By: Neghar On: July 28, 2014 In: Be Happy, cardio, Featured Posts, Fitness, Lift, Metabolic, Yoga Comments: 63

A day doesn’t go by where I’m not asked advice on something fitness or nutrition related, and I happily oblige because I am passionate about empowering women through strength.

Women everywhere want to invest more in themselves, improve their physiques, and create sustainable eating and exercise habits. Essentially, they want to live a vibrant life in which exercise and diet enrich their lifestyle rather than detract from it.

Some women intimate to me that they want a leaner physique, a firmer butt, or visible abs. Others detail various training goals such as pull-ups, handstands, or a heavier squat. More often, because I place such a heavy emphasis on mindset in my writing, women reach out to me because they’re looking to develop a healthier relationship with food, or boost their confidence through living a fit lifestyle.

Ultimately, we all just want to thrive, don’t we? We want to look and feel our best,  and we  desperately want to do so without strict dieting and spending grueling hours at the gym.

What these women regularly describe to me is what I call the Lean & Lovely lady: A fit, feminine, athletic body that’s actually as strong as it looks; a healthy relationship with food—one lacking in food-related guilt; a mindset of gratitude and compassion, and an overall love of life.

It just so happens, that I’ve got a method for living the Lean & Lovely lifestyle.

 So how does one create a Lean & Lovely lifestyle?

Well, the short answer is this: lift weights intelligently, incorporate play, eat to nourish your body, and regularly practice self-love, compassion, and gratitude.

But again, that’s the short answer. And while it seems simple, it’s not always easy to implement and can take time to cultivate. In my 14 years of coaching clients, I’ve seen countless women at the gym, day in and day out, lifting weights while eating clean as hell—and still failing to see results. It can be incredibly frustrating to feel as though your’e doing everything and yet getting nowhere.

Notice I didn’t simply say “exercise and eat well.” Lifting weights is clutch, and matching your eating habits to your training habits is essential–but putting it all together is a delicate dance. To simplify, let’s say that movement, nutrition, and mindset are the components, and the program, or the way you incorporate the components, is the method.

So, if you want to lose fat, gain strength, boost confidence, and design a happy, successful lifestyle, then the method must include not only the components to achieve it, but step-by-step instructions as well. because while the method itself is simple, the steps are integral to your sustained success.

I’m going to share my lean and lovely method with you, because as I said, I’m passionate about empowering women. It’s my life’s purpose to help you become the highest expression of yourself through fitness, and all I ask is that you share it with the ladies in your life. One by one, we can help change the face of women’s fitness and help women everywhere to live the life they crave and deserve.

As I mentioned, the Lean & Lovely method has three main components: exercise, nutrition, and mindset. Today, I’ll be covering the training aspect of the Lean & Lovely method in pretty extensive detail. You’ll learn all about how I structure my programs and even get some sample workouts of your own.

It Starts With Strength

The Lean & Lovely method is deeply rooted in strength, and while there are many types of strength indeed, I truly believe that physical strength translates directly to strength of mind and character.

Many women are interested in leaning out and burning fat, but we often have a parallel goal of increasing strength. It just so happens that you can accomplish both of those things, simply by focusing on strength.

You might be asking yourself why strength is such a big part of the Lean & Lovely lifestyle. Perhaps you’d never even considered performing a barbell squat or pressing something heavy overhead. Maybe you’ve been taught to believe that cardio is the best way to lose fat; I know that before I embarked on my strength journey, the idea that I could have a lean and strong physique by lifting weights had not even occurred to me. But, once I began to realize my strength potential, I was struck by two very significant and profound realizations:

1-The stronger I became, the easier it was to maintain a lean physique.

2-Strength makes everything easier.

Strength is the key to fat loss

Let’s begin with the first realization: the relationship between strength and fat loss. Speaking purely scientifically, lifting weights promotes the growth of lean mass (muscle), which is an integral part of any fat loss journey. Put simply, muscle helps cultivate a healthier metabolism because the more muscle your body has, the more calories it will burn at rest. In addition to increasing metabolism, lifting weights promotes natural growth hormone production, which in turn helps reduce insulin sensitivity–both of which are important physiological aspects of fat loss.

Lifting weights-if done in a specific manner-can give you the most bang for your buck, allowing you to build strength and lose fat simultaneously. This means that when life is hectic and time is of the essence, you don’t have to spend an hour lifting and another hour on a cardio machine; if you prioritize weights, you can accomplish everything in one go. This is why I love introducing women to kettlebells: they allow for versatile, dynamic, total body, fat burning, strength building workouts—all with one tool!

On a personal note, I didn’t experience my own physical transformation until I started seriously prioritizing strength–and especially once I began utilizing kettlebells. The boost in strength and metabolism helped me turn my body into a confident, empowered, fat-burning machine. This empowerment is the basis of the second realization.

The second realization is a bit more intrinsic, and takes a bit of time and awareness to cultivate. But when we begin to realize how strength benefits all areas of life, we commit to the pursuit of strength fully and wholeheartedly.

Strength makes everything easier

I want to tell you a story about the first time I discovered just how valuable strength was to me as a woman. It was several years ago, and I had just purchased a twin sized bed for my son after he’d outgrown his toddler bed (a sad day, indeed!).

As a single mom during those years, many household tasks fell solely to me, which meant I didn’t have a lot of help when it came to doing heavy lifting. However, when I purchased the bed, I didn’t really think through the entire process: somehow this bed had to be moved from my car into my home. Now, I’m sure I could have asked someone for help, but being the stubborn Leo that I am, I was determined to do it all on my own.

It was an arduous task–exhausting and challenging to say the least. But it was, above all, absolutely empowering. I carried that bed from my car, up and down stairs, and into my apartment—all by myself.

I took a lot of breaks, pausing to reposition my hands or give my body a brief rest, but in the end, it was all set up in my baby boys room, ready to be the setting for our bedtime stories and reluctant morning awakenings. He slept in that bed for the next 4 years, and it would often remind me of how proud I was to be a strong mom, and how important it was to raise my son with a love of fitness and movement.

It’s moments like those when you realize how much strength truly matters. Being strong makes everything else easier, whether it’s carrying heavy bags of groceries, draping a sleeping child over your shoulder, or hoisting a suitcase into an overhead bin. When you’re strong, every day tasks become less cumbersome, and it’s from that strength that your spirit truly blossoms. Strength of body is empowering, and it’s what allows you to cultivate a Lean & Lovely lifestyle, not just a Lean & Lovely body.

How to prioritize strength

During your fitness journey, you’ll most likely develop specific strength goals that require special attention, such as a heavier deadlift, or achieving an unassisted chin-up. To accomplish these goals, it’s imperative that you work on them at the beginning of your training sessions when your body is fresh. When it comes to big lifts and advanced movements, the last thing you want is to be fatigued from  dynamic, fat loss focused activities.

The easiest way to do this is to pick 1-2 lifts per training session to be the focus of your strength initiative. Spend about 20-30 minutes practicing technique and increasing weight with low rep schemes before moving on to Metabolic Resistance Training, which we’ll discuss in the next section. This can be done 2-3 times per week and will help you to develop insane strength in specific lifts. It’s not necessary to do this, but it’s imperative if you wish to increase strength on a very high level.

Lift Weights…for Cardio

The idea that you don’t have to do traditional cardio in order to lose body fat is pretty foreign to some. Professionally, my opinion is that cardio can be a great addition to a balanced exercise regimen, if it’s something that you thoroughly enjoy. It’s not by any means useless or ineffective, as some fitness professionals would have you think. In fact, I tire of the constant cardio debate, and I prefer not to lambast people for their choice of exercise; after all, something really is better than nothing.

However, cardio isn’t really the most efficient way to lose body fat, nor will it help you to simultaneously gain strength. This is where Metabolic Resistance Training comes into play. If you choose to spend the first portion of your workout on specific lifts that you want to improve, MRT circuits will take place after that.

They can be performed 2-4 times per week depending on your schedule and how you design them, and can be utilized individually without a focused strength session beforehand. MRT sessions are time-saving, very efficient workouts that can help you gain strength and lose fat in as little as 15 minutes! A typical MRT session for me lasts an average of 30 minutes, and I always leave the gym feeling like a goddess.

MRT is essentially lifting weights (or performing bodyweight movements) quickly and with the intention of getting extra sweaty. Typically MRT exercises are multi-joint, compound or combination movements (think about using your entire body) and are grouped into circuits of 3-5 exercises.

The concept behind this type of training is that you will achieve greater metabolic disturbance, using the entire body to achieve favorable body composition, increase work capacity and in most cases, improve strength levels.

You’ll perform the movements for either reps, or time, with very short breaks in between. The rest periods are incredibly important as that is what allows you to create a metabolic demand in such a short time frame. During an MRT circuit you don’t want to take more than 15-30 second breaks in between exercises, and no more than 1-2 minutes in between rounds.


It’s important to note that MRT is only effective if you have a strong grasp of all of the movement patterns incorporated in the circuit. Because you’re moving quickly, with load, and taking such short breaks, your body has to be able to perform the exercises efficiently without risk of injury. Be sure to pick exercises that you can really crush, rather than ones that you find difficulty with.

 Sweat Sessions (Intervals and Finishers)


Intervals and finishers are a great way to break a sweat and increase metabolic disturbance. They are a perfect supplement to strength training and MRT circuits, but only where time permits and recovery is not hindered. They’re also a life saver on those days when time is crunched, and in fact I’ve coined the term “quickie” for a variety of workouts I’ve created that last 15 minutes or less.

The point of a finisher is to literally finish your session, and therefore should be placed at the tail end of your strength training or MRT sessions. Finishers can also be performed as stand alone sweat sessions (such as a “quickie”) on non-training days or when your schedule is tight.

Finishers are short (15-30 second) spurts of high intensity activity, followed by short periods of rest and should not generally exceed 15 total minutes–with most falling into the 5 minute category. The idea is that you are working so hard in such a short span of time, that completing more than 15 minutes of a finisher would be complete and total madness. Since it’s at the end of the workout, if I you run out of time or juice, this is what gets cut out.

Some examples of finishers:

  • Battling ropes paired with medicine ball slams: 20 seconds on/10 seconds off x8 (pictured above)
  • Kettlebell swings: 30 seconds on/30 seconds off x5
  • Kettlebell snatches: x5-10 R/L, every minute on the minute (5-10 minutes)
  • Jump squats: 20 seconds on/20 seconds off x5
  • Sled pushes and pulls, rest as necessary

Interval sessions, however, can be strung out a little longer and are great for non-training days if more activity is desired–as long as recovery (especially of the lower body) is not compromised. I prefer to keep interval sessions under 25 minutes.

Some examples of interval sessions:

▪   Sprints: 15 seconds on/30-45 seconds off x10-15
▪   Rower: 30 seconds on/30 seconds off x10-12
▪   Stationary bike (such as the airdyne): 30 seconds of work/45 seconds of rest x10-12
▪   Stair machine: 20 seconds on/40 seconds off x10

*Intervals can also be done with increasing work:rest ratios. For example, you may not experience noticeable fatigue after the first few intervals, so rest periods can be shorter. As you progress through the session, rest periods get gradually longer to allow for more recovery.

Putting the Pieces Together

We’ve covered strength, metabolic resistance training, and finishers and intervals. But, how can you put all of those pieces together to form efficient, fat-burning workouts?

Remember, the order should look something like this:

1-Strength focus

2-Metabolic resistance circuit

3-Optional finisher

Interval sweat sessions can be performed individually on non-lifting days to help encourage metabolic disturbance. Here’s an example of a complete Lean & Lovely training sesh, in which you’d perform a strength segment, an MRT circuit, and a finisher:

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 5.33.26 PM

Just as you wouldn’t bake a cake before mixing the ingredients, you wouldn’t want to work on strength goals after smoking yourself with finishers! Follow the recipe, and the end result will be a strong, fit, lean body capable of just about anything.What you’ll notice in this workout is a very distinct order: strength, MRT, finisher. Again, while the ingredients are important, the recipe is how it all comes together. Have you ever baked a cake and put the ingredients in the over before they were mixed together? Well, it’s sort of the same concept here. By focusing on strength first, you allow your body to build muscle and become an efficient fat burning machine. You then build upon that foundation with metabolic resistance and cardio finishers.

What about “cardio?”

Before we go any further, we must discuss the cardio issue. If your intention is to create a lean, athletic physique then cardio-at least in the traditional sense-is not going to give you what you want.

Spending an hour on an elliptical machine won’t produce a body that looks strong. It won’t help you build muscle, thereby improving your metabolism and developing an athletic, sculpted physique. It won’t help you lean out your abs or perk up your butt. And in some extreme cases, cardio can actually do more harm than good.

To develop a Lean & Lovely physique, long bouts of cardio aren’t going to be the focus. Other types of fat burning activity such as metabolic resistance, weight lifting, and finishers are going to be much more effective in terms of developing a lean, strong, athletic physique.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on cardio. In fact, I often enjoy certain types of cardio, such as long walks along the beach or running the famous Santa Monica Stairs. Rather, I’m simply stating that your actions should be in line with your intentions. If you love doing long runs or Zumba classes—hell, go for it! Just don’t do it for physique purposes or to build a lean and lovely physique. Do it because it brings you joy as form of moving meditation, and you just want to incorporate more activity. Don’t do it in place of lifting weights or performing MRT circuits, if your intention is to build a lean and lovely physique.

All of that said, some variations of traditional cardio can play an important role in a Lean & Lovely lifestyle, particularly in terms of active recovery.

Rest, Recover, & Play


One of the Lean & Lovely truths is actually more isn’t always better, better is better (unless we’re talking about bacon, obviously).

Alas, we aren’t always acting in accordance with that truth, and subsequently the pursuit of fat loss is often accompanied by a “balls to the wall” mentality. But the fact is, activity and intensity aren’t always the solution, and oftentimes resting and facilitating recovery does a lot more for fat loss than an extra workout. Furthermore, there are times when are your body and soul need are to get outside and play!

Because of this, it’s important to add in activities that either foster play (less rigid) and/or are less intense. You’ll want to choose activities that still stimulate blood flow, allow for some energy expenditure, and increase metabolism. This type of exercise is called active recovery but honestly, I just call it playtime. 

As mentioned above, some types of cardio fit into this category: walking, moderate cycling, along with leisure activities like playing recreational sports or taking dance classes. The options are countless, and it’s really up to you what you do to get the blood flowing. My favorite ways to play are stand up paddle boarding, yoga, and playing Just Dance with my family.

When it comes to yoga, I am completely hooked. From restorative yin practice, to intense ashtanga, I chaturanga like it’s my job–and I think that just about anyone can benefit from a regular yoga practice. It’s  fantastic for recovery as well as strength, flexibility, and balance–both inside and out.

Make sure to include fun, less impact-oriented activities that will allow you to move while fully nurturing your body, heart, and soul.

Lean & Lovely You

The Lean & Lovely recipe is all about helping you find your own individual path, because after all, the most important component of this recipe is YOU. No two women are exactly the same, and we all respond to different methods and approaches.

However, while every path is different, the Lean & Lovely methods are universal; they’re effective guidelines that can help you completely transform your life.

This is something I feel incredibly passionate about, and I’m ready to share this information—in epic detail—with the world.

Which is why today, I am elated to share with you my magnum opus, the Lean & Lovely Total Transformation System.

More than simply a book or a training program, Lean & Lovely is a complete lifestyle transformation system that includes all the tools you need to reshape your body, renew your mind, and reclaim your life. All that’s missing is you!

I absolutely can’t wait for you to use these methods to change your life, and I really can’t wait to hear all about it. As the tagline suggests, the aim of the Lean & Lovely program is to help you reshape your body, renew your mind, and reclaim your life. That means that the system isn’t just training or nutrition, it’s training, nutrition, and mindset–which is perhaps the most important part.

Lean & Lovely includes 12 weeks of workouts, just like the ones I have shared with you today.

These workouts are designed to help you discover and cultivate the strength that is already within you, while increasing metabolism and turning your body into an efficient fat burning machine. The difference between Lean & Lovely and other traditional methods is this: You will completely enjoy the process.

You will learn how to transform your body while absolutely loving life, instead of hating your body into leanness. You will cultivate a sustainable, fit lifestyle while living fully and wholeheartedly. You will enhance both your inner and outer radiance without restriction, deprivation, and hours in the gym.

Fitness is something that should enhance your life, not take over it. That’s why Lean & Lovely workouts were designed to help you get in and out of the gym in 60 minutes or less (some workouts are only 20 minutes!), giving you more time to spend with your loved ones and on other worthwhile pursuits.

While changing your physique can be a gratifying and life-changing experience, it should never be done at the expense of your sanity or self-esteem, and it should be an exciting and character building journey. For example, when I cook, I enjoy the cooking process just as much as the finished product, and I encourage you to view your Lean & Lovely journey in much the same way.

Sure, I want you to accomplish your strength and fat loss goals, but more than anything, I want you to build character, enrich your life, and cultivate self-love, self-compassion, and enduring self-acceptance.

My Lean & Lovely program is a complete transformative system that will help you do just that. It covers all of the training information I’ve shared with you today, and some.

But, it’s also is full to the brim with strategies to help you heal and renew your relationship with food, and mindset exercises to teach you how to live fully and joyfully, with gratitude and compassion. You’ll transform your body with Lean & Lovely, but you’ll also completely transform your life.

I’ve spent 14 years in the fitness industry, learning and growing from a rich and varied experience. This program is truly the culmination of that experience, with over 200 pages of information and inspiration to help you cultivate a sustainable exercise and nutrition regimen, and a vibrant life.

I am so unbelievably excited to be able to share these methods with you and continue to make an impact on woman’s lives all over the world.

Investing in Lean & Lovely means investing in YOU. Say yes to yourself, to the burning desire inside of you to be the strongest, happiest, most carefree version of you. Say an enthusiastic YES to the Lean & Lovely journey!

I’ll be back later on this week with part two of the Lean & Lovely method, where I’ll discuss nutrition and mindset. Until then, let’s hear from you in the comments below! What do you want to know about Lean & Lovely? Ask anything and everything, and I will be here to answer, guide, and support you.


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