The Fitness Plan

Exercise will obviously form a HUGE part of my journey to feel 10 years younger in 2022.

However not just any old exercise plan will cut it.

Any plan I’m actually going to follow has to fit around my already busy life, be sustainable, be enjoyable and actually work over time to make me stronger and younger rather than wear me out. I would rather be a bit less fit and a lot more healthy than reach Olympian levels of fitness and be half dead and end up looking like Skeletor.

For an explanation of how this can happen check out my article on Why Exercise Isn’t Always Good For You

So this plan needs to be a little different to most:

  1. I want to be able to kitesurf, snowboard, surf etc whenever I want and not be too knackered to enjoy my favourite sports because I’ve just done a killer workout. This is actually a bit harder than it sounds as the big problem with these sports is the lack of control I have over when I will be doing them…reliant as they are on Mother Nature. So I need a plan which is adaptable whilst still giving me the consistency I need to actually build muscle and fitness whilst allowing me to build a routine which ensures it actually gets done.
  2. Not over exercising. When I do something I tend to over do it, and doing this with exercise will not only leave me exhausted and actually lead to me getting worse due to overtraining. Ageing me faster than doing no exercise at all would…definitely not what I want. What I need to find is the Minimum Effective Dose of exercise (you’ll be hearing a lot about his over the coming months) which will provide the changes I require and give me the results I want without leaving me overtrained.
  3. Time. There are only so many hours in the day and I have a lot on my plate this year, so it needs to be a highly effective workout which takes up the minimum amount of time.
  4. Linked to 3 it will be easier if the majority of any workout I do can be done from home, at work or at least doesn’t need a gym (this will cut down on transit time) I’d also rather be doing my exercise outside in the day light whenever possible.

Ok so that said what are my actual goals for this workout plan? I’m telling you this so if you decide to follow along you know what you can expect.

What I don’t want is to look like The Rock. Instead I’m aiming for lean, long, soft, functional muscles, something akin to a 400m runner, as this build has been shown to be pretty optimal to longevity.

The key focus will be on health rather than looking a certain way, or reaching a certain level of fitness.

My goal is functional health, movement without pain, resistance to injury, agility and explosiveness (rather than endurance).

Why explosiveness? 

Because it’s the area of fitness which declines the fastest as we age, and in the sports I do it’s also probably the most important. (It’s also what I’m genetically programmed for so will be easier to do naturally)

The plan also has to counteract Sarcopenia or the natural tendency for us to lose muscle mass as we age. On average we lose 1% of muscle mass a year after 40 and although there are several biological reasons for this, the main reason is we simply stop moving as much as we get older.

So that said what will I actually be doing?

Well let’s look at the science…

In a study at McMaster University in Canada, 2 groups were tested to see how long it took them to cycle 18.6 miles.

One group then went on to perform a high intensity workout on a stationary bike, comprising 30 seconds of intense bike riding at 250% of their VO2 max, followed by 4 minutes of rest. They repeated this 3 – 5 times until they had completed a total of 2 – 3 minutes of hard cycling.

The second group cycled at 65% of their Vo2 max for 90 to 120 minutes.

Both groups cycled for 3 consecutive days every week for 2 weeks.

Breaking it down over the 2 weeks, the first group performed a total of 12 – 18 minutes of high intensity exercise. The second group 9 – 12 hours of much lower intensity exercise.

After this 2 week period both groups were told to repeat the initial 18.6 mile test.

The result…

Both groups improved to the same degree.

Biopsies were performed and even at this level they noted the same improvements.

In short, zero additional benefit was gained by the low endurance group, but they did get a lot more wear and tear on the body…97% more!

What we can surmise and what increasingly sport scientists are coming to realise is that exercise like a drug has a Minimum Effective Dose (MED).

A frequency, a concentration and a dosage, or a number of times a week, an intensity and an amount of reps/sets that will give the greatest benefit. Transgress this window and do more than the MED and we do not get more benefits but more toxicity and wear and tear, don’t do enough and we do not stimulate the adaption response.

This study seems to point towards the possibility the MED for exercise could be much lower than we ever thought, as long as the exercise is performed in a certain way.

In fact after the completion of these studies the lead scientist began investigating whether even the tiny amount of exercise performed in this study was above the MED.

He conceded that as little as 5 minutes of this form of High Intensity Exercise every 7-10 days could be enough to provoke a significant adaption response in subjects.

And I agree.

WHAT?

Ridiculous…how can I agree with that?

Because I’ve tracked it using HRV and actual client results. 1 workout done properly once a week for many people is enough.

The key here is the workout we do. 

We are aiming to stimulate our muscles to such a degree that we activate the adaption response but due to the intensity of the workout we have to spend an increased period of time recovering to fully incorporate the gains made, this also has the added benefit of not triggering the kind of wear and tear repetition injuries so common when starting a workout plan.

How Do You Do It?

Enter the BIG 5 Workout.

I’ll be doing the BIG 5 as championed by Doug McGuff every week or 2 two. This powerhouse of a workout is 15 mins of pain followed by days of recovery. Yup you read that right 15m of exercise a week max. Hows that for MED!

If you’re interested to read more about the BIG 5, I include it and the entire workout I’ll be doing this year in my free book which you can download here >>

However in my study of strength and fitness I’ve noticed one thing, most of the guys who are top of their field or just the guys with the biggest motors, do lots of low level exercise.

Geoff Capes, the worlds strongest man for years, spent most of his youth lifting bags of potatoes into the back of a truck for hours every day.

Ethiopian runners run at much lower levels of intensity for much longer than most other runners.

And then there’s Derek, a Pig Farmer who came on a kitesurfing camp with us. Derek was 55 and arrived with his 18 year old son.

He moved all day in his job, occasionally stopping to pick up a pig or other heavy object but was on the go from the crack of dawn till sunset and had done the same for his entire life.

After 5 days of full on kitesurfing, being at the beach for 6 hours a day minimum his son (and most of the instructors) were whacked.

Derek hadn’t even started and could happily have gone for another 6 hours. He stopped because he saw his son was getting bored (and I think he felt a little sorry for the poor instructors).

So I’ll be practicing my own form of what I call Farmer Fitness. Every hour I’ll be doing between 20 seconds and 2 mins of a single exercise, push ups, pull ups, burpees, squats. Anything just to keep the muscles ticking over and remind my body that it needs this muscle so not to get rid of it.

Between these 2 routines it’ll really cost me very little extra time. The Farmer Fitness I can do while working at my computer easily enough and I can definitely find the 15 mins to do the BIG 5 once a week.

This routine is also paced at a level of intensity where I should easily be able to kite my heart out without noticing any serious downsides on the water.

So that’s it, my complete workout for the next year…if you want to see it broken down in detail you can download the full plan in my free book here >>