A year ago, Jonathan Montgomery, a 37-year-old firefighter with the Hillsborough County Florida Fire Rescue, was overworked, overweight, and sluggish. “I was strong, but slow and fat,” he said.
Fast-forward to today, and Montgomery is a physical specimen. See the photo above as evidence. He lost 30 pounds, now weighing in at 201, and is more muscular, stronger, and faster than he’s ever been in his life.
How’d Montgomery do it? He put together the dream team.
The nutritionist: Trevor Kashey, Ph.D., a strongman and Arizona-based nutritionist who works with everyone from bodybuilders to Olympians.
Train for Everything
Scrap that way of thinking, says Viada. It’s not necessary for the average person. Do “hybrid training” instead.
“I like to have people work on everything concurrently,” he explains. “That allows the average guy to improve across the board—in strength, power, and endurance—without interruption.” (If you want to build the body of an athlete, try The Anarchy Workout. One guy lost 18 pounds of fat in just 6 weeks.)
In an average week, Montgomery would focus on long-distance cardio one day, weights and high-intensity cardio another day, and then lifting with an easy cardio cooldown on another day.
This type of training allowed Montgomery to improve in every facet of his fitness. He hit personal records on powerlifts and decreased his 5K time from 30 to 22 minutes. “The fact that I look a lot better is just a nice side effect,” says Montgomery.
Hybrid training has other benefits besides just making you a well-rounded, sculpted athlete. “If you only have one thing you’re training for, it’s much easier to get derailed psychologically if something goes wrong,” says Viada. But if you’re working toward improving a variety of skills, then a small setback in one area—like an injury that affects your running—won’t sideline you, he says.
Do Long, Slow Cardio
Spending time doing long, slow cardio—where your heart rate sits between 120 and 140 beats per minute—was one of the cornerstones of Montgomery’s program (as it is for nearly all of the programs Viada writes).
Viada says that when most lifters delve into cardio, they go too hard. “That just wipes you out,” he says. “Less intense work builds your endurance, gives you adaptations that help improve your heart, nervous system, and circulatory system function, and allows you to recover from intense workouts. It’s much more sustainable than intense work.”
Don’t Fear Food
“Jonathan was lifting and running, working out five to six days a week,” says Kashey. “He was eating about 3,000 calories, and that just wasn’t enough for all that work.”
Your body needs fuel so you can get stronger and faster. So Kashey had Montgomery eat about 400 more calories from carbs each day—and it was then that Montgomery saw his body begin to morph.
“I’ve noticed favorable body composition changes when I have athletes who are under eating take in more calories,” says Kashey, who isn’t sure of the exact mechanism behind it, but thinks it might cause a spike in metabolism.
If you eat healthy and train hard but can’t seem to run faster, lift heavier, or improve your body composition, add more calories. How many? It takes a bit of experimenting to figure that out.
First, determine how many calories you currently eat on a daily basis by entering your food in an app like MyFitnessPal.com. Then use a calculator—like this one—that estimates your calorie needs based on your age, weight, and activity level.
If the amount you’re burning is higher than the amount of calories you’re eating, add the difference to your diet in the form of carbs. “These online calculators aren’t perfect,” says Kashey, “but they’re far better than a shot in the dark.”
Time Your Meals
But Montgomery wasn’t just putting anything in his body to reach his allocated calorie intake. He typically ate foods high in protein, carbs, and fiber. His go-to plate: chicken, rice, and vegetables.
“It may not be the most exciting meal,” says Kashey. “But it won’t upset your stomach while training; it gives you quality carbs and protein; and it’s so easy to make a bunch of meals at once, put them in individual containers, and take them around with you. My clients who make the best progress all do this.”
Montgomery agrees, admitting he had a few bad weeks along the way. But look at him now. “Just listen, commit, and work hard,” he says. “That’s how you make progress.”
It’s not about a quick fix. It’s about sticking to “the plan.” When you do that, not just for 30 days or 60 days or 90 days, but for 12 months, you can see serious, lasting results. The key is that you need a plan that fits your lifestyle and goals and that allows you to follow through. The world’s greatest plan won’t work if it’s not right for you. But Montgomery is proof of what happens when you fit the right plan to the right man. So remember: It only looks like magic.