• Photo for Diakadi Fitness Tips: Set a Realistic Timeline for Body Transformations
    Photo Credit: iStockPhoto

Diakadi Fitness Tips: Set a Realistic Timeline for Body Transformations

By Mike Clausen

A lot of guys want to make big changes in their bodies. But often, they don't have a realistic set of expectations for what that will take. New clients will frequently ask questions like, "How can I get a six pack for next week's party," or "Can you me look like a Men's Fitness cover model?" The problem is that these goals are unrealistic. Changing your body will take both time and commitment. There are so many factors in body transformation that you can't just come into a training session and think you'll get a six pack immediately. Here are some important tips for establishing and keeping a body-transforming lifestyle.

Set a Realistic Timeline
I tell my clients that to see true results, they need to give themselves six months to a year of hard, dedicated work to experience a major body transformation. There are no quick and definitely no easy fixes. And there are factors from all facets of life that come into play. You need not only to plan on months of commitment to this project—you need to commit to it as an all day, every day program. As a trainer, I only see my clients on average two hours a week. That means that the other 166 hours of the week, they are responsible for everything that goes on with their bodies. You want to think carefully about how you spend those 166 hours just as much as you focus on your training. Avoid thinking only of the gym, as well as the "showing up is half the battle" philosophy. To change your body, you need to totally commit to your training, even as you think of your training sessions as just one part of a whole package. The factors that have to do with body change include work, lifestyle, stress, nutrition, intensity and frequency of workouts, recovery, and of course, genetics.

Assess and Correct
Focus on assessing your strengths and weaknesses in each of these key areas, and work to overcome those weaknesses by correcting them where possible. If you do this—and allow yourself six months to a year of hard work—you will be surprised (and pleasantly surprised) with your results.

Work: Transformation can be particularly difficult for guys who have sedentary jobs spent at a desk. The more active you can be at work, obviously, the better off you and your body will be. If you are stuck in front of a computer all day, get up and stretch every hour. If possible, go for a short, brisk walk on breaks. Make sure that your posture is perfect while seated, so that your abdominal and back muscles stay strong.

Stress: Work or home or both may be seriously stressing you out. Do whatever you can to help yourself reduce stress levels. For me, that's actually being in the gym and listening to my music. Get outside and breathe some fresh air and take a walk, or go for a bike ride. It's no coincidence that physical exercise reduces stress. When your body is stressed, it releases cortisol into your bloodstream. This stress hormone is evolutionarily designed to help prime your body to escape a physical threat, but it is released in the presence of any kind of threat, whether physical or not. While this stress hormone can be good for quick fixes, such as outrunning an attacker, it is problematic if it is not burned off. If your stress is caused by things you don't try to physically outrun—like a bad boss, or relationship trouble—you will need to use exercise to burn those hormones. And it is important to do so: Some of the effects of chronic build-up of stress hormones into your body include decreased bone density, decreased muscle tissue, and increased abdominal fat. In this day and age, work takes a precedence in our lives, but if you are constantly stressed out, and don't beat down those accumulated stress hormones, you will never see changes in your body.

Lifestyle: You really want to create a lifestyle that supports what you do in the gym. If you're a big partier, or just someone who never seems to get enough sleep, you're undoing your hard work in the gym. Getting plenty of sleep each night is extremely important, even on the weekends. Staying out until four in the morning will do nothing for the goals you are trying to attain—an unrested body will yield no positive results. But you also want to think about how you rest. On your days off, do you just lie on the sofa, or go sit in a crowded bar? This is a wasted opportunity to keep your body moving in a positive way, by going for a walk, a bike ride, or even gardening. The more active that you can be on your days off, the better results you will see. And, in order to be active on those days you need not to destroy yourself the night before.

Nutrition: I'm on record with my thoughts on the importance of seeing a nutritionist. It is key that you support your workouts with an appropriate diet. Increased exercise will change your appetite and your metabolism. You need to have a plan for eating appropriately for your new body, and to support the changes you're trying to make. It is worth investing in a nutritionist to help educate you about food.

One important tip: Often, high-stress jobs will make you eat at irregular times, or skip meals altogether. Keep healthy snacks by your desk at work so you don't skip meals. Skipping meals makes you overeat later and slows your metabolism overall. You think you're too busy to eat, but you're not. Have an apple and a few nuts, or a small handful of pretzels, or a low-fat yogurt every couple of hours. It will keep your stress down, your blood sugar balanced, your metabolism fast, and your appetite under control.

Workouts: There are two key elements to working out: frequency and intensity. You need to really commit to getting in the gym on a daily basis. If you are looking to seriously increase your size and strength, you are looking at about six days of lifting each week. And, on every one of those six days you are going to need to push yourself. If you want to lose weight, you have to make zero excuses for skipping workouts. Remember, there is no easy fix—changing your body and seeing the results you want takes time, patience, and dedication.

Genetics: It troubles me when my clients compare themselves to other guys they see in the gym. The truth is that some people just don't have the genetics to have a huge chest or a bubble butt. By striving to look like the hottie working out next to you, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. We have to work with what we are given. Try to be realistic about your own body, rather than attempting to acquire someone else's. You can make adaptations to your shape and size, but always within limits. Accepting this will make your workouts more successful.

So, if you really want to make changes with your body, you have to be prepared to devote anywhere from six months to a year to changing your life. Be patient. Eventually, you will see results, and once you do, it will be much easier to continue following the path to a different body. And, if the transformation is true, you won't just look better—you'll feel better and have a healthier lifestyle.

About Diakadi Fitness Tips: Diakadi Fitness Tips is a series of weekly features and interviews with Billy Polson and Mike Clausen, founders of the award-winning Diakadi Body personal training gym and creators of RealJock's 12-week Workout Programs. Have burning questions about your fitness that you want them to answer? Send an email to