an issue at all. My stomach felt fine all weekend.

However, I was extremely tired. Like, utterly exhausted. Throughout the challenge I was averaging about 6 hours of sleep a night and training 6 days a week. This weekend, I got roughly 9 hours of sleep on Friday and Saturday night, along with a 90-minute nap each day. And I could have easily slept more. I felt energetic during the challenge, but like pure molasses this weekend.

Dropping my calorie consumption was no doubt the culprit here. I felt like I didn’t have much in the tank to work with. I’m actually looking forward to eating better starting during this next week.

Plan for this Week

This week I’ll be trying a few tweaks to this eating and training plan, to see how I feel. The goal is to have a modified version of The Rock’s plan to start next week. If you want to get all the details of this plan when it’s ready, enter your email address at the top of the page to join the list.

Day 33 (Last Day): Impressing The Rock, Feeling the Love, and Disciplined to the End

This is the final day of the Rock’ing for 30 Days challenge. I hit 30 days on Tuesday, but decided to finish out the week. This worked out especially well, as FiveThirtyEight published an article about my journey.

This led to supportive tweets and congratulations from friends and family on Facebook. It was the perfect ending to what has been a long month, and made my last day feel like a big event.

Several other outlets wrote about the FiveThirtyEight post, including one on Bleacher Report. This caught the attention of The Rock, who tweeted this out to his 9 million followers.


It felt great to have the big man himself acknowledge the discipline this month took. As I’ve mentioned, this entire challenge for me was an exercise in discipline and dedication, not about trying to look like The Rock. It was all about the journey, not the destination. So it was nice to see that’s what he picked up on. We’ve come a long from from two weeks ago when he had his doubts.

Feeling the Love

The article led to a ton of tweets, emails, and Facebook posts congratulating me on finishing. I appreciated every single one, and made sure to respond to everyone who was kind enough to say something. My favorite part of the day though was waking up at 5am to make my oatmeal before heading to the gym, and finding this sitting on the counter waiting for me.

My girls surprised me with this in the morning.

My girls surprised me with this in the morning.

My wife and my daughter made me a card to wish me a great last day. My wife has been supportive throughout this entire challenge, dealing with an overcrowded dishwasher, a busy cafeteria in the kitchen every three days, and a husband who is shoveling food in his mouth around the clock. I’m lucky to have a great partner for such crazy endeavors.

The Clock Don’t Stop and Neither Do I

Today is my last day, but it’s still the entire day. When I got home from work, I was tempted to be done, and to celebrate a bit. My brother-in-law even asked if I was drinking a beer yet to celebrate.

But I had to finish out the day. Taking it easy doesn’t start until the following morning. So I ate my meals, made my eggs, and finished a protein shake before going to sleep. Disciplined to the end.

Daily Stats

It looks like I definitely pushed myself during cardio on my last day. I burned almost 100 more calories than I did before. Maybe that will be my new motto. “Train everyday like it’s your last.”


Day 32: Fitness Fundamentalism, Saving Your Machine, and My Last Cod Purchase

Throughout this 30 day challenge, there have been several articles written and shared the interwebs, leading to…spirited discussions in the comments sections, online forums, and reddit about the Rock’s training regiment.

One thing is clear: people hold their views on how to workout seriously. Reading something that contradicts their view is often taken with great offense and a passionate reply is soon to follow. Whether it’s doing cardio while trying to gain muscle, using drop sets while lifting, or controversial views on “calories in, calories out,” people have a lot to say, and say it loudly. Many people have freely shared what I (and the Rock) are doing wrong in their eyes.

Like anyone else, I have my own opinions on fitness and what is or is not effective. The workout plan I’m doing includes several techniques I wouldn’t necessarily have tried otherwise. But it’s good to get outside your comfort zone, and test out new things. Fitness should be a life-long pursuit, and different approaches should be tried, tweaked, and evaluated constantly. The road is long, so enjoy the journey and don’t be beholden to your own dogma.

“Hey, I’m still using that.”

You know what’s broken? Our system for communicating to other gym-goers what stations we’re using, and vice versa. This is becoming much more apparent to me with so much time spent in the gym this month.

I’ve had people walk over to a station I’m using 10 minutes into it to let me know they’re using it (where have you been?). I’ve have waited for someone to return to a machine reserved with a towel, only to eventually realize it’s been abandoned. I have had people jump on a machine right in front of me during a 60 second rest without uttering a word. And I have lazily watched someone send text messages while in the general vicinity of a station, only to run over when they see you approach it.

I listened to a TED Radio Hour podcast this morning about why people lie. In studies, they greatly reduced the propensity of people to lie or cheat by having them sign an “honor code.” The simple act of signing the piece of paper made people exhibit better behavior. Perhaps when we join a gym, a “code of conduct” should be reviewed and signed by each new member. Maybe just emphasizing courteousness would make a difference.

So Long, You Tasty Bastard

I went to the fish market and made what was to be my last cod purchase for this challenge. Over the last 32 days, I have eaten nearly 75 lbs of cod. That’s a lot of fish. All steamed, with some seasoning sprinkled on. While I like fish, and cod is delicious, I don’t know when I would consider eating it again. We will definitely be taking a break from one another for some time.

Was it something I said?

You’re leaving me? Was it something I said?

Or who knows, maybe I’ll miss it so much I’ll come running right back. Time will tell.

Daily Stats

My last back day. Stayed in the “cardio zone” for 42 minutes. Yesterday it was 27 minutes. Felt good to keep that number up.


Day 31: Stacking Up to The Rock, How Much Does Rock Bench, and Selfies?

As I did the research to put together this challenge, one piece of information I couldn’t find what was kind of weight The Rock uses for each exercise. Now, clearly I couldn’t use the same weights he does, but I thought it’d be informative to see what he lifted for each. I also thought it would be entertaining to see how I stack up against the Big Man.

I’ve continued to find new articles and information throughout the month, and I recently stumbled upon an eating and training plan he shared towards the end of 2010. This site seems only quasi-legit, but I saw the same workout on several sites from around the same time, so I assume it’s somewhat accurate (if anyone knows where it’s from, tweet at me). This was the plan he apparently used to prepare for the Fast and The Furious 5. I am surprised at the weights listed, I would have thought they would be much heavier. Clearly The Rock is capable of lifting much heavier than this.

Below I listed a handful of the exercises that are still a part of the plan I’m following, along with the weights The Rock used and the weights I used during this, my last week of the challenge.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise
The Rock: Sets (3), Reps (8), Weight (30)
Me: Sets (4). Reps (12),Weight (25)

Close-Grip Cable Pull Down
The Rock: Sets (5), Reps (12,10,8,6,4), Weight (120-240)
Me: Sets (3), Reps (12), Weight (150-180)

Leg Press
The Rock: Sets (4), Reps (25,20,18,16/25), Weight (270-450)
Me: Sets (4), Reps (50), Weight (160-220)

Preacher-Machine Curl
The Rock: Sets (6), Reps(12,10,8,6,21,21), Weight (50-100, 50)
Me: Sets (4), Reps (12), Weight: (55-65)

Flat Bench Dumbbell Press
The Rock: Sets (5), Reps (12,10,8,6,4), Weight (75-120)
Me: Sets (4), Reps (12), Weight (100-130)

Clearly The Rock was not trying to get huge on this workout. The rest of the Chest workout is fairly light-weight considering his size, so I assume he was trying to reduce his chest size for this role. But I thought it’d be fun to put up these numbers.

So How Much Does The Rock Bench?

The majority of The Rock workouts shared online have a high number of sets and reps, so the weight numbers aren’t the maximums he can lift, which is usually what someone is looking for when asking that question.

In the TMZ video below, the reporter asks The Rock how much he squats and benches. And The Rock gives the only answer appropriate for that question:

“What are we, in high school?” Amen, Rock.

“After” Photos

Still debating what kind of “after” photos to share. I didn’t take a ton of before photos, as I didn’t really take this challenge just for the results. But I do get asked about it often, so it feels natural to put up some kind of comparison.

Whatever I decide, I’m going to take them this weekend. So stay tuned.

Daily Stats

Arms Days are almost a vacation compared to Leg Day. Leg Day yesterday took 101 minutes, and burned 729 calories. Today was 69 minutes and 413 calories. Good times.


Day 30: The Rock Discusses His Meals, An Eating Pro-tip, and Last Leg Day

When I started this challenge, I did some research to put together the overall training and eating plan. This wasn’t that hard, as there were three main sources to work with. The first was the Man of the Century issue of Muscle and Fitness that was published last Spring. This had The Rock’s diet and training program, and is the main foundation for this challenge. The man himself also released his meal plan on Instagram, which verified much of the diet. And lastly, when the movie Hercules was released, The Rock released all the details of the diet/training program he used to prepare for the role. This was the workout I have followed this month.

Throughout the month, as I have looked for photos or tried to answer a specific question for myself, I have stumbled on other articles and interviews. One such interview was the video embedded below. In it, DJ walks a USA Today reporter through what he ate while training for Hercules. It isn’t exactly what I’m eating (I’m following the M&F Meal Plan), and the portions are smaller (that’s not 2 cups of white rice!) but it’s close and should give you a good idea of what’s involved.

The Rock’s Secret to Eating So Much

During that video, The Rock mentioned one pro-tip towards eating 7 meals every day. Each of his meals wasn’t plated, but already cut-up and placed in a container that could just be heated up and wolfed down. The makes a lot of sense, as he was likely eating on set and didn’t have time to sit down for a proper meal.

I imagine this saves a lot of time. I take my meals out of the container, plate it, and eat each separate portion of the meal, cutting up the chicken, steak, or potatoes when needed. My approach is definitely more appetizing, judging from some of the meal photos The Rock has shared on Instagram.

A photo posted by therock (@therock) on

Still, in an effort to fully embrace his strategy, perhaps I’ll chop up all the food on one of my remaining days to see how it compares.

So Long, Legs!

Leg day has definitely been the toughest workout this month. It happens every Tuesday and Saturday, but since I’m done on Friday, today was the last one. On one hand I was happy to be finished, but in a weird way, I will probably miss it.

After this challenge, I will definitely be doing much more intense workouts than I had been prior. I will likely do a modified version of Leg Day starting next week, but with less overall reps. So no 200 reps on the Leg Press, or 650 calf raises. In comparison, every workout will probably seem easy!

Daily Stats

As it was my last Leg Day, I pushed myself hard. Felt good.



Day 29: Final Meal Prep, The Secret of Happiness, and Too Many Dishes

Today was a food prep day. I typically have been preparing meals for 3 days at a time. I prepare everything for 6 of my daily meals (I make the 10 egg-white omelet fresh every night), then purchase the fish every two days.

As I mentioned the other day, I decided to push this challenge out for a few more days, to finish up at the end of the week. This left me needing meals for four more days. I wasn’t too keen to do another prep session on Thursday for just one day’s worth of food, so I decided to prep 4 days worth at once.

Four days worth of food (not pictured: first meals, 10 egg-white omelets, protein shakes)

Four days worth of food (not pictured: first meals, 10 egg-white omelets, protein shakes)

It wasn’t much more work actually. My fantastic wife helped out by starting the four batches of white rice before I got home from work (4 days = 24 cups of white rice!). Then it was much of the same work, with some extra portions. It did require hand-washing the lunch containers I had just used, but overall, it was a smooth operation.

Stocked fridge, ready to go.

Stocked fridge, ready to go.

It did, of course, take a bunch of time, after which I still needed to make and eat my eggs, so I didn’t get to bed until around 11:30pm which was rough. Five hours of sleep the night before Leg Day isn’t recommended.

Science Tells Us How to Be Happy

As I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts during my workout, I have become addicted to the TED Radio Hour. This one-hour show takes a few TED talks and digs into them through a specific theme. This morning I listened to one about Happiness. Researcher Matt Killingsworth was one of the guests, and he discussed the findings he has gathered with his Track Your Happiness mobile app. The app allows people to continually share information about what they’re doing at the moment, what they’re thinking, and how they’re feeling.

One big finding in the data was that people were the happiest when they were focused on the activity they were doing, and not letting their mind wander. It didn’t matter if the activity was mundane (commuting, for example) or if their mind was wandering about positive things (vacations!), being present in the moment made people the happiest.

During this challenge, I’ve definitely made time to spend time with my family, and working as I normally do. But if I’m being honest with myself, I have felt less present. I’m constantly watching the time, to see when I need to eat next, or to make sure I have time to prep food. It’s been a struggle to keep everything in balance. I have found the time to do this mostly by carving it out of when I normally sleep or relax, and a month in, I’m feeling mentally exhausted. It will be nice to return to some sense of normalcy.

Playing Tetris Every Night in My Dishwasher

One piece of doing this challenge I had never thought about beforehand was all the used dishes. Every night we end up with no clean plates, forks, or spoons. The dishwasher needs to be loaded, along with 7 awkwardly shaped tupperware containers. It’s sort of maddening actually. Dishwasher racks all seem to have been designed for one specific plate and glass size, leaving everything else to be jammed in wherever it sort of fits.

Managing the dishwasher, along with washing my egg pan every night, are the worst.

Daily Stats

The Fitbit dashboard wasn’t showing the normal elliptical widget, so I pasted in the info from another screen. I managed to get the cardio intensity up there. I basically aim to stay at about 150 BPM.  For the most part, I’ve been doing first 10 mins at 10 elevation, 9 resistance. Then bump resistance to 10, then at 25 mins to 11, then at 40 mins to 12. When I’ve played around with the elevation, I felt like it was becoming more of a leg workout than an aerobic one. This has been treating me well so far.