500 Calorie Challenge – The Results!


30 days ago I set out a plan to challenge myself. I aimed to burn 500 calories every single day, in one training session, in the shortest amount of time possible. I did this using my X Trainer (cross trainer) so I could burn more calories faster by increasing the resistance.


One of the biggest lessons this challenge taught me was the discipline of doing something every day. One of the many reasons so many people find a training programme doesn’t work is because they cannot commit to the regular exercise required, and they cannot give 100% – particularly if they are “too tired” or just not up for it. I learned that by managing my state and pushing myself to do something that I wouldn’t normally do, I could achieve a far better result than if I had just exercised inconsistently for the past 30 days.

I hope you’ll give me a bit of grace on this one, but during Easter I put on a fair bit of weight. I gave myself the excuse that I was stressed and I needed to work hard, and that this meant I had no time to stick to regular exercise. As you can see in the picture below, I did not look good! That is both the effect of a bad diet and stress which I placed upon myself:






Tired, stressed out, poor diet (I was still eating good nutritional food but I was snacking a lot on top of it), finding any excuse to avoid exercise. Even when I was exercising I was barely giving 50%.

That’s one of the great things about this challenge. It forced me to give 100%. If I were to beat my times each day then I had to give 100%.

My first time was pretty bad. I burned 500 calories in 00:28:29. With each day I gave it my all to beat the previous days time. Check out my times below:

Day | Time

1      00:28:29

2      00:24:58

3      00:24:13

4      00:21:02

5      00:21:13

6      00:21:29

7      00:21:12

8      00:21:35

9      00:20:56

10    00:20:53

11    00:20:30

12    00:21:31

13    00:20:49

14    00:21:49

15    00:21:44

16    00:19:55

17    00:19:49

18    00:21:49

19    00:20:24

20    00:20:01

21    REST

22    REST

23    00:19:26

24    00:20:01

25    00:19:39

26    00:20:08

27    00:19:50

28    00:21:01

29    00:19:57

30    00:19:58

My best time was 00:19:26. I knew that if I were to get a good time I had to burn at least 25 calories a minute, so this is what I aimed for. This is not at all easy, and I can tell you that you are left absolutely gasping for air and water once you reach 500 calories! But 20 minutes is not long and you equally recover quickly. It’s manageable and it’s something you can do every day.

So what did it to my body over the coming weeks? Take a look at the Gallery at the top of this post!

Not bad going for 30 days training for just twenty minutes. I did do this on top of my usual workout, but my usual workout (weights, calisthenics) did suffer. On some days I felt very tired, others I felt my muscles had nothing to give. But I still pushed through!

Do I think this is sustainable every single day? No, only as a 30 day challenge. Is it effective as part of your workout? Yes, this is a great way to burn fat in a short amount of time, and you can add it to the end of a workout. I wouldn’t do this without recovery days (unless I were to do the 30 day challenge, which to be honest I would still recommend 1 rest day a week).

What do you think? Would you like the training programme to build up to burning 500 calories a day? Would you like to take on the challenge? Drop me a message and I’ll send you the details (all for free!)

All in all this has been a great amount of fun, and I am going to continue utilising this particular exercise and add it into my own training.

Fit Shaming Fat Shaming. My 4 Big Opinions on this

Fit Shaming Fat Shaming. My 4 Big Opinions on this

There has been a lot in the press about Fit Shaming and Fat Shaming. When I first heard about fat-shaming I naively thought it was just a socially acceptable way of having a pop at those who work hard at their training and post the results online. Then I read more into why this has become a thing, and here are my views on it:


1. Fit/Fat Shaming is taught as the standard way to win business

As a personal trainer (and the same goes for any health professional) we are TAUGHT (yes, taught by marketing pro’s), to use phrases like “beach body bootcamp” because terms like this are easily recognised by those who want to join a bootcamp. We are TAUGHT that giving a bootcamp a name like “Bodyweight Bootcamp” (in other words, something more accurate to the description) is not the way to sell our classes or sessions. Why are we taught this? Because the marketing industry knows that there are very few things more powerful than using fear or playing on insecurities to sell (read the book Brandwashed, you can find it on Amazon). The supplement industry knows this very well, which is why we now believe so heavily and with such conviction that in order to stop feeling tired (tiredness is an example I am using here), we must self prescribe and stock up on Vit C, Vit B, and Iron rich supplements (i’m not saying don’t take them, I’m just get some advice from GP first, and no supplement can cure a routine of poor sleep, or a diet which lacks in vegetables and adequate hydration). This has been the case for years, and I fully agree that it is wrong and shouldn’t be allowed. It’s not going to end anytime soon, but it’s great to see that people are standing up to those who wish to play on our fears and insecurities in order to make a quick buck or two (and yes I once gave this a go as I was told that is what I HAD to do in order to sell my Personal Training when I first started. I struggled with the idea but I was told, and convinced that if I wanted to make a living then I need to use the “right language” to push peoples buttons in my marketing and ad campaigns)

2. Shaming needs to stop targeting the individual

What I mean is, Fit/fat Shaming is not an excuse to have a pop (or literally downright abuse, which I have seen in some cases) at those who train everyday to achieve a goal that means a lot to them. I would encourage anyone to read about just how hard those who do have ab’s and lean bodies have worked in order to get them. They do not come easy. Some people may argue that they (the person criticising) also train hard too, and I whilst I don’t doubt this, I promise you that it takes a very high level of intensity and consistency to achieve the definition that makes the covers of fitness magazines. It takes practice to work out how your body reacts to different types of training and what works best for you. It takes a very strict diet and recovery plan, and a lot of self discovery to find out what works, because we are all different.

3. Shaming needs to stop altogether

Fit-shaming, fat-shaming, thin-shaming, work-shaming, lazy-shaming – I’m sure there are many more, but the whole shaming thing needs to stop as it is nothing more than destructive. It’s great to have an opinion and be open about your passions, that is not shaming. Bragging about how well you have done is not a form of shaming others. Telling people that they NEED to be like you or NEED to be or look a certain way (i.e. you NEED to be thin or have abs) is unhelpful at the least. We all need to be healthy, but do we all need to be 6 pack abs or olympic athlete healthy? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s down to everyones own individual ambitions. If you want to go for a big fitness goal, then go for it! If you want to write about your journey, then do it! I for one won’t be accusing anyone wants to step out of their comfort zone and then shout from the roof tops when they achieve their goal.

4. Setting a challenge (or throwing down the gauntlet) is not Shaming

If I were to release an advert saying “Can you burn 500 calories a day, every day, in less than 20 minutes” in order to get people to sign up to the challenge, would you call that fat shaming? I know the challenge itself can be done, and I know you can do it too – is that statement fat shaming? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But in order to grow and develop as individuals then we do need challenges! I always say, ‘the greater the resistance, the stronger you will grow’, a statement which can be applied to anything. But I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty! I want them to challenge me and beat my times, healthy competition amongst friends, nothing more, nothing less.

So to wrap this up a bit, can we just cut out the shaming part altogether? Can we continue to allow others to challenge our perspectives and encourage us to try new things (without making them feel guilty, fearful, or insecure). Can we encourage those who do decide to work hard and get that lean fit body? Can we celebrate and congratulate those who have achieved their goals? And can we just meet people where they are at in life and be supportive? If you are overweight or unfit then the last thing I would ever do is take off my shirt and say “you need to achieve this or you will suffer”, which is what marketing needs to stop doing. But when you decide that you want to do something different, make a change, and beat a target, then I would hope that a Personal Trainer or health company will be there to listen, advise accordingly, and be a great resource to set you on a path towards being a stronger version of yourself.

500 Calorie Daily Burnout update!

500 Calorie Daily Burnout update!

My 500 calorie burnout is certainly a challenge which I have a real love hate relationship for now. My times in general are getting better, but I am having to push harder and faster – staying consistent but increasing the intensity with every bit of determination I have to do better every day. It certainly has reminded me of the difference between simply doing a workout and training hard to get a result! Visually I have noticed a big difference in my appearance (you’ll have to wait another 2 weeks for the photo’s I’m afraid!), and my easter ‘gut’ has certainly disappeared. 

However, my muscles are a bit stiff, I am feeling tired, and a few times I have felt a bit ill (but still done it anyway!). The importance of eating right, sleeping well, and stretching has been crucial to sustaining this. I often struggle when I do not get an early ish night, or if I don’t eat well. Hydration is another key factor. I sweat so much during the burnout that I am having to drink plenty of water to stay cool and hydrated. 

To be honest, training this way is giving me a real sense of commitment, achievement, and it’s helping me learn how to stay truly competitive with myself, and it’s also shown me just how hard I really need to work during the time I have dedicated to training. It has already changed my training habits entirely, and I know believe that I have simply not been training hard enough during the time I have set to train. I now have new boundaries and I am able to push myself much further than I thought I could – every single day as well!

I will be taking a rest day on Saturday (yes I know, this will ruin the challenge a bit!), but I won’t have access to my X Trainer whilst away. I will be doing it tomorrow before I go, and when I come back on Sunday night I will also do the challenge, so I will literally only be resting once which is this Saturday. To be honest, I wouldn’t set this challenge to anyone without a rest day or two. Recovery has been an issue but it’s not prevented me from doing the challenge so far. 

One of the questions has been answered for sure. Is it possible to burn 500 calories in less than 20 minutes? Yes, absolutely! I have achieved this within 15 days! If I can do it, then anyone can do it! My cardio is certainly been a neglected area of my fitness over the years, as I much prefer resistance training. So I know that anyone else in a similar boat can achieve this. I have had to use strategies such as:

  • Starting with Ta Ba Ta for 10 minutes, and then 10 minutes consistent pace
  • Starting with consistent pace for 10 minutes, then Ta Ba Ta 
  • Increasing/changing Ta Ba Ta sprint time (i.e. 40 seconds sprint, 20 seconds rest)
  • Warming up before doing the challenge (sometimes I have tried to do it without a warm up – something I have stopped doing and I do not advise. It doesn’t help at all. Always warm up)


I am doing this on top of my usual resistance training too, so I am most likely (most definitely) burning more than 500 calories a day. This challenge was not intended to replace your usual workouts, but to add to it. 

500 Day 16 result

500 Day 16 result

Do I believe this is sustainable? Certainly not every single day without a rest. But many athletes or serious competitors out there are training 5-6 times a day and are burning a lot of calories too. This differs in that you are working as hard as you possibly can at a consistent rate for 20+ minutes, which is a huge demand and stress on your body.

With each day I just find it hard to believe I can push myself any harder. But clearly I am getting stronger because from somewhere I am developing the strength to better each time. As long as I can maintain burning 25 calories or more each minute then I know I am on target to make 500 calories in 20 minutes. Here are my times so far:




Day | Time

1     00:28:29

2     00:24:58

3     00:24:13

4     00:21:02

5     00:21:13

6     00:21:29

7     00:21:12

8     00:21:35

9     00:20:56

10   00:20:53

11   00:20:30

12   00:21:31

13   00:20:49

14   00:21:49  <— felt really ill here!

15   00:21:44

16   00:19:55

17   00:19:49

Day 14 and Day 15 I really had nothing to give! But the main thing here that I am absolutely loving is that I have a daily target which I can set for myself, which I can work hard it, and which I can see is making my training far more effective. Whatever you are currently training for, I highly recommend setting targets, work hard to achieve new PB’s (personal bests), record your results (very important), and especially if you’re looking to lose weight or change your appearance (i.e. going for 6 pack abs) then do record your progress by taking pictures! Keep a daily record of your progress – this has been the one thing that has kept me going more than everything else.

More updates to follow soon! 

500 Calorie Challenge! Day 1

500 Calorie Challenge! Day 1

If you’re on my mailing list then you will already know that I am doing a little a research into how sustainable it is to perform an exercise session which burns 500 calories in the shortest time possible, every single day for 30 days. My session will consist of ta-ba-ta and long slow distance training.


Follow this blog or join my mailing list (email me dan.johnston@stapt.co.uk and I’ll add you, or enter your email address in the footer on my website).

Can it be done? How hard will it be?


So the challenge (or more accurately, the research) is:
30 Days, 500 calories burnt every day through 1 session of exercise.


Questions I am looking to answer:

  • Can it be done?
  • What are the positive and negative impacts on health?
  • Will I become more tired or more energetic?
  • Will my appetite increase?
  • How long will burning 500 calories in one go take?
  • What is the shortest time I can burn 500 calories in?
  • What does it feel like to burn 500 calories in one go?
  • Can I do it after my usual workouts? (as a finisher?)
  • Could I sustain this for longer than 30 days every day?


I started my research this morning into burning 500 calories a day in one go, every day, no rest days, and here’s how the first session went.

After starting work at 5.15 am this morning, I planned to do my first 500 calories at 7:30 am. I’ll happily admit, my cardio fitness isn’t the greatest. I am much more of a strength and muscle endurance type of person (lot’s of body weight, heavy weights, using pull up bars – anything with interesting and challenging movement).

About 10 minutes in and my mind was telling me “it’s time to give up now, this is going to be too hard”. Which is absolutely crazy! I knew my body had more so there was no way I was going to stop at 10 minutes. So I had to put a real effort to switch my state from giving up to giving it a go!

I could definitely feel the effects of an easter diet, and I’m a little bit…well say we say…shy…at the thought of posting my shirtless photo on day 1 at the moment (I’ll be keeping a visual diary and taking a photo each day before each workout.)
To my surprise it didn’t feel or hurt as much as I thought it would, and it certainly was not outside of my comfort zone, nor my ability. At the moment I definitely feel like I could do this every day – but it’s only day 1 so best not get carried away! Let’s wait til the stress on the legs and mind start to kick in first before I get too cocky!

The outcome of this morning was that I managed to burn 300 calories in under 17 minutes, and burnt 500 calories in 28 minutes and 29 seconds. So that is now my minimum standard and my time to beat tomorrow.

I’ll post my update in the weekly email and keep sending a few of these updates throughout. I’m also keeping a health log (which I use with all my clients) to track my health too (heart rates, blood pressure etc…) I’ll send out the results each week so you can see the effects this research/challenge is having on my whole body.

As for my diet, I will be keeping it clean. Lot’s of vegetables, balanced out with protein, and a small amount of carbs. Personally, I am not a big carb fan anyway – pasta is not a favourite of mine. I’ll be cutting out breads and baking goods, and keeping chocolate consumption under control (maybe a little bit at the weekends – chocolate is my weakness!)

3 Peaks Challenge Complete…well sort of…

Without a doubt the 3 peaks challenge I took part in over the weekend was one of the toughest challenges I have ever attempted, and one of the most painful. It is safe to say I do not have the technique to glide down the steep descents of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowden.


Sadly I could only manage 2 out of the 3 mountains within 24 hours, due to injuries sustained to both knees and my ankle. I was extremely gutted at not being able to complete the challenge. I will post highlights on Facebook soon but I just wanted to thank you for your support. It was an experience that I highly recommend, and one I will be attempting for sure next year! (Me at the top of Ben Nevis right there!)


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