Getting lean and maintaining it is the product of thousands of small decisions and actions carried out over a number of months and years. There is no magic formula. There isn't a magical training program or superfood that will transform your body. Only the consistent application of habits that manifest over a long period of time. Below are a distillation of some of the most important and noteworthy decisions/habits/rituals that I personally (or clients of mine) have adopted to ensure continual progress. Taken separately, none of these will have a massive impact on your waistline. However, when combined and pursued over a long period of time, they will exert a powerful impact on your body. Here is part I of how to live a 'Lean Lifestyle': -
Stepping Up in the World (Shunning the elevator/lift and escalator in favour of good old stairs):
This is an easy habit that can be easily adopted and could potentially have a huge impact if living in a high-rise apartment! Many of use are faced with the choice of an escalator or stairs. Choose the stairs. Escalators are now off limits. Embrace the steps. See it as a way of adding some extra cardio into your day without having to think about it.
Travel on 2 Feet rather than 4 wheels (Leaving the car in the garage whenever possible):
Beyond the benefit to the world’s climate, you can view your car as the antithesis of getting lean… The more you use it the harder it will be to get that 6-pack. Any trip under 5km can be walked easily enough and the more you walk the easier all of these trips become. Try doing your grocery shopping on foot too. Carrying some heavy bags a couple of km is great exercise and the thought of carting the food home might make you think twice about that packet of biscuits!
Carry don’t Drag (Your Suitcase):
When you next take a holiday, instead of wheeling your Samsonite, pick the thing up and carry it. Again, not only is this a great workout, it will also make you reassess the need for the 4 pairs of shoes you deemed necessary!
Active Transport (Find active ways to commute):
Travelling to work on public transport is tiring and depressing at the best of times (see here). For many of us a daily commute is unavoidable. However, have you thought about ways of getting some exercise on the way to work? Can you walk it? Or cycle it? Of use a combination of public transport and other active means?
Get on the Gain Train (Train consistently a minimum of 3 times per week):
I'll leave the succinct words of Bret Contreras here: -
"If you think lifting weights is dangerous. try being weak. Being weak is dangerous"
Resistance training is crucial and is certainly not just for 'gym rats' and 'bodybuilders'. Building and maintaining lean muscle tissue is important for overall health as well as fat loss. Stick to the basics: compound lifts, progressively overload, use full ranges of movement. Be consistent.
Stand instead of sitting (at work):
Standing desks are going to become increasingly prevalent in the workplace. And for good reason (See here).
"Overall, there is enough data to indicate that too much sitting and sedentary behavior may be hazardous to your health in the long run, even if you engage in a regular structured exercise program. It is very important to accumulate as much activity throughout the day as possible, whether or not you are a person who regularly hits the gym." (Krieger, Weightology.net)
Ditch the Sun-Lounger (Active Holidays):
Holiday’s for many involve a pool, sun lounger, a book and way too much food and drink. And there is nothing wrong with that per se. We all have the right to spend our vacations as we wish. However, holidays often present opportunities to try new activities that you would otherwise not have the opportunity to do. One of the best ways to see a new country is to take long runs and/or walks and go explore. Near the sea? Indulge in some water-sports (surfing, paddle-boarding, scuba diving, swimming, canoeing etc). In the mountains? Try hiking, paragliding, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking. Holidays are the perfect chance to try new activities.
Personally, here are some of my favourite holiday exercise habits/routines: -
- Get it done early: Get your training out of the way first thing in the morning, leaving the rest of the day to do as you wish
- Halve the volume: So your regular program calls for 4 sets of 8 reps? Cut down the volume and halve the number of sets you perform. This will allow you to maintain you progress without eating into too much of your time
- Want some fat loss? Engage in full body circuits with minimal rest. For example: -
A1. Body weight Squat Jumps x 10
A2. Body Weight Squats x 10
A3. Forward Lunges x 10
A4. Pull Ups x 10
A5. Push-Ups x 10
Rest 60 secs and repeat x 5
- Take some Provisions: When travelling I like to take a few essentials with me to ensure I can eat and train effectively: -
- Pack protein bars and nuts to ensure you have something available if food is scarce, or if food options are severely limited.
- Pack gym gear and appropriate footwear to ensure you can train effectively. The good news is that gym gear is light-weight and easy to pack.
- Pack Lifting Straps - I often utilise straps on exercises such as Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts and heavy rows.
Become a 'Weekend Warrior' (Adopt active leisure pursuits/hobbies):
Take up a sport or active leisure pursuit to fill your spare time. Here are just afew suggestions: -
-Martial Arts (Jiu Jitsu,Karate, Judo, Taekwando, Boxing)
There are a myriad of sports and active pursuits out there, some of which you may have never considered before. Maybe it is time to consider them!!
Just to reiterate, there are no magical foods that will help you lose body fat. There is no 'best' training plan. At the end of the day it comes down to consistent habits & routines that manifest over the long-term. Is your lifestyle set up in such a way that being lean becomes easy?