For men: The busy man’s guide to getting in shape
by JOHN BERARDI, PH.D.
Even if you’re a busy guy, you can drop fat, get healthy, and get into the best shape of your life. All you need is a simplified exercise plan, a progressive set of nutrition habits, and a knowledgeable coach to help guide the process.
“Man, I wish I could train like we used to.” That’s what a high school buddy told me the last time we caught up. “With the kids, my business growing, and all the other stuff I’ve got going on … I don’t know … there’s just no time to get in shape.” My buddy had gained about 30 pounds since high school, and it definitely wasn’t the good kind. All fat and not an ounce of muscle. His cholesterol and blood pressure, he told me, had sky rocketed. And he complained of feeling lethargic and sometimes even a little depressed.
“I really want to do something about this,” he said grabbing his stomach, “and I want to feel good again. But where am I gonna find time to work out like we did back in the day?” As I sat there, I couldn’t help but feel for the guy. He’s a great person with a fantastic wife, two young children, a growing consulting business, and two aging parents he helps care for. So it sucked to see him feeling trapped and struggling. But here’s the thing: he needn’t feel that way.
Busy guys everywhere are still able to manage hectic lives while also managing their health and fitness.
I know because I’m one of them. I’m married, have two young children, manage a growing company, and have a host of other things competing for my attention on a daily basis. Yet I still manage to make health and fitness a priority. Here’s more: our team helps thousands of other busy, high-stress guys get in shape and manage their health every single day. And, if you’re interested in looking and feeling good again, we can help you too.
DUDE, YOUR THINKING ABOUT THIS ALL WRONG
Getting back to my buddy for a minute, here’s the first piece of advice I gave him — and it’s a piece of advice I give to guys everywhere: Get rid of the idea that what we did in high school is the best way to get in shape. Truth be told, what we did back then was pretty stupid. Weight training for an hour or two? Every day except Sundays? What a waste of time and energy. But I guess we had plenty of time and energy to waste back then. Oh how times have changed!
Of course, if we’d have known better, or had some proper coaching, we might have gotten our shit together. But we didn’t. So we spent too much time in the gym, doing the wrong stuff, in a way that wasn’t sustainable. Yes, we were in shape. But we were young, had great metabolisms, and succeeded in spite of our program. Not because of it. In fact, those nagging aches and pains we complain about today — the sore knees, trick shoulders, bum elbows — are probably related to our dumb high school training.
As I told my friend: “Here’s the good news: you don’t have to train like we did in high school to get back in shape. In fact, you don’t even want to. I’ve got something else in mind that’ll work way better, take far less time, and fit into your life, as it is now.”
FIRST: CHOOSE A SIMPLER, LESS-TIME-CONSUMING WORKOUT PLAN
Instead of 6 weight-training workouts a week, each taken right out of the pages of Men’s Health magazine, we started with a completely different approach. Each week he did the following:
- 2 x 30 minute resistance exercise sessions — mostly body weight exercises
- 2 x 15 minute interval exercise sessions — on a treadmill or outside at a track
- 1 x 60 minute walk — outdoors with his family
So, instead of 9 hours of exercise a week — plus travel time to and from the gym — he would be doing less than 3 hours a week. And most of it could be done right at home, if he wanted. He also got to do it all on his own schedule, adjusting the workout days and times so that they would fit into his demanding and ever-changing planner. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. (After all, it’s trusted advice that I gave to a good friend of 20+ years). This type of “exercise minimalism” works extremely well when it’s designed by a knowledgable coach. In fact, the Lean Eating coaching program is based on this approach. That’s why even the busiest guys can get fantastic results in the program.
NEXT: GET SOME BETTER NUTRITION ADVICE
Yes, exercise is important. But, for busy, high-stress guys wanting to drop weight or get back in shape, nutrition is where it’s at. That’s why I also recommended a few nutrition tips. Again, I told him to forget what we did “back in the day.” Loading up on whole milk, protein shakes, chicken breasts, and steamed broccoli was fine when we were younger. But nowadays his goals are different.
Plus, he’s got a family to consider. Forcing his wife and children to choke down “bodybuilding food” — or to make special meals just for him — will do more harm than good. So we started with a few nutrition habits, just like we do in the Lean Eating program. To keep things simple, for the first two weeks of his new exercise program, he added 1g of fish oil per percent body fat (he took 25g a day) and a multivitamin. Yes, that was it. For the first two weeks.
After that, we introduced a new nutrition habit every two weeks. Some habits had to do with how he was eating, some with what he was eating, some with how much he was eating, and some with when he was eating. But they were all designed progressively — each habit building on the last. The key: we didn’t change too much at once. By changing just a little at a time, the changes felt small. Almost too small. But, at the end of the year, his eating was completely different.
FINALLY: THINK LESS, DO MORE
For guys with a lot of responsibilities — and stress — this is exactly how it ought to be. When you’re 19 years old, you may have the time to read, research, and come up with all sorts of crazy exercise and nutrition plans. (Although a good coach would still do better). But at 40, focusing on being a good partner, doing your best as a parent, giving your all at work, keeping up your home, and making sure your bills are paid … well, there goes your time and mental energy.
Do you really need more shit to figure out? Probably not. That’s why it’s best, when it comes to fitness, to find someone who can do the thinking and planning for you. Who can make it easy and allow you to focus on one thing: doing. According to our most successful Lean Eaters, it’s this very thing that made all the difference. By trusting the Lean Eating process, and simply doing as we said, they were able to get into the best shape of their lives without stressing and agonizing over every step.
BUDDY, THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR YOU
In the end, here’s the message I wanted to communicate to my friend: “Even if you’re a busy guy, you can drop fat, get healthy, and get into the best shape of your life. All you need is a simplified exercise plan, a progressive set of nutrition habits, and a knowledgable coach to help guide the process.” If you’re like my friend, and have let your busy life stand in the way of your health and fitness, we’re here for you. Every day, through our Lean Eating coaching program, we help guys prioritize their own health and fitness.
But whether you choose Lean Eating or not, I do encourage you to do something — anything — as soon as possible. Before you know it, 30 extra pounds can easily become 50 extra pounds. High blood sugar can easily become type 2 diabetes. And high cholesterol can easily become cardiovascular disease.