Can Diet Coke Make You Fat?

Soda. Coke. Pop.

ept_sports_nba_experts-686956474-1256580685Whatever you call your carbonated beverage (it’s SODA, by the way), you’re probably already aware of how terrible it is for you.  Other than rotting your teeth, it’s also a huge reason there are so many overweight people in this country.  Check out this crazy story posted yesterday: Caron Butler (pictured) of the Washington Wizards was so addicted Mountain Dew that when he gave it up this summer, losing 11 lbs in the process, he went through actual withdrawals:

To try and give this up was crazy for me! I was going through withdrawals. I was in the bed sweating. My wife would turn over in the bed and ask “Are you OK?” Honestly, those first two weeks without The Dew [were] the roughest two weeks of my life. I’m talking headaches, sweats and everything. Before that I drank at least six 12-ounce Mountain Dews a day.

I know if you Google “soda weight loss,” you’ll find 2 million hits on how terrible these beverages are for you…so I won’t get into it.  Instead, I wanted to take a look at the effect of DIET soda on weight loss.  I know there are conflicting reports on whether or not this stuff can actually make you fat.

My Initial Thoughts Before Research

Diet soda has zero calories (generally) and zero actual sugar, which means it can’t directly make you gain weight, right?  A normal 20 oz. Coke, on the other hand, has 240 calories and 68 grams of sugar (holy ****), which definitely causes weight gain.  Now, if diet soda doesn’t have calories, it can’t contribute to the calorie equation (calories consumed vs. calories burned), which means diet soda alone can’t make you bigger.  However, is Diet Coke responsible for insulin spikes and increased appetite, which would indirectly cause weight gain?  Time to put on my nerd researcher cap and see what I can track down.

Sources I Don’t Trust

If you look up “diet coke weight gain,” you’ll find all kinds of articles that say Diet Coke is the devil.  Unfortunately, some of these articles site no sources and are written by people who are trying to sell their own supplements.  Other sites say that Diet Coke is perfectly fine for you, as it has no calories and therefore no ill effect (I would guess these articles are written by people who chug DC by the gallon).  As hopefully you’ve learned, not everything on the internet is true (shocking), and when it comes to fitness and diet our bodies are so complex that things are very rarely so black and white.

Sources I  Do Trust

After reading some of the crazy extremist websites, I tried to track down some actual studies (and not hearsay) that could prove or disprove the effects of diet drinks.  I came across this study from the San Antonio Heart Study, where the amount of diet soda consumed directly coincided with an increased chance of weight gain:

“On average, for each diet soft drink our participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years, and 41 percent more likely to become obese,” said Sharon Fowler, M.P.H., faculty associate in the division of clinical epidemiology in the Health Science Center’s department of medicine.”

Now, because diet studies always take place with people of various levels of health, wealth, genetics, and social standing, along with thousands of other variables that take place, I’m hesitant to place the blame squarely on Diet Coke.  Maybe the people who drink Diet Coke generally don’t take into consideration what constitutes a healthy diet, while people who don’t drink it generally could be more knowledgeable about their diets and thus eat better?  Maybe the heavy DC drinkers work stressful jobs (and ‘need’ the caffeine to stay alert), and the stress along with poor diet choices (from working late) is causing their weight gain?  I don’t know the full reasons and more research must be done, but the strong correlation between the two has me definitely leaning towards the “Diet Coke can make you fat” camp.  My defense your honor? Better safe than sorry.

I then came across this fantastic video on YouTube, already cued up to the proper part of the conversation where it talks about the effects of diet soda on your waistline.  I’m no scientist, but the guy makes a lot of great points in an easy to understand fashion.  Once again, I don’t have a scientific background (I was an Econ major in college), but after reading a few books on the effects of acidity and alkalinity on our diet, I would tend to agree with the makers of this video.

My Problem With Diet Soda

My big problem with Diet Coke is that I don’t know what the hell is in it.   I mean, if it tastes like soda, but doesn’t have any calories at all…what the eff are they putting in there?  Vin Miller over at NaturalBias.com (who is not surprisingly biased towards eating natural foods) breaks down the new ingredients in Coke Zero and Pepsi Max.  I’m a big fan of Vin’s and I certainly respect his opinion, as he always tends to lean towards the healthier/safer side of things.  Some of these can’t be good for you, no matter what the FDA says.  Speaking of which, I’m growing less and less trusting of the FDA by the day.  Check out this article where FDA scientists accuse their own administration of running the organization like the Mob.  Yikes.

My Conclusion

In my personal opinion, I’d say Diet Coke is the lesser of two evils if you’re trying to lose weight.  However, it’s still created in a lab with unnatural elements, and there are studies that have shown people who drink the stuff are more likely to be overweight.  Whether it’s directly the cause or simply part of a larger problem still needs to be shown, but the numbers don’t lie.  I think people who switch from a case of Mountain Dew a day to a case of Diet Mountain Dew are still going to have all kinds of health problems anyway…just a hunch. Regardless of what the FDA says, I’m not convinced that the stuff in Diet Coke and Coke Zero isn’t harmful, and I’m not convinced that because it has littler or no calories it can’t make you gain weight. Better safe than sorry, right?

My Recommendation

I recommend that you cut back on soda/sugary drinks as much as possible, even if they’re diet, if you’re trying to lose weight.  Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, give it up!  It’s not good for you.  If you’re drinking soda, don’t do so at the expense of your water consumption.  If you need “fuel” for a marathon session of Aion (a new MMORPG my friends are hooked on), you better be double-fisting some high-quality H20 with that diet Dew.  If you think water is too boring, you have to decide what’s more important: your health or your sweet tooth.

Now It’s Your Turn

These are my thoughts and opinions, but what do I know? I’d love to hear some actual stories from you guys and how soda and diet soda has affected your weight loss and health.  If you’ve given up regular soda and switched to diet and lost a lot of weight I want to know.  If you’re struggling to lose weight but you can’t kick your Diet Coke habit, I want to hear about it.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

-Steve

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How to NOT Suck at Working Out

Every day in gyms across the country, there are poor, misguided fools who kind of suck at working out.

They either don’t know what they’re doing, or they THINK they know what they’re doing when they really don’t.  You might fit into one of these groups, and that’s okay.  You’re here and reading, which is step one.

If you work out in a gym, today’s post will make sure you’re not one of those people.

Although I’m not the biggest guy in the world, I practice safe routines when lifting, I go for balance and functional movement over superficial but weak practices, I have a level head, strong convictions, and I do my best to stay up to date on the latest books, studies, journals, and information when it comes to getting strong and staying in shape.

Essentially, I’ve suck-proofed my workout routines (yeah, I said “suck-proofed”). I’m going to tell you exactly why most people suck at working out, and what you can do to suck-proof yourself:

Have a Game Plan

346990046_de4bbeca6bHow are you going to be better today than you were yesterday?

If you don’t know exactly what you expect to accomplish, how will you know when you get there?  It’s like driving a car: you start at point A, and you need to get to point B.  If you don’t make it to point B, you either got lost, or your car broke down.  Every day, I see WAY too many people wandering aimlessly in the gym, doing one set at a machine, wandering to the next, barely breaking a sweat, and then walking out of there having accomplished absolutely NOTHING.  Those people suck and are wasting their time.

Here’s how you can NOT suck:

  • Define your Point B: If you did 8 pull ups last week, this week you need to try and do 9.  If you bench pressed 100 pounds, this week you need to do at least 101 pounds to be stronger.
  • Make sure point B is possible: If you ran a mile in 9 minutes yesterday, setting your goal today at 6 minutes is ludicrous.  Set that goal at something better than previous goals, but one that’s actually reachable.
  • Make sure your “car” won’t break down: This goes along with the previous point.  Make sure you’ve had enough sleep, you’re eating well, you’re in a good frame of mind, and you’re not sick before stepping in that gym.
  • Keep your eyes on the road: Don’t wander around like a jackass.  Don’t stop and talk to everybody you see.  Don’t spend 5 minutes at the water fountain because it’s next to the yoga room full of women.  Map out your route before you get in there, put in your headphones, keep your head down, take care of business, and get the hell out of there!
  • Plan a quick route: You don’t need to spend 2 hours in a gym six days a week to see results.  Just three 45-minute weight-training sessions is enough to pack on some serious muscle if you give it everything you go each time you’re in there.  If you’re trying to lose weight, go for higher intensity and less time, rather than 2-hours of steady-cardio (ugh).

Machines and Free Weights are Not Created Equal

2539191458_f6e16c83f0Don’t be afraid to use free weights. 

I watch WAY too many people doing squats on the Smith Machine and destroying their lower backs, using the pec-deck machine and jacking up their shoulders, and doing leg-extensions and screwing up their knees.

Everybody thinks machines are safer, when in reality they’re only safer if you’re concerned you’d drop a free weight on your head or something.

Other than this, machines are actually much worse for your body.

Our bodies are meant to move in a certain way.  When you lift free weights, your body has a natural range of motion, using all your tiny stabilizer muscles to balance the weight as you lift it up and down.  When you use a machine, your body doesn’t need to use those stabilizer muscles because the machine is doing all the stabilization.  It’s these tiny muscles that keep you in balance and injury-free

If you’ve been training exclusively on machines, when you have to actually do these movements in real life (give your kids a piggy-back ride, move your roommate’s couch, or rake leaves in the back yard, that natural movement has become “unnatural” to your body and you’re way more likely to get injured.

Don’t be that guy. Here’s how:

  • Do all of your exercises with free weights or just your body weight. Machines get you started down the wrong path, do exercises that recruit as many muscle groups as possible: squats, deadlifts, bench presses and shoulder presses, pull ups and chin ups.
  • Practice Good Form. If you do your exercises with free weights with proper form, you will be strengthening your body in the right way, keeping you balanced and injury-free.  Woooooo!
  • When doing free weight exercises like the bench press, ask for a spotter – you do NOT want to drop the weight on your throat like that USC dude.  Ask the guy nearest you for a spot, let him know how many you hope to get (8 reps, 5 reps, 6 reps and I’ll need help on the last one, etc.).  Talk it out.
  • If you don’t have free weights, use your body – Check out my other article “No gym? no problem” to see how you can get a great workout using just your body weight.

Be Careful Where You Get Your Fitness Advice

The other day, I looked over at the squat rack and watched as the gym’s CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER set up an extremely overweight man (350 lbs+) to do heavy smith machine squats.  The guy could barely hold himself up but was putting his knees and lower back under even more pressure.

Now, I’m a big fan of squats, and I think they’re one of the best exercises out there for both losing weight and building muscle.  However, I shuddered just thinking about what this guy’s legs, back, organs, spine, and skeleton are doing on a daily basis just trying to carry around all that weight.  When you’re this size, body weight squats are more than enough to get a workout going…adding lots of weight on an untrained body is just asking for a knee to get blown out.  

I blame the trainer, who sucks at teaching others to not suck. Don’t fall into that trap:

  • Be careful who gives you advice – Just because he’s a “certified personal trainer” doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about.  A lot of trainers at these gyms don’t really know what they’re doing.  It’s on you: do a little bit of research online and come up with a great routine that fits your specific situation.
  • Be wary of advice from random people – I was training a client a few months back, having him do some body weight dips.  Some random dude wandered over and told us that we should be going WAY down past parallel on each dip.  I thanked the man for his advice, and then continued to train my guy to do the dips the same way he had been doing them to make sure he didn’t mess up his shoulders (which had been an issue for him in the past).  Just because he’s dishing out advice doesn’t mean it’s right.
  • If it hurts, don’t do it! Better safe than sorry.  If you’re doing an exercise and it’s causing pain (not sore muscle pain, but actual pain), you’re either doing an unsafe exercise or you’re doing it incorrectly.  Go home, look up the proper technique, and make sure you’re doing it right.  We’re all nerds, be smart about it!

It’s Not What You Lift, It’s How You Lift It

Let’s get one thing straight: nobody cares how much you’re lifting at the gym.

You’re not there to impress people, you’re not there to show off, and you’re not there to get everybody’s attention – you’re there to get stronger and live better.

Every freaking day, I walk into the gym and see people doing exercises with attrocious form.  99% of the time, it’s because they’re trying to lift too much weight.

If you’re going to do bicep curls, your back does NOT need to be involved. 

If you’re going to do a bench press, arching your back 6 inches off the bench and bouncing the weight back to the top doesn’t really count. 

If you load up 3 plates on each side of the bar and then only squat down two inches, you’re wasting your time. 

These people all suck at working out because they’re trying to do too much.  If you don’t want people laughing at you behind your back and you don’t want to get seriously injured:

  • Pick the right amount of weight – Unless you can complete each rep with perfect form, you’re cheating.  Drop the weight, make sure your form is perfect, and then add weight in small increments when you’re ready.
  • Complete a FULL REP – Watching people do “squats” at my gym drives me nuts.  If you can’t squat down until your thighs are parallel (or lower) to the floor, you’re doing too much weight.  I have so much more respect for somebody doing just bodyweight squats down to parallel than somebody loading up 6 plates on each side of a bar and then half-assing it.  If you have to, start with just the bar on your shoulders and add weight from there.
  • The more muscles you can involve in an exercise, the more efficient your workout will be. Which brings me to my next point…

Leave the Isolation Exercises to the Bodybuilders

This is true in every gym in the country: too many people are doing bicep curls, machine bench presses, calf-raises, shoulder shrugs, tricep kickbacks, and ab exercises.

Unless you are training for a bodybuilding competition or you’re already in incredible shape and need specific muscle growth, you don’t really need to concern yourself with any of these exercises.

Why?  Because you’re going to work each and every muscle with COMPOUND EXERCISES and do it in a much safer and more balanced fashion.  What should you do instead?

  • Bicep curls –  When you do pull ups, chin ups, and rows, your back, biceps, and forearms are getting a crazy workout.  Mix in bicep curls as an end-of-workout move, not the foundation of your daily routine.
  • Shrugs - It seems like everybody does shoulder shrugs (and 95% of those people are doing them wrong, which is super unsafe).  Do deadlifts instead, which works every muscle in your legs, back, forearms, shoulders…and traps.  Three sets of heavy deadlifts will have your traps poppin’.
  • Calf raises – Squats, lunges and deadlifts!  Sensing a theme yet?  Learn to love these exercises, as they’ll give your legs all the workout they need.  If you really want to work those calves extra, try running or jumping rope barefoot on off-days.
  • Tricep kickbacks and shoulder raises - Don’t concern yourself with isolating each part of your triceps and shoulders with 18 different exercises.  It’s a waste of time.  Not only that, but tricep kickbacks can wreak havoc on your shoulders! Do dips, chest presses, push ups, and overhead presses. These all work your chest, shoulders, and triceps at the same time.

Need another reason?  A body in balance is a body ready to stay strong and away from injury.  If you do just bench presses, bicep curls, and leg-extensions, all of the muscles on the opposite side of your body (quads-hamstrings, chest-back, biceps-triceps) go out of balance, which is a recipe for disaster.

Here’s how you can fix that:

  • Compound exercises are your friend: deadlifts, squats, pull ups, chin ups, bench presses, shoulder presses, and inverted rows – these exercises are your bread and butter.  Instead of doing 1 muscle group a day (which isn’t real-world friendly), do 3 days of full-body workouts utilizing some of these exercises and you’ll be a more balanced (and thus more safe) individual.
  • Don’t worry about crunches and ab workouts: When you do deadlifts and squats properly, your core (lower back and abs) are getting a super workout just trying to keep your body in balance.  Also, you could do 8 million crunches, but unless your body fat is below 10%, you won’t see your abs.  Floor crunches only give you half the range of motion and can do a number on your lower back.  Keep your ab muscles contracted for every exercise and work on cutting your body fat (it’s all diet folks), and you’ll see those abs.  If you do want to do some ab exercises at the end of your workout, try some planks, hanging knee tucks, or side planks!

Warm Up BEFORE and Stretch AFTER

  • Before: Don’t walk into a gym and immediately start loading plates onto a bar.  Get at least 5-10 minutes of warm-up exercises in there to get your heart rate going and your muscles warmed up.  This will get you ready for lifting.  If you just start lifting right away when you’re still “cold,” you could get injured, injured bad.  Here’s a good warm up routine
  • After: When you lift weights, your muscles get all contracted, tight, and jacked up.  To kick-start your recovery process, stretch those muscles out after lifting weights to spread them back out and allow your muscle building system to operate more efficiently.  According to power lifting guru Pavel Tsatsouline, “The benefits of stretching are enormous. Stretching can increase your strength by 10%. It is a lot.”  Don’t forget to stretch!  Here are some good stretching routines

Don’t be An Idiot and Other Random Thoughts

  • If you just burned 300 Calories on the treadmill, chugging a 32 oz Gatorade will undo everything you just did.  It’s like a giant control+Z for your body.  Calories in must be less than calories burned for you to lose weight.  All calories (even liquid ones) count.  Don’t be stupid.
  • Leave the pieces of flair at home. Weight belts, gloves, wrist straps, and other various “support mechanisms” can actually doing you more harm than good.  Unless you’ve suffered a serious back injury in the past, or have been instructed to wear it by your powerlifting coach, you should be able to do your squats and deadlifts without a weight belt.
  • Don’t sit on a bench and then talk for 10 minutes between sets. Other people are waiting to use the equipment, so get your sets done and move on.
  • Walk out of that gym sweating. If you don’t walk out of that gym with a shirt drenched in sweat, you weren’t working hard enough.  Give it everything you got in those 45 minutes, and make the most of your time when you’re in there.

I’m sure there are some other bits of suck-proof advice that I left out, so feel free to add your advice in the comments. If I can help just one misguided person from not sucking…I’ll consider today’s 2700-word post a success.

-Steve

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Pictures from EricMcGreggor, EyeLiam.

My Favorite Links of the Week – 10/22/09

I had planned on writing a different article for today, but my plans for yesterday afternoon got all jacked up.

With my article post half-finished, I headed over to Smith’s Olde Bar to check out a band a friend of mine had recommended: Scythian.  Well, turns out that the doors were at 8; and there was an opening act, which meant the actual band didn’t come on until 10pm.  Two hours and fifteen minutes later, my hands were sore from clapping and my feet sore from jumping up and down.  Scythian put on one of the best live shows I have seen in quite a while.  Check out their tour schedule and GO SEE THEM: kick-ass Irish music, dueling fiddles, incredible stage presence, and they all seemed like pretty cool guys too.  Back to last night: I didn’t get home until close to 1AM, and after watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (a must), I went to bed.

So, rather than haphazardly slap together the rest of that post this morning, I decided to instead pass along some articles and websites that I found interesting:

Modern Man’s a Wimp (thanks NF reader Alan!) – According to Australian anthropologist Peter McCalister, turns out we’re all a bunch of wimps…and due to continuing modern convenience we’re becoming the worst generation that has ever lived.  Suck.  Here’s a few examples at you:

  • Roman legions completed more than one-and-a-half marathons a day carrying more than half their body weight in equipment.
  • Athens employed 30,000 rowers who could all exceed the achievements of modern oarsmen.
  • Australian aboriginals threw a hardwood spear 110 meters or more (the current world javelin record is 98.48).

Is Barefoot Running Better For You? – Another reason I didn’t get a chance to finish my post yesterday is because I was too busy getting lost in this particular article and the 9 pages of comments that follow.  Although I don’t necessarily agree with the author here, I think she does a relatively decent job of presenting both sides of the barefoot vs. shoes argument.  However, I think her arguments for discussing why heel-toe running is faster than mid-strike or front foot strike running are pretty unfounded and her “example” isn’t very convincing.  What I wanted to draw more attention to is the comments.  Read a page or two and you’ll get quite a few laughs.  Comments, with a few exceptions, break down into three classifications:

  • People who immediately discount barefoot running, calling it stupid and ridiculous and dangerous…these people have never tried barefoot running
  • Barefoot runners who present story after story about how their injuries disappeared after ditching their shoes.
  • Probably 100 comments who talk about ‘broken glass, dog crap, rocks, and needles’ that apparently litter EVERY STREET IN AMERICA which makes barefoot running impossible (these are also people who have never tried it).  I don’t know what kind of streets these people run on, but I look down when I run, there’s not a lot of stuff to avoid, and if there is…I just don’t step on it.  I wear Vibram FiveFingers shoes to simulate barefoot running while also protecting my feet.

What I got out of this article is that practically EVERYBODY who has tried barefoot running (or running in Vibrams) loves it, and anybody who hasn’t is quite vocal about how stupid it is.  Don’t knock it til you try it folks!

How to Gain Weight and Build Muscle while on the Paleo Diet – This is for you hard gainers (like myself) trying to maintain a healthy diet while bulking up and putting on weight.  Mark Sisson over at the Primal Blueprint runs a great site for Paleo Diet eaters.

Run Tellman Run! - This dude is running from New York to California…barefoot.  He’s doing it to raise awareness (and money) to fight teenage homelessness (not to fight homeless teenagers, that wouldn’t be helpful).  He’s through most of Pennsylvania, but still has a LONG way to go.  You can track the guy’s progress, make donations, and see if he actually makes it all the way.

I Am Endorphin Dude, See Me Run! - I met Tony through Evan (the Muay Thai guy), and I loved his inspirational story.  I won’t steal most of his thunder, but back in April Tony thought he was having a heart attack, and decided to change his life around.  He just finished a half-marathon and then a 10k a few weeks later.  Tony’s dropped 50 pounds, took 12 inches off of his waist line, and now wants to help others.  Tony will be doing a interview for our site shortly, but I want to throw a shout out to the man and say congrats for finishing his most recent races!

Ong Bak 2 - NF reader Chris passed this “review” of Tony Jaa’s Ong Bak 2.  I NEED to see this movie after reading this from the review: “By the time we hit the half-hour mark he’s fought a samurai, wrestled a crocodile, and killed a vampire. Also: elephant surfing.” For an even funnier review, check out this article on Cracked that refers to the film as “action porn evolved.”

Metrocket – Metrocket is a website/blog run by my roommate Evan, who happens to be one hell of a developer.  He recently partnered with PollStar (the concert site) to develop a kick-ass iPhone App that will tell you when any music act is coming to town, where they’re playing, and how to get there.  Check out the site, download the app here (it’s free), and then go check out some live music in your area.

Happy Friday everybody! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do this weekend.

-Steve

Simple But Not Simplistic – The Benefits of Kettlebell Training

This is a guest post from Josh Hanagarne, a fantastic blogger over at World’s Strongest Librarian. I have no doubt in my mind that Josh REALLY is the world’s strongest librarian.  He’s also one hell of a writer and a great guy.  Take it away, Josh!

Screen shot 2009-10-20 at 9.23.38 PMIf I never made myself stand up, my job would never require it of me.  I am a librarian.  This means I sit at a desk, answer phones, answer questions, and do a lot of typing.  In your head, what do I look like?  You might be picturing an elderly woman with her hair in a bun.  Or perhaps a portly man in his late forties, with a poorly tied necktie and sweat stains in his armpits.

Let me tell you about my desk. It probably looks a lot like yours.  It is made of wood and is covered in papers and books.  Underneath it, however, lurks a sinister army of Russians.  Every time a get a break, and every time I take lunch, I pull my kettlebells out from under my desk and I get to work.

I am 6’8” and weigh upwards of 230 lbs. I have very low body fat and I am strong as hell.  I am also a bookish nerd.

I owe it all—except my height and my learnin’—to kettlebells.  A simple iron ball with a handle on it.  Simple, but not simplistic.

Benefits of Kettlebell Exercise

Usable Strength – Kettlebell movements force your body to move in the way it was intended.  Your body does not need to do bicep curls, and the movement rarely occurs naturally in the wild.  Kettlebells make you pull, push, twist, deadlift, and snap your hips.  They produce the ability to generate strength over and over and over.  Endurance and power.

If you want to be strong, nothing is more important than mastering full-body tension.  Tension is what protects your spine when you pick up the laundry basket.  Tension is self awareness.  Tension is king in the strength game.  Tension is useful.  Kettlebells will help you get control of your body and make it do what it is supposed to.

Fat Loss – Kettlebell work is either fast and furious or slow and grinding.  The effort required for long sets of snatches and swings turns your body into a furnace where fat is not welcome.  The grinding effort required for pressing builds muscle.  Muscle burns fat.

Simple but not simplistic.

Focus – If you read a bodybuilding magazine, you will probably read about the “mind-muscle connection.” This is just another way of saying “focus on what you’re doing and you’ll do it better.”  And yet, every time I’m in a traditional gym, I see groups of thin men in tank tops doing millions of curls, all while watching the gyrating ladies in the aerobics class.

That’s the wrong sort of focus.

When you are using a kettlebell, you will pay attention or you will pay the price.  You will learn to focus and connect your body and mind.  They will both thank you for it.

Portability – If I can take one kettlebell to the public library and annihilate myself in ten minutes at lunch, you’ll probably be able to fit it in somewhere as well.  I love barbells and bodyweight work and heavy squats, but you can’t take that stuff everywhere with you.

You can get a lot of work done with a 35 lb kettlebell.  And it’s small enough to fit into the drawer of a desk.

I could go on all day, but lunch is quickly approaching and I have some work to do while the other people in the building play on Twitter for the next hour.

-Josh Hanagarne

Get Stronger, Get Smarter, Live Better…Every Day

About the Author: Josh Hanagarne is the twitchy giant behind World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog about living with Tourette’s Syndrome, book recommendations, kettlebells,  buying pants when you’re 6’8”, old-time strongman training, and much more. Please subscribe to Josh’s RSS Updates to sty in touch.

Meet Steve Kamb

I’ve been writing on this site for about 8 months now, and I realized that I only have two pictures of me on this entire site.  I figure you guys might want to know who you’re taking your fitness advice from.  Today’s post is about who I am and how I got here.

This is Me

Hi, I’m Steve Kamb.  I’m about 6 feet tall, I weigh approximately 175 pounds, and I have about 11% body fat.  Here are my weight lifting stats:

  • Best deadlift - 310 lbs.
  • Best squat – 210 lbs (full squat to down past parallel)
  • Best bench press – 205 (6 reps, never tried to max out with 1 rep)
  • Most pull ups in one set - 14

I’m a big supporter of the phrase, “appearance is a consequence of fitness.” I’m sure I could do just chest exercises and bicep curls and “look bigger,” but I’m more concerned with building a well-balanced body: lots of squats, deadlifts, pull ups, and presses.  I know my weight lifting stats won’t win any awards, but they’re constantly climbing and I’m doing it all on my own terms.

I know there are tons of ways that I could bulk up and put on more muscle quickly (creatine supplements, high calorie shakes, and more time devoted to fitness).  However, with my day job, this website, and an actual life, I really don’t have the time or need to do that, which is fine.  I only exercise three or four times a week (for just 45 minutes), I eat well, and I’m trying to do everything I can to set myself up for a long healthy life.  Besides, I need to fit in some nerd time too: reading lots of books and playing the occasional video game.

Maybe one day when I win the lottery I can devote six months turning myself into Ryan Reynolds.  Until then, I’m happy where I am.

My Story

I’ve been skinny my entire life. I’m a really picky eater and I played a dozen sports growing up, keeping me in a constant state of skin and bones.  I don’t even like cake, which means I get made fun of at work whenever it’s somebody’s birthday.  I started college at Vanderbilt University back in 2002 and couldn’t wait to put on the “freshman fifteen.”

Welp, after four years of college, tubs of protein powder, and daily trips to the gym, I managed to put on maybe five pounds.  Suck.  Other than my abs, I didn’t have much going for me in the muscle department.  When I graduated, I moved cross-country to San Diego on a whim with my older brother.  I found a gym close to my apartment, got a few free personal trainer sessions, and suddenly realized it was my diet that was holding me back.  30 days later, I had gone from 162 lbs. to 180 lbs. (4000 calories a day will do that to ya).  It was at this point I became obsessed with fitness.  Not necessarily getting myself in incredible shape, but the whole science and process behind how our bodies work and the most efficient way to get in shape.

Picture 1After yet another cross-country move  to Atlanta in November of 2007, I landed a marketing job with Sixthman, the greatest company on the planet. In my spare time I continued to exercise and read every fitness book I could find.  It was at this point I started to formulate the concept of this site: I love writing, and I know there’s A LOT of bad information and crappy fitness products/blogs out there, so I figured why not use my powers for good and start my own damn blog!  I chose the name Nerd Fitness because it’s easily remembered, unique, and quite applicable: I’m a nerd, I like fitness. Done.

In the fall of 2008, I became a certified personal trainer. Now, I don’t think this certification is a big deal, because I believe it’s great content, accurate information, and motivational stories that will make this site successful, not some piece of paper.  Even though I’m personally trying to bulk up, I have helped quite a few people slim down, like my friend Saint who dropped 33 pounds in 12 weeks.  I love hearing about normal people who transform their lives and want to inspire others.  If you have a great story, please tell me about it and you could be featured on Nerd Fitness!

My Diet

Up until two months ago I was drinking 3 thousand-calorie shakes a day, shoveling insane amounts of food down my throat, and doing everything possible to gain weight.  I made it all the way up to 185 pounds (woohoo!), and then I read Loren Cordain’s “The Paleo Diet” and “The Paleo Diet For Athletes.”  It completely changed how I look at fitness, diet, and my overall health.  Since then, I’ve shed 10 pounds (almost all of it was water weight or fat), and I actually look bigger now than I did before.

Since reading these books and doing more research on the subject, I’ve realized that stuffing my face with meal-replacement shakes, gallons of milk, and pounds of pasta probably wasn’t the optimal/safest lifestyle.  Sure, I definitely wish I had bigger arms and more muscle, but not at the expense of my long-term health.  Now, I eat mostly real foods (lots of chicken, lettuce, asparagus, and apples), focus my time on getting stronger, and stop being so neurotic about calorie counts and timing my meals.

My Goals

I want to put on 10 lbs. of muscle by January 7th. Why January 7th?  Because that’s the day I head out to sea on The Rock Boat!  As part of my job I have to go on this floating music festival and make sure everybody is having a good time (told you it was an awesome company to work for).  Now, because I’ve switched to a Paleo Diet, I’m going to have to really try hard to find a way to eat enough calories a day to bulk up.  As far as exercise goes, I’ll be doing a variation on the Level 3 Routine found in my free e-book, A Newbie’s Guide to Fitness. It will still only be 3 days a week in the gym.

That’s my story. I’d love to hear yours: email me at [email protected] and let me know if I can help in any way.

-Steve

“The Stupidest Thing I’ve Ever Seen” Contest – Win an iTunes Gift Card!

If you’ve clicked over from my guest post, 7 Life Lessons We Can Learn From Where the Wild Things Are, on the World’s Strongest Librarian, I want to say what’s up and welcome! I think Josh runs a great blog over there and I’m honored that he let me put together such a fun post for his site.

While you’re nosing around the Nerd Fitness site, hopefully you see enough stuff that keeps you here!  After downloading my free E-book, “A Newbie’s Guide to Fitness,” here are the best ways to stay connected:

Okay, now that we got THAT out of the way, it’s time for the first ever Nerd Fitness contest! The winner will take home a $10 iTunes Gift Card.  Why only 10 bucks?  Because I’m broke, I don’t make a dime off of this site, and it’s a freaking easy contest…that’s why!

Picture 1The other day I came across this post on Cnet: The TrekDesk. Essentially, it’s a desk/treadmill hybrid that allows you to walk and work all at the same time.  The first thought that popped into my head was “Move over Hawaii Chair, this is officially the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”  Honestly, other than the obvious danger associated with walking on a moving platform without paying attention (think Bam from Jackass on a treadmill), this just seems like a terrible terrible idea all around.  Just because you CAN do two things at once doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

I won’t get into the importance of dedicating specific time towards your ACTUAL JOB and dedicating specific time towards exercising…that should be obvious.  Instead, I’d rather spend the rest of today coming up with even more ridiculous and dangerous fake combo-products.  I want you to come up with your own fake product promotion and post it in the comments.  I’ll be accepting entries until 11:59PM EST on Sunday, October 18th. After all entries are submitted, my friends and I will pick the one that made us say, “wow, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”  The more you can make us laugh, the better.

Here’s a few (poorly made) examples to get started:

  • The Toilet Bar Stool: Don’t you HATE when you go to a bar, chug a bunch of beers, and then have to pee during the 4th quarter of the football game?  Thanks to the Toilet Bar Stool, you can drink a beer and piss yourself at the same time without ever leaving your seat!  Coming soon: the Lazyboy Toilet (as seen on the Simpsons).
  • The Baby Carriage Dog-Rickshaw: You take your baby for a walk.  You take your dog for a walk.  Why not kill two birds with one stone?  Introducing the dog-rickshaw for babies!  Stick your baby in the carriage, strap your dog to the front end, set it, and forget it!  You can sit inside and watch Oprah while your dog takes your precious newborn for a tour of the town.  Who knows, he might even come back!

Alright guys, have at it.  Try to include fitness in your product some way if you can, but I don’t want that to be a limiting factor.  Just have fun, and try to keep it relatively clean.  (If you actually want to win, make sure you put down a legit email address when you post your comment so I can contact you).

Oh, and if you come across any actual products that are beyond stupid, post those too.  If we can’t laugh at ourselves, might as well laugh at others.

-Steve

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CrossFit – 18 Minutes and 48 Seconds of Hell

Yesterday, with the encouragement of my buddy Jordan and recent interviewees Brandi and Adam, I went to the Peachtree CrossFit Gym here in Atlanta for my first ass-kicking.  For those of you who don’t know, CrossFit is a type of gym/crazy lifestyle where you have a specific exercise routine every day that you try to finish (with perfect form) as quickly as possible.  Each day the routine is different, mixing in different exercises, building different muscles, and pushing your body to its limit in practically every way.

crossfit-kittensAlthough I have been weight training for quite a while, I know my endurance was crap before even getting there. Considering my routine was going to be a mixture of strength building, running, and endurance, I knew I was in trouble.  Oh well, everybody likes a challenge, right?

Yesterday afternoon I showed up at the CrossFit gym: a big open room in the basement of a large warehouse type building.  I walked in and immediately saw people drenched in sweat, curled over, and some were even lying on the floor.  Yikes.   I then met Liz, my trainer for the afternoon.  With a big smile, she told me that I need to sign a waiver in case I die during the workout.   The dying part was a joke, the waiver was not.  This is serious stuff we’re talking here.  After a light 400M jog, 10 sit ups, 10 push ups, and some stretching, I’m given my assignment for the day.  I have to do three rounds as quickly as possible of the following

  • 400M run
  • 21 kettlebell swings (with a 35 pound weight, although the routine actually calls for a 55 pound weight)
  • 12 pull ups (from a dead hang)

It sounded tough, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  I hadn’t done kettle bell swings before, but I can do pull ups and I can run, so I figured I’d be okay.  I’m going to give you a rough estimate of the minute by minute breakdown of how things went:

00:00 - And I’m off!  I start a light  jog down the road behind the gym to a red G painted on the ground which is exactly 200M away from the gym.

01:30 – I finish my first 400M in around 90 seconds, and I’m already winded.  Ruh roh Shaggy.

02:30 – I crank out my 21 reps of kettle bell swings, which are surprisingly difficult.  I make a mental note to go home and learn how to utilize my hips more.  I also make a mental note that I’m only on the 2nd part of the first round of this damn routine.

02:40 – Time to crank out some pull ups.  I actually felt good about the pull ups going into this because I can generally do a lot of them.  However, after running 400M and doing 21 swings I’m already gassed.  Apparently Crossfit preaches a specific type of pull up called a kip up which uses momentum, but I don’t know how to do it, so I stick with my dead hang and chug through my first set of 12.

4:00 – 10:00 – I get through round 2 somehow.  I don’t remember much of it, except for the puddle of sweat underneath me and the beginning of some delirium.  I’ve been exercising for only 10 minutes and I’m already ready to pass out.  Endurance fail.

10:01 – I begin round 3 with my 400M “run.”  I use the term “run” loosely, because I’m pretty sure at this point I’m doing that run/jog thing that is actually slower than walking.  I’m an idiot and I’m clearly not thinking straight, but I start to ask myself what Buzz Lightyear would do in this situation.  “Never give up, never surrender.”  Yup, I start thinking about Pixar movies.  That’s normal.

11:00 – As I hit the halfway point on my jog, I’m so exhausted and delirious that I see Jesus.

11:01 - Turns out “Jesus” was just a bearded homeless man peeing in the bushes.  My bad.

12:20 - I have no concept of time anymore.  I feel like I’ve been exercising for an hour.  My legs are exhausted, my head hurts, I’m kind of hungry, sweaty, tired, but damnit I’m gonna finish this thing.

15:00 - I j lust finished my last set of kettle bell swings and I’m dying.  OH GOD still 12 more pull ups.

15:15 - Liz looks at me and goes “It’s okay to swear, if that helps.”  I smile politely, and continue cursing to my cursing to myself on the inside.  At this point, Ramstein’s “Du Hast” comes over the speakers (slightly different than the god-awful techno that plays at my current gym).

15:30 – The first 5 pull ups come easy.  My arms decide to stop working on the 6th.   F*** you arms!

16:00 - I break the rest of it into 3 sets of 2 pull ups and one final pull up.  I briefly consider letting out a war cry but I figure nothing would actually come out.

18:48 - I’m done.  “18 minutes and 48 seconds. Not bad!  A lot of people don’t even get through the workout on their first try,” says Liz.  This makes me feel better.  “This is the wall of records here at the gym.  The fastest guy to complete this workout was 8 minutes and 37 seconds, with a 55lb kettle bell.”  This makes me feel worse.

At this point, I noticed a “Pukie List” for all the people who have lost their lunch from pushing themselves too hard. I laugh and say, “Well I didn’t set any records, but at least I stayed off the Pukie List!”  Like clockwork, my stomach decided that this was a jackass comment and wanted to make me pay for it.  Fearing the worst, I politely excused myself to go wander around outside the gym, trying to take deep breaths and not puke while simultaneously looking for a nice bush to puke on in case it does happen.  After one near-reversal I regain composure, drink the rest of my water, and stumble back into the gym.

After thanking Liz for pushing me to my limits, I vow to never exercise again.  I remember getting in my car and thinking that was the worst thing ever and one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever had.  And then I got home…and suddenly I wanted to know what the next workout would be, and if I could get through that one too without puking.  And then I wanted to know how fast I’d have to complete it to end up on the Wall of Records.  Suddenly the concept of putting myself through hell again sounded like a fantastic idea.  What happened to me!?

Let me set the record straight: Crossfit members are nuts. There’s no doubt about it.  Anybody who puts themselves so that level of torture, on purpose, on a daily basis has to be crazy.  And yet, I totally get it.  These people push themselves way outside of their comfort zone, past any self-imposed limit, and then show up and do it all over again the next day.  They do it because they know they can, because they have a group of people going through Hell with them, because they want to know how strong and fast they can be.  It’s awesome.

Now, Crossfit isn’t for everybody.  I bet a lot of people walk out of that gym after a free trial session and say “never again,” and then they go back to the way things were, which is fine.   I’m sure the other limiting factor is the cost of the membership (which is quite expensive).  I understand the reason for the price, but my funds are so tight right now that I just can’t afford it.  Luckily Crossfit.com lists all of its daily routines and challenges on their site, so I can continue to train on my own at my gym (without the competition and positive encouragement from my peers).  I guess I’ll see how much I can push myself on my own.

Crossfit and Liz – thanks for kicking my ass.  I hated it the entire time, and I can’t wait to do it all over again soon.

NF Readers – If you’re looking for a challenge, find a CrossFit gym in your area and go for your 1st time free.  Find out what you’re made of, and see if it’s right for you.  If you’re a member of one, or you’ve tried out a Crossfit workout, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

-Steve

Diets Are a Complete Waste of Time

Source: Lauren ManningYeah you heard me!  Diets are full of ****.

Everybody I know that has been on a “diet” pretty much ends up hating life, whether they’re on the low-carb diet, the South Beach Diet, the Super Mario Diet (spaghetti, mushrooms, and stars), or the Jack Bauer Diet (terrorists).  Most people stay on a diet for a few weeks, starve themselves and cut out everything they love, and then after losing five pounds go back to their old eating habits and put all the weight right back on.  What a trendous waste of time!  Now, I realize I even talk about “the Nerd Fitness Diet” in my FREE E-BOOK (hows that for a shameless plug!), but I want to set the record straight on what I mean when I talk about a “diet.”

When you make the decision to lose weight and get healthy, the first thing you need to do is adjust your attitude. Yeah, I realize I sound like your mom right now – that’s because moms are right all the time (mine is…hi mom!).  If you’re actually serious about turning your life around, it cannot be a competition between your stomach and your mind.  “Oh I can’t eat that because I’m on this diet, or “I get one snack at 4:15 because the book said so” is a losing mentality.  You can’t be fighting with yourself and your stomach because ultimately you’ll lose.  Your diet (what you eat, not some program you subscribe to) has to be part of who you are.  Temporary changes are useless – they need to be permanent, and they need to work for you.

G.I. Joe teaches us that “knowing is half the battle.” Until they tell me otherwise, I think the other half is execution and dedication.  Once you know what’s good for you and what’s bad for you, it’s up to you to determine what to do with that knowledge.  If you’re in a competition with friends to drop a certain amount of weight by Thanksgiving, you’re gonna need to make some serious adjustments.  If you’re a 40 year-old dude in a happy marriage and you just want to fit into your pants a little better, a few small changes will suffice (provided you stick with it).

Let’s go back to your overall mentality: If you love to eat chocolate cake, don’t give it up completely.  Recognize the fact that chocolate cake isn’t good for you, and find a way to either eat it in moderation or find a way to give up something equally bad that doesn’t give you as much satisfaction.  Tyler over at 344 pounds has lost more than pounds in the past 9 months and he still eats the food he loves.  Check out his weekly meals to see how he’s been so successful without changing up his diet (along with substantial exercise, of course).

My best advice is this: make one change a week, not because you’re on a diet, but because it’s part of you.  Switch out Cokes for water at work (trust me on this one), have a bag of almonds on your desk rather than M&Ms, and/or start bringing in your lunch once or twice a week.  These changes can really make a difference.  Example:  if you drink three Cokes a day, switching to water can result in almost 30 pounds lost in a year.  Sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.  It’s amazing.  I used to eat fast food probably four or five times a week.  Now months go by between visits.  It’s not because I’m forcing myself to stay away – it’s because I honestly just don’t want to eat food from there.

Have fun (isn’t that what life is all about?). Eat what you want, but in moderation, and not all the time.  I know you’re smart enough to recognize what’s good for you and what’s not good for you – it’s up to you to decide how important being healthy is.  Eventually, you’ll get to the point where eating right is just “what you do.”  Not because a book told you to, not because your doctor told you to, not because you think you’re supposed to, but because it’s part of who you are.

-Steve

In honor of referencing G.I. Joe in today’s post, here’s a classic re-dubbed PSA announcement from the old G.I. Joe cartoons.  Here’s one of my favorites:


G.I. Joe Computer

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Reader Spotlight: Evan the Muay Thai Guy

Download A NEWBIE’S GUIDE TO FITNESS here!

For today’s article, I wanted to interview longtime Nerd Fitness reader Evan.  Why him?  Because he’s a normal guy just like you (30-something, works at a computer)…but he’s been practicing Muay Thai boxing for the past year, which is bad-ass.  I wanted to show that there are other ways to get in shape other than lifting weights and running on a treadmill.  Check it out!

NF: Thanks for taking the time Evan!  Let’s kick things off with what do you do for a living.

Picture 2Evan: I do a wide mix of video production – shooting, editing, graphics – and web development (php/mysql, flash/AS), primarily on a freelance basis.  I also run a small startup (localbizblogs.com) with a couple of friends and a competitive film-making team (itdonnedonme.com) when I have free time…which isn’t often.

NF: When did the change come, and what made you change?

Evan: Growing up I ate pretty well and played all kinds of sports; I even surfed and went rock climbing frequently.  However, after college when I started working, exercise became less of a priority as I got more and more wrapped up in work.  Things happened slowly enough that I never really worried too much about it, but I as my weight crossed the 200 lb. mark I finally had to admit to myself that things were going in the wrong direction.  I felt older than I should – knees and joints were giving me problems, I got winded easily, and I was getting heartburn regularly.

A couple years ago I joined the local YMCA and started going daily, spending 45 minutes on the treadmill and doing some free weights. I dropped 15lbs and two pants sizes in a couple of months – but then I got burned out and 6 months later I was right back where I started. Working out for the sake of working out just didn’t interest me so I knew I couldn’t keep it up for too long. I needed to find something that was fun.

NF: How did you get involved with Muay Thai boxing?

Picture 1Evan: Last year, my blood pressure hit the ‘pre-hypertension’ range and the only really effective way to control it was regular exercise. My wife and I began walking our dog every morning as a way to add some more exercise into our daily routine. One morning I found a postcard on the trail with a picture of Tony Jaa (pictured right) in the middle of a flying knee strike! It was for a local gym that was running Muay Thai ‘boot camps’ – 5 days a week at 6am for 4 weeks. I’d done a couple of years of Karate when I was 10 and had always wanted to give martial arts another try, so I figured the boot camp was a good way to try something – after all if I didn’t like it it was only 4 weeks.

I didn’t finish the first class because I felt dizzy and nauseous.  So I sat out the rest of the class and realized how out of shape I was. I left that day feeling miserable but doubly motivated to come back the next day. I did, and by the end of four weeks later I was completely hooked (and in horrible pain) – I immediately signed up for the next session.

NF: What kinds of changes have you noticed?

Evan: I’ve noticed a lot of changes!  I’ve lost about 15 pounds of weight, but my total fat loss is much higher as I’ve definitely put on muscle – everything is bigger and better defined now. I’m still 15-20lbs heavier than my ideal weight – as they say you can’t outrun your diet. I’m starting to cut back on eating out now to see if I can cut down to 180 in the next couple of months.

My flexibility is steadily improving, my endurance is significantly better, and recovery time has really improved.  Minor knee problems that had irritated me for years have gradually disappeared, I can do squats without pain, my balance has improved, I can do more push ups than I’ve ever been able to, and I’m starting to be able to do pull ups again. I’m basically feeling like I’m getting younger physically and close to being in better shape than I’ve ever been in my life.

Then there’s the confidence aspect of it. When I first tried sparring I mostly ended up covering up and turning away from my opponent; now I can take a punch or kick and come right back with my own attack. You learn that the line from Rocky is absolutely true – “it ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.” Nothing truly drives the point home quite like actually getting punched in the face!  Much better to learn that lesson in the ring than out on the street.

In addition to the fitness aspects I’ve also met a bunch of great people who come from a wide variety of backgrounds but all have this common interest that brings them together – which spills over into life outside the gym as well.

The biggest thing is that I’m still excited to go to the gym every day. It’s changed my attitude about fitness – before, ‘getting in shape’ was a task to be completed, now I look at it as an ongoing process that I’ll still be doing a year from now. It’s gotten easier but never easy.  I’m having fun, challenging myself and watching the improvements come steadily – basically, leveling up.

NF: Favorite game to unwind?

Evan: Outside of college (where I played practically everything over the LAN), the SSX series is the only one I’ve really put a lot of time into. I’m both annoyed that they haven’t shipped one for the PS3 yet and relieved because my productivity will drop for weeks as soon as they do. There were a couple of hints in Burnout Paradise that it might be on it’s way soon though, so we’ll see – it’s going to have to fight with Muay Thai for my time now…

NF: Advice for people looking to get started in Mixed Martial Arts?

Evan: The ‘mixed’ aspect of MMA is the best part – it means there’s always something new to learn. Regardless of whether you want to compete or just get in shape I’d say the most important thing is finding the right gym – if you like the instructors & other students you’re far more likely to keep going regularly.

If you’re interested in actually doing it competitively you’ll probably want to start with Muay Thai & Jiu Jitsu as they have emerged as the core styles most fighters use.  However, we’re starting to see guys like Lyoto Machida, Georges St. Pierre, and Cung Le show that traditional martial arts styles can be extremely effective as long as you combine them with a wide knowledge of other styles – so I’d say the particular style isn’t as important as long as you find a place that’s going to motivate you to keep at it.

NF: Thanks for your time Evan!

You can check his team’s latest documentary about fire performers here:

Intrinsic Self from It Donned On Me on Vimeo.

The next project is a documentary on a long distance runner who’s participating in a 24-hour endurance race (no set distance – run as far as you can in 24 hours) at the end of October. It’ll be the first in a series called ‘Normal People’ about, well, normal people who are passionate about and do things that other ‘normal people’ might think are crazy.

-Steve

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I Hate Running, but I Can’t Wait to Go Running Today

Only two more days until the launch my free e-book, A Newbie’s Guide to Fitness!  On with with today’s article:

Yesterday, while riding back from Nashville, I started reading Born to Run, a book I had borrowed from my friend Chappy (who reviewed the book for Nerd Fitness here).  I didn’t actually plan on writing about the book because last week’s review.  Welp, things change.

I read the book for the entire four-hour car ride, then plopped down on my couch for another three hours and finished it entirely.  I don’t like running at all, but after finishing this book I can’t wait to strap on my Vibram Five-Fingers and give it another shot.  If you have ever gone running before or plan on running again, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy.  It’s a fantastic read that has already inspired me to push myself to become a better person physically, mentally, and spiritually.  I realize that sounds like a lot of hippy new-age crap (no offense to hippies), but I’m serious!  Born to Run manages to be a thrilling and highly educational page-turner, mixing equal parts autobiography, science, myth, legend, and mystery.  I literally could not stop reading it once I started.

Born to Run has motivated me to give running another try, with a much different attitude.  I actually ran a year of Cross Country in high school before realizing that I hated running.  Weekly shin splints compounded an even greater problem: my heart wasn’t in it.  Since then, I’ve forced myself to run like a hamster on a treadmill for miles and miles because I thought that was what I supposed to do.  I hated running, and running didn’t like me.

However, I’m now at the point where putting on some funky shoes and hauling ass through a park sounds like a great time.  I can’t wait to put on my iPod, pick a direction, and just start running.  No watch to track my progress, no pre-defined route to run over and over again: I want to run in a direction I’ve never been, on a trail I’ve never seen, and just see what’s out there.  I think the greatest lesson I took away from book is that you can only be successful in running if you have a great attitude.  If you consider it a means to an end, you are going to fail miserably.  For the ultra-marathoners of this book, running IS the end.  These aren’t people who have trained their whole lives to run either: most of them didn’t recognize their gift until often halfway through life when some major event got them running and they just never stopped.  Born to Run is so thought-provoking and inspiring that it has me wondering what my true potential is.  Could I ever do something like a triathlon, marathon, Ultra-man competition, or 100 mile death-race through the Copper Canyons?  The mere thought of putting myself through such “torture” had NEVER entered my mind until yesterday.  Now that I know what the human body is capable of, I’m not going to rule anything out.

For those of who you don’t like running but force yourself to do it because you think you’re supposed to, read this book.  If you have ever been injured because of running, read this book.  If you like running and haven’t been hurt yet, read this book.  If you don’t like running but you love a great story, read this book.  For those of you who are on the fence, read this article, and then read this book.

-Steve

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