The Tortoise Method


People keep asking me how I stay motivated. I don't stay motivated. I'm not motivated at all. I just do what I'm supposed to do every morning and avoid making choices. Plus, I don't try to make my fitness instantaneous. I'm a fitness tortoise. He's a way better endurance athlete than the hare, and you should see his abs underneath that shell.

So I've put together a sketch of a six-month plan for you. If you simply do it, you'll be in better shape than you can imagine. If you do most of it, you'll be in terrific shape.

But there's one rule: Don't tell me what kind of person you are or what you don't like. I'm not a morning person myself. And while I like to sweat, I don't really mind if you don't like sweating. Also, you probably have real obstacles in the way of carrying out this plan. Try to work your way around them. My personal obstacle? I'm 57, with all the long-term injuries of an active 57-year-old. But in many ways I'm in better shape than when I was 27. I just followed the plan.

So here goes. Ready to sweat? Too bad. No sweating for the first month, unless you want to.

Week One: Goals

Mark your calendar, and set your motive, goals and targets

Mark a date six months in advance. If you can plan a vacation for that time, so much the better. That date should become an anniversary you celebrate forever. It’s the date you changed your life.

Now decide your motive: Do you want to look good, get healthy, or be physically capable of something? It’s OK to have all three as a motive; but you’ll want to pick the most important one. Why? Because that’s your real incentive to keep going over those six months.

Next, the goal. If it’s to lose weight, you’ll want at least two or three targets: pounds of weight, clothing size, waist or hip measurement, a particular bathing suit or dress you want to fit. Plan to hit one of these targets, or all three. My goal is to run my age up Moosilauke. You might want to pick a 5K run, backpacking trip, a biking adventure…whatever it is, make it a real reach goal, something that sounds almost impossible right now.

Finally, order an exercise program and, if you choose, nutrition. Get in touch with me and I'll help you. I'm a Beachbody coach. (Not in it for the money; profits go to charity.) 

Week Two: Late Habit, Breakfast

Late Habit: Watch an hour’s less TV each night. That’s assuming you watch TV before bed. If you play video games or mess around with the Internet, cut out that hour. Read a book or listen to an audiotape. Do this every night, including the weekend if possible. If you can’t stand reading, try just going to bed. But you don’t have to go to bed early. Just cut out that last hour of junk. Believe it or not, this is the most important step toward your goal.

Breakfast: Drink a smoothie instead of your usual breakfast. I highly recommend Beachbody’s Shakeology, which is full of the best nutrition. I add Super Seed and water. The Shakeology package has suggestions for other mixes. I use the chocolate version and often like to mix in frozen raspberries, a banana, and almond milk. Why a smoothie? It fills you up more quickly and gives you the protein and fiber to keep you satisfied till lunch.

Week Three: Bedtime

Having ditched the last hour of TV, start going to bed an hour earlier. Don’t worry. You don’t have to get up earlier next morning—unless you feel like it. Chances are, you’re not getting enough sleep, and inadequate sleep leads to weight gain. Just sleep for now.

Chances are, you haven’t lost weight yet. But you’re going to start feeling a whole lot better.

If you haven’t ordered that exercise program, do it now. Email me and I'll fix you up with the right program and Shakeology.

Week Four: Morning Time, Lunch

Okay, it’s time to create your own time zone. You’re probably not a morning person. Most people aren’t. But people who live to the east of you get up earlier, and they’re not morning people either. They’re just in a different time zone. Set your alarm eight hours from when you went to bed. That should give you an extra hour in the morning. (If it doesn’t, go to bed even earlier.) When you get up, stretch, walk around, do something fun. Get outside if possible. But don’t try to exercise just yet. This should be time just for yourself.

Lunch: Make this the biggest meal of your day, and make sure it’s a nutritious meal. If you need dessert, have a piece of dark chocolate. It’s actually good for you. Pack a lunch if you can. Avoid restaurants, fast food or otherwise.

Weeks Five-Eight: Exercise, Nap.

First workout!! Begin slowly and cut yourself a whole lot of slack. When should you work out? During that hour you carved out for yourself. Drink water but avoid eating anything. This may seem like torture for a couple of weeks, but your body will get used to burning fat. It’s a way to turbocharge the results of your new workout.

Naps may be impossible for you, but try to get 20 or 30 minutes in the afternoon—even if that means leaving the office to sit in your car. Wear headphones and close your eyes. The Naturespace app (you can get it on iTunes) has natural sounds that put me right to sleep. Make sure you set an alarm or timer!

By the end of this period, you should start seeing visible results. So will anyone who looks at you.

Setbacks: You may get sick, you may have to travel, you may pull a muscle, relatives may come and visit, you may pig out at a fast food restaurant. These things happen. Get through them. You won’t lose weight at a steady pace anyway. Just keep your eyes on that six-month prize. The six months assume things will go wrong now and then. Just get back to it. Keep going, and you’ll be in the best shape of your life. The only thing keeping you from that goal would be to quit altogether. We all mess up along the way.

Week Nine: Dinner

This is optional, but it can make a huge difference: Drink a smoothie for dinner, even if you have to prepare a different meal for your family. I have a smoothie with natural popcorn (not microwave-ready). I pop the kernels in the microwave, then spray some olive oil over the popcorn and sprinkle popcorn salt.  Eating light at night will help you lose weight steadily.

Weeks Nine-Twelve: Playtime, Outdoor Time

Try to supplement your workout with activity during the day. Swap a balance ball for your office chair if you can get away with it. 

In addition, see if you can get some fresh air every day at lunch or after work. Start taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Little things like these can burn an extra 200 calories a day.

Month 4: Ramp Up, Cut Back on Booze

Make sure you complete your exercise program. Now start another, more rigorous one. The more intense the workout, the better the results. Just make sure you’re ready for it.

If you like to drink, try to limit yourself to two drinks a week. Or cut it out altogether for a few months. Alcohol works to make you eat more, and it converts food to fat like nothing else. If people press you to drink, tell them you’re in training. Because you are.

Month 5: Count Calories

I’ve used Tap & Track, a smartphone app that keeps track of calories and exercise. Don’t obsess over it, but it can help you dial in your nutrition and weight. This is the time to calculate whether you’re going to meet your weight goals at the end of six months. Don’t try to lose more than two pounds a week, or you’ll be in danger of a weight rebound.

Feasting: If you’re on course with your nutrition, you should be able to eat a big meal every couple of weeks, or have a feast day once a month. There’s some evidence that this can actually help you lose more weight. Enjoy!

Month 6: Reap the Rewards, Reset

If you’ve been doing what it takes with time management, sleep, nutrition, and exercise, you’re on your way to meeting your goal. Congratulations!

Now take stock of your mental state. Chances are, a quarter pounder at McDonald’s now seems obscene.  When you do pig out, your smaller stomach fills up much faster. And you may find yourself setting even higher goals.

Congratulations again. You have just changed your life.