The problem: Yoga and cardio aren’t enough. You want to look cut

By Beth Janes


Five years ago, John Leadley, then a stay-at-home dad, had beer on tap in his apartment and weighed 240 pounds. “I finally said enough was enough and started doing Bikram yoga,” he says, recalling how he dropped 30 pounds. Last year, he joined a gym and lost another 30, alternating between yoga and sessions on the elliptical five days a week. But he recently gained back some weight and now he feels stuck. “I don’t want to be a hulking muscleman, but I’d like some definition,” says the head bartender and beverage director for the Viaggio restaurants. We sent him to the Jim Karas Studio in Lake View. Known for its cardio-free approach, the trainer-focused gym employs nonstop strength and resistance training to build muscle.

THE PLAN: Zero-cardio training at Jim Karas Studio

HIS 12-WEEK PROGRAM: Leadley sweated it out with trainer Tashiana Bohm three times a week and continued with yoga at his usual studio on alternate days to maintain flexibility. For the first few weeks, Bohm ran Leadley through total-body strength-training circuits using a range of equipment—including resistance bands, weighted medicine balls, and dumbbells—plus planks, side dips, and pushups. By week 4, Leadley had built a lot of muscle, so Bohm ramped up the workout. In addition to core work, she split his sessions into one day for the whole body, another to focus on legs, chest, and shoulders, and a third for hips, glutes, arms, and back.

She also introduced TRX suspension training, which uses straps secured to the ceiling or wall. Leadley now had gravity plus his own body weight to contend with. Bohm also had him lift and whip heavy ropes. The short breaks she allowed between exercises disappeared, replaced by active recovery such as box jumps and leg swings. “I’m usually dizzy when I leave,” Leadley says. “But there’s a great sense of accomplishment. It feels like I did something, like I really worked out.”

Web exclusive His diet rules:

  1. Pack snacks. Leadley works at a restaurant from 4 p.m. until late at night, which often translates into dinners of cheesy, creamy pastas and high-fat appetizers—or no dinner at all. Swank advised him to take yogurt, fruit, nuts, and other healthful choices and to eat twice over the course of the evening to curb cravings.
  2. Limit calories before bed. Swank gave Leadley a 300-calorie budget for after-work meals at home. “A large salad with tons of veggies and vinaigrette dressing is ideal,” she says.
  3. Toast in moderation. Drinking alcohol is part of Leadley’s job, so Swank set a limit 14 drinks per week. She recommended avoiding beer and whiskey.

THE PAYOFF: Leadley began to see results right off the bat. After a month, he bought size-32 pants for the first time in 16 years. The weight loss stoked his motivation, as did the visible muscle tone he gained. The changes have been so dramatic, he says, that his friends shout expletives when they see him. “If I managed this in three months, in another three I could really get shredded.” Leadley has also noticed some other key changes. “I have more constant energy throughout the day,” he says. “I live in a fourth-floor walkup, and before I’d be winded by the second flight. Now I get up no problem.”

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Photography: Jeff Sciortino; Stylist: Theresa DeMaria/Factor