[Editor’s Note: This is an interview with my good friend Jon Wehausen. Anyone who has questions about any of Jon’s answers can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org]
Background: Jon is a 22 year old recent graduate of Virginia Tech. Knowing Jon all 4 years of college I can say without a doubt I’ve never seen anyone more dedicated to fitness and living an overall healthy lifestyle. Jon’s experimented with just about any workout or “diet” you can think of (we kept this interview basic, we’ll dive into advanced concepts later). Jon was awesome enough to help me out as I transition into more “lifestyle” posts which I went into more detail in my last piece.
Finding Time To Workout
Ben: As you know, I recently started my full-time job working in public relations. My work schedule has been 8:30-5:30pm and I’ve struggled to find a good time to workout. I don’t have much energy to workout at 6AM and the gym is completely crowded from 6-8pm making it difficult to get in a full workout. How do you find the time and energy to workout around your work schedule? I think it would be helpful if you could describe your routine (timing, meals, pre-workout, etc…).
Jon: First, I want to thank you for having me on the blog. Since you began this blog I have continuously been impressed with the progression and quality of your content in various areas of life, keep doing your thing!
I want to begin this question by saying I have tried many different routines and I want to make this very clear — with dedication and commitment, they all work. Yes, they all work in their own way. WIth that being said, the most important thing with any fitness/diet is this: find what works for YOU AND YOUR GOALS. You are the person who has to live with the results, no one else. As long as you are satisfied, that is all that matters.
Before I get into my routine, I want to make one more pivotal point. Regardless of your health goals, one thing remains true: it starts with maintaining health/fitness as a top priority. I keep my priorities strict and simple (in this order): family, friends, health, career. The reason for this priority system (and more specifically why fitness is number three) is this: Many of the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S are preventable with an active lifestyle and healthy diet. Now, I think I speak for everyone when I say the last thing anyone would want is to pass away early from a preventable condition. We can greatly increase our chance of a longer life simply by exercising a healthy lifestyle. I let this fact of life be motivation to continue fitness daily. With health/fitness set to a high priority, “making time” becomes less of a chore and more of a aspiration.
Specific to your question, I believe it is important to get into a health/diet routine. Research suggests it takes approximately twenty-one days to develop a habit (Editor’s Note: I just wrote about building habits!) and this same logic can be applied to fitness. At first, it may feel like a chore but it will soon become a routine. Personally, I like to start the day with morning resistance training. I do agree that at times working out in the morning is sluggish, I prefer it to avoid the after work crowds. After doing this for a while your body will soon adapt to waking up and having a great workout.
After work comes cardio time, whether it be basketball, boxing, running, etc. I enjoy doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio for several reasons. First, I find it to be much more enjoyable than LISS cardio simply because exercises/movement change consistently. Also, HIIT cardio triggers what is known in the fitness world as the ‘afterburn effect.’ This simply means enabling your body to continue fat-burning hours after a workout. This method is fantastic for burning fat while you sleep. The body already burns a great deal of fat while sleeping and the afterburn effect supplements this paradigm. Finally, I have found doing HIIT cardio at night helps you sleep because the body has hit the stage where it needs relaxation and recovery.
As for my meals, I generally do not have my first meal until around lunch time. While this may sound crazy, this plan turns out to be another great way to burn fat. This scheme is commonly known as intermittent fasting (IF). In simplest terms, IF is a dieting method where you consume all of your calories for the day within a 6-10 hour time window and fast for the remaining 24 hours. There are numerous benefits to this scheme but I think the biggest is you can still eat a fair amount of the foods you really enjoy, and you can have larger portion meals. With this scheme, I am able to still meet my goals and have 2 large meals within 24 hours. Following my night cardio, I don’t eat again until lunchtime the following day, this puts the body into a fat burning machine while you sleep and morning hours. This is great for those people who are trying to gain weight and stay lean and those people who are trying to lose weight but still have an enjoyable diet. I recommend intermittent fasting to just about everyone, but again it’s about what works for you!
What To Eat at Work
Ben: The other area I think a lot of us struggle with is 1) Eating healthy at work (less access to cooking supplies), and 2) Eating enough at work to build strength. I’d love to hear about how you approach lunch on the workdays. Do you meal prep Sunday night? What types of lunches and snacks do you bring to get enough protein and calories into your day?
Jon: Excellent question, and most certainly an area many struggle with. Not to mention for those offices that have cafeterias filled with cupcakes, cookies, etc — splurging can be tempting.
I personally like to do meal prep on Sundays. There are numerous advantages to this approach:
1) You save time/money during the week. For example, there is no need to worry about packing your lunch while rushing out the door in the morning, or staying up extra hours the night before. In addition, you save money on going out to eat at lunch and permits you to continue be productive.
2) You have ample time to prepare clean, healthy meals. Not to mention, many healthy meals can be prepared right in a slow cooker (Croc-Pot) — allowing you to have plenty of relaxing, family/friends time on your Sunday.
As for my personal prep meals, obviously they change depending on what my fitness goals are at the time (as yours should too), but generally I like to at least have a protein and a vegetable at lunch. There are several reasons for this:
1) More protein at lunch, makes it easier for you to hit your protein goal for the day. 2) I find staying away from high-glycemic carbs during the day keeps me focused and energized.
3) Less calories at lunch leaves you room for having a hefty dinner at home. One rule of thumb I like to use when preparing my meals is this: Simply replacing 1 cup of rice for 1 cup of spinach is a difference of 193 calories! When I am in need of a snack I like almonds, peanuts, quest bars, and hard boiled eggs. Each of these snacks contain protein, healthy-fats, and are flexible for many diets.
One final tip: There are numerous sets of meal prep containers available on Amazon – many of them $20 or less (Link to a pack of 7 for $10)! Also, if you’re looking to have more fun with your meals, “The Protein Chef” YouTube channel is great for recipes of all types of diets/goals. When it comes to dieting remember these two rules of thumb:
1) “You can never out-train a bad diet!”
2) “One bad day of eating won’t hurt you, the same way as one good day of eating won’t help you.”
Finding Time To Play Sports
Ben: Given my sports background, a lot of my friends and readers were also athletes growing up and played sports throughout high school and college like us. It was easy for me and you to find time for pick-up ball during college and play intramurals every semester. Now that we’ve graduated it seems that our playing days are limited with busy work and gym schedules. How do you plan on keeping the same level of activity and staying competitive in sports as you work? Have you seen anyone successfully balance work, social life, gym, AND being an athlete?
Jon: For competitive people like you and I, sports are a fantastic way to maintain healthy cardiovascular health and a competitive edge. You’re right, maintaining fitness and a social life while a busy schedule can create a natural neglect to sports activities. With that being said, I believe one of the most effective ways to stay engaged with sports is to do find a buddy/friend to compete with.
Since being home, my good friend Chris Clark and I have reconnected by playing basketball 3 times a week at night. We took this a step further by signing up as teammates for an adult basketball league. This activity not only helps us stay involved with sports, but continue to progress our friendship and social life between us and new faces. It can be a yoga partner, a boxing partner, a water polo partner, regardless of the sport, having a partner helps you keep your commitment to sports. This person will urge you to go out and play even on the days you do not feel like you can. You can also use sports as a great way to get-to-know a fellow co-worker. With each internship I had, made sure to meet someone who I could regularly play sports with. This strengthen our relationship as genuine friends inside and outside of work.
With us specifically, I can recall many-a-days at Tech where you would hit me up to run games and I really wasn’t feeling it…but I went because I knew I could use the exercise and it was another opportunity to continue to build our friendship. I can confidently say I would not have just gone by myself. I urge all of your readers to find someone who occupies a similar schedule and who shares a sports-related interest. On the days where you need it the most, you will be glad you did. Staying involved with sports is truly a win-win in your mental/physical health and relationships.
Overcoming Fitness Obstacles
Ben: Even with the success you’ve had in fitness and sports, I know you’ve had challenges along the way and maybe some you’re facing right now. I think it’s good for people to see that even someone like you struggles with the gym and fitness from time to time and fight through it. What are some challenges facing you right now, and how do you plan on motivating yourself to power through them?
For me, complacency in the gym is something I am always striving to alleviate. It is easy to (once you get in your routine) to do the same workouts day-after-day, week-after-week. While this is great when you first begin fitness, your body will soon adapt. This prevents your body from inhibiting the same responses and progress you initially had. For this reason, it is vital to continue to adjust/modify your workouts — to push your body to new motions and limits. As a rule of thumb, I make sure to change my workouts at LEAST every month. Even for those of you who like to follow a 12-week fitness plan, hopefully that plan has you changing your exercises every 3-4 weeks.
Without change to your workouts, your results plateau. This is why many people stop working out: They see their body not giving them the same results it once did and fitness starts to mean less. Furthermore, not changing your workouts can result in getting bored, and fitness should always had the forefront be fun and enjoyable.
I recall back to when you and I started boxing in March of this year — easily the best fitness decision I have ever made. Why? For many of the reasons mentioned earlier (I had a friend/partner, HITT cardio, etc), but most importantly boxing tested my body with new movements and most importantly, IT WAS FUN. We would go through hour long workouts and it would feel like 20 minutes because we were having such a good time. I urge everyone to try to add a new exercise to their regimen and see how that helps them reach their goals.
Ben: I want to thank you for all the excellent advice you’ve given me and my readers, there’s definitely a lot of ideas we can take into our daily lives and execute. Is there any parting advice or recommendation you want to give as it pertains to fitness?
Jon: Absolutely Ben, it is a pleasure to be a part of this. As for my parting advice, I just want to ensure the readers understand there are 101 ways to get/stay fit, and no single way is correct. I urge everyone to experiment with different exercises, movements, and activities and continue to do what feels good for you. Even if you were never an athlete or fitness person, living an active lifestyle can help you in ways you don’t even know about yet.
WIth that being said, the most important thing with any fitness/diet is this: find what works for YOU AND YOUR GOALS. You are the person who has to live with the results, no one else. As long as you are satisfied, that is all that matters. – Jon Wehausen