When writer and comedian Max Olesker had to get into shape for his debut TV sitcom, he faced a number of challenges: long hours, little sleep, and maintaining a physique over six weeks of gruelling filming in Frimley (where?). With the help of a carefully judged workout and nutrition plan, and the tough love of Tim Walker at Evolve Fitness, he did it. Here’s how to get shredded without going mad – even when you’re working stupid hours.
If you’re reading this, the chances are there have been times in your life – maybe even now – when you’ve needed to get in shape for a certain deadline, but you’ve had very little spare time to make this happen. Perhaps a holiday; or a wedding. Or a personal mission to roll back the effects of your least-healthy lockdown. But, in my case – to my delight, excitement, and fear – I was filming a sitcom I’d co-created.
Not just that, but a sitcom about the world of pro wrestling (I spent much of my teens as ‘Max Voltage’, the UK’s youngest professional wrestler). As a result, a non-negotiable deadline loomed; I needed to get into WrestleMania shape by the time cameras started rolling, and then maintain that for six weeks of filming. What’s more, I needed to do so without abandoning all my other work responsibilities.
You see, unlike when someone joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at which point the movie studio (I assume) builds an Equinox gym in the actor’s home and has a series of NASA-calibrated pre-prepped meals delivered by drone 11 times a day, ours was an independent production company, working with a forensically-precise budget.
There was also the matter of free time; I had very, very little. Between co-writing the scripts, casting, diving back into wrestling training (I honed my moves, and those of our brilliant cast, at Play Fight, a fantastic wrestling school) I was stretched incredibly thin – and needed to make my time at the gym count. So I turned to Tim Walker, at Evolve Fitness.
I’ve got a history with Walker. Some years ago, for Men’s Health’s ally publication, Esquire, I embarked on a gruelling body transformation, and Walker - with a combination of firm guidance, fraternal warmth, and good-natured abuse - had seen me through. It was an incredibly strict regime, with bodybuilding-style training, five carefully-weighed meals a day, and no booze. Truthfully, it sent me a little mad.
This time around, I was older – but thankfully, Walker was wiser. He had a new plan, and one which got me where I needed to be, but preserved my sanity – and even, just about, my social life.
The New Plan
“This time around, we cycled you through a series of phases,” says Walker. “Foundation (seeing if you still got it); hypertrophy (muscle building); fat loss and hypertrophy; strength and hypertrophy; and maintenance.”
A side effect of the chaos of the last few years was that our shoot dates were unclear, as they kept moving. This actually turned into a positive; firstly, it meant that instead of a 12-week sprint it proved possible to ease into a longer, more open-ended regime, without desperately hoping for near-instant results. Secondly, it meant that instead of developing tunnel vision and obsessing over one specific day in which the quest would culminate, I had to come to terms with getting fit in a more sustainable way.
“Each phase was about three weeks long”, says Walker, “and was always trying to put on muscle whilst keeping an eye on your body fat.” Slowly but surely, working with Walker at least once a week, and solo at the gym the rest of the time, the regime started to take effect.
“As the fat kept creeping down and the muscle continued to slowly rise, these phases did always revolve around trying to build muscle - as the more muscle you have the more ripped you’d look” says the pragmatic Walker. “It’s also worth saying that every phase needed to keep you working in all planes of motion, as the wrestling training would not allow you to have the movement of a one-dimensional bodybuilder.”
I exercised four times a week, and each workout lasted approximately an hour. It’s not nothing, but it didn’t consume my life. When possible, I completed the workouts between Monday and Thursday, and gave myself a long weekend of rest (with an occasional Saturday morning of circuit training at home – again, no longer than an hour).
Nutrition-wise, I was on just under 2000 calories a day. I also tracked my daily macros for the first time, which were (for those interested) as follows: protein 196g, carbs 148g (though a little lower on rest days) and 67g of fats. I meal-prepped a fair bit, which took time, but I truly didn’t feel that restricted. I drank twice a week.
“We never really needed to go for an aggressive cut, especially as you needed to stay in shape over weeks of filming, so to give an aggressive diet would put too much pressure on you to keep it up. Basically, it was build muscle, drop fat and stay lean enough for you to look ripped with a very small pump at any given time.”
I arrived on set nervous, frayed, sleep-deprived… but spandex-ready. And, to my surprise, this time around I not only felt ripped, I felt healthy. And, when the cameras stopped rolling after six long weeks, I found that my habits didn’t spiral in the way that they did after the first time I hauled myself into shape. Working out this way didn’t feel like existing in an alternate dimension – it felt like something I could maintain (albeit with the usual calorific ebbs and flows that occur across any given year).
Partly, Walker says, my fitness journey this time round can be attributed to some (pretty deep) muscle memory; “My favourite old man trainer Art Devany says ‘age is just a build-up of damage’”, says Walker. “I think it can be a building up of all the positive physical stuff as well.” And whilst most people obviously don’t have a previous body transformation to draw upon, I found underlying principle to be both useful and encouraging in another way – whatever you do now, the body will remember. No good effort truly goes to waste.
There's another key take-away from this experience that I’m keen to share with the world. The best way to do a 12-week transformation? Over at least 18 weeks. Good luck.
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