How Sam Mac Transformed His Body In 8 Weeks - Men's Health Magazine Australia

How Sam Mac Transformed His Body In 8 Weeks

Return of the Mac.

Sunrise weatherman Sam Mac has a crazy job, a hectic travel schedule and a newborn baby. Not surprisingly, he also had a dad bod. Over eight weeks he hoped to lose his gut and add muscle to his upper body. For a man who makes meteorological prognostications on a daily basis, it was a bold forecast. This time, though, the weatherman got it right.

Jock to joker

“I was a very sporty kid from the age of four when I started playing soccer. My dad was the coach of the team. I think I set a record for our club scoring 14 goals in a game. I was also a bit of a prankster and I was obsessed with video cameras. I was always making videos, making fake radio shows and a fake newsletter about the people at our soccer club called The Fake Times. I had my own publication at the age of 10, which was basically jokes about people’s parents and little in-jokes around the club. 

In terms of my background physically, I generally don’t like to talk it up publicly, but I represented Australia at international level in schoolboy soccer. Yes, I’m an international footballer, thanks for asking! We played against powerhouses such as Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Tahiti, so all the heavy hitters [laughs]. I was very much committed to the sport, training every day, eating properly. After school I played in the Premier League in South Australia and I trained with A-League clubs. I was absolutely committed and dedicated to pursuing it. I didn’t quite get there, but I still love the sport. I made so many amazing friends. I travelled, I learned so many great principles that apply to work and fitness and diet. It was a big part of my life. 

Photo: Jason Lee, Styling: Alison Cotton, Grooming: Kristyan Low.

But after Manchester United surprisingly didn’t call, my career was pushed towards the logical next step: a TV weatherman. From then on, training took a backseat.

The grateful eight

Doing the weather on Sunrise is an absolute beast of a job. It’s the best and worst job in the world. It’s the best job because you get paid to go to these incredible locations. You meet fascinating people who are doing really interesting things and you have the honour of sharing that with a national audience. Plus every day is different. 

It’s the worst job when you have to leave your partner for a week or two weeks at a time. You have to leave your baby when she’s only two months old and you know that you’re going to miss things that week. That’s really tough. There’s a lot of time sitting at airports after flights have been cancelled, a lot of time on the road just driving through nothingness. Three am alarms. It’s a lot to take on, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.

“On day one, Jono, my trainer, just said ‘dad bod’”

I normally go to bed at around 8:30pm. In the morning it depends how far I have to travel. If we’ve got an hour commute, you’re up just after three. I do cut it fine with getting there minutes before the first cross. I would do over a hundred flights a year. My record was 137 flights. You’re looking at a couple of flights a week, minimum, and during this challenge it’s been two to three a week domestically, plus an international flight to South Africa.

Being on the road a lot means you find yourself in random country towns on a Monday night where the only option food-wise is to go to a service station to cobble together a meal. That’s happened so many times because we go very regional. It’s the type of job where there’s no rule book. You can’t really plan ahead.

Photo: Jason Lee, Styling: Alison Cotton, Grooming: Kristyan Low.

Going into this challenge, I’d become a dad four months earlier to my daughter Margot. I think anyone who has entered the world of parenthood will understand that for the first few months you don’t really know who you are, where you are, what day it is. Everything else becomes secondary. Your only priority is your newborn and your partner and that’s all consuming. I was very much lost in that fog, in the best possible way. I loved it. It’s magic and it still is. 

Naturally, I hadn’t really done a lot of exercise over that time. You’d be eating whatever you could eat, when you could eat. When this challenge came along it was a really good time to go, All right, let’s apply myself now. Let’s see if I can get into a better physical shape, which will, in turn, help my mental shape.

“I was in competition with myself”

Like a lot of guys around my age [42], I float in and out of exercise. There was always something going on. I’d run, do a gym session, play a bit of tennis. There was always some activity, but there would be periods, often leading into summer when you’re going to be wearing T-shirts, you’re going to be going to the beach, where you suddenly become like, Oh, I better fix this. And it’s almost like a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency situation. Suddenly you’re at the gym three or four times a week.

The last time I had a concentrated effort to get myself in shape would’ve been in 2017 when I was on The Real Full Monty, which was six weeks to get in shape to get our gear off to encourage men to get their prostate checked and go to the doctor. It’s been a long time. I applied myself to this challenge . . . I’m going to say 40 to 50 per cent more than I did to that one, which is crazy given I was getting completely nude on TV.

A lot of people do 12- or 14-week challenges. Due to my schedule, my work and travel I could only commit to eight. And I wanted to make it eight because I knew that I could commit to that wholeheartedly. I didn’t want to do 14 weeks and have cheat days and miss days of training here and there. I was more about, Let’s do it properly to the best of my ability over eight weeks.

Photo: Jason Lee, Styling: Alison Cotton, Grooming: Kristyan Low.

Day of reckoning

On day one, I took my shirt off and Jono, my trainer, just said, “Dad bod”. So instantly I knew that not only was I going to be training with this man, I was going to be heckled, taunted, belittled and ridiculed by him on a daily basis. I don’t think they’re the core brand values of  his gym, Acero, but that was our particular relationship.

But it worked for me because one thing that I’ve tried to do is make sure there has been some fun in there each day as well. There’s a laugh, or a smile, or some banter, or some silliness. Because I think for some people, the big hurdle stopping them from getting into shape or improving their fitness is the fact that it is hard work and it’s stressful and it can play on your mind and people are scared of that pain. They know what that pain feels like and they only remember that part. And yes, it is all those things. But if you have a few laughs each session, then at least 10 per cent of it is good times where you’re catching up with someone and having a laugh. Then that’s the part you cling to and you do the work. It’s not a completely painful hour.

“There has to be a reason that you really want to do it”

I couldn’t dispute what Jono said [dad bod], because the gut was hanging out there and my skin is the same complexion as Liquid Paper. It’s not white. It’s very, very white. It’s hard to hide it when there’s a bit of flab down there. I wasn’t overweight, but I could see that there was flab there. There were too many naan breads. Naan breads are my weakness and hot chips in my kebabs. It was a little confronting even for me to see because I hadn’t really looked down for a while. 

I never wanted to be one of those big, bulky units. That just doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t have the desire or commitment for that, but I did want to look strong and fit. I like to be able to run, I like to be mobile and get moving. The best-case scenario for me was a strong-looking upper body and fit and toned and tucked in around the abdominals. 

Photo: Jason Lee, Styling: Alison Cotton, Grooming: Kristyan Low.

Reality hit pretty quick. The interesting thing about Acero is the music is seven times louder than any other gym or nightclub I’ve ever been to in my life. And I believe there’s a strategy behind that: to drown out the screams. Because Jono just pushes you and then, when you think you can’t go any further, he’ll push you again. And when you think, Oh gee, that was harsh, but thank goodness it’s done, he’ll push you again. In my most recent session with him, out of nowhere he said, “Oh, so you know how we’ve been doing four sets of this circuit? Today, we’re doing eight.”  He literally doubled the workload of something that was already extremely difficult. But that’s what he felt I needed.

Those first few sessions were really tough. To be honest, every session was tough in a different way. And there was definitely some guilt throughout because I’d have moments where I’d know that I still had another 45 minutes at the gym, but I also knew that Bec, my partner, needs help at home. So, you’re a little bit torn. I’m very lucky that Bec pushed me to do this and was on board and has been amazingly supportive throughout. 

Thunder and pain

Trainer Jono Castano (acerogym.Com.au) aimed to strip sam of fat around the midsection while adding muscle to his upper body. Use this chest blast to build powerhouse pecs.

1. Bench Press 4×12 tempo 4.1.1

2A. Dumbbell Flat Flys 4×12 tempo 2.0.2

2B. Dumbbell Low Flys 4×12 tempo 2.0.2

3. Cable Flys 4×12 tempo 2.0.2

4. Peck Deck 4×12 tempo 2.0.2

5. Push-ups to failure x 5 sets 

Plate expectations

Castano had Sam aim to consume around 9200 kJ per day, reducing intake in the lead up to the finish line. Here is sam’s typical day on a plate: 

Pre-Breakfast

• Shred Super Berry Neuro-Thermogenic drink with water 

Breakfast

• 3 poached eggs, sliced fresh tomato and half an avocado

Snack

• Carrot sticks and blueberries

Lunch

•  Salad with chicken, onion, tomato, lettuce and hummus, with a small side of brown rice

Snack

Banana 

 Protein bar

Dinner

• Salmon with broccoli and sweet potato

• Avocado oil (1tsp)

• Garden salad/brown rice (50g)

Supper

• Peanut butter (2TBSP)

High-pressure system

As hard as Jono pushed me, I was in competition with myself a lot of the time. Getting an Apple Watch is one tip that I would give to people if they’re looking at doing something like this, because it holds you accountable to the second, to the metre and to the step. It’s all there and you can’t trick it. I’ve tried.

Jono set a target early on. He said, “I want you to aim for 20,000 steps a day, 5000 kilojoules and 75 minutes of exercise”. He said, “That’s a lot, particularly, given your travel schedule and your home life as a new dad. You probably won’t get it, but aim for it.” And within a week or so, I was getting it.

And when I started to get it once, I wanted to get it twice. I didn’t want to let the Apple Watch beat me. That gave me great joy because I was ticking things off. I was achieving and I knew that I was on track. But then, on the other hand, when I had international flights or just a particularly busy day and I’d get home at eight o’clock and be exhausted, knowing I still had 7ks to cover, I couldn’t allow myself to go, Today was too big a day. I’ll just let that one fly. That’s just my competitive streak but it put me in some tough situations. In South Africa, when we were doing the show over there, we were on safari in the Kruger National Park. It’s 40° and the only gym option they had was an outdoor gym. So, I’m training in 40° heat in a gym in the National Park where at any second, a leopard could walk past me on the treadmill. It was very bizarre, but I needed to do it. I needed to get those numbers up. 

Photo: Jason Lee, Styling: Alison Cotton, Grooming: Kristyan Low.

Then there would be times where I’d be in a hotel room, maybe we’d had a flight and a long drive that day and it’s 10pm. I know that I’ve got two hours until the clock resets on my Apple Watch, but I’m still 4000 steps short of my target for that day. Obviously, I just want to go to bed, but then the other part of me is like, Well, I’m just going to keep walking up and down in my hotel room until I get those steps. I had times where I ran laps of the Bunnings’ car park because I needed to get that 1500 steps to reach my tally for the day. Yesterday, I hit my record, which was 30,000 steps. 

I’d be on air every half hour from 5:40 am, so between every single segment for the last month, I would walk at least a thousand steps. I’d do my segment, walk 1000-1500 steps, come back, chat with people, do the segment, and then repeat, repeat, repeat. By the time I got to 9am, I was already at 10,000 steps, which is half my daily tally. 

Your forecast, your responsibility

I feel like there’s been a marked improvement in my physique, particularly in the last three to four weeks. Jono kind of said this to me. He said, “Don’t expect to see too much in the first four or five weeks. Around week five, you’ll start to notice differences.” And it’s absolutely true. I was getting leaner in the face, shirts weren’t fitting, I was looking baggy in pants, which was great because that was confirmation for me that the hard work was getting somewhere.

I feel like I’ve been sharper in terms of my day-to-day mental headspace. I think that’s a by-product of a few things. Physical exercise is obviously great for endorphins and for your whole body. Also, completely cutting out alcohol, cutting out sugars and a lot of the carbs that I would normally have and the heavy, bloaty meals, you feel lighter and you are lighter, physically and mentally. That’s a great outcome and a great take-away from this challenge for me.

Ultimately, I feel like the success or failure of  something like this is down to what you do when no one else is there pushing you, helping you, watching you. It’s literally just you and a dirt track that you’re running around, or a treadmill that you’re on. They’re the moments that are make or break.”

Photo: Jason Lee, Styling: Alison Cotton, Grooming: Kristyan Low.

Weather The Storm

Keen to take on your own challenge? Heed Sam’s 5 Ds to change your fitness forecast.

1/ Desire.

“There has to be a reason that you really want to do it. You can’t just be doing it because you think you should. That’s not enough. So, it has to be actual, genuine, legitimate desire.

2/ Discipline.

That can be getting up that one hour earlier so that you can get your exercise done before work. It can be going home one hour earlier, so you don’t kick on with your mates, because you know you’ll be a write-off the next day. 

3/ Diet.

I think everyone knows that your diet has to change if you really want to make changes in your body and get in shape. One revelation for me from this experience and something that I’m excited to continue is we’ve found so many delicious, tasty options that are also healthy. It won’t be sustainable if you just go, Copy paste, this is what I have to eat. We’ve had some glorious salads: chicken, olives, onions, lettuce, hummus. For breakfast I have a couple of poached eggs and a slice of avocado, and maybe some fresh tomato. Delicious.

4/ Dig.

You’ve got to dig deeper than you might think. Getting up early on a Sunday morning when you’d much rather stay in bed. Being the first person at the gym on a Sunday morning at 7 am, on the treadmill doing your eight to 10Ks. Once it’s done, you never feel bad afterwards. Then you have what I call PWS: post-workout smugness. And you’re just like, How good am I?

5/ Dependence.

For me, that was dependence on my partner, Bec. She helped in so many ways, just supporting and motivating me. Having someone in your corner to lift you up and push you over that finish line is invaluable.”

Ben Jhoty

By Ben Jhoty

Ben Jhoty, Men’s Health’s Head of Content, attempts to honour the brand’s health-conscious, aspirational ethos on weekdays while living marginally larger on weekends. A new father, when he’s not rocking an infant to sleep, he tries to get to the gym, shoot hoops and binge on streaming shows.

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