Ever get the sense that your days on top might be numbered? That the next generation – younger, fresher, buffer – is on the move and threatening to push you onto the scrapheap?
James Stewart was having those kind of thoughts only a matter of months ago, around the time of his 42nd birthday. Well, maybe his young costars on the set of Home and Away weren’t about to squeeze him out of a job. But nor were they helping his character, Justin Morgan, look good with his shirt off – a useful attribute in Summer Bay, and probably something you value too, even if you wouldn’t be inclined to stand up and announce the fact in a crowded pub.
“You’ve got 22-year-olds and 25-year-olds running up and down the beach, and they’d burn off a late-night burger by the time they wake up,” says Stewart over a coffee at a café on Sydney’s northern beaches. “I wasn’t feeling overweight, but I didn’t feel in shape.”
Other factors drove Stewart’s quest to recapture the body of his youth. The first was personal: Stewart’s daughter, Scout, is five and a bundle of energy. He wants to be able to keep up with her, rather than slide into the role of pudgy, I’ll-just-take-a-quick-breather dad.
Masculine pride played a role too. “I’m over 40 now. I’m not 30. I’m not 25,” says Stewart. “I’m coming into a period of my life where I want to see if I can still do 15 chin-ups or 20 push-ups.”
His goal clear, that left the issue of how to achieve it. For help, he teamed up with Men’s Health fitness director Chief Brabon, cofounder with wife Emile Brabon-Hames of Transformation Coach.This was never going to be a picnic. Working on Home and Away can entail 14-hour days on set. Undeterred, he resolved to build a new body in eight weeks of hard training and disciplined eating.
TURN TO THE DARC SIDE
Stewart figured that to pull off a transformation he could be proud of he’d need to complete four or five workouts per week. To ensure that happened he made a vow: whenever Chief phoned to ask whether he was up for training that day, Stewart would always say yes. It wouldn’t matter if a massive day on set were on the cards, or if his energy levels were around his ankles . . . he’d make the date. “Commitment is the one thing you can’t get around,” he says.
Brabon subjected Stewart to the coach’s signature system called DARC: Dynamic Aerobic Resistance Conditioning, which couples weights moves with high-intensity cardio exercises.
It was his stints on the rower and treadmill that Stewart rates the most gruelling part of the process. “I mean, do you want to row two kilometres in seven minutes? It was a nightmare.”
“Jimmy’s a joker, and when he’s concerned or nervous, he jokes more,” says Chief. “His diligence was through the roof. The intensity was really hard on him because you feel it a lot more in your 40s than you do in your 20s and 30s. But he never made excuses.”
REWARD FOR EFFORT
Driving to the post-challenge photo shoot, Stewart asked himself, have I done enough work? Stewart was unequivocal. “It was ‘yes’,” he says. “I had put in the work. I was ready.”
At the end of the day, that’s what changing your body comes down to. It’s not about luck. It’s not about genetics. It’s about committing to a program and investing in every rep.
Still doubt you can recapture the body of your youth? “You can definitely get it back,” says Stewart. “And I can hear some of my mates saying, ‘Yeah, but I work 60 hours a week and then I need to get home and help my wife with the kids’. Maybe. But you can find half an hour to train. You can. Do it.”
For more on how James Stewart transformed his body, including his workouts, pick up the March issue of Men’s Health (Australia), on sale Monday 5th February.