Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Getting and staying lean, speaking from experience

This article is definitely not my way to boast about myself.  I am simply talking from experience.  I have been in the fitness industry, in the trenches training and coaching people for over 15 years.  I have worked out myself for over 20 years, following everything from bodybuilding routines to Ironman triathlon training and everything in between.  I have seen many fad routines and systems come and go.  The below points are strictly from my own learning experience.  They are not sexy.  I can’t tell you that they will work for you like they did for me.  What I can tell you, hopefully to inspire you, is that these strategies have helped me stay within the same weight (135-145) for over 15 years.  They have also helped me stay below 10% body fat.  Not only have these strategies helped my body stay lean over the years, but they have guided me to achieving some cool athletic endeavors.  Hopefully you can learn something from seeing what has worked for me. 

(These are not written in order of importance.  Combined together and done consistently as been the key)

1.     I rarely skip breakfast.  Seriously, in the past 10 years, I have probably skipped 2 or 3 breakfasts.  Whether it’s something light to get my day started, a pre-workout snack or a full-fledged veggie scramble, I do my best to not skip this meal.  For me, it’s a performance thing.  If I have an early morning workout, getting in a quick and easily digestible snack makes for a better training session.  If training is not on the docket, it’s about job performance.  My job takes mental energy so getting food in my system first thing in the morning helps me “wake up”.  Most of the time, my breakfast choices are: yogurts, eggs, pancakes (post workouts), fruits/veggies or oatmeal. 
2.     I have eaten a banana 90% of the mornings.  So to run with my first point, with my breakfast, 9 out of 10 mornings, I start with a banana.  Nothing too special here or no real significance.  I think the key is that I have created a healthy habit and that one habit helps me form other healthy habits.  This is key to living a healthy lifestyle.  On the nutritional side, a banana is a healthy carbohydrate that is packed with potassium.  In terms of performance, I need carbohydrates and potassium throughout the day to keep my muscles functioning at a high level. 
3.     When in doubt, I workout.  At home, at the gym, on the road, on vacation, light routines, hard routines, structured routines, hung over, not feeling well, whatever state I may be in, I make sure to workout.  I have followed long term structured training plans aiming for specific athletic goals.  I have also had times when I give myself flexibility to go to the gym and do what I feel like.  I know my goals and what I want to accomplish at any given moment.  Shit, sometimes I need to just sweat because I went out and drank 8 beers the night before.  I really value working out and the positive affects it has on my mental and physical health. 
4.     With that said, 85% of the year, I focus on performance oriented goals.  The past 10 years, I have always had an athletic focused goal.  Triathlon and running are my sports of choice.  I have done everything from Ironman distance triathlons, to 5ks and everything in between.  I have constantly challenged and stretched myself and invested in my athletic career.  This, for me, has been vital in staying lean and healthy.  And not only that, every race completed, every workout finished, the journey is what I am most passionate about and has helped make me the man I am today.  I don’t focus on weight or body fat numbers.  I focus on training and racing goals.  The byproduct of this type of thinking is a lean physique.  I try and teach people to focus on creating this type of mindset.  Make it a goal to perform 10 bodyweight chin-ups or to run a mile in under 7 minutes.  I also bet you will lower your body fat percentage. 
5.     I’m flexible with my nutrition plan.  I’m not a fan of “dieting”.  In fact, I have never been on a diet in my life.  I have always looked at it as a lifestyle habit.  Now with that said, I have played around with specific nutritional protocols to see how my body would respond.  But for the most part, I have followed a pretty sensible healthy food plan that gives me flexibility to eat whatever I want.  What I do, and what I teach, is to manipulate your macronutrient intake according to your goals.  Most of the time, I am eating nutrient dense foods: Lean proteins like chicken, turkey, eggs, red meat and fish; a variety of fruits and vegetables; healthy carbohydrates like potatoes, rice, oatmeal and pastas; and healthy fats like peanut butter, avocados and raw nuts.  I also eat beans and low fat dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt.  I use bars like cliff bars and powerbars before or after workouts.  I have times throughout the year where I am strict and going for an A- in regards to nutrition.  And I have times (like the Holidays or vacations) where I allow myself to drop to C level nutrition and eat what I want.  Again, most of the time, I am sitting around B+.  You do not have to eat some perfect diet to be lean and healthy.  Find the balance that works for you and be consistent.  Be flexible with your plan. 
6.     I focus on recovery.  Lack of recovery leads to injury, burnout and overtraining.  These three detriments can force me to skip workouts.  If I can’t workout, well there goes point #3.  Results happen with uninterrupted training.  If I am not recovering, my chances of injury dramatically increase. Sleep is the most important here.  Most nights, I try and get 6-8 hours.  I am far from perfect.  With three kids (one being a newborn), some nights I get less, but I make it a priority to at least get that consistent six.  If I know consistent sleep has not been achieved, I adjust my training sessions.  I also add in mobility and flexibility sessions, low intensity work and off days to my schedule to make sure that I am fully recovering. 
7.     I focus on smart training.  I push myself in my workouts.  But my goal is not to overcook my system.  I must find the right amount of stress that is needed in order for me to get the results I am looking for.  This is something that is very difficult to write up in a program.  One of my strongest traits is my workout intuition.  I am very aware of my body and the signs it’s throwing at me.  If I feel lethargic and flat as I begin a workout, I will adjust the training session right there.  I do know the difference of laziness versus mental/physical fatigue.  This intuitive mindset is something I teach the athletes that I train because I think it is very important to express.  “Listen to your body.”

8.     It’s all about consistency.  None of the above strategies work without a consistent approach.  And over the past 20 years, I have been consistent.  I do not aim for some perfect diet or perfect workout regimen.  I am realistic with where I am at in my current state and the goals I want to go after.  I aim for long term sustainability.  That’s how big results happen.  Remember quick fix is BS.  

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