All about maintenance and active recovery

Did you know that you can reduce the volume and intensity of your workouts and nutrition habits by two thirds and still stay in shape?

For reals.

It’s actually one of the foundational principles of personal training-

It’s Maintenance.

Now before you click away-

I know you are probably not reading a fitness blog because you want to maintain the body you have.

You are reading a fitness blog because you want to maintain the body that Beyonce has.

But let me tell you why maintenance is actually part of the process – why the bridge between you and Beyonce must involve maintenance phases.

But first – two things:

  1. Maintenance is not quite the same thing as a plateau. For the difference, go here.
  2. If the thought of decreasing your workout volume and intensity makes you freak out a bit because you are scared you will get fat or depressed, go here to learn how to NOT exercise.

So here’s how it works:

  • When you first lose weight (or get stronger or whatever your intention is), you will probably have a good amount of success relatively quickly.


  • Then, your body will hold in a maintenance phase for a little while and adjust to the new metabolic needs.


  • During this phase, you won’t have to work as hard as you did when you were actively trying to get better.


  • Then you can adjust your program/ increase your effort and you will lose a bit more weight (but not as much as the first time).


  • And your second maintenance phase will be longer as your body again adjusts to the new metabolic rate.

And so the pattern continues until you reach your stable weight/fitness level.

Which is a GOOD thing.

A couple of things to notice about ^^ this amazing image  ^^that will have you lining up to hire me as your graphic designer:

  1. The lines are wiggly because NONE of this happens in a linear way. You have ups and downs – daily, weekly, monthly (especially monthly. Ladies, amiright?)

2.The weight loss (or strength increase) will get less dramatic and the                 maintenance phase will get longer with each phase. Don’t spend                  your life – and blow out your knees – chasing that initial                      weight loss success and the resulting compliment                          onslaught. 

(seriously. This is like trying to chase the high you got the first time you fell in love or heard Hit Me Baby One More Time. There are some things you just can’t repeat.)

So – how do you pull off a maintenance phase that prepares your body and mind for the next cycle of kicking ass?

Can you just drink beer and eat hot dogs for a bit and then get your shit together when you are ready?

Nah man.  You’ve got to practice ACTIVE RECOVERY.

Active recovery is when you do things that actively promote the recovery of your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems and prepare it for the next increase in effort.


Think about the active recovery you do during your workout. Let’s say you are lucky enough to be doing a burpee tabata (so, 20 secs of burpees followed by 10 secs recovery x 8).

So you do your 20 secs of burpees  – and then in the 10 secs of rest, do you sit down and drink beer and eat hot dogs?

No. Because then your next 20 secs of burpees would be barfy hell.

What you do during that 10 seconds of rest is walk around and swear and take deep breaths and grab some water.

THAT is Active Recovery.

Same thing goes with your weekly cycle. Let’s say you workout every other day.

On your active recovery days, you don’t sit on your ass. That’s called sitting on your ass.

^^^fig. 1: NOT Active Recovery^^^


During your active recovery day you do basically the same thing as your active recovery ten seconds during your workout:

Walk around

Take deep breaths

drink lots of water

(swearing is optional but I’m usually a fan).

And now let’s pull the camera back even further and talk about the cycle of the year.

There are months where you will naturally feel an energetic push to take things to the next level (like January, May and September for most of us)

And there are months when it’s time to relax a bit, practice maintenance and active recovery (like August, December).

If you are enjoying a Maintenance Month, here’s how to do it properly:

Reduce volume and intensity of workouts but don’t just stop moving:


  • If you are used to 5 workouts a week, you can probably scale back to 3 without seeing a noticeable decrease in your fitness.
  • Or if you are used to hour long workouts every day, you could do 20 min workouts.
  • Or if you are used to doing Crossfit, try more swimming, hiking and yoga.

It’s pretty much NEVER recommended to sit on your ass. Our bodies were meant to move and ass sitting won’t help prepare you for the next step.

Sleeeeeeep like your life depends on it:

Because it kind of does. More about that here.

Drink tons of water:

Water is great at helping you eliminate waste products and combat the dehydration most of us have from too much coffee and booze (or, to use trendier language, ‘flush out toxins’)

You can chill a bit on your nutrition but don’t eat like a total asshole

The best way to rest and recover your physical body would be to continue to feed it well with lean protein and veggies and whole grains, etc.

But most of my clients need a mental break from the ‘rules’ as much as their bodies need a workout break.

If that is you, this is how I’d recommend relaxing the nutrition rules:

  • If you normally eat a really healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner – maybe you could relax dinner a bit but stay on target for breakfast and lunch.
  • If you normally measure out your food or count calories or macros, drop it and just eyeball your portions to make sure they are within reason.
  • If you normally try to eat healthy ALL THE TIME, maybe you relax it to ‘I eat healthy when I am cooking for myself, but when I’m a guest, I will just eat what’s being served and limit my portions of stuff that makes me feel like butt.’

And this is the best part about Maintenance phases – they are a chance for you to ditch the rules and the effort a bit and focus more on intuitive movement and eating and experiment with what actually makes you FEEL GOOD.

And of course, feeling good RIGHT NOW is the whole point – not when you’ve hit your goal weight.

And if you get antsy during your maintenance phases, remember that they are practice for when you hit – and maintain- your perfect weight/fitness level.

Happy maintaining! x

Are you in maintenance right now? Leave a comment below and let me know how it’s going?






can you get fit in a way that is good, fast and cheap?

Most of you know my friend Joe from his incredible before and after pics and the story of his incredible 80lb weight loss.

What you don’t know is that Joe and I originally met as theatre artists about fifteen years ago.

I was producing my first show and described the set I wanted – a cross between Miss Saigon helicopters and Phantom of the Opera crashing chandeliers but I had no budget and needed it by the end of the week.

Joe sat me down and told me I could have a set that was good, fast or cheap – I could pick two of those but couldn’t have all three.

Since then, I’ve learned that this rule applies to pretty much everything. And in this video, I’m telling you which are the most important TWO things to pick when you are trying to get fit:

Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

How to Stop Overeating

Have you ever seen those diet ads that say ‘get a flat belly with this one weird trick!’ ?

I’m going to give you a weird trick.  You can eat whatever you want as long you apply this one weird trick.

Don’t eat unless you are truly hungry.

Duh, right?

Except a lot of us really suck at that.

Some cultures have definitely figured it out:

In Okinawa, Japan they have a custom of saying Hara hachi bun me before every meal – which means ‘eat until the belly is 80% full’. (Their low BMI is thought to be one of the reasons why Okinawa is a pocket of exceptional longevity.)

The Ayervedic tradition recommends eating until 75% full.

And in France they don’t say “I’m full” after a meal. They say “I’m no longer hungry”

This is where we want to get: No longer hungry. Not riding the standard North American cycle of stuffed and starving.


Here’s how to do it:

1. Eat Real Food

When you eat processed food, it messes with your natural hunger and satiety cues.

Those foods are engineered to release feel good hormones and block your sense of being full. That’s what’s happening physically.

Now add all the mental noise you might experience around that food if you are trying to eat healthy and it’s a forbidden food.

Thoughts like:  ‘I screwed up. I suck.  I might as well finish the bag of chips. That way it won’t be here tomorrow and I can start fresh’.

This mental and physical shitstorm is almost always going to trigger overeating.

You can make it much easier on yourself by just eating real food. Food that wasn’t made in a factory. Food that your grandmother ate.

When you eat whole, unprocessed food, your body’s satiety cues will kick in because you are delivering the nutrients it needs.

It’s really pretty much impossible to binge on vegetables. You couldn’t if you TRIED.

And here’s the deal:

If you aren’t hungry enough for vegetables, you aren’t really hungry.

Which brings me to my next point:

3. Know the difference between hunger and a craving:

  •  Cravings will go away if you distract yourself or wait it out. Hunger will return no matter what.
  • Cravings will usually be for a specific kind of food. If you are hungry, broccoli looks good.
  • Cravings are usually emotionally or situationally driven. Hunger is physical. You feel it in your stomach or sometimes it feels like a headache or lightheadedness.

(For more on cravings, check out my video on Should You Listen To What Your Body is Craving?)

The thing is that most of us give into our cravings so much that we don’t even know what hunger feels like, so:

4. Experience hunger

There’s a good chance that you rarely experience hunger. Kids these days are basically on an IV drip of Goldfish crackers

and even health-minded adults will graze all day under the pretence of keeping their metabolisms revved.

Allow yourself to get hungry ….and then DON’T PANIC.

Hunger isn’t an emergency. Diarrhea is an emergency.

Tell yourself you can have food anytime you want, but you just want to experience being hungry for a few minutes.

Once you get to know real hunger, you will start to become better acquainted with how it feels in your body vs. a craving.

BONUS:  Allowing genuine hunger before your meals will also make your food taste crazy delicious.  Check out the euphoria people experience while doing my 28 Day Transformation Challenge)

5. Design your environment for success.

Here’s the plan:

1. Chuck the all the shit in your house that you would be likely to overeat.

Do a reverse Marie Kondo. Hold the ice cream in your arms and if it brings you joy, chuck it.


Just kidding but seriously – you know which foods are the highway to the Danger Zone.

2. Do food prep so you have healthy, real food on hand THAT YOU LIKE.

I’m not talking about punishment diet food.

I’m talking about something that makes you feel satisfied (not stuffed) when you eat it. So that when you are actually hungry, it’s there for you. No feelings of scarcity and deprivation.

(For prep and easy meal ideas check out the Meal Prep Power Hour and 5 min Healthy Meals)

3. Pre-portion your meals.

Fill half of every plate with veggies and then add a palm sized amount of protein and a fist sized amount of carbs and a thumb sized amount of fat.

You can even cheat by using pre-portioned containers like this:

4. Eat slowly and be mindful.

Try chewing. Pay attention. Enjoy.

A general meditation practice will help in all things weight loss (more about that here) but if you have trouble with being mindful with your food, try these apps.

Eat Slowly
Am I Hungry?
20 Min Eating

5.Stop before you are full.

If you followed my portion guidelines, there is a really good chance that you will still feel like eating after your portion is gone.

It’s ok. You won’t die and it will pass.

Drink some water, maybe brush your teeth and walk away.  Wait 1 hour.

If you are still genuinely hungry, have more! No big whoop. Eat it slowly, appreciate it and stop before you are stuffed.

And then dab your cute little face, re-apply your lipstick and get on with your life.

If you liked this post, please comment and share!

When Food = Happiness

Last week I challenged you to think of how to make yourself happy NOW.

At exactly the weight you are at.

But sometimes it seems like the fastest route to happiness involves a bottle opener and hell-yes-I’ll-have-fries-with-that.

If that sounds familiar, you want to watch this Two Minute Tune Up:

…Any of that resonate? If so, leave me a comment below!

Anything that’s got you a bit stuck in your fitness journey? Leave a comment below so I can answer it in an upcoming blog post!