I’m excited about today’s post because I get to talk about my favorite person – my husband, Mark. We share a lot of common goals: raising our kids to be obedient and honor God, building lasting and healthy friendships, early retirement, and staying healthy as we age. Since being married, we’ve trained for both a half marathon and a full marathon together. It’s a really great experience to bond with someone you love over a common goal and work together to achieve it.
But, like many others, Mark finds it easier to commit to exercise and training when the weather is cooperative than when we’re stuck inside for months on end. Sometimes, healthy motives go away with the sun and don’t resurface until spring has come.
Around March of this year, Mark got serious about his health and physical condition again. It was shortly after I completed my personal training certification so he asked me to “train” him. Applying a mix of what I learned and some common sense when it comes to health, we put together a plan. In the months since, Mark has lost 28 lbs and is continuing to build muscle. Yes, I am extremely proud of this husband of mine!
The rest of this post is going to summarize the changes we made to make Mark’s goal a reality. As you may guess, we worked on both physical fitness and good nutrition.
Let’s start by talking about exercise.
It had been several months since Mark committed to a workout plan so we started easy with a custom treadmill workout I programmed for him and some moderate strength training. The treadmill workout was set to run intervals. As the workout became easier, I adjusted the program to make it harder; I increased the max speed the intervals would hit and took away a couple minutes of the mid-run recovery that were programmed into the middle of the workout.
On the strength training days, he’d start by warming up his muscles – arm circles, standing alternating toe touches, and butt kicks. For the core of the workout, I had him doing the bench press, squats, bicycle crunch, bicep curl, single leg bridges, and lying leg raises. He would complete three sets of this, repeating each exercise 10-15 times within each set. After the workout, he’d stretch. Because he tends to have lower back pain, I particularly had him focus on stretching his hamstrings, which are always super tight.
This routine lasted a solid couple months with Mark dropping one, sometimes two pounds a week. Once the weather got consistently nice, he traded in the treadmill for the road.
In the beginning of this program, I had Mark running three days a week and strength training two days a week. As I learned more about the key role strength training had in weight loss, we upped his routine so he was running three days a week and strength training three days a week. Cardio is a great way to burn a lot of calories. But the more muscle your body has, the more energy (calories) it requires even while at rest. Increasing Mark’s lean muscle mass is now our primary goal. Mark now strength trains three days a week and runs two days a week.
We are in the process of changing his strength routine. The new routine includes the bench press, push-ups, bicep curls, barbell squats, plank variations, single leg bridges, pull-ups, tricep dips, and the deadlift. Basically, we’re hitting all the big muscle groups and focusing on compound movements – exercises that work multiple muscle groups and joints. We increased the weight he lifts but decreased the amount of reps within each set. It’s proving to be an appropriate challenge. (I tend to follow the Minimum Effective Dose philosophy that Girls Gone Strong talks about in this article.)
Now let’s talk about food.
Nutrition is a huge part of weight loss and weight maintenance. To clean up Mark’s diet so he’d lose weight, we started with small changes and kept consistent. For the first couple weeks, this is what we changed:
- No soda (hello, seltzer water).
- One glass of milk a day (not two or more).
- One snack in the evening (not two or more).
These simple changes produced immediate results. As we saw progress and Mark continued to stay committed to his goals, we made a few more changes.
- Eggs for breakfast (no cereal).
- Low-carb bread for sandwiches.
- Higher protein lunches (man can’t survive on peanut butter alone).
- Meat and veggies for dinner (lots of potatoes but limited-to-none pasta, rice, and bread).
- Purposeful snacking (Greek yogurt with no sugar added, nuts, protein powder, homemade protein bars and larabars).
What did we eliminate? Honestly, not much. We consciously cut out carbs and anything that had sugar added to it, but otherwise, we focused more on getting enough nutrient dense foods than avoiding pitfalls. We rarely have dessert or eat out, so, since all of our meals were already prepared and consumed at home and were generally healthy, it was more about portion control than anything. The evenings were the toughest, because that’s when we want to sit in front of the TV and chow on tortilla chips and pretzels, cheese and crackers, and popcorn.
Now that Mark’s goal is to build more muscle, we’re timing his protein intake more carefully to make sure his muscles have what they need to grow bigger and stronger. (Read more about protein here.)
Before you get to thinking that I imposed on my husband a strict routine that is impossible to keep, let me assure you that I did not. In the mix of all these months, there were weeks where work demands meant Mark missed almost every workout. There were evenings when we ate greasy pizza. We had ice cream and still socialized like normal people. This was not an all or nothing endeavor. It was a matter of committing to the process of making healthy choices on a regular basis. Life happens and that’s OK.
So, what do I want you to take from this, if anything? It’s simple, really.
- Transformation is a slow process
- Transformation is a result of consistency
- Transformation is for every day, normal people
- Transformation is possible
FitTip: I truly believe, and my husband would say the same, that his success is a direct result of our partnering together to achieve his goals. He put in the work. He ate the food I recommended. He did everything he was supposed to. I tracked his progress, made sure he was properly challenged but not overly challenged, and made all his food. I do whatever is necessary to make his physical conditioning a priority. I suppose if you’re a really determined individual, then you wouldn’t need any support to be successful. But for the rest of us, a supportive spouse, friend, or community can make all the difference. If you’re looking for a community, join mine! Request to join the FitGrape Life Facebook group.