The Mario Kart Guide to Momentum

mario kart

I have a confession to make.

In the past month, I’ve missed a lot of workouts.  Yup, the guy running a fitness website hasn’t made exercise a priority.  Since leaving Portland less than a month ago, I’ve been on 10 different airplanes, changed time zones six times, played in a Charity Golf Tournament (humble brag!), spent time in six different states with various friends, and laid to rest one of my heroes.

Now, I won’t complain that I don’t have time to work out, because we all know that is a fake excuse.  Instead, I’ll say that for the past month I’ve chosen not to make consistent strength training a priority.  However, I have no doubt that once things settle down, I’ll be able to complete my first real workout with conviction, having lost very little momentum despite taking time off recently.

We’ve all been there:  We spend a month or two hitting every workout, eating right, and getting things done, and then life gets in the way.  We travel, run into family emergencies, work gets absolutely crazy, and we completely fall off the wagon!

Today, Mario Kart will teach you how to maintain all of the momentum you’ve built up, even when you run over a few banana peels.  

Understand the power of momentum

bowser mario kart

Imagine you are Bowser in Mario Kart.

(I freaking love that I get to type that sentence as part of my job).  

Due to your gigantic size, you have a very fast top speed, but really poor acceleration.  When you step on the gas pedal, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to get your cart to move even an inch (you’re Bowser, remember?).  However, if you continue to hammer on that pedal, your kart will start to move faster and faster until you reach top speed.  At this point, even a slight touch of the gas will allow your kart to continue moving forward, due to inertia and momentum (thank you, science!).

However, if you run over a few banana peels, get clobbered by a red shell, or mistime a jump and end up in the ocean, your kart will eventually come to a stop and you have to start ALLLLL over again!   Had you taken things more slowly, eased off the gas, and then powered through when the roadway was clear, you would have hit top speed much quicker.

When you build healthy habits for a month or two, you have obtained top speed.  When life gets in the way (damn those banana peels), do WHATEVER you can to safely navigate without having to come to a complete stop.

Every workout counts.  Every decision to eat a healthy meal counts.    

  • If you can only work out ONCE a week, it’s FAR better than not working out all.
  • If you can only eat ONE healthy meal a day (or a few a week), it’s WAY better than NO healthy meals!
  • If you can only manage to do 10 push ups a few times a day, it’s MUCH better than sitting on your ass doing nothing.

Your goal is to fire on all cylinders when you have a clear path, and minimize momentum loss when you encounter obstacles.  So let’s make that happen!

Collect those coins

mario coins

What you eat will account for 80-90 percent of your success or failure when it comes to weight loss or muscle gain.

A great diet combined with a so-so workout plan will almost ALWAYS beat out a so-so diet and HOURS of exercise.  If you’re old enough and cool enough to have played Super Mario Kart for SNES, you understand the importance of collecting coins.  Each coin adds to your overall top speed, which makes them so vitally important.  Yeah, you could race well without them, but you’d be a fool not to collect as many coins as possible to make yourself faster.

Eating a healthy diet is like collecting the maximum number of coins: the more coins you have, the easier everything else becomes! If you are caught in a time period where you can’t make working out a priority, don’t compound the problem by ALSO eating like crap.

I can ALMOST accept the “I was SO busy I didn’t have time to exercise” excuse, because that at least requires you to make a decision to exercise over doing something else. But eating better doesn’t require MORE time, it just means you need to make healthier decisions!

So start collecting those coins!  Every eating decision you make is a chance to collect another coin (or give one away).  If you have to eat fast food, leave off the bun, substitute fruit or veggies for the fries, or drink water instead of getting a 32 oz. Coke.  I don’t care if you’ve eaten like crap for two weeks, your NEXT meal has become the most important one – why not start now?

Driving cross-country? You can still eat healthy!

On a tight budget?  You can still eat healthy!

Don’t have time to prepare a meal?  Yes, you do.

Dodge the obstacles, collect the power ups

mario kart key chains

Life has this funky habit of throwing green shells, banana peels, and bob-ombs at us:  

  • a sick family member or pet
  • a cross-country move
  • a newborn baby
  • a hectic product launch at work

If we’re not careful, these obstacles can send us spinning over the edge into the ocean or lava.  Your goal is to minimize these complete-stop moments and maximize the results of any effort used towards stepping on that gas pedal moving forward.

Good food decisions will increase your top speed, making EVERY other decision you take more efficient.

However, do NOT underestimate the importance of working out either – ANY physical activity puts your brain into healthy thinking mode: “I am exercising because I am becoming healthier.  Therefore, I should continue to make better choices throughout the day.”

Think of physical activity like the power ups scattered throughout the course: each one gives you a chance to catch up and dominate the speedway.

Here’s how to make sure you have the best chance to collect more power ups:

  • Schedule workout time on your phone’s calendar.  Even if it’s 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there.  You’d be surprised how much more likely you’ll be to exercise when your workout, no matter how quick, is actually scheduled in your calendar.
  • Want to GUARANTEE a workout? Schedule and build the habit of working out or exercising for 15 minutes FIRST thing in the morning.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish before you have a chance to check email, pick up your phone, or check Nerd Fitness on Twitter.
  • Set a timer on your phone to go off every hour.  While at work, every time that timer goes off, do 20 squats and 10 push up in your cubicle.  Do a lap around the office, throwing banana peels behind you to trip up the competition.  Well…maybe hold off on the banana peel thing.
  • Make a 20 minute walk part of your day, no excuses.  We all know how important walking is. Frodo wouldn’t have made it to Mordor without walking, right?  If you have time for nothing else, make sure you get a 20-minute brisk walk in each day.  If you have to go for a walk WHILE eating your lunch or take a meeting on the go, do it.

Mushrooms and star power


When it comes to a heated Mario Kart race, effective use of powerups can be the difference between victory and defeat.  

Two power-ups in particular can help you quickly regain the lead: mushrooms and star power-ups.  

Sprinting and intervals are your mushrooms.

Strength training is your Star Power.

When done properly, an intense strength workout just once a week can help you maintain strength, muscle, speed up your metabolism for a significant amount of time, and make you feel like Super Mario.

The most efficient workout routines will have you heavy lifting for a few key compound exercises (or intense body weight exercises), so that your ENTIRE body gets worked out in a matter of minutes.

Here are two Star Power workouts you can complete whenever you only have ONE day to workout.

STAR POWER WORKOUT (weight training):

  • Warm up
  • 4 sets of 5 reps of barbell squats
  • 4 sets of 5 reps of overhead presses (or push presses)
  • 4 sets of maximum reps of chin ups (or rows)
  • Cool down

If you have easy access to a gym but can’t find a full thirty minutes, complete each of the above exercises on separate days.

STAR POWER WORKOUT (Bodyweight Only)

  • Warm up
  • 3 sets of 8 box jumps (stepping down after)
  • 3 sets of the most difficult type of push up you can complete (wall push ups all the way up to handstand push ups)
  • 3 sets of 10 reps of the most difficult squat you can complete (body squats up to pistol squats)
  • 3 sets of max repetitions of pull ups or chin ups
  • Cool down

[If you’re looking for more quick workouts (both gym and bodyweight only), with video demonstrations check out the Rebel Strength Guide]

If all else fails – nothing beats simple push ups.  Remember, the goal is to maintain strength and momentum until you can jam on that gas pedal!

Powerslide to victory

mario bowser peach luigi

Here’s how to keep the kart moving forward, even during times of complete chaos:

  • Put 90% of your effort towards healthy eating – an unhealthy diet can derail your momentum faster than a banana peel on Rainbow Road.
  • Put “WORK OUT!” in your calendar – Schedule the time, place, and what the workout is.
  • Go for a walk every day – This will keep you healthy and thinking healthy.
  • Find SOME way to strength train – Pick one of the workouts above, even if it’s just once a week.

What other ways have you been able to maintain momentum while going through a tough month?


PS – Who’s your favorite Mario Kart character?


Photo: super mario kart, bowser, mario coins, mario kart key chains, yoshi, mario bowser peach luigi

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70 thoughts on “The Mario Kart Guide to Momentum

  1. Sveet article man, I didn’t know that diet was so important to becoming healthy!! And I was always a fan of yoshi!…. He could poop giant eggs at will….. Heck yeah!!

  2. Rereading this today was exactly what I needed. Thanks for always linking to these past articles!

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