Help me to create an uncomplicated fitness regime.
April 13, 2016 4:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm a 51 year old male and posted recently about wanting to lose beer belly. I got some great answers so thought I'd now look for a solid, uncomplicated fitness regime that will get me cardio fit and make me look good. I want something simple and easy to follow....perhaps even a bit old school.

I’m already fairly fit. This is what I currently do:

Cycle daily to work and back (12 miles)
Run twice per week (5k treadmill)
Weights twice per week. Usually around 5 or 6 different upper body exercises 3 sets of 10 on each.
20 mile cycle at weekend.

My goals are as follows:

I want to lose weight, particularly around my stomach
I want to improve my cardio fitness
I want to build muscle

In 6 weeks I have a soccer tournament I will be playing in and the week after that I am going on a cycling trip which requires me to cycle around 40 miles a day for 6 days.
I want a fitness regime that will cover the above goals and is not too complicated.

Any advice and tips greatly appreciated
posted by blokefromipanema to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You don't mention diet. Weight loss is now widely considered to be much more about diet than exercise, for all kinds of reasons. Are you looking for advice in that area? Because it sounds like you're doing everything right already, exercise-wise.
posted by pipeski at 4:12 AM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

I want to lose weight, particularly around my stomach
I want to improve my cardio fitness
I want to build muscle

1) This is all diet. Diet, diet, diet. I always recommend low carb, high fat to my clients (mostly men, mostly with a beer belly). My new favorite free resource to learn about it is at Burn Fat Not Sugar. Read it, learn it, practice it. Make sure you watch the video about your diet and WHY you should be eating this way, especially to lose belly fat. You must train your body to burn fat (from your body) instead of sugar (from your meals).

2) Start challenging yourself and timing yourself when it comes to your cycling and running. Get your PB's and start trying to improve on them.

3) Same as above, but with your weights. Read the section on Exercise at the above web site and watch his YouTube video on it, and modify your current weight regimen with his suggestions.

It truly seems as if you're already doing everything you should! What you mainly need to do is start documenting it, and trying to improve just 1% every time you run, bike or workout. As your numbers improve, so will your fitness. As your diet improves, so will your waistline shrink.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 4:15 AM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

I think you should do 3 to 4 cardio days and two lifting days a week as you do now. Do the cardio you like and then focus on squats, lunges, dead lifts, push ups at first to build more muscle mass. Leg muscles are important, and a lot of upper body lifting may not increase your total muscle mass much.

But nthing it's all about diet. You were eating lots and lots of processed carbs per your last post. Pick beer and bread or two other carb choices (swap bread for candy) to cut out some empty calories. Put in a bit of protein (two eggs, chicken) and lots of veggies instead. You may be surprised at how much better you feel eating veggies instead of candy and want to cut back on the carbs even more. At least most days.
posted by Kalmya at 4:40 AM on April 13, 2016

The one element for the belly is some kind of sit up. I've found that just a few, 2 minutes with stretching slowly and carefully helps the mid section a lot.
posted by sammyo at 5:30 AM on April 13, 2016

Is it an actual beer belly? If so, just cutting alcohol will probably help with weight loss; otherwise, try to cut 300-500 calories a day. Keep protein high (.8-1 g per pound of bodyweight) to hang on to muscle.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:36 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

If I remember correctly, the vast majority of answers on your previous Ask reflected the "diet diet diet" consensus that's building here. It seems like you've got a great exercise routine going now; given that, I'd say just focus on changing the diet. Sure, you might be able to optimize your workouts a bit more. But the greater gains are going to come from cutting back on the sugar and alcohol you described previously. I feel like it'd probably be easier, willpower-wise, to improve your diet without also increasing your exercise intensity at the same time.
posted by dondiego87 at 6:12 AM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

Diet and planks
posted by Sassyfras at 6:30 AM on April 13, 2016

This is almost the exact question you asked last week, except you leave out your diet. Your diet wasn't a red herring; it is the issue. Losing weight is almost all diet. Building muscle will be much easier if you are consuming useful calories rather than junk.

Changing your diet is going to be the easiest fix, honest! You don't have to stop eating crap completely. You're just eating way too much crap.
posted by hollyholly at 6:31 AM on April 13, 2016 [14 favorites]

You could cycle at above 20kph (12mph) an hour extra per day, and not eat anything extra and probably lose weight.
posted by gregr at 6:32 AM on April 13, 2016

In your previous ask, most of the answers were that you were getting the beer belly from the food. Similarly, the best/easiest way to lose that weight is in the kitchen. Both in eating less of the simple carbs, and in increasing the plant based nutrients along with upping your protein.

If you're looking to gain strength (and thus doing weight lifting) and increase cardio, you should probably be having 1.2-1.8 g/kg of body weight of protein per day. Ideally you'll have at least 3 intakes spaced throughout the day with 25g of protein. Cites: Summary on protein Protein and kidney health (TLDR: up to 1.9g/kg of body weight is OK for people without kidney issues). Additional info on protein

For cardio via running long runs will help you build your cardio. If you're currently doing 5km runs, once a week do a 10km run. Every week increase that by at most 10% (and every 3-5th week do a drop down week where you do about 50-70% of your last long run, then the next week resume where you were before the drop down week). You shouldn't be doing your long run hard: you should be able to carry on a coversation.

For general increasing of cardio, you might want to look at The Maffetone Method. However, with only 6 weeks, I'd advice to concentrate on getting in good, easy long runs; maybe look at heart rate training for something more long term.
posted by nobeagle at 6:59 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm a bit jealous because this is so much harder for women. When mom did Weight Watchers, then guys got eight more points a day just for being guys :-)

Your advantage is in your guy metabolism and your large quantity of exercise. You could reduce the food you listed in your previous near-identical question----and you would still get to have treats every day. One chocolate bar, instead of two. Two slices of bread instead of four. You still get to eat it! So it shouldn't be too hard...

I am a vegetarian and over-do the bread. So what I have done is just limit it to one meal a day. I have oatmeal or something else for breakfast, have the bread at lunch if I want to, and have something else for dinner. Your situation is so easy to fix, comparatively. You don't even have to eliminate, you can just reduce. Lucky!
posted by JoannaC at 7:16 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can do this. 4 steps:

1. Do "Stronglifts 5x5" consistently and as per instructions on their site for next 6 weeks. They even have an app you can now download to track progress and give warmup sets.

2. Fix your diet. The calculator at is a great start. Try to make most of your meals half vegetables and half protein. Drink 4L of water every day.

3. Train your biking. If that's what you wanna be good at, get out for 2 long rides a week. See how it feels. Add another if you feel super ambitious.

4. Sleep. Minimum 8 hours, every night.

Repeat until yr satisfied. Set new goals. Crush those too.
posted by crawfo at 7:26 AM on April 13, 2016

No really new ideas: Cut out all the desserts and sweets except some kind of treat on a Sunday. It'll reduce cravings. Get the Loseit app on your phone or tablet. It'll show you where you caloric budget is going. I personally find it great also because it teaches me not to starve myself, so I can avoid any building urges to binge. Find an ideal weight calculator online and shoot for the middle value of the lowest recommended range. Buy a good quality scale and track your weight on the app. Keeping track of the overall trend will keep you from freaking out about daily fluctuations. If you fall off your plan, just resume it with the idea that you're stating again, likely closer to you target weight.

Belly fat is just the loosest, most obvious fat and it doesn't seem to go away until you get down to a very specific target weight. To me, it's been like sucking the air out of a vacuum seal bag, the motor runs and nothing dramatic seems to happen until you get down the the very end. I'm within 6 pounds of my target weight and only now seeing significant change in the look of my belly fat.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:31 AM on April 13, 2016

Consider High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). For your runs, for example, you could sprint up a hill, walk back down, and repeat. More fun than a treadmill. Look up HIIT for more info.

If you're going to eat less, I'd look into intermittent fasting. Basically, not eating for the first 6 or 8 or 10 (or whatever) hours of the day. There are many supposed benefits, but the more practical thing is that it makes it much, much easier to eat less, if indeed you're trying to eat at a slight caloric deficit.
posted by beau jackson at 7:35 AM on April 13, 2016

I agree with all the good advice regarding diet and I have started cutting down on that oh so lovely chocolate and cakes.
To restructure my question I think I'd like to make it a bit more structured. My current exercise regime, whilst a reasonable quality feels like a bit of a mish mash.
I think I'd like to improve my explosive power and short sprinting ability for the soccer, but I also need stamina for the football and cycling.
I try not to spend forever in a gym so I wouldn't want to spend more the 1 hour-1.5 hours.
I am going to up my distance and start running three times a week.
posted by blokefromipanema at 8:24 AM on April 13, 2016

If you want to lose weight and build muscle, it doesn't sound like you need more exercise that the significant amount you are already getting, rather it sounds like you need to have a diet that effectively supports your goals. I highly recommend reading this really interesting recent article in the Guardian, which is similar in theme to the book "Always Hungry?". The basic idea is that diet should be thought of in terms of how the endocrine system is thought to work, rather than in terms of burning more calories than you take in, and that a certain ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, and the quality of carbohydrates, is what matters.
posted by OCDan at 8:31 AM on April 13, 2016

With the update, I'll note that you're not going to be playing soccer on a treadmill, so I'd make sure that all of your running is outdoors. Note, that this will be harder than treadmill running. 1) air resistance and wind and 2) irregularities in the ground will use your muscles in slightly different ways, and 3) inclines and declines. As you're specifically looking at soccer, look into getting some running time back and forth on a soccer field, or some similar well maintained ground.

Re sprint training: granted soccer has quite different behaviors than running, but for most non-elites the problem isn't that someone can't run fast enough, but that they don't have the cardio to run fast enough as far (or often enough (10 quality sprints in 3 minutes vs 15 quality sprints in 3 minutes), and that's all cardio. I can run at a sub 3:20 km/minute pace for 400meters; that's a measure of speed. I can't keep that sub 3:20 pace for a full kilometer much less 5k; that's my cardio.

Sleep. You're kicking your training up; make sure you're getting at least 8 hours of sleep.

Lastly, you're 51. You're a decade into being a masters athelete which means that you really need to be aware of the recovery part of the training cycle. With only 6 weeks, I'd suggest looking at increasing your intensity, or increasing the distance, but trying to do both may be too much, too fast, too soon. Which is what you'll be hearing for your PT when you go in because you're injured.
posted by nobeagle at 8:40 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

While I am not a doctor or physical therapist and therefore will not make recommendations about what you should do, I will say that I read this NYT article about 10-20-30 training and followed their suggestion:
If you wish to try 10-20-30 training, Dr. Bangsbo recommends starting by replacing one or two of your normal weekly workouts with a 10-20-30 session.

Warm up with an easy jog (or pedaling or rowing), then ease into the intervals. The 30-second portion should feel relaxed; the next 20 seconds moderately hard; and the final 10 seconds a full gallop. “The aim is to cover as much distance as possible in those 10 seconds,” Dr. Bangsbo said.

Do five of the 10-20-30 intervals in a row without pause, then rest for two minutes by standing or very slowly walking about. Repeat the five consecutive intervals one more time, cool down, and you are done. The whole session, minus warm-up and cool-down, will have lasted 12 minutes.
I have found that my cardio fitness has increased noticeably -- my heart rate takes much longer to go up when I'm exerting myself and comes down much faster when I stop exerting myself, and I have more stamina for longer and more difficult hikes (which is my main form of "long cardio" exercise).
posted by lazuli at 9:31 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Consider switching from upper body exercises to compound freeweight exercises, specifically squats and deadlifts. You'll exercise more muscle in less time, freeing up more time in your schedule for cardio.
posted by zippy at 10:33 AM on April 13, 2016

I think you could be a LOT more efficient about how to you lift weights. Rather than working on 5-6 upper body exercises, you could be doing 5-6 total and cut the reps in half.

Switch to compound lifts, 3 sets of five reps. Look to "Starting Strength" and model your program after that.

I skip the power-cleans that the program calls for, you shouldn't since you have actual sports that you engage in.

It keeps things nice and simple, off the top of my head, this is what I would do in your shoes:

Workout 1:
Squats: 3 sets, 5 reps
Bench press: 3 sets, 5 reps
Dead lifts: 1 set, 5 reps

Workout 2:
Squats: 3x5
Overhead press: 3x5
Power cleans: 5x3

Alternate between them. IIRC, SS will have you lift three days a week but did this (minus the power cleans) on Mondays and Thursdays for a long time and it took my a while to plateau, at which point I switched to the Texas method.

You've been at it a while so you probably can't just add 10Lbs to the squats, dead lifts, and power cleans or 5Lbs to the bench and OH press every time you do them but progression is the key.

I would wager that that program will be at least as effective and get you out of the gym a LOT faster, that combination targets pretty much every muscle that you use and in the way that you typically use them (especially the squats/power clean and cycling!), and you should notice that you start to kick harder and especially pedal harder.

That's not to say that you're wasting your time now, just that this should be a little more effective with a little less time and it makes it a lot easier to structure and plan your workout.

PS: If you've never done those exercises before or it's been a while, don't hesitate to hire a trainer for a couple of sessions to make sure you get it down right. If you follow proper form and warm up well, it's really hard to hurt yourself. Proper form isn't super hard to get down (at least well enough to lift safely) but using sloppy form is a good way to injure yourself.
posted by VTX at 11:28 AM on April 14, 2016

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