How to get in shape

Get in Shape for VacationA little different than Winter in Wisconsin.

Winters in Wisconsin are brutal. They’re cold, snowy and there can be days on end when you wonder if the sun actually exists.

Having lived in Wisconsin my entire life (Besides a 3 month internship in San Diego – Am I crazy for coming back?), thoughts of warm, sunny places run through my head daily during the majority of months. 10 weeks from now, I’ll escape Wisconsin and head to Las Vegas and then back to San Diego – Bring on the warm weather! In preparation for this trip I’ve decided to take my nutrition and exercise up another notch. Why? Maybe it’s all of the Las Vegas pools. Maybe it’s the San Diego beaches. In reality, it’s a little of both. However, I also like challenging myself from time to time, so why not take things to another level?

I’ll let you know what my plan is to get in great shape for vacation, but you have to understand a few things first:

  • The best way to get in shape for vacation is to stay in shape for vacation. Crazy, I know. Staying fit throughout the year will ensure you’re always ready for when you do decide to get away and lay on the beach for a week. Is life all about looking good in a swimsuit? Hell no, but c’mon who doesn’t want to look sexy on the beach?
  • This is a temporary push. I’m already in good shape (14.9% body fat at 197 pounds), eat fairly well and exercise 4-6 days per week, but I’m taking things to a more extreme level for a set amount of time (10 weeks). Staying fit in the long term requires some slightly different, more maintainable strategies.
  • A vacation can be a great springboard into fitness. You may not be motivated by simply being fit and healthy for life – I get that. A vacation can be the perfect springboard into improved health and fitness and I’ve seen this firsthand with my many of my clients.
  • It’s not just about looking good. Yes, I mentioned this in the first bullet point, but allow me to elaborate. In this photoshopped world, with impossible standards of what “looking good” means, way too many eating disorders and people feeling like shit simply because they have some extra pounds of body fat, we need to shift our focus a little. Getting in better shape isn’t simply about six pack abs, big arms or a great butt – It’s about gaining more self-confidence and feeling good. It’s about committing yourself to a goal, working towards it each day and becoming a better person because of it. Want to get in shape for your next vacation and feel AMAZING when you’re at the beach? Step one is to look at what I’m doing to drop some body fat before vacation. Step two is to work your ass off, train hard and eat better. Step three is to arrive at the beach, feel great and have one helluva time!
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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, Precision Nutrition Coaching is based on this approach. That’s why even the busiest guys can get fantastic results in the program.

The Numbers


For myself I’m defining getting in shape for vacation as dropping some body fat. How much exactly? Well, let’s look at the numbers from my testing on day 1 to see.

  • Weight: 197 pounds
  • Body Fat Percentage: 14.9% (Using a handheld bioelectrical impedance to test. Not always the most accurate, but it’s something)

Based on those numbers I have about 29.4 pounds of fat and 167.6 pounds of lean mass. A reasonable rate of losing body fat is between 1/2 and 1 pound per week (With the right nutrition and exercise of course). More is possible, depending on how extreme you go and how much muscle your’re willing to part with. During the course of 10 weeks that means I’d lose between 5 and 10 pounds of body fat. If I maintained all of my muscle mass that would put me between 12.7% body fat and 10.4% body fat at the end – a noticeable improvement.

I’m going to shoot for the stars and aim to lose a pound of body fat each week. 3,500 calories is in a pound of fat, so I’ll need to average a 500 calorie deficit each day through a combination of nutrition and exercise (There is more involved than just calories in and calories out, but this simplifies things). To do this I’ll have to know my maintenance level of calories and adjust from there. Online you’ll see endless amounts of calories estimators, but one that I really like is from John Romaniello of Roman Fitness Systems. Here it is below:

Calorie RecommendationsBased on my 167.6 pounds of LBM (Lean Body Mass), 14.9% body fat and 197 pounds I’d need to consume 2,514 – 2,681 calories each day to maintain my current body weight (15 calories – 16 calories times my body weight. My bodyweight is right on the border in the chart, so I could theoretically use either number). If I was to just try and lose body fat through dieting alone, consuming around 2,000 calories per day would theoretically allow me to lose a pound per week. The problem? If I wasn’t exercising at all I’d lose muscle mass as well so my metabolism would drop – not good. I’ve kept all these numbers in mind as I created my plan and you’ll see more details later in this post.

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The Basics of My Plan

To be honest, I don’t care that much about being at a certain body fat percentage because I know if I’m diligent with my nutrition and exercise the results will come. I’m focused on the process, not the finished product – I want to see how consistent I can be. So the question is: What does the process of getting in shape for vacation in only 10 weeks look like? Here are the basics of what I’ll be doing:

  • Carbohydrate and Calorie Cycling
  • Intermittent Fasting
  • Weekly Food Prep
  • Nutrition Tracking
  • Metabolic Resistance Training
  • Barbell Complexes
  • High Intensity Interval Training

I took a few hours one day to do some research and form a plan to fit my exact lifestyle – knowing my daily schedule, my weaknesses, the most efficient forms of exercise for fat loss and some effective nutritional strategies. I took into account all of these factors and tried to make things as simple as I could. Too often we are paralyzed by the paradox of choice – we end up not taking any action at all. Or, we try something for a week or two and jump to the next new and exciting thing. Make a plan, follow it, see what happens, adjust as needed. If you’ve done your homework and taken some time with creating your plan the adjustments will be minor.


There a few different strategies I’ll be using for my nutrition, but I’m going to keep things as simple as I can to ensure that I’ll stick to things throughout the 10 weeks – compliance is critical. I’ll also be tracking everything I eat so I can stay accountable and hit my daily goals. My nutrition will be based on two things:

  1. Workout Days
  2. Non – Workout Days

Workout Days

These are any days I’m doing intense strength training – breaking a sweat, breathing hard – those types of sessions. For me, those days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday with a possible Saturday or Sunday. The goal of my nutrition on these days is maintain or gain as much muscle as possible (To have the highest metabolism I can), so my calories are higher on these days compared to non – workout days. On top of more calories, I’ll also be eating more carbohydrates and plenty of protein. The increased carbohydrates are to fuel my workouts and replace muscle glycogen (Carbohydrates stored in your muscles) after workouts. The protein is to help with protein synthesis (The muscle building process).

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Goal: Maintain muscle mass while burning lots of calories

Nutrition: 2,500 calories, 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight and 150 grams of carbohydrates with the majority coming after exercise

Exercise: Total body metabolic resistance training (More on that below)

Non – Workout Days

These are all the other days that aren’t workout days – pretty obvious, I know. These days include barbell complexes, high intensity interval training (HIIT), steady state cardio (SSC) like incline walking on a treadmill and any other physical activities besides intense strength training. For nutrition, I’m focused on eating eating about 500 calories less than my maintenance level of around 2,500 calories. Furthermore, I’ll be using my own version of intermittent fasting on at least Tuesdays and Thursdays. This basically means I’ll be skipping breakfast on these days. You can learn anything you’d every want to know about intermittent fasting here from an interesting set of experiments by John Berardi of Precision Nutrition.

Goal: Burn body fat

Nutrition: 2,000 calories, 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight and less than 100 grams of carbohydrates

Exercise: Barbell complexes, HIIT, SSC, recreational physical activities

My Training Schedule

For the duration of my 10 week program to get in shape for vacation I’ll follow a schedule similar to the one below. Mind you, there is room for flexibility, but this is the basic structure.

  • Monday – Metabolic Resistance Training
  • Tuesday – Barbell Complexes
  • Wednesday – Metabolic Resistance Training
  • Thursday – High Intensity Interval Training
  • Friday – Metabolic Resistance Training
  • Saturday – Bodyweight exercises, additional lifting (Biceps, Triceps, Abs) and generally being active (Playing basketball, going for a walk, etc.)
  • Sunday – Just move (Again, basketball, walking, etc.)

The plan is to be active every day. Exercising daily helps eliminate the excuse of doing your workout tomorrow – you’re doing something every day – that’s just the way it is. For me, working at a gym allows me to train more than once per day. Often times I’ll have breaks between clients, so during those times I’m adding in sessions of jump rope, incline walking and bodyweight exercises -nothing super specific or lasting longer than about 20-30 minutes, but adding to my daily activity and burning more calories. Because I’m already going to be in a slight caloric deficit most days it’ll be difficult to exercise for extended periods of time, hence the short bursts.

All of this may seem complicated, but it’s really quite simple and comes down to doing a few things:

  • Eating a Little Less
  • Exercising Effectively
  • Keeping Track of What Matters – Exercise and Nutrition

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