3 Reasons to Buy a Blender

I’ve probably used a blender twice a day for the past 7 years. At this point, I can’t imagine my life without one.

Okay, that’s a stretch.  But it certainly makes life a LOT easier, especially for people who need eat a lot of calories on a daily basis (like me).  This blog will mostly benefit skinny nerds I guess, but I would still recommend blender drinks to people of all shapes and sizes.  Yup, even you Grimace, you purple, pear-shaped S.O.B! (Sorry Grimace, I didn’t mean that.  You’re still cool in my book).

Let me tell you why I love blenders so much, and why you should run out and get one today:

  1. Make a cheap, healthy breakfast in 2 minutes. I’m no morning person, and the last thing I have time for is cooking a big healthy breakfast.  Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, right up there with your immediate post-workout meal.  Rather than cram your face with a carb-loaded bagel or donut, why not toss some frozen fruit, whey protein, and oatmeal into a blender?  It’s loaded with nutrients, only takes a few minutes to make, tastes great (trust me),  and you can drink it on your way to work.  I have been “drinking” my breakfast for years now.
  2. Post-workout shake: I would argue that the most important meal of the day is the one you eat 30 minutes after a really intense strength-building workout.  Now, if you really pushed yourself you should be exhausted, sweaty, and worn out.  The last thing your stomach wants is lots of solid food, but you need to get a lot of food into you to get the muscle rebuilding process started immediately. This tip is directed more towards you skinny guys looking to bulk up: my current post-workout shake looks like this: 12 oz of orange juice, 2 handfuls of frozen strawberries, some frozen blueberries, two scoops of whey protein, one cup of dry oatmeal, and a handful of frozen spinach.  Sounds gross right?  TRY IT.  You can only taste the OJ and the strawberries, and it’s freaking delicious.  If you’re trying to lose weight, I’d probably leave out the oatmeal (it’s in there for extra carbs and calories).  Get most your carbs from fresh/frozen fruits and veggies when you can.
  3. Great for those in-between or late night meals: If you’re trying to bulk up, protein is a hot commodity.  Late at night, when you’re watching TV you probably don’t feel like firing up the grill and cooking chicken or steak.  However, a scoop of chocolate whey protein blended with a cup of water tastes great, takes 3 seconds to make, and gets you an extra 30 grams of protein immediately.  If you’re trying to pack on the pounds, this is a great option for those in-between meals; six meals of solid nutritional food every day can get expensive.

Now, go experiment! Throw all kinds of fruits and vegetables into that blender and see what kind of awesome combination you can come up with.  Try different things out, you might end up creating the best drink ever.  Buy a blender, set it up on your counter, and start drinking your breakfast.  It doesn’t have to be a $600 Blendtec blender either; the $20 dollar one from Walmart will get the job done.

Do we have any blender fanatics here? What kind of shake do you normally make?  I can compile all the best recipes into a future blog post.

-Steve

E-book update: The response I got on yesterday’s post about my E-book launch was awesome!  I hit a new record for visitors …which means I actually have to finish this thing now.  I sent out 2nd draft copies to a number of readers and friends for constructive feedback, then I’ll be putting the finishing touches on it by the end of the week!  Only 8 DAYS until the Nerd Fitness “Newbie’s Guide to Fitness” launches.

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Born to Run – The Boss Not Included

A few weeks back, I was turned onto the book Born to Run by a Nerd Fitness reader (thanks again Evan), so I immediately told my friend Matt (nickname: Chappy), an avid runner, about the book.  Before I had a chance to go to the store to buy a copy, Chappy had already bought one and read it.  I asked him to write a review of the book for the Nerd Fitness community, and he gladly obliged.  Take it away Chappy:

borntorunHave you ever gotten out of bed, slipped on your running shoes, and thought, “This is something I was built to do?”  To be quite honest, I most certainly do not.  Preparing for a jog these days seems more akin to suiting up for a battle against our own inclinations; high tech footwear to protect your feet and joints from their structural inadequacies, moisture wicking apparel to fend of our your sweat, and a seven function timepiece so you know the specific extents of your self-inflicted torture. This seems a far cry from any evolutionary calling.  However, once you read Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run,” you may see things a bit differently.

A few weeks ago, Steve sent me an article that featured a Mexican Tribe: one that has become an interesting case study in health and endurance.  This group, known as the Tarahumara (pronounced Tara-oo-mara), has produced distance runners of mythical proportions and cultivated a lifestyle with an extremely low incidence rate.  Initially, I smelled a gimmick, but as the article plummeted further into the Copper Canyons, it became quite evident that this was more than a quick fix or a new fad.  These people were covering hundreds of miles of treacherous terrain…in sandals…and they do this for fun.

Well, it turns out this article was written by Christopher McDougall, and to my utter joy, he had a book about it.  What I would come to find out was that this work stretched far beyond a study of one tribe.  Complete with amusing back-stories, historical findings, and scientific analysis, this book serves well to entertain the reader while genuinely instilling the belief that there can be joy as well as purpose in our running.

Picture 2You can’t help but appreciate the fact that the author (an average, overweight, injury plagued, forty-something) serves as his own guinea pig for the primary plot line.  Over the span of a year, he goes from a grim outlook (given by several top doctors), to completing a mountainous 50 mile race in 100 plus degree temperatures.  To spice things up, he is joined by some of the world’s top (and most interesting) ultra-marathoners, who bring with them a bevy of amusing and unbelievable stories.  Put simply, my Google search got a workout just to confirm that these people and places were real!

One of the longer, more informative, chapters actually focuses on the biomechanical relationship between the structure of the human body and how it relates to our running ability.  For an educated opinion, I put this section past my future brother-in-law (vet school student), but it all appears to check out.  In short, we are built for endurance.  Sure cheetahs are fast, but only for a few minutes.  Believe it or not, there are documented accounts of humans running animals to death…read that again.  Just for giggles, on your next jog, think about doing it for your own survival.

So, you are probably curious as to how any of this is applicable to the average Joe.  Well, here’s what I have taken from “Born to Run”:

Picture 11. Rethink Your Footwear - First of all, my Nikes have been relegated to the back of the closet.  After years of hip and back problems, as well as lackluster running form, I am skimming the pavement in my new Vibram Five Fingers.  The key here is to allow your feet to do the work they were intended for.  The only reason people run in a heel to toe rolling fashion is because Bill Bowerman (Oregon Track Coach and Nike Co-Founder) told them to.  Running with a barefoot-style forefoot strike will shorten your steps and bring you back to the ground; thus giving you more power and efficiency.  On a lunchtime run last week, I was literally having so much fun that I was smiling.  This, ladies and gents, has never happened in my history.  A homeless lady saw me coming and ever so originally yelled “Run, Forrest, Run!”  One word of caution: Make sure you transition slowly to a minimal cushion shoe like the Five Fingers.  Your feet need time to build the muscles that you haven’t been using.

2.  Change Your Perspective – Every now and then, it is good to forget the watch and just take off for a while.  I am absolutely guilty of staying within the bounds of specific mileages and times.  What I have learned recently is that I only have limits because I put them there.  Your body is capable of much more than you could imagine.  One day, just start running at a comfortable pace and see where the road (or trail) takes you.

3.  Eat Like You Care – The Tarahumara eat as if they could be headed for a run at any moment.  This means that they avoid meals that will bog them down and kill their energy.  Hey, I love food more than anyone (I’m captivated when a Taco Bell commercial comes on), but I certainly don’t like how tired and worthless I get after a big nasty meal.  When your training gets serious, your body inherently will crave what it needs, all you have to do is go along with it.

Happy Trails,

Chappy

Chappy works for The Man as an engineer in Birmingham, Alabama.  He spends his free time running, biking, swimming, drinking High Life, and plotting to take over the world.  His book, “Chappy’s Thoughts” is excellent bathroom reading.

I can attest to the fact that his book is in fact excellent bathroom reading.  Thanks again Chappy.

-Steve
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32 Ways to Kickstart Your Life

Seriously, there is so much cool sh** to do in this world!

You read yesterday’s post about changing your life and you are ready to drink the Kool-aid (not actual Kool-aid, that’s pretty much sugar and red dye.  Sorry Kool-aid man). I just mean you feel inspired to get off your butt and make a change in your life.  I don’t care what it is, as long as it makes you happy and gets your heart racing, I’m all for it.  See if there’s something on this list that motivates you:

  1. Go for a walk with your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, kids, dog, iPod, whatever. Just walk, you’ll be amazed how cathartic this is.
  2. Go rake the leaves in your yard.
  3. Start the Couch to 5k program
  4. Try the 100 push up challenge!
  5. Pick a direction and start running (like this guy who started running drunk one night and now runs Ultra marathons).
  6. Try Capoeira – Breakdance + Fighting = breakdance fighting.
  7. Go boogie-boarding or surfing.
  8. Muay Thai boxing – stay tuned for an interview with a NF reader who practice Muay Thai.
  9. Rock climbing – see if there’s a climbing gym in your area.  Ever seen a fat rock climber? Nope, me neither.
  10. Ultimate Frisbee - This is a whole CLAN of athletic nerds.  I’ve never played, but I’ll be joining a team next spring with my roommates.
  11. Take a free Karate class. Find a place in your area that offers a free weekend class.
  12. Head to a Crossfit gym. Most of them will let you go for once free.  If you survive, you’ll no doubt be inspired by how hard these people work to push themselves.
  13. Wrestle with your kids in the backyard.
  14. Swim
  15. Run barefoot (or in a pair of Vibrams) on the beach.
  16. Jump rope – it’s not just for 8-year old girls you know.
  17. Ride a bike!
  18. Play kickball
  19. Hoola-hoop
  20. Take one of those stripper pole classes (this is for the ladies).
  21. Put on loud music and dance around your house like an idiot. This is always fun.  Or, you can dance around the world.
  22. Take a salsa dancing class.
  23. Try yoga
  24. Try hot yoga.
  25. Dust off the weight bench in your basement and use it.
  26. Try the Nerd Fitness Bodyweight Challenge.
  27. Go Rollerblading – “yeah, 1993 called and their want their blades back.”  Still a helluva workout.
  28. Go golfing, but CARRY your own clubs.
  29. Grab your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend and go take care of business. Tell them you’re just trying to better your life.
  30. Shoot hoops in your backyard, and really push yourself on grabbing rebounds.
  31. Join a pickup soccer league – insert funny joke here about how soccer is full of people taking dives and flops.
  32. Go Free Running – start jumping over things and look awesome doing it.  Like this guy – HOLY CRAP!

If there is nothing on this list that makes you happy, find something else that makes you happy, and post it here for others that are looking for motivation.  I don’t care if you’re 400 pounds overweight, there is a new life out there for you, and anything on this list is possible if you really want it.  Start slow, start safe, and get better, stronger, faster.  Have fun with it, and live a more fulfilling life.

-Steve

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What Do You Want Out of Life?

What do you want out of life?

This is what I want: to live long, love fully, help as many people as possible, and have incredible experiences along the way.  I want to leave this world a better place than when I got here, and I want to leave with no regrets.

Picture 1Personally, I believe it’s our experiences, friendships, and relationships that make us who we are: our self-worth and level of success should be judged by the smile on our faces, not by the size of a bank account or square footage of a house.   After all, you can’t take your money with you when you’re gone.  This moment of clarity is tricky: some have it early in life, others need an momentous occasion for it become apparent, some are too afraid to have it, and others have it far too late.  Mine came about two years ago on a cross-country flight.  Here’s my story:

After graduating college I moved to sunny San Diego, 3000 miles away from my friends and family, and took a job in corporate America.  I had it all: I lived 30 yards from the Pacific, surfed on a daily basis, drove a company car, made a lot of money…and I was miserable.  After flying to visit my college friends in the fall of 2007, I got on the plane back to San Diego and I practically had a mental breakdown while flying: I was heading back to a life that didn’t feel like mine and down a path that I didn’t love.  Most of all, I just missed my friends.

After a year and a half in Cali, I finally allowed myself to see that the dream life I had built in my mind wasn’t real.  When the plane landed, I felt like I had direction for the first time in my life: I was going to move to Atlanta with friends and lead a life I would love to live (say THAT three times fast).  To quote the Shawshank Redemption (again), I felt “the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.” Just a month and a half later, I was living in Atlanta, working for an incredible company (which I found on Craigslist, don’t knock it).  I now wake up each morning just happy to be alive; feeling like that on a Monday morning is one of the greatest things in the world.

Now, what does all of this have to do with Nerd Fitness? Since moving to Atlanta and getting a good handle on this whole “life” thing,  I want to help others do the same.  Although I started this site as a simple fitness blog, my ultimate vision is for it to become a full-blown community of like-minded individuals helping each other “level up” our lives.  With two thirds of this country overweight and stuck behind a desk, I know that too many people are working unsatisfying jobs, living each day as a countdown, and dying far too young.  Most of the country is walking the path towards obesity and mediocrity – join me on the road less traveled.  I’m not saying you need to move cross country or abandon your life to chase your dreams (responsibility FTW), but it’s okay to want and expect a better life for yourself and your family…and then make it happen.

Why do I think fitness is so important in the grand scheme of life? Other than the obvious benefits of increased life expectancy, less trips to the doctor, and a more fulfilling social and professional life (it’s true), I know what improved health can do to a person’s confidence and outlook.  I’ve had many friends and colleagues, stuck in a rut for years, start exercising and use that as the catalyst for big life changes.  After losing 100 pounds, deciding to leave your crappy job, get out of a bad relationship, or start your own company suddenly doesn’t seem so far-fetched.  Even if you’re happy with your job, relationship, and life, I guarantee you will love life more if you’re healthy.

For those of you stuck in that rut, why not make a small change and get the ball rolling?  Start eating better and exercise for 20 minutes today; you’ll be surprised how suddenly your life seems to brighten.  For those of you who read this blog and have already started the change, I ask that you please pass this article along to somebody who might be stuck.  Bring them up to your level, and help them get the ball rolling.  It could change their life.

Thanks.

-Steve

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The Search for the Ultimate Athlete

I stumbled across this article over on StraightToTheBar.com that brought my attention to the “Search for the Ultimate Athlete.

Picture 1Essentially, it’s a massive competition in Oregon next June, featuring 24 competitors (male and female) competing in 20 different sports to determine who is the best overall athlete IN THE WORLD (or something like that).  Registration and preliminary rounds start in a few weeks.  Honestly, I’m both excited to see how it pans out and also skeptical.  Sure, the world’s best athlete is probably already making millions of dollars and won’t risk his career for this, but there will still be twenty-four elite athletes who probably aren’t great at one individual sport but pretty darn good at a whole bunch of them.

I started thinking about some of the best athletes that I know and whether or not they’d do well in this competition.  This is all pure speculation, mostly because I would guess these guys have far better things to do than compete in such a tournament:

lebron-jamesLebron James – Could possibly end up as the best ever to play the game of basketball (he’s gotta start winning some Championships first though).  What is certain is that he’s one of the most gifted athletes this world has ever seen.  Lebron is 6’8″, 250 lbs, built like a freight train, can jump over tall buildings in a single bound, and run a 40 yard dash in 2 seconds.  Okay the last two are a lie, but there’s no doubting how strong, powerful, and athletic he is.  Many scouts believe that had he continued to play football instead of basketball,  Lebron would be one of the NFL’s best wide receivers today.

kelly_slater_photoshoot_-3642Kelly Slater – 9-time world champion surfer, and scratch golfer.  Ever tried surfing? you spend the entire time fighting Mother Nature, and she is NOT happy about it.  By the end of a short surf session your arms are burning, your lungs are filled with water, and your shoulders are ready to fall off.  If there are any games that require precision and accuracy like golf in this competition along with others that require strength and endurance, Kelly could turn some heads.

3209-StPierreMiller067UFC52Georges St. Pierre - MMA fighter from Canada – One of the most athletically gifted and technically perfect athletes.  Want to know how hard it is to be an MMA fighter?  Former NFL player Marcus Jones is currently competing on the TV show “the ultimate fighter,” and he managed to get sick during the last episode from the intense workouts that MMA requires.  “Afterward, he noted that he never had to work that hard in the NFL.”  If GSP can make an MMA fight look easy (and he does), then I’d love to see what he can do with any other competition.

Picture 3Makoto Nagano – One of the only two people to ever complete Ninja Warrior, one of my favorite television shows.  If you aren’t familiar with the show, check it out on G4TV, you won’t regret it.  Nagano is getting older and is only 5’3″ tall, which would lead me to believe that he could struggle with some of the challenges when competing with taller athletes.  However, I’ve seen him do some absolutely amazing things, and he’s one of the strongest mof’s I’ve ever seen.  His back, arm, and forearm strength is beyond insane.

chucknorrisChuck Norris – has counted to infinity, twice.  Also, he can sneeze with his eyes open.

Now, these are all hypothetical choices, and I would almost bet money that none of these guys end up on the show.  Maybe if this first year competition becomes an annual, prestigious event will it start to attract truly some of the world’s greatest athletes.

Either way, I’m at least intrigued and I can’t wait to see what happens.  Who are some of your favorite athletes, and how do you think they’d fare in this type of environment?

-Steve

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Girls of Nerd Fitness

Sorry dudes, this post has absolutely nothing to do with a some hot chick wearing nothing but an Xbox Live headset…That’s coming tomorrow (I’m lying).

screaming-girl-gamerI initially started this site to help out guys like me: I can certainly relate, I’ve had the same successes and failures you have, and I want to help.   However, as the site has grown I’ve begin to receive more and more emails from female readers, and I think that’s awesome.  Girls can be nerds too, which means there’s hope out there for you guys looking to find somebody with similar interests.  To quote my favorite movie of all time (Shawshank Redemption), “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.  And no good thing ever dies.”  I realize this is quote is a little over dramatic for a post on nerds, but I will take any opportunity I can get to quote that movie.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to say hello to all of you lady readers out there, and address a few of the questions and comments I’ve been getting lately:

  • I just want to “tone up.” Unfortunately, the term “toning up” is a load of crap.  To make things simple, you have your bones, your muscle, and your fat.  It’s the ratio of muscle and fat that gives you definition (that some people call “tone”).  You could have washboard abs and really cut arms, but if your body fat percentage is above a certain amount, you’ll have a muffin top around your waist and flabby arms.  You can’t spot remove fat, it comes off from ALL over your body.  Diet is 90% of the battle (whether you’re trying to build muscle or lose tons of weight), so concentrate on changing your diet (slowly but surely) and you’ll start to see that definition.  Cut out the bad carbs (stick with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, beans, and nuts).
  • I don’t want to lift weights because I’ll get bulky. This is another one of those myths that keep girls on the treadmills and out of the free weights section.  Look, you don’t realize how much you have to lift to look bulky.  Unless you’re deadlifting 400 lbs and taking steroids I can almost guarantee ‘bulk’ will never be a problem.  Try circuit training to build muscle and burn fat. Your other option is starving yourself, spending 3 hours on a treadmill, and end up looking like one of the Olsen twins.  Disgusting.  Want legs like Jessica Biel or Jessica Alba?  Start doing some squats!
  • I’m scare to use the free weights, so I’ll stick with the machines – You can get a much better and safer workout using free weights, so suck it up and walk over there.  Don’t worry, most of the guys there are too busy checking themselves out to even bother looking at you.  Read here why free weights are so much better than machines.  Free weights and body weight exercises are your friend (body weight exercises here).
  • I just want to lose weight so I do cardio – Hopping on the treadmill at 4.5 mph for 90 minutes will certainly burn calories, but you can get better results when you mix things up – you’ll have more fun too.  Take a spinning class, jump rope, lift weights, run sprints outside with your dog, play Ultimate Frisbee (always a shortage of girls for this).  Mix it up and you’ll be more well-rounded (not literally).

I’m looking for some inspiring stories.  Have you lost a bunch of weight?  Changed your life and now run marathons?  Even if it’s just a small victory, I’d love to hear about it and possibly share it with the rest of the Nerd Fitness world.  If you overcame a big struggle or obstacle, know that there are tons of others out there like who you are still struggling; help them by passing on your story.  Email me at [email protected] or leave your story in the comments and let’s get the ball rolling.

Steve

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How Badly Do You Want It?

I read “Some Thoughts on Hard Work” over on the World’s Strongest Librarian the other day (fantastic blog by the way, check it out).

funny-pictures-cat-does-not-work-hardIt really got me thinking about life and fitness.  There are so many varying levels of ‘success’ and ‘happiness’ depending on your goals and how much time you can dedicate to achieving them.  Fitness, a particular video game, your job, whatever…you get to decide what you want to accomplish – the sky is the limit.  You also get to decide how hard you’re willing to get what you want.

If you’re 15 pounds overweight, you can just be “pretty good” for most of the time, work out occasionally, eat right for most of the week, and you can get to a satisfactory level of fitness rather quickly.  However, if you want to look like Gerard Butler or Ryan Reynolds, you’re going to need to dedicate your life for a considerable amount of time to get there.  If you want to win Ninja Warrior, you’re going to have to drop everything you’re doing and start hanging out with Makoto Nagano, my hero and one of only 2 guys out of thousands to EVER complete the obstacle course.

There’s no magic bullet, no “Hawaii chair” that will give you six pack abs, no acai-berry pill that will cause you to drop 30 pounds. It takes hard work, which is why 2/3rds of the country is overweight and new infomercials show up daily to announce the next get-fit-quick solution.  Essentially we have a country full of people who want to look great but are either too lazy or too busy (a cop out) to put in the time to get there.  Don’t be one of those people.  Join the side where self-accountability and pride reign supreme.  You want to feel better about yourself, you want to be around to see your great-grandchildren grow up, and you are willing to work for it.

You need to decide what you’re after, and how you’re going to get there.

Every time I go into my gym I see people half-assing it on a treadmill, doing the same exercises with the same weights, and walking out of there with a smile on their face and not a drop of sweat on them.  As they say in Office Space, “what exactly would you say…YOU DO HERE?” If you’re serious about bettering yourself as a person and getting stronger and healthier, you should be walking into that gym with a clear cut game plan and walking out of there with a shirt drenched in sweat and wobbly legs from pushing yourself to the limit.  I don’t care if you’re 300 pounds overweight and your limit is walking a quarter of a mile.  That’s FINE!  Whatever your limit is, whatever your comfort zone is, find a way to go 1% farther, lift 1% more, and move 1% faster each time. You’ll soon find your comfort zone and level of strength is so much more than it used to be because you held yourself accountable and stayed motivated.

Let’s say you just accomplished a big goal of yours.  Is THAT the time to get complacent?  Nope.  Give yourself a pat on the back, and then find a way to reach even further.

-Steve

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What’s Your Game Plan?

game_planWhat’s your game plan for today?

What are you going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?  If you’re going to the gym, which exercises are you going to do, how much are you going to lift, and how many times are you going to lift it?  Have a plan sucka!

Diet

I know in my experience, when I keep track of things (both with my diet and my exercises), I see better results and I’m pretty damn sure this isn’t a coincidence.  Tyler of 344pounds.com (who I interviewed here), lost 4.5 pounds last week after only losing 2 pounds in the previous month.  His theory on what happened:

“The week I resume counting calories is the same week I reach well into the 220s.  Coincidence?  I think not.  I’ve been counting calories for the last few days and have had an extremely clean diet (because of it?).”

I will bet a million bucks (if I had a million bucks) that there is a direct correlation between Tyler’s weight loss success and his decision to keep track of everything he ate.  Why does this happen?  You suddenly feel more responsible and accountable for what you put in your mouth.  It hurts when you have to write down 4 Krispie Kreme donuts, 3 snickers, two big macs, and an entire bag of double stuf Oreos.

Write down what you’re doing! If you’ve read my “3 important equations for fitness” article, you know that a 500 calorie daily deficit will result in a 1-pound weight loss per week.  Keep track of what you eat with a site like Daily Burn (free account): as you input your food, it keeps track of how many carbs, grams of protein, and grams of fat you’ve consumed.  Once you put in your height, weight, and goal weight, it can even tell you how many calories (approximately) you should be eating and when you’ll hit your target.

Daily Burn has certainly helped me get much better results when I track my food intake; I recommend you do the same.  It’s free, easy, and they even have an iPhone app that is supposedly pretty sweet (anybody tried the app yet?)

Exercise

I’d guess less than a third of the people in a gym have any idea what they’re doing or what their goals are.  They wander around like schmoes, picking various machines and doing a quick set or walking in and doing what they always do with the same few things at the same level of resistance.

Remember: “appearance is a consequence of fitness.” Every time you walk in that gym, you should know exactly what to expect out of your body.  If you could squat 185, try for 190 today.  If you did 5 pull ups, go for 6.  If you  walk/jogged a mile in 11 minutes, go for 10:50 this time.  When you keep track of everything you’ve done, you know exactly what you need to accomplish the next time you’re in the gym.  When you’re struggling with that last pull up or push up and you know just one more is a personal best, I guarantee you’re going to bust your ass to get there.  Secondly, when you have that game plan you don’t waste time in there; you know what you need to do, you do it, and then you get the hell out of there.

I have to recommend Daily Burn to keep track of your workouts as well. You can input your exact exercises, routines, sets, reps, and total weight.  It tracks them so you know what you did last time.  I’m on Daily Burn (and I’ll admit, I’ve been slacking on tracking things and I DEFINITELY know I haven’t been getting the most out of my diet or workout because of it).

Some tips:

  • If you don’t have an iPhone, take a piece of paper and pen with you to the gym. Write down exactly what you did, and then put it into Daily Burn when you get home.  I’ve tried to remember everything and it always gets lost in the shuffle by the end of the routine.  Write it down, then type it in.
  • I’ve found that the Daily Burn doesn’t line up exactly with a Paleo Diet (if that’s your thing) when it comes to their recommendation of calories and nutrients.  Luckily, they allow you to easily adjust your percentages of carbs, proteins, and fats.
  • If you’ve never kept track of your food, try it for a week. Make it a habit by adding it to your bookmark tool bar and simply typing in your food every time you eat it.  I’d guess most of you have desk jobs so this shouldn’t be too difficult.  You’ll be surprised at your results simply by keeping track of your food.  It’s a pain in the ass, sure.  But it absolutely works.

Be my gym buddy on Daily Burnwe can keep each other accountable.

-Steve

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How to Do a Perfect Dip (No Tobacco Required)

So you’re looking to build up your muscles, and you’ve learned how great it is to train with compound exercises.  Rather than isolate your chest for 5 exercises, your shoulders for 5 exercises, and triceps for 5 exercises, why not pick a few that work all three at the same time!  One such exercise is the Dip.

Now, a bodyweight dip requires you to have a pretty good base level of strength throughout your body, because you’re going to be lifting up your whole body up and down.  Yeah, the dips I’m talking about require you to grab two parallel bars, hoist yourself up, and then lower your entire body by bending your elbows.  I don’t recommend the dips where you put your feet up on something in front of you because it puts your arms and shoulders in a really weird angle and you’re just asking for injury.  So, today’s exercise is just the dips where you’re supporting your whole body weight below you.

Okay so here is what you do:

  • First of all, make sure you can do a dip. Don’t hop up there and then lower yourself unless you’re fairly confident you can get through at least one of these things.  We can’t have you tearing any muscles or falling on somebody, because that would suck ass.
  • Grab the parallel bars, and hoist yourself up. At this point look straight ahead, and contract your stomach muscles (just like you do when you do squats and deadlifts).  If you’re keeping your abs tight for all of these exercises, you’ll never have to do a crunch again and you’ll still have washboard abs.
  • Cross your legs and bend your knees if you like (so your feet are out behind you), for stability purposes, but keep your head up and look straight ahead.
  • Keeping your elbows at your side, lower yourself until your triceps are parallel to the floor. A lot of websites will recommend you go past parallel, but I think this puts too much strain on your shoulders at a weird angle and can cause injury/discomfort.  I only go down to parallel and haven’t had any issues, so I’d recommend the same.
  • Once you hit parallel, explode back up until JUST before you’re able to lock your elbows. By not locking your elbows, you keep the tension in your muscles and don’t jack up your joints.  w00t.
  • Now do another one.  And then another!

Those are dips.  By keeping your elbows as tight as possible, keep your abs tights, and keep your body in balance as you go up and down.

Dips Video

Some extra tips:

  • Don’t swing - this goes for practically every exercise.  If you start swinging your body as you go up and down, you take the emphasis off the muscles you’re actually trying to work.
  • Don’t go down past parallel - This is a point of controversy with some, but for me I’d rather not risk it.  A few months back I was teaching a client how to do dips and this out of shape guy came over to tell us that we need to be going all the way down to the floor (essentially lowering our triceps 30 degrees past parallel).  I thanked the man for his input, then went back to doing them my way.
  • Don’t flair out your elbows if you can avoid it. The more “out” your elbows are, the more emphasis on your chest.  Elbows tight = emphasis on shoulders and triceps.
  • Don’t settle for cheap substitutes – don’t use dip machines or other isolation tricep machines – These don’t recruit any of your stabilizer muscles, put your body at weird angles, and don’t give you full results.  Stick with bodyweight dips!

Now, once you can do 3 sets of 15 dips no problem, you have a few options to ramp up the difficulty:

  • Add weight – picking up a dumbbell between your feet, wearing a weighted backpack, or wearing a weight belt with some weight plates hanging off it.  At one point last year I was doing dips with a 60 pound dumbbell between my feet but it got too difficult to carry it with my feet, and it started to bother my shoulders.  I’d recommend a weight belt or backpack if you’re going to do dips with heavy weight.
  • Your other option, and the better option in my opinion - GO SLOW – keep your abs tight, and lower yourself ridiculously slowly.  Your body will have to recruit every muscle in your chest, shoulders, and triceps (including all stabilizer muscles) to keep your body under control.  Personally, I would do dips without weight after you’ve already done an exercise like Incline Dumbbell Presses.  Rather than add weight, do them slowly and safely.

There you have it: a great bodyweight exercise that will have your triceps popping out in no time (provided there isn’t too much body fat covering them).  If you have limited time in the gym or at your house, you can work out every muscle in your body with these three exercises:

Look at that, in just three exercises you’ve done a complete full body workout.  Crank that workout out in 20 minutes, and then go play some Halo.

-Steve

5 Gym Species You Want to Punch in the Face

For those of you who have gym memberships, I’d thought we’d have some fun with the species that occupy the Gyminal Kingdom (see what I did there?).  I’ve probably been a member at eight or nine different gyms, and the stereotypes are the same everywhere.  I almost feel sorry for them…but I’d rather make fun of them here in the blog because I can!  Internet FTW.

meathead1) Meatheadius Narcissium - This guy makes sure every exercise is in front of a mirror or audience. In between sets he’s checking himself out, checking to make he looks really good.  This dude LOVES himself.  Generally you can find him doing one of these three exercises: bench presses, bicep curls, or sit ups, because all he really cares about is his chest, biceps, and abs, which are probably comically oversized at this point.  You’d like to make fun of him to his face, but he’s so dis-proportioned that you don’t know where to begin… and he could probably pummel you because he also probably has a serious case of roid rage buildling up.  Put the guns away, Chief.

wind-up-teeth2) Talkium-Way-TOO-Muchus - These guys usually come in pairs. They sit down on a weight bench or popular machine and then spend 15 effing minutes in between each set talking about the stupidest **** ever.  When you walk over and ask if they’re done (because it looks like they are), they’ll say “oh, we still have 8 sets left.”  Shut your mouth Jabroni, do your exercises, and get the hell out of there.  If you’re gonna chat up a storm, do it AFTER you’re done lifting or in between exercises so you’re not holding up everybody else.  Nobody cares who won Dancing with Stars the other night either.

knowitall_header3) Expertum Incorrectus - The know-it-all.  He goes around and tells everybody what they’re doing wrong, and how he can do it better.  These guys are the most dangerous if you’re not careful, because if I had to bet my life savings on it I’d guess they’re probably wrong.  Look in a gym, and you’ll see at least half the people in there doing exercises improperly.  I’ve had people tell me how to do squats (which screwed up my back when I took their advice), how to do dips (which would have destroyed my shoulder had I listened to them), and pretty much every other exercise out there.  Everyone’s a critic, everybody thinks they know what’s best for you, and everybody is quick to pass along information, no matter how wrong it is.  Stick to your guns, do your research, and ask a professional at the club if you have a question…although many trainers don’t know what they’re doing either.

shrek4) Ogre-Personificus – This is the gym equivalent of the attention whore.  Listen, I know sometimes you need to let out a grunt when you’re lifting a sh**-load of weight, but does it really need to be loud enough for everybody in the gym to hear it?   You can usually find these guys lifting weights and almost yelling between each rep, followed by them loudly dropping their weights on the floor and then walking around like William Wallace.  We get it Braveheart, you’re the man.  As long as you’re not dropping weights on your face because of this guy, he’s almost funny enough to watch.

Mullet terrorist5) Sweatpantus Creepiatum  – This is the guy in sweatpants in the back of the yoga room who doesn’t actually bother doing the stretches, the guy who sees a girl on a treadmill and starts walking right next to her even though there are 15 others open, and the guy who spends most of his time staring and ogling rather than exercising.  Dude, you’re creeping everybody out.  No you shouldn’t go up to her and tell her how many arm curls you can do (it’s a DEEP BURN, as Ron Burgundy would say).  You shouldn’t even stalk her when she comes out of the locker room.  She’s there to exercise, which is why YOU should be there, so do your thing and let her do hers.  There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it, and you’re definitely not doing it right.

fat spandexSpandexa Unflatterium (honorable mention)- the girl in the spandex and sports bra who really shouldn’t be wearing stuff like that out in public.  Ladies, we’re happy that you’re comfortable in your own body, but don’t make us be comfortable with it too.  I guess the male equivalent would be Homer Simpson walking around in booty shorts.  Wear whats comfortable, but do it within reason.  I have a LOT of respect for a bigger person in the gym exercising trying to get better, but be appropriate about it!

Now, these dudes (and girl) are probably the reason many of you avoid gyms in the first place…unless you’re one of these species.  If that’s the case, STOP IT.  Now, I’ve learned to ignore these people by listening to my iPod, keeping my head down, and getting in and out of the gym as quickly as possible.  I recommend you do the same, but feel free to laugh at these people if you need a pick-me-up.  After all, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, then we should probably laugh at others.  That’s a joke, by the way.

Who am I not making fun of that I should be?  Who got left out?

-Steve

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