Structuring a fitness program

I rewrite my plans for fitness and nutrition probably once a month, sometimes less if I’m sticking with it really well; sometimes more if I’m not doing so great. But I always structure it the same way. It’s therapeutic for me and gives me a good outline of what I want to do. I don’t know if it’s the best way, but it’s what I like, so maybe you will find it helpful to.


Start date: January 8, 2013

Current weight: 149 lbs

Current Body Fat (if known): not sure, but probably about 24%


Goal date: May 25, 2013 (date of OPA competition)

Goal weight: approx 132lbs (Could completely change based on what I look like, but it gives me something to move towards)

Goal Body Fat: approx 12% (this means I probably need to gain 2 pounds of muscle as well as lose the fat)

Pounds per week to lose to reach goal: approx 1 pounds per week


Weekly Fitness Plan:


  • Workout (weights) 3-5 days per week
  • 2 HIIT sessions plus 1-2 steady state cardio sessions per week

Monday: Heavy legs – focus on posterior chain

Tuesday: Yoga (or other active rest) + steady state cardio

Wednesday: Pull group + HIIT

Thursday: Lower body conditioning training (Plyos, tabatas, circuits etc.)

Friday or Saturday: Push group + HIIT

Sunday: Rest or Active rest


Daily Nutrition Goals:

Calories: Maintenance – 800 – 300 (i keep a 500 calorie range that changes depending on what I am doing that day or possible cycling of calories) for me this means about 1500 – 2000 calories per day

Protein, fats, carbs: At least 120 grams of protein, less than 120< grams of carbs, remainder of calories from healthy fats

Other: NO gluten, reduce grains, reduce milk and focus on nutrient timing.


I have put my actual stats in here because I know a lot of people find that helpful. But please keep in mind that I am relatively tall and have a lot of muscle on me. I do not want to influence anyone’s perception of themselves and am only trying to give you all an idea of what a high level plan looks like for me.

I, of course, get more detailed for competition prep, but for most of the time, this is where it stops.

I hope you find it helpful! 🙂



Tabata, you’re a crazy SOB

This morning I woke up at 5:09 am, also known as too-goddam-early, to get to the gym by 6 am.

Actually, let me digress here to tell you how I manage this, because it’s no easy feat to actually be ready to workout in the gym BY 6 am.

  1. I prepare all my food for the next day the night before sometimes including breakfast and put it in tupperware in the fridge and have a bag set out to put it in in the morning, no hassle.
  2. If I don’t have a pre-made breakfast I opt for something super simple, this morning was a protein shake consisting of: 1 c. almond milk (unsweetened), 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, 1/2 c. frozen raspberries and 1/2 tbsp. organic pure cocoa blended in my Magic Bullet – therefore I eliminate some mess.
  3. I shower at night and then after the gym, no morning showering.
  4. I choose my work clothes and put them in my bag (including work shoes) the night before.
  5. I get into my gym clothes as soon as I get up so I don’t have to change at the gym and sometimes have this as well as my running shoes laid out the night before.

Knowing that all I have to do if get up, get dressed, put the pre-made food in a bag, eat and go makes it a little more bearable to go. Plus, I trained with a trainer this morning, so I was accountable to someone and couldn’t just not show up. This is also key, if you can get a friend to meet you for morning workouts or have someone hold you accountable, you will be way more likely to go.

Ok, so I left my house at 5:37 (that’s right, less than 30 minutes from bed to out the door, boo-ya) and was actually at the gym in time to get in a 10 minute warm-up before hand. This was partially because the gym was freezing and walking on an incline slightly relieved the horrible cold. The trainer I am working with loves high intensity workout and training “like an athlete” which is awesome, but kind of hard to muster at too-goddam-ealy o’clock. Still, it’s makes you feel like a champion when you are done. This morning’s workout consisted of 4 rounds of Tabata training (crazy guy that he was) and 1 quick crossfit inspired WOD called Fran. FYI Tabata training consists of high intensity (all out) movements for 20 seconds, then 10 seconds rest repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes, which is one Tabata round. It went like this:

The too-goddam-early workout

Round one Tabata: Rowing… at level 9, I managed to get 870 meters in my 4 minutes

3 minutes walking to rest

Round two Tabata: Rowing… at level 9 again, I only managed to get 830 meters in my 4 minutes this time because my legs were on fire!

3 minutes walking to rest

Round three Tabata: Hill running… 6.0 mph at a 10% incline, I probably could have gone faster, but this was about the incline not the speed

2 minutes just standing on the treadmill while it’s still running

Round four Tabata: Hill running… 6.0 mph at a 11% incline for the first 4 sets, then 12% incline for the last 4. There is apparently a HUGE difference in the effort between 11% and 12%, because I was toast on 12%

3 minutes walking before giving a run down of what Fran is and demonstrating the form and such which probably took an additional 2 minutes

Fran WOD

21 “thusters” with 55 lbs, 21 chin-ups with a little jump – I still had to break in the middle of the chins even with the jump because it was damned hard

Repeat with 15 reps – broke the chins in 2, did 8, pause, 7

Repeat with 9 reps – did everything continuously

* Thrusters are kind of a half squat combined with a push press using an olympic bar, so you start holding the bar against your chest, elbows up, do a half squat and on the way up push the bar above your head, bringing it back to your shoulders as you squat again.

Exercise should be enjoyable… or at least not torture

I hate cardio… there, I said it. I know most of you are thinking it and trying to convince yourself that no no, I really do like going running for an hour feeling like my heart is going to explode out of my chest. You liar! I know some of you probably actually do like running, or other forms of endurance cardio. For instance, I have a friend who ran her first marathon in under 3 hours and 20 minutes and she actually enjoys it. She is also all of 5’2” and probably 110 lbs. She is essentially made for running long distances. I am not.

Let’s think from a biological perspective though. Our bodies are not made to run marathons, sure we have been nomadic at times in our history, but that didn’t involve running for 4 hours and definitely not on pavement. Marathons and running in general is hard on your body because it’s jarring and repetitive. Putting your body through that much exertion releases huge amounts of cortisol, damages you fascia (particularly in your feet) and generally breaks down your body. Our ancestors walked extremely long distances, and they certainly ran when the time called for it, but I can guarantee you they never jogged. Speaking from an evolutionary perspective, there was just never a need.

So what are our bodies made for? Well for one, they are made for walking long distances using lateral movements on uneven surfaces (I am very guilty of just getting on a treadmill, but get outside please). For two, they are designed for short bursts of intense energy or sprinting (think escaping certain death or trying to catch your next meal). Have you ever compared a sprinter to a marathoner?

I think it’s pretty obvious that the person on the left has conserved more lean body mass and generally looks healthier that the person on the right.

But what about all that science-y stuff that says steady state cardio for the win?! Well let’s clarify that. Science has shown that steady state cardio exertion, which is typically defined as consistently keeping your heart rate at about 60% of your maximal effort, is the best for fat loss. This is consistently touted as the reason that you should run at 5 mph for hours on end to lose weight. The problem with this is the study was looking at fat burning and metabolic increases DURING exercise as compared with sprinting or other high intensity workouts. When studies were done that tested the oxygen consumption (a measure of metabolism) and other measures over longer periods of time they found that high intensity workouts burned less fat while the exercise was happening (burning almost exclusively glycogen stores) but that the body continued to metabolize fat for hours after the workout, returning to “normal” about 6 hours later. Comparatively the steady state cardio had minimal lasting metabolic effects.

Additionally, sprinting retains muscle mass and can even help you build mass when compared to long sessions of cardio. Muscle burns more calories at rest that fat or having less muscle. So putting on muscle will also help you lose fat.

There are so many different options out there for cardio vascular exercise, and let me just make this clear, cardio is EXTREMELY important for your health. Your body is not made to do the same thing over and over again, so don’t! Of course you have your favourite workout, but there are lots of different options. Some of the best out there for torching fat are as follows:

  • Tabata workouts or sprints  –> go here if that means nothing to you
  • HIIT – or high intensity interval training
  • Hill walking – this can be emulated on a treadmill and is a natural interval style workout
  • Sprinting – try doing the 100 meter dash a couple of times
  • Cycling – I hate spin classes, but they are definitely awesome to mix up your cardio and who doesn’t love a good bike ride?
  • Interval running  – not HIIT, this is more of a walk run style workout
  • Circuit training – I do leg circuits all the time… in fact I’m doing one today
  • Hiking/long walks – go to a park, it has the added benefit of getting you outside which makes you happier… really it does! Think vitamin D and endorphins.
  • Random sports – most sports involve short bursts of high energy, similar to HIIT

My point is: don’t feel chained to the treadmill to lose weight. There are so many different ways to increase your heart rate, confuse your body and make it burn fat like crazy. If you love running, then you’re probably one of the few people whose body is more tailored for that type of exercise. If that’s the case, then go for it! But if not, listen to your body. I personally find sprinting, and Tabata style workouts way more fun and super rewarding. Plus I get great results that way because (1) I am willing to do it and not make excuses, and (2) my body responds really well to it because I am listening to what it wants… bodies are awesome like that!

I’m sure plenty of people disagree with me on this one, so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. I love a good debate!