Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
Getting leaner and toning up is a challenging task.
It can put a lot of stress on our bodies and mentally, it’s draining.
But getting leaner and losing weight itself is only half the battle – for many people, the bigger challenge is actually keeping weight off and staying lean in the long-run.
Why? Because after a period of consistent training or dieting, it’s common for people (myself included) to regain some, if not all the weight they lost.
So how do you make sure you beat the odds and be able to keep the weight off and stay lean in the long run?
In this blog post, I’m going to describe my 4-step formula for doing so.
1. Strength Training:
Strength training consistently is something I do year-round. I’m able to commit to five structured strength sessions a week. Does this mean you have to do five to get results? Absolutely not. Five fits seamlessly into my lifestyle and works for me.
My recommendation for you is to commit to a set number of days each week you are 90% confident you can adhere to. If you’re a 7/10 about getting four sessions in a week, then commit to four if that brings you up to a 9/10 or even a 10/10.
Regarding my training, I feel an often-over-looked way to get stronger & leaner is to train for speed. I always say, when you focus on performance first, the look naturally comes with it. This is something I practice & I preach and I like to train like an athlete. This involves including some athletic activities into my workouts – jumps, sprinting, med ball throws etc.
On top of this, I always aim to lift relatively heavy and pursue strength. I feel most people just rely on doing lots and lots of reps alone in order to get leaner and tone up. However, I have found that consistently lifting within the lower rep ranges (usually less than eight) yields the best results for me.
In fact, most of the clients I work with want to tone up and feel more comfortable and confident in their clothes. When we shift the focus away from the look and focus more on getting them to perform better in the gym, what they found was that toned and fit look they desired started to come.
And remember – if you want to get in in “shape” or to “tone up,” if you think about it, what are you referring to? What gives your body that shape and tone?
No, it is not your bones! They hold your body in place. But to get that shape and tone you desire, you are specifically referring to building muscle in the right areas so you can get that toned stomach, or defined butt or big arms! Muscle is the thing that gives your body that shape and tone in the absence of bodyfat!
I have worked with a lot of clients who previously would have lost a lot of weight in the past yet would still say they were somewhat “skinny fat.” A lot of the time, it came down to them trying out lots and lots of cardio along with restrictive dieting which essentially led them to become a smaller version of themselves. Once we changed the focus to strength training consistently and building muscle - not burning it off, they found that “shaped” and “toned” looks naturally arrived.
Do you need to do cardio to lose bodyfat without losing muscle? Absolutely not.
Does that mean cardio is a waste of time? Not at all! Adding some extra cardio in on top of your strength training will help you burn some additional calories.
If there is one thing I have learned this year, it is that one universal form of cardio everyone should be doing more of is the most basic one – walking. Don’t underestimate the power of getting your steps in on a daily basis. I would put a large portion of my progress this year down to walking more.
I aim for 10,000 steps a day. Some days I have to go out of my way to get my steps in. Other days or on weekend hikes, it’s much easier. An approach which works well for me is going for a 10-minute walk after every meal. Not only does this help me digest my food better, it increases my step count and helps me reach that daily target.
Other forms of cardio I sprinkle into my routine depending on the time of year include some light HIIT Training, tempo running and circuit training. But walking more is something I do consistently and my results have been much better since doing so.
Note the way I didn’t say “diet.” Restrictive diets rarely work. I know from experience. What happens when you tell yourself you can’t have something? You immediately want it! In fact, subconsciously, you probably think and crave more about the food or drink than you usually would have previously.
That is why, for anyone starting out a program, I can understand how difficult it could be if you were to have that “all or nothing” mentality and be too restrictive in your diet. Why? Because most people (myself included) have never gone a week without having some chocolate or some ice-cream or pizza.
So why would I suddenly expect myself to be able to last a lifetime without doing so? This was a mindset change I have had to work hard on implementing – essentially building a better relationship with food.
Previously, I would’ve had an “all or nothing” approach where I was either “on track” or “off track.” Monday-Friday I was “on the diet” but once the weekend came around on a night out, I was “off it.” This resulted in me binge eating quite frequently and feeling guilty or shameful that I had almost done something wrong. We’ve all encountered the feeling when a biscuit or two turns into the full packer. Or we’ve all been there when a spoon of ice-cream turned into a full tub of Ben & Jerry’s and a massive bowl of cereal (my favourite!).
A mindset shift I had to make was to stop falling into assumption that following a diet is like a switch – it’s either “on or it’s off.” Instead I know see it as a dial – sometimes the dial might be at an 8/10 where I’m eating nutrient dense foods up to 80% of the time. However, some weekends or staycations away, I might need to adjust the dial to a 5/10 and enjoy an epic pancake stack or meal out in a restaurant..
Instead of following a diet, I made a promise to myself that I’ll no longer allow myself to binge eat and rather aim to make more of a sustainable lifestyle change? This is essentially where I allow myself to strategically have the foods & drinks I enjoy which makes it feel like I’m not on a diet.
This is why I never ask any of my clients to follow a diet because it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. Unsustainable methods yield unsustainable results.
Some principles I adhere to which helps me achieve this includes:
If you’d like more specifics on how many calories you need to be eating to reach your goals. I wrote a full blog poston this previously.
4. Not Falling for The Test of Success:
While the above three relate specifically to training and nutrition, this final topic related to mindset. In the past, I’ve fallen victim to the test of success. What’s the test of success?
You know that feeling of accomplishment you get when you put a few “good days” back to back? For instance, Monday - Friday you’ve been eating really healthily and so you feel like rewarding yourself at the weekend? Or that sense of achievement you feel when you weigh yourself and see the scale move down and you now look forward to treating yourself.
I love those feelings too - everyone loves to win. But a mistake I made in the past was to let these wins give me a false sense of security. I justified these wins to allow myself to go binge-eating at the weekend and reverting back to my old habits. I would eat portions of food way bigger than normal. This all came off the back of getting a false sense of security from encountering a small win.
I let the test of success get to me - that temptation to “take the foot off the gas” when you experience a win instead of striving for better. It’s a fine line. So, while I’m not saying you shouldn’t take time to celebrate the wins, I am saying it’s important not to let complacency kick in when you do win. Not to allow yourself to lose your momentum and revert back to old habits.
I have lost weight before and rebounded so I know what it feels like. However, this year, I managed to lose weight and keep it off forever by focusing on the fundamentals and handling the test of success. So when you experience a win, when you start making progress, are you going to become comfortable and coast? Or are you going to continue to do the fundamentals that led to your success in the first place? This has been one of the biggest changes I’ve made this year – in my mindset.
Remember, losing weight is one skill to master, but creating a lifestyle change where you can learn how to sustain it and keep it is another skill entirely in itself. Being aware of the test of success and following the fundamentals is the final (and perhaps most important) way to stay lean year round.
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Adrian McDonnell -
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