Heath & Fitness Lifestyle

Transform Your Body & Health in 7 Months

November 15, 2018

Through my Sophomore and Junior years of college, I really prided myself on my athletic ability and physical fitness…

However, following a bout of illness during my senior year, a trip to Europe with copious amounts of food, and a high-stress job, I had truly fallen off the bandwagon by the time I was 22. Although I still usually hit the gym once or twice a week and ate somewhat healthy, my physical ability and physique was simply not the same. On top of this, I was battling ongoing issues with my digestion and skin, which often interfered with my everyday life.

I felt crappy and run down. And, I knew something had to change.

Wellness revamp.

I approached a wellness revamp three fold:

  1. Clean diet
  2. Hormonal health
  3. Physical fitness

I knew that my diet had to change – eating pasta every night and forgoing salads had caught up with me. I was feeling sluggish and my digestion was off. The way I was eating was not sustainable for longterm health. And, although losing weight may be a result of said dietary changes, starting to eat truly healthy again in awareness of my sensitivities was essential for my body’s longevity. This was my primary motivator for change.

I took small steps towards a healthier plate. For instance, I dropped diary and soy completely and started having at least one full veggie and protein meal a day. I reinvested in my awareness about gut health. And, in the new year, I hope to slowly transition to a paleo style diet, to really boost my nutrition and fight inflammation.

Meanwhile, hormonal health, which is intricately tied to diet, was also an area that I wanted to address. My skin and ongoing battle with ovarian cysts had to change. I wanted to be confident and have kids one day – the state of my hormonal health was incompatible with these goals. With the guidance of this book, by way of Lee from America, I got off hormonal birth control, started drinking decaf, cut plastics, went organic, and regained control of my inner balance.

Finally, the last ingredient was to boost my physical fitness. I had become lazy about my workouts and had stopped making them a priority. And, my mental and physical state were a testament to this. I was cranky, tired, and weak. With a promise to myself and combining self research, influencer inspiration, and trainer-led fitness, I made a 180 degree change in my physical health.

 

PSAs.

In this article I will explain in detail the changes I made to my fitness routine. Although I will touch on diet and hormonal health a little bit, more in depth articles surrounding those topics will appear in the coming months.

Although I share a lot about my recommendations for boosting your physical fitness, I am not a personal trainer nor fitness professional in any way. Do I have a lot of general knowledge, yes. Am I am expert, no. Please discuss changes to your fitness routine with a doctor or professional before you dive in.

Know that even though this was the way I transformed my physical fitness and the way I recommend you do it to, this method may not work for everyone. Everybody is different and prefers different routines and types of activities. Do what is right for you, whether that is taking a long walk with your dog every evening or Soulcycle on the weekends. At the end of the day, what matters is that you are active in some capacity, and if that is different from the way I am, that is totally fine.

I personally invested in gym memberships and training. You do not have to do this. Although I was able and chose to do so, you can get excellent exercise with free or low cost resources. You can stream HIIT and yoga classes through Youtube, run the stairs and do pull ups at your local park, or participate in classes at your local community center. Fitness should be accessible for everyone and by no means do you have to pay large sums of money to be active.


Okay with all the PSAs out of the way, lets jump into it!

One. Re-establish your baseline.

– 2 months- 

Whenever I go for a long period of suboptimal health – for instance, following my semester abroad, or following my longterm illness – I like to jump back in with a couple months of well rounded activities that will prep my body for the intense physical change that I am about to implement. To me, this period is like a reset for your body to help re-establish your base line flexibility, mobility, strength, and aerobic endurance.

For me, I have done this with a Corepower Yoga studio**, combining a couple days of yoga with a couple days of yoga sculpt (a HIIT style, high repetition, weight-based yoga class). Yoga provides you the headspace you need as you start on a new fitness journey, and enables you to work on your flexibility and mobility after a period of lesser movement. Meanwhile, yoga sculpt combines weights, cardio, and yoga into one great class. This allows you rediscover your muscles and elevate your heart rate, acting as a nice base for your future fitness development. And, all these classes are taught in a heated room, pushing out any impurities you may have attracted over sedentary months.

I recommend the following split for the first two months of your journey:

  • Monday – yoga
  • Tuesday – yoga sculpt or HIIT
  • Wednesday – rest
  • Thursday – yoga
  • Friday – yoga sculpt or HIIT
  • Saturday – rest
  • Sunday – rest

During this time, also consider cutting the sugars and processed foods. Your body needs energy to thrive in this new athletic routine and removing any dietary hinderance can only help! Ease into these changes, slowly swapping sodas for sparkling water and choosing homemade, whole foods over processed soups or delivery.

**I like Corepower because there are no contracts for their monthly membership program, so when you are ready to move on to stage 2 (strength), you can easily say goodbye with no additional fees. And their Yoga Sculpt class is the best on the market. However, you can find similar classes at your local gym or with the help of Youtube.

 

Two. Build your form & muscle mass.

– 3 months – 

Now that you have began priming your flexibility, mobility, strength, and cardiovascular endurance, it is time to actually increase your strength. Building muscle mass will not only enable you to do daily activities more readily, but it will help you burn calories more effectively. Having a higher muscle to fat ratio actually speeds up your metabolism. Therefore, if your end goal is weight loss, muscle is essential for shedding the pounds. To do this, I recommend integrating full-body strength training 3 times a week, while maintaining a day of HIIT and a day of yoga or easy pilates. Note that one of these strength days should be more HIIT-centric, meaning it elevates your heart rate – within this session you will get the combined effect of a strength and a cardio workout.

If you are new to lifting weights, I cannot stress enough the importance of form. You do not want to hurt yourself doing a deadlift or another complex exercise. If you have not had much experience with strength training, invest in a personal trainer upfront, even if it is only for one day a week, so you can master the movements. Or, double check your form consistently with Youtube videos. You will not regret it.

I personally enjoy participating in small group training for my strength days. As a part of Alpha Strong, a personal trainer leads me three days a week in thought-out, full body strength exercises that often include compound movements, like deadlifting, olympic snatching, barbell squats, and bench press. This format is great for me because I don’t have to think about anything: I show up without a plan and still have an amazing workout. My teammates and trainers also keep me accountable and expect to see me every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

I recommend the following split for your strength training months:

  • Monday – strength training
  • Tuesday – yoga or pilates
  • Wednesday – HIIT-forward strength training
  • Thursday – rest
  • Friday – strength training
  • Saturday – rest or HIIT
  • Sunday – rest

When you start out it will be taxing on your body and you will be sore all the time! Take it easy, especially during the first month, so as to prevent injury. But, within 2-4 weeks your body will adjust and the aches should subside.

During this time, the goal is not to loose weight. Instead, it is to maintain weight and put on muscle mass. You may even be gaining weight, since muscle is heavier than fat tissue. If you enter a weight training program with the goal of losing weight, you will only be starving your muscles of the calories and nutrients they need to build lean muscle mass. If you “cut” while attempting to build, you may not see the strength development that you had hoped for. So, maintain your caloric intake during these months and focus on swapping out carbs for proteins when possible. This will help you build the muscle you desire.

Know that you can prolong this “growth” phase as long as you see fit. The longer you build muscle, the more that there will be following eventual cardio and weight loss phase (step three). I recommend three months as a minimum for building initial lean muscle mass.

This year, from the beginning of month 1 to the end of month 5, I dropped 4% body fat and added 3.5% lean muscle mass. All while maintaining the same exact weight month to month on the scale. This is a testament to how well these methods worked for me and hopefully will work for you!

 

Three. Integrate cardio & cut the fat.

– 2 months – 

Now that you have established your baseline and worked on your strength, you can focus on the cardio and possibly weight loss portion of your regimen.

Adding additional cardio to your fitness to your weekly split is essential. A recent study found that 3 days of cardio per week, whether steady state or HIIT/interval style training, is tied to the maintenance of telomere length, a portion of your DNA that is linked to healthy aging. Furthermore, telomeres are longer among those that participated in aerobic activity frequently, as compared to those that did no exercise or just did weight training. Although lifting is great for long term muscle health, it seems that cardio is a key to fighting early aging and premature death.

Therefore, work in an additional day of cardio into your routine. In total, you will have one day of HIIT, one day of steady-state cardio, like a long jog or a cycling class, and a cardio-forward, strength training session. Your heart rate should be elevated frequently enough throughout the week to help prevent premature aging and seriously strengthen your cardiovascular health.

I recommend the following split for your cardio phase:

  • Monday – strength training
  • Tuesday – yoga or pilates
  • Wednesday – HIIT-forward strength training
  • Thursday – rest
  • Friday – strength training
  • Saturday – HIIT
  • Sunday – steady-state cardio

Furthermore, increased cardio is equivalent to more calories burned. This will lend itself well to weight loss, should that be your goal. Additionally, to shed the pounds, consider cutting portion sizes a bit. Instead of eating three tacos, have two. Think about cutting your complex carb portions by half, like having only the bottom of a bun on your burger, or half a bagel instead of a whole. When considering carbs, also remember that alcohol is a carbohydrate. Attempt to limit adult beverages to special occasions and drink in moderation, only 1-1.5 drinks per sitting!

If you are truly ambitious, think about slowly transitioning to paleo, a diet that removes a lot of foods that both cause inflammation and thus reduces the risk for chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s. In the long run the lifestyle can do wonders for your overall health.

But, remember, do not cut back too drastically. Restricting calories too much may push your body into starvation mode, ultimately messing up your adrenals and pushing you to gain weight down the road. Everything is about balance and moderation! Take conservative steps towards your ideal health and figure.

 

Four. Maintain.

The secret to exercise is to keep up with your habits. Hopefully, with this several month program, by the time you reach the end of month seven, you will have already established the essential habits needed to maintain your physical fitness and new physique.

Keep up strength training at least 2 times a week to maintain your muscle mass. HIIT or cardio should be 3 times a week for your cardiovascular health (and keeping those telomeres thick!). And, do yoga (or pilates) once a week for your flexibility, mobility, and mental health. Remember to always integrate activities that you enjoy – your cardio can be tennis or boxing. Try new routines and methods with workout buddies.

Here is a sustainable split following your 7 month transformation

  • Monday – strength training
  • Tuesday – yoga or pilates
  • Wednesday – HIIT-forward strength training
  • Thursday – steady-state cardio
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – HIIT
  • Sunday – rest

Being healthy is a way of life and should be fun (most of the time!). It is key to keep up with your fitness, along with nutrition and hormonal health, for the rest of your life in a way that you enjoy. This will hopefully bring you both longevity and a great quality of life through your years!

Thanks for reading!

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