A Missed Workout

This is not the article I intended to write today.

Last night after work and going to the gym, I came home to type my blog post, and ended up writing 2,000 words on a subject that was more about life and less about health and fitness.  I decided it wasn’t a great fit for this site (in its current state), so I put it in the drafts folder, and started writing another article.  2,000 words into my second article, I realized that I didn’t love it.

I woke up early this morning to finish, and came to the realization that I couldn’t get it done in time with the level of polish and professionalism that you, the Nerd Fitness reader, deserve.  For the first time in quite a while, I don’t have a big-time article for you to read on Thursday.  I equate it to a missed workout in the gym.  I can blame it on my scatter-brained mind, lack of free time between my real life and my day job, need for sleep, whatever.  Excuses, everybody has ‘em.

I’d like to reference Wedding Crashers and the quote “Rule #76. No excuses, play like a champion.”  Sorry, but that’s bullsh*t.  You know what?  Life gets in the way sometimes.  Last night was one of those days, and it wasn’t from lack of effort.  I went to the gym, I tried to better myself, and I wrote close to four-thousands words for the site.  They just weren’t good enough.  I’d rather not post an article than post something I’m not proud of.

What does this have to do with fitness?

We’re all human.

None of us are perfect.

Life happens. Sh*t happens.

So you ate like a pig on Super Bowl Sunday.  You skipped a workout to go watch your kids basketball game.  Maybe you skipped a run because you wanted to play Halo with your roommates.  Honestly, who cares?  Do NOT beat yourself up over it.  It happens to the best of us – it doesn’t make you a failure, or a bad person, or a slacker.   You’re not alone.

I do the best I can with the hand I’m dealt, I try to live my life to the best of my ability, and I try to have some fun every once a while.  I hope you do the same.  If you miss a workout, if you go eat a 2,000 calorie awesome blossom at Outback, if you sleep in on Saturday and decide to not run, it doesn’t mean you don’t care about yourself.  It just means that you’re human!  Like the rest of us.

Just make sure not taking care of yourself doesn’t become a routine.  I don’t plan on making a habit out of missing my self-imposed deadlines, so I’ll see you with a regularly scheduled, kick-ass post on Monday.

Thanks for listening.

-Steve

photo: BitPicture

How to Get Started With Intermittent Fasting

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you probably ate a ****load of food last night while watching the Super Bowl (Google definitely had the best ad, by the way).

You’re thinking to yourself, “I put on five pounds last night, how the hell do I get back on track?”  I’m going to introduce a seemingly ridiculous concept to you, one that I hadn’t ever considered until doing the research:

Intermittent Fasting.

Sounds like the worst thing ever, right?  Starving yourself on purpose?  “TOTALLY LAME,” as Awesome-O would say.

Well, if you’ve been unsuccessful at losing weight, if you’ve lost weight but you’ve hit a plateau, or if you just want to try something new, this might be the jump start you need.

Disclaimer: this is just my opinion based on my research and reading. This is less of a recommendation article rather than an eye-opener and call for discussion.  I do present my opinion at the end though, and I’d love to hear yours.

Diets – Six Meals For the Win?

For years, the concept of lots of small meals throughout the day really clicked with me.

If you space out your meals evenly, keep your calorie count low, you’ll lose weight, right?  I’ve even talked about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Lots of people follow the “eat multiple meals a day” ideology and lose weight, so it works.  Less calories, more meals, evenly spread out.  It makes sense.

However, I’ve recently done some research and reading on IF…which also makes a lot of sense to me.  By not eating every once a while, your body has to burn the fat in your system for energy, which would lead to weight loss.  Also, by not eating for twenty four hours, you’re pushing your body into a calorie deficit, which also leads to weight loss.  It makes sense.

So, how can these two seemingly conflicting ideologies both make sense? Simple – they both allow your body to burn more calories than you consume.  And, if other research on the body’s physiology while fasting is to be believed, there are multiple other benefits as well.

Let’s get down to business.

What the Hell is Intermittent Fasting?

IF is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you purposely avoid eating for a twenty-four hour period (or two) during the week. Why?  Because recent studies have shown that your metabolism operates more on a marathon basis (how many calories consumed over a long period of time) than on a sprint basis (what you ate yesterday).  Prior to this research, I was giving way too much credit to my stomach – it’s not nearly as intelligent as I thought.  Think long term when it comes to calories consumed and burned, not short term.

Mark over at Mark’s Daily Apple has a great write-up on the evolutionary science behind fasting. Mark runs one of the most thorough and successful paleo diet blogs out there, and I highly value his opinion.  I love looking into the evolutionary aspects of diet and fitness, and I’m often very weary of any new “breakthrough” that requires a pill or drink or anything.  We’ve survived as a species for tens of thousands of years with diet, exercise, and intelligence.

Fasting is one of those evolutionary aspects that makes complete sense to me.

How Does it Work?

Our bodies are genetically engineered to deal with feast or famine.  10,00 years ago, surprisingly there was no free All-Star Slam Breakfast from Denny’s!   Our bodies need fuel to operate, and if there isn’t any food in the stomach to pull from, it uses the fat stored within the body for energy.  The fat gets burned for energy, the body keeps moving, and thus becomes leaner.

Secondly, because of these skipped meals, you are putting your body into a calorie deficit (averaged out for the week).  Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, so start thinking of your calories more in terms of weekly units rather than daily amounts, iif that helps.  More calories burned compared to calories consumed = weight loss!

Here’s a video from Brad over at Eat Stop Eat (which reads like an infomercial, ugh…but it’s legit) explaining the similarities between fasting and exercise.  He also wrote a guest post over on Fitness Black Book.  I considered setting up an affiliate link for Brad’s e-book in case you’re interested in purchasing it, but I didn’t want you to think I wrote this article to get affiliate money.  Instead, you can form your own opinion, and then buy Brad’s book if you’re interested.


Brad Pilon – Eat Stop Eat

How Do You Do It?

Simple: pick a day (or two) per week and purposely skip breakfast and lunch, and then eat a normal dinner. Brad over at Eat Stop Eat recommends doing this type of fasting once or twice a week – for example, a fast on Monday, and then another one on Thursday.  Liquids are okay on fasting days, just not ones with calories.  Heyoooo H2O!

If you’re used to eating a LOT of food, and you normally eat a big breakfast, this is going to be a pretty big drastic change.  Start by skipping breakfast and see how your body reacts to it.  If you can handle that, work your way up to skipping breakfast and lunch.  Notice that I’m not saying you should skip breakfast and lunch every day.  Eat normally five days a week, try a fast one of the other days for a few weeks and see how your body reacts.

Eat, don’t eat, and then eat.  Got it?

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

A recent article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gives a great overview of these benefits which include decreases in blood pressure, reduction in oxidative damage to lipids, protein and DNA, improvement in insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, as well as decreases in fat mass.”  This study discusses studies done with humans (not mice) specifically.

From the LA times: Mark P. Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging: “In normal health subjects, moderate fasting — maybe one day a week or cutting back on calories a couple of days a week — will have health benefits for most anybody.”

I’d like to see more studies, with better controls done for more solid proof of these benefits, but I expect that to happen soon.

Risks of Intermittent Fasting

So, all we see so far are GOOD things about not eating for a full day. What the hell is BAD about it? First off, I can see myself getting extremely hungry to the point of annoyance when starting out this process.  This is echoed by Ruth Frechman, a registered dietitian in Burbank and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Assn: “You’re hungry, fatigued, irritable. Fasting is not very comfortable. People try to cut back one day and the next day they’re starving and they overeat.”

I imagine there is quite the learning curve for your body when it has to switch from using readily accessible carbs for energy to using your body’s fat stores, so I can see the first few fasting days being extremely difficult.  NF Reader Matt makes a great point in the comments that I’m reposting here for all to see:

“One thing I think people who are considering this should ask themselves – how are you at controling your hunger at the moment?  Losing weight is all about consuming less calories than you burn.   The biggest obstacle to this is hunger.  That is, uncontrollable hunger.  If you are starving yourself on 800 calories a day, then you will be much more likely to binge and go way over your calorie goal.  So it becomes important to eat when you are hungry, not when you are starving.”

Moral of the story? Don’t overdo it – if you feel light headed and you can’t function, EAT SOMETHING.  Listen to your body, and find a way to make it work for you.  We only get one chance on this planet, so make it count.

Have I tried It Yet?

Honestly, I haven’t. Well, not on purpose anyway.  The idea of skipping a meal or two goes against everything I’ve done for the past seven years.  If you’re a person who is used to eating a lot of food all day long, this probably scares the crap out of you too.  However, considering the fitness gurus and researchers that I read all highly recommend this type of “diet,” I’d be stupid if I didn’t give it a shot.  After all, if I can’t practice what I preach then I’m being dishonest to myself and to you all.

My biggest concern was losing more weight and muscle mass.  Then I saw that Craig Ballantyne, another fitness dude whose opinion I really respect, gained 13 pounds, most of which was muscle, while doing IF.  If he can do it, so can I.

Lastly, I was worried I wouldn’t have enough energy to get through a workout if I didn’t eat beforehand.  However, after doing my research on IF, I did a test-workout this past Saturday in a fasted state and had zero problem getting through the routine.  That was a big boost for me to move forward with writing this article and planning to try it out myself.

I’m going to try this one day this week, I’ll let everybody know how it goes. I still expect to build muscle and put on some pounds, even when skipping the first two meals of the day occasionally.

Do I Recommend It?

This is tough for me. Because I haven’t done it yet, I’m cautious about throwing my whole support behind the concept.  However, I do believe that this is another system that will definitely work for many people (but not all).  It’s just like every other successful diet: eat good foods, and don’t eat too much.

This is my recommendation:

  • Is your current plan working? Good! Don’t change it!
  • Is your current plan NOT working? Give this a shot.

If you only get ONE thing from this whole article, it’s this: there is more than one way to lose weight, so don’t worry about your method being the best.  The best diet is the one that makes you lose weight and keeps you healthy.  If you’re already losing weight, keep doing what you’re doing.  If you’re not, maybe do a little bit more reading on IF and give it a shot.

My advice? Do it the day after you’ve stuffed yourself, and balance things out.  In terms of losing the most weight the quickest, I’d probably recommend the Paleo Diet and intermittent fasting with weight training in the gym.

So what are your thoughts? Have you tried fasting before?  Successful or miserable failure?  Will you give a shot?  If so, please post your stories, thoughts, successes, concerns in the comments and we’ll see if this is something we can all wrap our heads around.

-Steve

PS- Message Board Update – The message boards are still in ‘beta testing,’ but I would love to add some more readers to the mix to help me test it out.  We have about 20 readers contributing already , keeping track of their workouts, encouraging each other, etc, and I want some more!  If you’re interested in helping kick start the NF message boards, email me at [email protected] and I’ll get you an invite.

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picture – Undronotto

Help Me Make a Complete Ass of Myself – It’s for a Good Cause.

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I signed up for another 5k race the other day.

After my last one (where I got destroyed by a 10-year old girl), I decided that was enough humiliation for the year.  That all changed when I came across the greatest thing ever: The Warrior Dash. Essentially, it’s a 5k race through the woods of Georgia, complete with kick-ass obstacles, tons of mud, warrior helmets, live music, and free beer.  It takes place on May 22nd in Moutain City, GA.  It’s essentially like a live-action version of MXC: Don’t Get Elminated!

This is how they tell you to train:

  1. Day one: run as far as you can. Go home. Day two: do the same thing.
  2. Find the dirtiest pond in your neighborhood and snorkel in it – in your slippers, without goggles.
  3. Practice your climbing and crawling skills at your local jungle gym.  Ignore the small children and parental glares.
  4. Do not shower or shave for weeks in order to obtain a true Warrior look.

Greatest. Race. Ever. Now, as I perused the site looking for more information, I found out that costumes were not only acceptable, but strongly encouraged.  A light bulb went off in my head.  I immediately emailed my group of friends and convinced a whole bunch of them to dress up in costume with me and run this thing (not that it took much convincing).

So, why are we all going to dress up like idiots, you ask?

Because this is the perfect opportunity for the Nerd Fitness Community to point and laugh at Steve and his friends while also raising money for a really good cause!  I’m in the process of selecting a great charity to partner with, getting the framework set up, handling the process and financial garbage, etc.  If you have any recommendations for a great cause – preferably something with kids – or if you’ve done anything like this before and you have any advice please email me at [email protected].  I’m kind of winging it here.

This is where you come in. I’ve recruited my friends to wear increasingly more ridiculous costumes based on how much money we raise for the cause.  The amounts and the charity haven’t been confirmed yet, but I have a few weeks before I officially launch this thing.  In the meantime, I would LOVE to hear your ideas on what the heck we can wear for costumes.  There’s 14 of us, I think nine dudes and five chicks.

These are just the first few ideas that have been tossed around:

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Braveheart: Kilts (hopefully not free-balling it), warpaint, wigs and beards. Bagpipes optional.

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300: Speedos, capes, beards, hopefully not shaved chests, lots of war cries. Maybe spears.

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Super Heroes: Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Batman, etc.  Lots of spandex.

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Mortal Kombat: Johnny Cage, Scorpion, Raiden, Sub-Zero. No fatalities though.

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Ninja Turtles: Four turtles, April O’Neil, Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady, Shredder, Splinter. Kowabunga!

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Smurfs: White pants, white hats, lots of blue paint.  We’ll draw straws for Gargamel.

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Oompah-Loompahs: What more needs to be said? We’ll just buy a vat of Jersey Shore self-tanner.

THESE ARE ONLY EXAMPLES.  I want to know what you’re thinking.  The way I see it, every time we hit a new milestone (say, 1000 bucks – Braveheart, then 2000 bucks – Ninja Turtles, etc.), we’ll move up to a more awesome/insane costume.  Hopefully this will result in some hilarious costumes, great pictures, funny montage videos (hell yes I’m making a montage), and a lot of money for a really good cause.

What say you? What would you like to see our group of schmucks wearing when we crawl through mud and jump in lakes?  All ideas are welcome; I’ll rank them by ridiculousness and then assign dollar values.  Let’s have some fun and do something great for kids who really need it.

Once I get everything organized, expect an official announcement in a few weeks after this next round of cruises.

By the way, we’re in the 11AM wave and we’ll be camping out for the weekend, so make sure you let me know if you’ll be at the event too!

-Steve

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What Burns More Calories: Cardio, Intervals, or Weight Training?

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Fat loss is at the front of everybody’s mind these days, even storm troopers.

Let’s say you want to lose weight, and you want to do so in the fastest way possible.  Is it hours on the treadmill?  Sprints up a hill?  Could it possibly be squats and bench presses?  I’m going to guess that you have assumptions on what might be best for you.  In today’s royal rumble, I’m going to break down the difference between these three contenders and let you know which will give you the most bang for your buck.  The results, which certainly aren’t unanimous, will surprise you…

Meet today’s contestants:

  • Cardio: Pretty much anything with relative low intensity that you can do for a prolonged period of time that elevates your heart rate.  Regular aerobics, going for a three mile jog, running on a treadmill for an hour, using the elliptical for twenty minutes, etc.
  • Interval Training: When you decide to run, bike, use the elliptical, etc. with varying rates of speed and intensity.  Sprinting for 30 seconds followed by 90 seconds of jogging, and repeating this cycle for 20-30 minutes.
  • Weight Training: Whenever you lift weights or do body weight exercises, often times in a cyclical nature.

There have been hundreds and hundreds of studies done on this stuff (yay for science), and it’s certainly something that I’ve put considerable time into researching as well as it’s my job to figure out how to get in shape most efficiently.  I will have a decision for you by the end of the battle.  However, before we get there, there’s ONE thing that needs to be made crystal-clear:

If you are interested in getting in shape, the MOST important thing you can do for yourself is adjusting your diet.

Your diet is responsible for 80-90% of your successes or failures.  As I’ve said previously, even if you spend ten hours a week exercising, that still leaves 168 hours for you to mess things up.  Doh.  If all you care about is losing weight, the fastest path to success is with a freaking kick-ass diet.  Keep your total number of calories under control, cut out the junk food, give up soda, and start eating REAL FOODS: veggies, fruits, and lean meats.

Got it? Good.

So you’re on board with the whole “eating right” thing (w00t), but you still want to exercise to burn more fat.  Let’s break down each competitor:

Cardio

Cardio is the most basic thing you can do when it comes to burning calories. Let’s talk science: if you burn more calories than you consume in a day, you will lose weight.  Step on a treadmill, run three miles, and you’ll burn around 300 calories.  You don’t need any special weights, have extensive knowledge of any difficult exercises, just a pair of shoes (or a pair of Vibrams) and your legs.  This is why the majority of people who start exercising do so by just running a treadmill or elliptical for hours: it’s tough to mess up, and it’s pretty mindless.

Now, here’s my problem with cardio: it can be really boring!  Running outside is a different story, but I’d rather punch myself in the crotch than spend two hours on a treadmill.  Secondly, in terms of getting in shape, it’s definitely not the most efficient form of exercise.  Lastly, although it trains your heart to be in shape by remaining at a higher level of operation while exercising, it doesn’t train your heart to prepare for moments of extreme stress because it never really has to deal with rapid changes (explained in the next section).

So why isn’t cardio efficient when it comes to burning calories? There’s very little Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) with cardio, which means you only burn calories when running; not much happens afterwards.  If you want to read about how cardio doesn’t really burn any extra calories, you can read this fascinating article from NYT which is loaded with studies and references on the subject at hand.

What IS good about cardio? The thing about cardio that makes it better for almost everybody, other than it’s easy learning curve, is that it’s very low impact – your body can go for hours and hours, day after day, and not get worn out.  If you have the desire and willpower, you can burn calories all day long, like the guys in Born to Run.

High-Intensity Interval Training

When it comes to efficiency in burning calories, high-intensity training is leaps and bounds ahead of cardio.  Why is that?  EPOC, dude, EPOC!  That stuff I was talking about before.  Essentially, when you do high-intensity interval training (HIIT), your body and metabolism function at a higher rate of burned calories for hours and hours afterwards.  What does that mean? It means you’re burning calories while sitting on your ass playing Modern Warfare 2 or re-watching Lost Season 5 (not that I’m doing this currently, or anything like that).  You can read all about HIIT here.

So, how the hell does that work exactly?

HIIT constantly forces your heart to adjust to changing conditions: sprints, jogging, sprints, jogging, up hills, down hills, etc.  Your heart learns to operate outside of its norm, and your body learns to adapt to these changes.  All of this changing and sprinting kicks your metabolism into high gear for hours after you finish exercising.  To quote Mark’s Daily Apple, a site that I love:

A study (PDF) from the University of New South Wales followed the fitness and body composition changes in 45 overweight women in a 15-week period. The women were divided into two groups and assigned interval or continuous cycling routines. The interval “sprint” cycling group performed twenty minutes of exercise, which repeated eight seconds of “all out” cycling and then twelve seconds of light exercise. The continuous group exercised for 40 minutes at a consistent rate. At the end of the study, the women in the interval group had lost three times the body fat as the women in the continuous exercise group. (An interesting note: the interval group’s loss in body fat came mostly from the legs and buttocks area.)

Three times the amount of fat loss and half of the exercise time? Sounds good to me.  If you sift through the rest of Mark’s article, you’ll find reference after reference discussing the benefits of varying your speed and intensity over straight normal cardio.  Now, the bad thing about HIIT is that it takes your body quite a bit of time to recover, and you can really only do it for 20-30 minutes at a time before you get too exhausted to continue.  The other bad thing about HIIT?  Your body will hate you after just 20 minutes.

Weight Training

So if cardio is decent for burning calories while you exercise, and high intensity interval training is more effective because it burns calories both during and after exercise, where does weight training come in?  Alwyn Cosgrove, a fitness expert whose opinion I highly respect, wrote a great article discussing the Hierarchy of Weight Loss loaded with numerous studies highlighting the benefits of weight training in comparison to cardio.  This is the best part:

Overweight subjects were assigned to three groups: diet-only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights. The diet group lost 14.6 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. The aerobic group lost only one more pound (15.6 pounds) than the diet group (training was three times a week starting at 30 minutes and progressing to 50 minutes over the 12 weeks).

The weight training group lost 21.1 pounds of fat (44% and 35% more than diet and aerobic only groups respectively). Basically, the addition of aerobic training didn’t result in any real world significant fat loss over dieting alone.

Thirty-six sessions of up to 50 minutes is a lot of work for one additional pound of fat loss. However, the addition of resistance training greatly accelerated fat loss results.

These are the lessons I’d take from this: what you eat is the most important thing when it comes to weight loss, aerobic training helps but not nearly as much as you’d think, and weight training when combined with the two is the most effective method to dropping pounds.

Now, what kind of exercises are best suited for this type of weight training for weight loss?  According to Alwyn, exercises that recruit the largest number of muscles (squats, lunges, kettlebell swings, squat thrusts, burpees, inverted rows, pull ups, and push ups).  Do any of these exercises sound familiar? (cough, NF beginner body weight workout and NF advanced body weight workout, cough).  By doing these exercises in a circuit without stopping, keeping your rep ranges in the 8-12 range, your body will get a super workout, you will build muscle, and you’ll burn calories at an accelerated rate for reportedly up to 38 HOURS after your exercise.

Want some more literature about how weight lifting is better than intervals (and way better than cardio)? Check out Alwyn’s interview on the Death of Intervals over on Jason Ferruggia’s site.  When it comes to performance, these fitness guys are two of the best in the business: no bull****, just results.

Is it that cut and dry?

Nope. Sure, if you keep the variable time as a constant, like 30 minutes of exercise, doing “metabolic resistance training” (a fancy term for weight lifting circuits) burns more calories than high intensity interval training, which burns more calories than straight cardio.  However, due to the stressful nature of Weight Training and HIIT, you can really only do those activities for 30-45 minutes before your body gives up and needs a few days to recover.  Cardio doesn’t have as nearly as stressful an impact on your body, so you can go for hours and hours and hours and do it again the next day (provided your body is in shape).

Medhi over Stronglifts highlights this uber-important fact in a great post called Why HIIT Is NOT Better For Fat Loss.  Essentially, because you can only do so much HIIT or weight training, you can only burn so many calories before your body wears out.  If time isn’t a factor for you, and you don’t mind spending more time in the gym on a daily basis, you can burn way more calories doing steady cardio than with just 30 minutes of weight training three days a week.

Judge’s Verdict

My decision on what you should do certainly depends on your fitness level, how much time you can devote to exercise daily, and what you actually LIKE to do. Remember: above all else, your diet is king.  Eat poorly and none of the above matters.  Eat right, eat real foods, and exercise, and you’ll get better.  Here is my advice to you:

Do cardio if:

  • You really enjoy the treadmill or elliptical, or you just really like running
  • You have all the time in the world
  • You’re just getting started and don’t really know what you’re doing

Do HIIT if:

  • You don’t like lifting weights, but you still want to burn calories as quickly as possible
  • You only have a limited amount of time every day
  • You like pushing your body to its limits.

Do circuit weight training if:

  • You want to build muscle while burning calories
  • You like burning calories while sitting on your butt.
  • You’re not afraid of lifting weights.

Honestly though, this is just the science-y stuff.  Ultimately, I just want you to be happy and healthy, which means it’s up to you to find a great combination of the three methods above that keep you smiling and keep the weight off consistently.  Luckily, there’s no 100% perfect way to get in shape, so find something that you love and stick with it.  If it ain’t workin for ya, take some advice from this post and see what kind of results you get.

If you’ve spent months doing steady-cardio, try varying the speeds and intensity every once and a while.  If you’re afraid of lifting weights, give it a shot once or twice a week and see if the weight starts to come off quicker.  Try adding some basic cardio into your weight lifting routine on off days to knock off a few more calories.  Most importantly, eat better!

What say you, nerds?  Are you a cardio lover?  Weight-lifter for life?  Where have you seen the most success?

Let’s hear it.

-Steve

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picture: Waihey

The Definitive Nerd Fitness Workout Playlist

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Does music ever make you feel like this?

It does for me, which is great because music happens to be a huge part of my life.  My day job involves producing floating music festivals on cruise ships (watch a spur-the-moment commercial I made on one of our cruises last week), I go to a few concerts a month, I play both guitar and piano, and I have a playlist in my iTunes for practically every occasion: for work, while studying or reading, when at a party, while falling asleep, and most importantly for working out.

I’m convinced that I can lift five to ten pounds more when listening to the right song. Unfortunately, because my gym loves to play Taylor Swift techno remixes all the time (don’t ask), I’ve resorted to bringing my own iPod and loading up my own workout playlist.  Put in the headphones, keep my head down, and take care of business.  I figured today would be a good day for me to highlight what’s on that playlist and ask you what I should add to it.

Steve’s Nerd Fitness Workout Playlist

This is what I listen to when lifting weights.  Feel free to make fun of anything in here you don’t like, as that’s what’s music is all about: making fun of others who listen to things different than you :).

There you have it – Steve’s proven formula to get pissed off and pumped up: some generic angst-y alt rock and hip hop.  What songs did I leave out?  What am I missing?  Let’s help create a cool list of songs for all readers.  Maybe when I have time I can turn it into an iMix on iTunes or something.  Only time will tell…

Now it’s your turn. What do you listen to when you work out?  Do you need happy music or angry music?

Let’s hear it!

-Steve

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photo: Notsogoodphotography

The Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! Guide to Becoming Quasi-Famous and Inspiring Others

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Please tell me you’ve played Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! for the NES.

If you have, then you’ll understand when I say that it’s one of the games that defined my childhood. I can’t count the dozens and dozens of hours I spent working my way through the different circuits, beating the crap out of Glass Joe, trying to dodge Bald Bull’s charge, and watching in awe as Iron Mike Tyson knocked me out with a single punch. Sure it’s a fun game, easy to play and almost impossible to master, but there’s one reason above all others that this game really resonated with me:

It’s a damn good underdog story.

Little Mac, the main character in Punch-Out!!, is five foot nothin’, a hundred and nothin’, and has hardly a speck of athletic ability (to loosely quote Rudy, another great underdog story). Sure he’s not the biggest guy, definitely not the most talented, and he trains by running the streets of NYC in a pink jumpsuit (come on!). However, whatever Little Mac lacks in ability and talent, he sure makes up for with intelligence, determination, and heart:

  • Intelligence to defeat more talented fighters by outsmarting them.
  • Determination to get get up after being knocked down.
  • Heart to truly believe he could go from a nobody to heavyweight champion of the world with enough hard work.

There’s just something awesome about a simple dude from humble beginnings who goes onto accomplish greatness, especially a guy that most of us nerds can relate to. Yup, I feel so strongly about this that I ended the previous sentence with a preposition.  That’s how I roll. But enough about grammar; let’s move onto the real reason I wrote today’s article:

I want you to be the next great underdog success story.

I want you to be the next big thing, because I truly believe you can turn your life around and inspire others.  This country’s weight problem continues to go in the wrong direction, so it’s up to us to reverse the mojo one person at a time. Whether you become a inspiration for just your circle of friends, your coworkers, or for hundreds of thousands of people, if your story can motivate just one person to make a change and get healthy then you’re a hero in my book.

Here is your step-by-step guide to becoming the next Little Mac:

  1. Decide that you want to make a change. This is incredibly important – if your head isn’t in it for the right reason, you won’t succeed. Find something that will inspire you to make a change – your kids, your family, your girlfriend or boyfriend, whatever. Find the motivation you need, every single day, to level up your life.
  2. Set specific, obtainable goals. Now that your your mind is made up, it’s time for you to start setting goals for your journey. “I want to lose weight” isn’t going to cut it. “I want to lose 50 pounds by June” is a specific goal that you can get behind.  Once you’ve set your goals, you can tailor your diet and workout towards reaching them. If you have a goal to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain amount of time, break that down into months/weeks so you know if you’re on track or if you need to make adjustments.
  3. Weigh in and take a picture. You might hate the way you look and hate being in front of a camera, but still take a picture of yourself.  You don’t have to show it to anybody or put it up on a website or anything like that. Hell, you don’t even have to look at it. Just hold onto it. Secondly, weigh yourself, first thing in the morning, and make a note of what time and what day of the week you do it.
  4. Tell somebody you’re making a change. Some people (like Tyler at 344pounds.com and Steve at 265andfalling.com) have made websites to track their diets, workouts, and weigh-ins to keep themselves accountable. If you’re interested in starting a website, you can launch a free blog over at www.wordpress.com to get the ball rolling (buy an official domain name if you’re serious about going global with your story).  If you DON’T want to start a website, feel free to tell family, friends, or co-workers that you’re getting in shape and that you would love their support. These are the people who will keep you accountable and keep you motivated.
  5. Keep your stats on a consistent basis. Because you live with yourself every single day (you lucky dog), you probably don’t realize any changs when you start to look different (if you’re losing weight and exercising), so comparing before and after pictures on a monthly/weekly basis will really help you see how far you’ve come.  Secondly, when dealing with the anonymity of the internet, these pictures do wonders for your credibility.
  6. Ask for help when you need it. If you have a blog, write about your struggles. If you have friends, tell them what’s working and what’s not. If you’re keeping this all to yourself, tell me and I’ll do what I can.
  7. Inspire Others – As you start to get in shape, might start to receive emails and comments from friends (or strangers if online) offering support or asking questions.  Go out of your way to respond to every single one of them: these are the people who you could inspire down the road.

They say people who are most successful in life are often those who are too busy to be looking for it. I doubt when Tyler set out to lose 150 pounds he thought his life would change the way it did.  Initially, he just wanted to lose weight and take care of his family.  Look at him now: sponsorships, TV and radio appearances, and thousands of lives impacted.  It’s an awesome story, and one from which you can learn.  I firmly believe this next statement.

Why Not You?

Sounds simple enough, right? 

Why not lose some weight and inspire others to do the same!  I bet you have some reservations about telling your story and putting yourself out there.  I understand that the internet is a scary place and you might not be ready to step into the spotlight.  That’s fine!  You don’t have to plan to end up on television selling products on infomercials or anything like that.  As I’ve said previously, if you manage to only to motivate just one other person, you’re already If you’re going to lose weight, I think you should document your success and failures in case you DO have a dramatic transformation.

In case you’re not aware, there are hundreds of thousands of people in your exact same situation, struggling with the same things you’re struggling with, looking for motivation to succeed.  I want you to be that person – lead by example and those around you might just do the same.  Positive peer pressure and momentum are two very powerful influences in healthy living.

Share Your Story, Help Others Do the Same

This is what I need you to do.  If you have a blog, please let the community know what it is so they can follow your progress. If you don’t have a blog, simply leave a comment about your successes, failures, and goals for the future.

I want to make an impact on as many lives as possible by helping Nerd Fitness become something bigger than just a blog post twice a week.  I want to help facilitate a kick-ass community of awesome people improving their lives, helping one another, and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

Please tell me your story, I can’t wait to hear about it.

So who wants to play some Punch-Out!!?

-Steve

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Reader Spotlight: From World of Warcraft to the World of Wildland Firefighting

While you’re reading this, I’m getting ready to go on another cruise for my job with Sixthman. This week, it’s Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man Cruise, a cruise loaded with southern rock legends and upcoming bands.

While I’m out cruising through the Caribbean, I figured today would be a good time to introduce you to Alexander, a 25 year old Wildland Firefighter from Salt Lake City, Utah. Essentially, Alexander went from being an online hero in World of Warcraft to a real life hero in the world of wildland firefighting. This is quite the lengthy read but pretty freaking cool, so set aside 15 minutes when you get a chance to read through it all.

Alexander’s Story

Hi, I’m Alexander.

Like many people my age, I was raised on video games. Instead of team sports and learning to hunt, I was finding raiding parties and calculating drop rates. There is nothing wrong with the wide world of virtual sports. However, I feel there is a side of man that is lost when he delves too deep into the virtual world. You can see it in the fitness and health levels of our peers. Obesity is rampant. Real world communication skills are being left by the wayside. Our connection to our bodies and nature is deteriorating with every new app that is developed. I found Nerd Fitness and realized I had found a group of kindred sprits: people who wanted to make that connection with their bodies again, but retain the wonderful world of geek.

Settling for “Meh.”

My typical days used to go like this: Get up, speedily take a shower, eat some captain crunch, and rush downstairs to cram a little gaming in before I had to go off to my retail job. I was a paint salesman at a local paint store. Not terribly exciting or lucrative, but I could fund my geeky endeavors well enough.

While at work, I would usually “nourish” myself with a run to Carl’s Jr. or Del Taco. As soon as I returned home, I would glue myself right to that computer or console until it was unreasonably late and do the whole process again the next day. Dinner usually consisted of whatever my mom was making that evening. Everything seemed great. Living in my parents basement, playing lots of video games with my friends. I had a girlfriend who tolerated my geeky obsessions. I felt content.

However, as I started into my 23rd level (year) on this planet, I began to feel a growing emptiness. I couldn’t put my finger on it. After all, I had the life! What did I possibly have to be empty about? I noticed my family was beginning to irritate me more often. My normal activities didn’t seem to fulfill me any longer. I felt antsy and nervous playing video games, as if I were doing something wrong. 14 to 16 hours of World of Warcraft didn’t feel acceptable anymore. I was skinny. I didn’t feel healthy. I didn’t feel alive. The answer to every question in my life was “Meh.” As Khalil Gibran so eloquently put it, “Desire is half of life. Indifference is half of death.”

Something had to be done.

I began searching. I wanted to fill this emptiness. I searched the internet and only found people selling magic cure all pills or juvenile advice from Ask Yahoo. I tried different hobbies. Piano. Started running more often. Ran 3 marathons. Nothing seemed to help.

I thought to myself, “Maybe I need a fulfilling career. People always say a fulfilling career is important.” I had obtained my Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license a few years back in search of some excitement. While I found some of EMT life exciting, a lot of it is cleaning up vomit and arguing with hobos. But I digress.

The Wildland Quest

Screen shot 2010-01-20 at 3.35.21 PMWhile working on the ambulance, I had heard mention of something called, “Wildland.” Just the word sounded intriguing. So I investigated further. From what I could tell, these “Wildland Firefighters” climbed up and down burning mountain sides with chainsaws slung over their shoulders, cutting down trees and ordering around aircraft. That sounded like it could fill some emptiness!

I found a local fire department who had a Wildland division. I was informed that in order to be considered for an interview, I had to pass a physical test. 1.5 miles ran in under 11:30.

“No problem!” I thought to myself. “I’m a runner for Crom’s sake!” Sure enough, the trials rolled around, and I passed them with flying colors. Then it was onto the interview. I traveled to the fire department and had my panel interview. I’d been through plenty of interviews. This will be no problem right?

EPIC FAIL

I did not wear a tie, I was red and flushed, and I stumbled over all of my words. I gave cliché’ answers to their questions and did not let my personality show through. I was not hired. I was devastated.

This was the turning point.

I will say it again: failure was my turning point. It is an important lesson to learn in life. You will benefit and develop far more from your failures than from any of your successes. I had finally begun to understand it. The metamorphosis had begun. I had found what I needed to fill that void in my life. A quest! A quest to become like the heroes I had always pretended to be, but in real life. “Meh” was no longer an acceptable answer to any question, and I knew it.

Hero Class: Wildland Firefighter

Up until this point, fitness had been a secondary aspect of my life. Despite having two Ironman / sponsored bike racers for uncles, my passion for fitness did not extend much further than running.

I never enjoyed weight lifting, no matter how many times I tried it. Despite my desire to have a muscular body, I never had the true fire to follow through.

My defeat became my fire. I was now determined to succeed at obtaining a spot on the 2009 season, Unified Fire Authority, Wildland Fire Crew. I set specific goals for myself. I began lifting weight and running daily. I didn’t change my diet very much, for at the time I didn’t understand how vital it was to fitness. I trained hard, I didn’t want any reason to exist to not be hired. I started forming relationships with local firefighters and learning more about the job.

Spring of 2009 rolled around, and it was time for attempt #2. When I arrived, I was informed that the cut off time had been lowered this year to 10:30. This was due to the high volume of applications they had received to be a firefighter. Over 200 applications had been received to fill 12 spots. I knew I had to give it my all, so I pushed through all 5 and 1/2 laps in 09:30 minutes and lapped two people. On to the interview.

This time I wasn’t taking any chances. I had any of my firefighter friends call the station and make a recommendation on my behalf. I had practiced my answers to the interview questions. I wore a tie. I remained calm. The interview went well. I was hired.

Now the real work began.

Screen shot 2010-01-20 at 3.40.23 PM

Fireline Fitness: FINISH HIM!

Now that I’ve bored you with my life story, lets get down to the meat and potatoes of the matter. Wildland Firefighter Fitness. I thought I was in shape for this job. Then I worked out with the guys. Here’s what we did and what happened. First of all, we have a certified Crossfit trainer on our crew, which meant many of our workouts consisted of Crossfit circuit training.

Here’s one of the workouts that we do on occasion: Draw from a deck of cards,
Where the value of the card equals the reps of the exercise and the suit of the card equals the exercise.

• Hearts = Sprint a given distance
• Clubs = Pushups
• Spades = Leg Lifts
• Diamonds = Pullups
• Joker = 15 burpees

Brutal. Not only do we do lots of these bodyweight exercises, but we also do tons of sprints, weight lifting, and hiking through the woods with 50-80 pounds of equipment (Helmets, tools, water filled, gas cans, chain saws, and packs). A lot of us even play team sports together like Rugby, Ultimate Frisbee, and Softball.

I finally Change My Diet

trainingOn an average day on the fireline, a Wildland Firefighter is likely to burn anywhere from 4000-6500 calories a day. This means the food he must consume must be of high nutritional value, for every bit of it is going to be used up. During my first season, I did not change my diet much- I simply just ate a lot more of the stuff I was used to eating.

However, once the season ended, I inquired to the CrossFit trainer as to what I should eat in the offseason, and he recommended I switch to either the Zone Diet or a Paleo Diet – no bread, very little sugars, some fruit, unlimited vegetables, lots of meat, lots of seeds and nuts, and tons of water, coffee and tea. As a result, my body fat percentage has decreased greatly with a good deal of muscle definition developing. Once I began to understand how the body broke down nutrients, I really started to see results.

Result:

Due to my recent plunge into wildland firefighting I have found a new fire for life. My previously developing gut has been stopped and reversed. I gained a healthy 15 pounds of muscle.

I have more energy than I ever. I spend more time focusing on training and fitness and less on video games. I feel fulfilled and have set up a system for a achieving goals. Its basically a quest system, but for life. I write my quest on a white board, and the things I have to do to complete that quest. I achieve it. Erase it and replace it with the next one.

I look at myself like a character sheet. I have a level, a class, stats (STR DEX CON etc.) that I always want to improve. I have a skill section that I want to add too. I use movie characters for inspiration.

I have come to the realization that Nerdiness does not need to be left by the wayside in order to become a healthier and more whole person. It simply need to be channeled and used as a tool and means to an end, as a opposed to an end in itself! We are intelligent people. Intelligence can be harnessed into braun!

A Few More Questions

Steve asked me some interview questions I thought I’d include at the end here.

Q: Favorite videogame of all time?
A: Starcraft. People are still playing this game in tournaments. Its replayablity is unmatched. Its just an all around great game and a classic that is has been fine tuned over 10 years.

Q: Are you playing any game right now?
A: Borderlands! Roleplaying + Guns = Awesome. Simple concept executed very well. Lots of fun builds to make. Great co-op action.

Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be, and why?
A: Tied between invulnerability and the ability to fly. Both would enable me to do all sorts of heroic things. That is what I would do with a superpower, just go around and find people to help.

Q: What’s your movie to live by?
A: 300, hands down. Love your woman. Love your children. Fight with and for your brothers in battle. Have convictions. Be rugged. Don’t complain. Face and revel the challenges of life!

Q: If you had to give one piece of advice to a complete stranger, what would it be?
A: Always remember, the past no longer exists. The future is not certain to come. You could die at any moment, for any reason. Treat every moment as if it were your last. Are you living up to your potential? Are you grateful for every moment? Are you living the way you want to be remembered?

Thanks Alexander! Readers, if you’re interested in hearing more about his story, you can shoot him an email at [email protected].

Alright guys, I’ll be out at sea until Monday afternoon, so I apologize that I’m so backed up on email responses to you all. I promise I haven’t forgotten about you. If all goes according to plan, I’ll have a new article on Monday, and things will be back to normal on Tuesday.

-Steve

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The Definitive Guide to Hacking Into the Matrix – Are You the One?

I know why you’re here.

I know what you’ve been doing – why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you sit by your computer. You’re looking for him. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn’t really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It’s the question that drives us.

It’s the question that brought you here.

“What is the Matrix?”

If you didn’t pick up on it, that intro was lifted straight out of The Matrix, one of my favorite movies of all time and one that certainly belongs in every nerd’s collection.  This movie and its themes are very similar to a lot of my personal views on fitness and life, so today’s post was an inevitability.  I want to start by address the world in which we live:

The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the wool that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth…You are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch.  A prison for your mind.

Whoa.

From here on out, I’ll be Morpheus and you be Neo.  K?  Good.  I am going to help break your mind out of the “jail” it’s currently occupying.  “But I’m not in a jail!” you say.  Are you sure?  Tell me if this routine sounds familiar:

  • Wake up tired.
  • Skip breakfast and drive to work, maybe stopping for a large coffee at Dunkin Donuts.
  • Eat a bagel or donut that one of your co-workers brought in.
  • Sluggishly work your way through a full day of desk work.
  • Pick up your lunch at a drive-through window.
  • Eat whatever is put in front of you for dinner.
  • Watch a few hours of television.
  • Drink a few beers, eat some ice cream.
  • Go to bed.

This routine is your jail, and it is holding you captive. Don’t feel too bad, there are hundreds of millions of people trapped in there with you.  I’m here to tell you that there is more to life than this. I know there is great potential within you – we won’t know how great until you take the Red Pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.  It’s time to break out.

I’m trying to free your mind

Remember when Neo woke up in the real world and asked Morpheus why his eyes hurt?  I will never forget Morpheus’s response:

“Because you’ve never used them before.”

Today is your first day seeing the world for what it really is – You are in the Matrix, and everybody around you is completely unaware.  Ignorance and apathy have slowly but steadily turned our country into a bunch of overweight zombies just drifting through life, waiting to become batteries.  They don’t really live life – they just exist.

You are not like everybody else – you are an anomaly.  Once you recognize the fact that you are different, you need to use this to your advantage: let’s start by cutting through all the bull**** that is keeping you locked up.

It is the wool that has been pulled over your eyes

Screen shot 2010-01-18 at 1.59.36 AM

You are not a battery.

Don’t let the ads you see on TV and the Internet keep you caged.  These ads, programs, and products are created by Agents who are afraid you’ll discover how to beat the system.  Want to defeat them?  Let them know they no longer have any influence over you:

  • You don’t need supplements. Weight loss supplements, weight gain supplements, hyrdoxycut, cortislim, etc. – Don’t mess with them.  A healthy diet and exercise is the only safe way to lose weight.
  • 4 weeks is not enough time to “ripped.” It is going to take months of hard work and dedication to get incredible results.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s an overnight process.  Don’t spend money on products that make these promises.
  • Low fat does not mean healthy.  Most low-fat products are loaded with processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup.  Read the ingredients, and be smart about what you’re eating.  Common sense goes a long way.
  • No amount of exercise can fix a bad diet. Your diet is 80% of your success or failure – eating better will make your life better.  Vegetables, lean meats, fruits, and nuts.  Stay away from sugar.  Don’t buy from a vending machine or a drive-through window.  The more REAL food you can eat the better off you’ll be.
  • You don’t need to spend two hours a day in the gym.  If you’re eating healthy, 30-45 minutes in the gym doing compound movements with free weights (pull ups, dead lifts, overhead presses, squats, push ups) is enough for you to build muscle.  Don’t believe what you read in muscle-building magazines.

Everybody is looking for a cheap and easy solution to wellness, and money-hungry Agents are eager to keep status-quo by developing the next great weight loss system, product, or health food that over-promise and under-deliver.  Buy into the hype for any of the things listed above and the Agents win.  I hate Agents; please don’t help them.

Now this is where the fun starts.  Let’s find out what you can accomplish by hacking your existence in a system that can’t hold you.

What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?

Not gonna lie, you probably won’t be able to dodge bullets any time soon.  However, I guarantee there are things you are capable of doing that you didn’t think were possible.  Want an example?  Take three and a half minutes to watch Damien Walters doing some of the most amazing stuff I’ve ever seen:

The Most Amazing Video I Have Ever Seen

If you are willing to work hard, there are very few things in life that are impossible.  I don’t care who you are or what kind of shape you are in right now.  If you make a change and dedicate part of your life to a new activity today, within a few years (or sooner) you will be an expert.  People do it all the time, so why not you?

I know Kung Fu

Be honest: when Neo downloaded hundreds and hundreds of skills into his brain within seconds you thought to yourself, “how cool would it be if that was actually possible!”  I’m here to tell you that it IS possible – it’s just going to take a lot longer.

As you saw in the video above, Damien found something that he loved to do (run and jump and flip), and dedicated himself to becoming really really ridiculously good at it.  He picked a skill, “downloaded” the information required to start learning it, and then practiced it over and over until he was an expert.

If you want to be a great great barefoot runner, you can read a book on barefoot running, watch some YouTube videos on how to run barefoot, find a barefoot running club, and then go run a marathon barefoot in a few months.  If you want to be a black belt in Brazilian Ju-Jitsiu, go sign up for a beginner class at your gym and work your way up the rankings.  Maybe you want to be an accomplished power lifter – pick up a copy of Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength and then get start lifting heavy things!  Whatever it is that makes you excited, give it a shot.

Neo was excited to learn Kung Fu. These are the skills I am excited to learn at some point:

  • Capoeira. Brazilian break-dance fighting.  Awesome.
  • Parkour. Why not?
  • Breakdancing. This would probably go hand and hand with Capoeria.  I’m currently a “not-terrible” breakdancer, but I’d like to be a lot better

I look at people who are experts in these skills as life-hackers – they have figured out how to hack into the Matrix and get what they want out of life.  For each skill, I plan on finding my own Morpheus (or group of Morpheuses…Morpheui?)  and learning from them.  Sure learning to dance like these guys might seem like a complete pipe dream now, but even they had to start somewhere, right?  Why not me?

Why not you?

Why not now?

What are you waiting for? You’re faster than this. Don’t think you are, know you are.

I don’t care if you are 400 pounds and haven’t exercised a day in your life: there is a better, upgraded version of yourself hiding inside.  Neo couldn’t beat Morpheus in a sparring match because he wasn’t confident enough in his abilities.  You might think now that you could never do what Damien did in the video above, or that you simply weigh too much and you could never have a six-pack.

I’m here to tell you that you’re a better and more capable person than you give yourself credit for – I have no doubt in my mind that this is true.  I need you to believe that with 100% conviction.  You need to know that deep inside you is a more kick-ass version of you just waiting to get out.  You need to know that you can honestly accomplish whatever you put your mind to.  Don’t think you are going to lose weight and get in shape; don’t think you’re going to change your life and free the minds of those around you.

Know you are.

I can only show you the door, you are the one who must walk through it.

Morpheus showed Neo what was possible if he was willing to work for it, but he didn’t babysit him through the whole process.  He gave Neo the tools and the resources but the left the action up to him.  He didn’t hold his hand when jumping between buildings.  He jumped, and told Neo to follow.

I hope you read this blog today and say “I want to make myself a better person.”  More importantly, I want you to read this blog and then take action towards becoming a better person.  I can’t hold your hand though.

I need you to jump.

Make a pact with your fellow hackers (read: Nerd Fitness readers) to not sleepwalk through life.  Pick a new skill you want to download and then do one thing every day that get better at that skill.  Nerd Fitness exists to show you what’s possible with your life if you’re willing to work for it.  It’s up to you to make it happen.

What skills do you want to download in 2010?  How are you going to make sure the Agents don’t win? Please share in the comments below.

-Steve

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Monty Python and the Holy Abs

Okay Monty Python, grab your coconuts, load up your “horse,” and get started on your quest for those rock-hard abs you’ve always wanted.

I’m going to guess for most of you, abs are the Holy Grail of physical fitness.  Ryan Reynolds had abs that were so defined on Blade 3 that one writer assumed he had ab implants.  The actors in 300 became famous not just for their biceps and pecs but more for their abs that looked painted on.  Everybody is after them, but nobody can find them!

So what’s the deal? Are people looking in the wrong place?  Or are some people just genetically blessed with abs and others aren’t?  Let’s get one thing out of the way first.

95% of all Fitness Marketers are Full of ****

Think of the last 10 infomercials you’ve seen on TV (Weezer Snuggies don’t count).  I’d guarantee 2/3rds of them are designed to “give you a flatter stomach” in just a few minutes a day, three times a week!  Let me know any of these sound familiar:

These are the ones I can remember off the top of my head.  They’re all designed to “target your upper and lower abs, work those obliques, and build a set of sexy abs you’ve always wanted!”  New ab machines pop up every other day, and unfortunately people keep buying them!  You’re like Sir Galahad, chasing the Holy Grail into a building of ridiculously attractive women: sure it might make you feel better about yourself in the short term, but it ain’t gonna get you what you really want in the long run.

So why don’t these machines work?

Muscle is Different from Fat

If you’re a female, you’ve probably said “I want to tone up” at some point in the past.  If you’re a dude, you probably want to get “ripped.”  Here’s how it works: you have your bones, then muscle on top of your bones, then on top of the muscle you have fat, and then on top of the fat you have skin.

These are completely different materials.

Your muscle doesn’t turn into fat if you stop working out, and your fat doesn’t turn into muscle if you exercise all day long.  If you just eat better, you WILL lose fat but you won’t build muscle.  If you eat like crap but lift weights like crazy, you could have a body like Ryan Reynolds trapped inside a body that looks like Jabba the Hutt.

Suck.

What this Means for your Stomach

It is 100% impossible for you to spot remove fat. If you have fat on your gut, doing crunches all day long will NOT get rid of the fat.  Depending on your genetic makeup, your body stores fat in various amounts in certain locations.  For chicks, it’s usually thighs and butt.  For dudes, it’s usually the gut.  You have absolutely NO control where the fat gets stored, and you have no control where the fat comes OFF your body once you start eating right and exercising.

You know what that means? 10,000 crunches a day will do almost nothing to reduce your beer gut (other than help with the calories you’ve burned doing the exercises).  The crunches will build up the muscle under your fat, but the fat isn’t really going anywhere.  So what’s the secret?

Ehhhh, I don’t want to spill the beans…

Get on with it!  Yes, GET ON WITH IT!

Okay, I’ll tell you.  Your abs are a direct correlation of your body fat percentage!  (Boring, I know).

  • Guys, unless you have a body fat percentage below 10%, you won’t see your abs.
  • Girls, unless you have a body fat percentage below 12-14%, you won’t see your abs.

You probably have a great set of abs right now (if you do any sort of weight lifting), you just can’t find them underneath all the fat.  This means that if you’re interested in “toning up” or “getting ripped” it is 95% DIET.  If you’re serious about developing a good looking stomach, it all comes down to what you eat.  Because you need to get to a really low body fat percentage, you need to be extremely dedicated with each meal.  It’s boring, it’s a lot of work, and it’s really difficult.  This is why most people don’t have abs.

Here’s my advice for all of those ab machines: don’t spend a single dime on an ab machine EVER. It is a complete waste of time.  Planks, side planks, and crunches on a stability ball are more than enough to work your abs.  Exercises like squats and deadlifts work your abs and core like CRAZY.  These are the only two exercises I do to work on my abs.

Enough about exercises though, let’s talk about what you’re eating.

Here’s How to Fix Your Diet

Analyze everything you eat, and find out where you can cut calories. (Remember 500 less calories a day = 1 lb of body fat loss per week). You can’t target specific areas of fat on your body; as you exercise more and eat healthier you’ll lose body fat all over.  It’ll probably come off your stomach last, so be patient and stick with it.  Once your body fat percentage drops into the single digits, you’ll start to see those abs you’ve quested after for years.

Okay so lets review what you need to do if you want a good lookin’ stomach:

  1. Eat less. Seriously. As they say “abs aren’t made in the gym, they’re made in the kitchen.”  Which is a really dumb phrase, but 100% true.  If you want to see them, you need to drop your body fat below 10%, so start by eating less!  This is 90% of the battle.  More important than eating less…is eating healthier.  You can do so by:
  2. Cut the crap out of your diet. No processed foods, no liquid calories, lots of veggies and lean meats.  Fruits and nuts are good too.  Follow a Paleo Diet to drop your body fat percentage the quickest.  I cut my BF% almost in half in three months, from 11% down to 6% following this type of diet.
  3. Sweat more. So you want to impress chicks on the beach huh?  RUN.  Better yet, SPRINT on days you’re not lifting weights or doing a body weight workout.  Have you ever seen an Olympic sprinter not have crazy abs?  Interval training for the win!
  4. Build your core - Squats and deadlifts work your core like crazy.  If you’re not a fan of these two exercises (and you should be), do exercises like planks, side planks, stability ball crunches (not crunches on the ground), and jumping knee tucks.  Notice there isn’t a single mention of a normal sit up or crunch.  Your abs are muscles too, so don’t work them two days in a row, they need to recover.  Honestly though, these exercises are such an afterthought compared to your diet when it comes to your abs.

How can you tell when you’ve got abs? The easiest most accurate way to determine if you have abs is this: look in the mirror.  Do you see abs? You have a body fat percentage below 10%.  Don’t see abs?  You DON’T have a low enough body fat percentage yet.  It’s science.

Now, if you’re looking for a more accurate measurement of your body fat percentage, I recommend picking up an Accumeasure Body Fat caliper.  It’s super cheap, and it works just as well as any of the other way more expensive methods.

Good luck in your quest, brave knight.

-Steve

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photo: JoeBone

New post coming soon

Hey guys,

So I know Monday is usually the day I post a new article, but I’ve been on a boat for the past four days and due to some freak weather issues, I didn’t have any free time to finish up the post I was working on.

If you’re curious about how The Rock Boat went, check out the lastest posts on Sixthman’s Blog.  I thought about rushing to finish an article, but I figured it was better to wait and post something actually worth reading and sharing.

I want to thank you all for the comments and emails about the message board.  I have another cruise coming up in a few weeks and I have some paper work to fill out about getting my LLC set up, but I’ll be reaching out to most of you as soon as possible when I get one set up.

Thanks for your patience guys!

-Steve

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