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Staying Fit With No Gym in Sight

My Brother Wax Mannequin and I poached multiple playground, hotel, and basement gyms during an extended road trip together – August 2016

If you look around on the street these days, you might get the impression that it is really, really difficult to stay in shape beyond the age of about 30.

Sure, there are a few competitive athletes, movie stars and Navy SEALs around that still manage to keep in strong form, but if you are not willing to devote your entire life to training, you might as well just head straight for the stretch pants, right? Older age strikes and there is nothing you can do about it.

Oddly enough, if you could peer at the financial statements of your fellow citizens, the story might be similar: consumer debt is normal, the bills keep piling up, and only the movie stars and athletes (and corrupt CEOs of big banks, of course) make enough money to actually get ahead.

These opinions are widespread, and often fiercely defended as Truth. This is why I have been happily surprised over the years as I discovered that the prevailing wisdom is completely wrong: it’s not only possible to become wealthy on an average salary, it is just a natural byproduct of living a healthy life. Similarly, you don’t need a crushing workout schedule, a $250 per month gym or a team of professional trainers to be in very good shape. You just need to focus on the basics and avoid the worst pitfalls.

But as the years go on and I talk to more and more people, I realize that very few people even know these basics, and they think some of the pitfalls (for example drinking a big glass of orange juice with breakfast) are actually healthy life choices. So with New Year’s Resolution time approaching, I thought we could dish out some of this old school knowledge right now.

Fig.1: MMM enjoys a brief zero dollar workout on the patio.

Fig.1: MMM enjoys a brief zero dollar workout on the patio.

Let’s use plain old Mr. Money Mustache as an example. I’m an average 42-year-old white nerd who has never played a competitive sport in his life. I made my career in office work and enjoy beer a bit more than I should. And yet I feel great – despite the fact that I keep getting older and live a deprived life without the personal trainer or private chef that every wealthy person really deserves.

Even worse, I don’t even have a gym membership, and the months I spend away from home every year have been compromising my access to even the basic backyard barbell set that comprises my only fitness equipment. I have spent about 2 of the past 5 months away from home, which means a lot of time with no gym in sight.

All of these factors, yet all systems seem to be better than ever. Returning from the latest travel binge, I found roughly the same level of strength and bodyfat while keeping the same overall weight on the scale. How can this be?

Fitness as a Part of Life
 (rather than something you do at the gym)

Far too often in modern life, we cut an artificial line between the ideas of getting in shape and everything else we do. People train for Ironman events, but then drive a car for local errands. They use the stair machine in the gym, but then take the elevator up to the 12th floor in the office building. They claim that getting in shape is important, but then drive their kids to school in the morning in one of the world’s most ridiculous spectacles of Car Clown behavior.

We sit still at work, sit in automobiles, and stand still with rolling luggage on the airport escalator to avoid the strain of the staircase, and hire contractors to take care of our lawns and shovel our driveways. And then we wonder why we get fat, or injure our knees and backs, or get any other less-than-satisfactory performance from our bodies. Only the most dedicated workout junkies (rebranded as CrossFitters these days) seem to get anywhere, and even they often fall off the wagon and become mortals eventually.

I feel that there’s a better way to get good health results, but with much more efficiency than what most people achieve right now. You could boil it down to the philosophy of “use it or lose it”.

Principles of Efficient Physical Fitness

Not everybody likes the act of exercising itself, but everybody likes being in shape. The key to getting the latter without having to commit your life to flawless execution of the former is to understand the concept of exercise efficiency – getting the best results with minimum time and minimum risk of failing due to bad habits.

Principle Zero: Moving is Normal, Sitting Still is Hazardous
Before we even begin, we need to make a change to the most basic paradigm of modern life. Most of us sit or lie down almost constantly: to sleep, eat, work, drive, and even (shudder) to watch TV. Instead, I like to think of sitting as something you do as a short break from your real life. And you should feel just a bit uncomfortable when sitting down, because it really is a hazardous activity.

Whenever you get a chance to move, take it: get up and pace around while you read books. Attend your conference calls with a mobile phone headset while out walking along the river. Cut your own lawn. Walk the 5 miles across town that you would normally drive. Always, always take the stairs. Never, ever use a drive-through. You can even try taping your laptop to the drink platform of a treadmill and working as you pace slowly along at 1 MPH (I have tried this and it is amazing).

If you’re thinking of taking on a job that requires more than a few minutes of car driving per day, consider this equivalent to accepting a job in an Asbestos mine or an old Russian nuclear power plant. You might still do it, but only if the benefits greatly outweigh the obvious costs. Similarly, if you’re considering spending an afternoon on the couch watching football, pretend that you have to wear an inhaler that dispenses just a tiny dose of Cyanide into each breath. With this comparison in mind, you can decide if you still weight the passive entertainment more highly than, say, taking your kids out to play in the park.

On really good days, I might spend 4-10 hours walking bikingor  around for various reasons like errands, carpentry, and just plain old strolls, and these really good days result in incredible happiness. On days when I fail to obey this Principle of Constant Movement, I instantly devolve into a more average and grumpy person.

wintersquats-bw

I don’t have room for an indoor home gym at the moment. So instead I keep this squat rack just outside my back door, to eliminate psychological barriers to the most important exercise. Mud, snow, hot, cold – it’s all good for you – just do some damned squats, at least a couple times per week.

Principle #1: Building Muscle is Far More Effective than Cardiovascular Training
I think the most common beginner fitness mistake in the world might be when people decide to start jogging or other aerobic exercises as a method of weight loss. Double Fail Points if you go for a treadmill or a stationary bike while watching TV inside a smelly commercial gym.

So many people slave away at these cardio-related things like aerobics classes and treadmills and still look almost the same several months later. Most of them end up quitting as they lose motivation in the face of the poor results. And then the weight loss industry is right there waiting, saying they must have just bought the wrong diet shakes. Or the “accept yourself as you are” movement tells them that body composition change is impossible, so you should give up.

The real reason for the failure is that cardio training activities (while great for your heart) are very poor at triggering the growth of muscle tissue. You pump the heart and breathe vigorously and burn a few calories during that brief session, but then the session ends and you’re back to your regular self.

On the other hand, people who lift or move heavy things get triple benefits:

  • The same heart and lung bonus up front as they lift weights and break down existing muscle tissue
  • The massive calorie implosion required to rebuild those muscles to a new, stronger size
  • Then a permanent ongoing burn required to maintain that fine new stronger form

As Tim Ferriss demonstrates in the Four Hour Body, it is possible for a relative beginner to trigger over a pound of muscle growth (3500 calories of body composition change) with just one brief session of barbell squats.

Let me repeat that in different terms: you exceed the calorie burn you’d get from 4-8 hours of riding a stationary bike in the gym, in about 4-8 minutes, by warming up your legs and then performing a few sets of 5 squats, working up to a weight that is fairly difficult for you.

To clarify this after many angry and skeptical comments below: YES, the squats themselves burn only a few dozen calories. But by breaking down the tissues of your largest compound muscle group including quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, and a plenty of assisting muscles, you force your body to rebuild the entire set bigger and stronger. This is an incredibly calorically-intense process which can take almost a full week to complete. Thus, the total net energy cost ends up being several thousand calories.

Calorie testing on myself over the years confirms these figures are roughly correct – hell hath no appetite like that of a person who has done his or her squats properly. As long as you refuel from this hunger in a strategic manner, you’ll find your fat reserves getting vacuumed away at high speed.

How do we take advantage of this? Start thinking about feats of peak strength rather than the conventional 30-minute periods of sweaty endurance training on a stationary bike.

Principle #2: Every Bodypart, Whenever Possible

These are your muscles. Understand the big groups, then work them regularly.

These are your muscles. Understand the big groups, then work them regularly.

Most people think of exercise as all one big interchangeable thing: “I get plenty of exercise walking my dogs and gardening”, or, “I was able to drop my gym membership because I bike to work now.”

This is the wrong way to think about it.

Sure, mild exercise is still far better than sitting still. But you get much better results if you think about each muscle group and make sure you have overloaded it recently, thus sending it the message to become stronger.

As a start, you could think of your body as having five groups:

  • Legs
  • Back
  • Chest and triceps (your “pushing muscles”)
  • Upper Back and biceps (any time you find yourself “pulling”)
  • Core (all the complex muscles that hold you together at the middle)

Now, how will you overload each group at least a little bit, every day or two?

If you like to go to a gym, and you use the free weight room instead of the inefficient cardio stuff, great. Through my teens and 20s, I was on this plan and it went well. But after getting married, then becoming a father, I found that long stretches of time would pass as I became complacent and made excuses. This is not great – to improve from wherever you are now, you need every muscle group to be blasted down with reasonable exertion (enough to cause at least a tiny bit of soreness) – every week.

To translate the vague concept of muscle groups into practical exercises you can do in many places, here’s a guide of my favorite exercises. You can look these up anywhere to get the basics of how to do each movement safely. For example, Google “How to Do Squats”.

Legs:

  • Squats (with just your own weight when getting started. Then with barbells, or one-legged if no barbells available)
  • Deadlifts
  • Jumping on or off of anything (including boxes like this one)
  • Running up and down stairs
  • Sprinting around anywhere
  • Urban Parkour-style hooliganism with friends when visiting any city
  • Note that my daily cycling doesn’t count as a real leg exercise, since it’s a heart-building rather than muscle-building exercise.

Back:

  • Pullups from any bar or overhanging surface. You can assist yourself with your legs if you’re not yet strong enough to do real pull-ups.
  • Barbell or dumbell rows
  • Pulling any heavy item from the ground to your chest while you’re bent over.
  • Snow shoveling, digging trenches, chopping wood, moving bags of concrete
  • And anything else that feels like hard work is probably good for your back.
  • The Deadlift, mentioned under “Legs”, is also great for your lower back.
    But build this strength up slowly if you’re untrained – we’ve all heard stories about unfit people who “throw out their backs” when lifting something after years of deadly inactivity. The goal here is to make your back unbreakable – for life.

Chest and Triceps:

  • the Clean and Press (lift a barbell from the ground to over your head – my second favorite exercise in the world after squats).
  • bench press
  • dumbbell press
    (these first three are generally only if I’m lucky enough to be at home)
  • dips
  • pushups
  • On the road, the barbells are unavailable so I try to increase to 100 pushups per day, and using any available parallel surface, inside corner of a kitchen countertop, or pair of posts for dips.
  • To increase resistance, you can get a friend or loved one to sit on your back during pushups: 8 insanely hard pushups are better for you than 50 easy ones.

Core: 

The benefit of doing real-world exercise (especially sprinting) instead of lame treadmills at the gym, is that it forces you to flex and stabilize all your abdomen and oblique muscles and make them stronger. But you can still target the core directly with a few of my favorites:

  • Planks (hover your body flat and still with only forearms and toes touching the ground for 60-300 seconds)
  • Leg-raises while hanging from a bar, tree branch, or anything else
  • Twisting or jumping motions of any sort
  • Situps and abdominal crunches

Important note: core and abdominal muscles do not help you lose abdominal fat any faster than any other exercise. The fastest way to lose fat (after fixing your diet) is to accelerate calorie burn, which means triggering muscle growth. So if you want better abs, do squats.

Principle #3: Resisting Heavy Motion Delivers The Results
Consider the following counter-intuitive trick: walking down a flight of stairs delivers much better strength and muscle-building results than walking up that same flight of stairs, even though going down is much easier. I learned this amazing shortcut just a few years ago, but it has allowed me to get better results in less time ever since.

To put it into practice, you can bend your legs more deeply when going down stairs or hills, lower your body more slowly during pushups and pullups and weight exercises, and in general think about fighting loads as the chief source of strength.

For example: riding a bike won’t build much leg strength because it’s all concentric (pushing) with no eccentric (resisting). Adding in a few lunges as part of every day (or deep jumps, or squats of any form) will massively increase the benefits.

Principle #4: Turn The World Into Your Gym

Pull-ups in a public park in Portland this spring.

Pull-ups in a public park in Portland this spring.

With these basics covered, we can move to the real world to find ways to apply them. You will never miss a workout again, because from now on the entirety of every day you live will be a workout. With your eye on potential ways to overload your muscles, opportunities will come out of the woodwork. So let’s make all this work in Real Life:

Walk and Run for Transportation-  and Borrow Bikes when you Travel
Sidewalks and roads. Curbs and airport and hotel staircases. These are all amazing fitness machines, disguised as boring urban infrastructure. By seeking them out during travel, opportunities to stay fit magically materialize.

For example, when visiting people I make a point of borrowing one of their spare bikes if available. You can also install the Spinlister* app on your phone, and rent bikes from locals – instead of cars from bland international rental car chains – whenever you’re on a trip.

As a result, I have enjoyed bike tours of dozens of US cities and even a good number of international spots that were often the highlight of the entire trip. If you seek to maximize your effort, the benefits come quickly.

Lunge Whenever Nobody’s Looking
You can transform the mild benefits of walking into a shockingly fast muscle builder you can do anywhere, just by learning how to lunge. The effectiveness comes from the fact that you’re causing peak muscle overload in a mostly-eccentric (downward) motion. I recently did one lap of deep lunges around a soccer field (which took all of about 90 seconds), and it was enough to give me pleasantly sore legs for two days.

Even better, you can explain that paragraph above to your friends, and challenge them to lunge a block together on as part of an evening outing – for example on your way out to happy hour. You’ll love the fun of doing this ridiculous thing together in public, and the reactions you’ll get from the strangers, almost as much as you love your new <arnold voice> sculpted and bulging quadriceps and buttocks muscles </arnold>. Pain equals gain!

Sprint Whenever you Can
Performing just a single 10-second sprint across a park or a parking lot can change your body for the better.  But you can also apply this principle on the bike, or during a set of pushups, or even when shoveling a driveway of snow. Any time you want to become better, challenge yourself to max out for the next ten seconds!

Whenever you go to peak exertion, you are telling your body it is time to grow. If you stay within your comfort zone, the body decides it is fine as it is. Sprinting will send your body this change signal, in almost every situation.

100 Pushups per Day
Or even 10 pushups if you’re new to the pastime. I love this exercise because it is so efficient: If I move as quickly as possible, I find it takes only 15 seconds to do 25 pushups. Since it is such a small commitment, it’s easy to keep to it four times throughout the day, resulting in a reasonable strengthening of the chest and associated muscles with a total time investment of one minute.

Pro Tip: I make myself drop for 25 or 50 pushups every time I am going to indulge in something questionable like a beer or a high-carb snack, to help compensate for the negative effects before they happen.

Playgrounds and Gym Poaching

Saving the best for last: although your own fancy gym may be far off in another country when you’re traveling, there is almost always a public park with a play structure that can provide many of the basics for free. You can sprint and do pullups, dips, jump off of high things and land dramatically in the sand, do situps, chase kids around, and generally get a surprisingly good workout.

Bonus Principle: Sugar is the Devil, Fat is your Friend

The tips above will make a huge difference in any life that is currently too sedentary. But your body will fight to keep its fat reserves, and it will win this fight, if you obey its requests for constant sugar and carbohydrates.

For details I will refer you to Mark Sissson’s primal blueprint, or Tim’s Slow Carb Diet. But for me the basics are really simple: I avoid bread, pasta, and any desserts or sugary drinks including fruit juice. And the idea of buying soda for home consumption or even ordering one at a restaurant is as horrifying to me as drinking drain cleaner. If your goal is fat loss, Do Not Drink Calories!

Instead I eat mostly vegetables, nuts, eggs,  oils (mostly olive but with no rules against butter and coconut oil!) and an average amount of minimally processed meats and dairy. It’s your basic low-carb diet, and I’ve found a 100% correlation between bending the rules of this diet (occasional pizza and beer), and the rapid softening of my waistline. If you haven’t tried this way of eating yet, you might be pleasantly surprised with how easy it is.

Related Article: The Amazing Waist-Slimming, Wallet-Fattening Nutrient

That’s it. Sure, there is much more to fitness than these five principles, but they are big ones, and enough go get started. This is infinitely better than not getting started, so let’s go.

Further Reading:

The New York Times, on why exercise should be a rewarding part of your daily life, not just a chore you treat like a health prescription. 

Gary Taubes writes and rants about how our high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diet is the source of most of our problems. I saw some of his articles in the NYTimes, then moved on to read his book “Why We Get Fat.” I’m torn on this, because there is still scientific debate on the ideal diet and some reputable doctor friends disagree with me. But my own results and a recent rigorous blood test are good enough to keep me very enthusiastically on the high fat, high-vegetable, low-carb diet.

Klaus Obermeyer, now 96, inspires you by refusing to age, citing benefits of keeping active as the decades pass.

*Spinlister is a pretty cool invention and I want them to succeed. If you’re visiting Longmont (for example to do a DIY bike-powered version of the brewery tour), you can rent bikes from the impressive fleet of one of my friends – his are all the bikes you see on the East Side. You can use my referral code for a $5 credit if desired.

 

  • Evan December 13, 2016, 9:12 pm

    Good workout advice, although cardio is important in combating hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that can result from weight lifting, so I wouldn’t write it off to such a large degree.

    I would say that your diet advice doesn’t match the peer reviewed science and is dangerous from a long-term health prospective. If you’re interested, http://www.atkinsexposed.org/ is written by a medical doctor who has dedicated his life to the dissemination of science-based nutrition advice and cites over a thousand references, including many peer reviewed articles in explaining why a low-carb diet is dangerous.

    Frankly speaking, Mark Sisson and Tim Ferriss aren’t qualified to talk about nutrition, especially from a long-term health perspective. I have read others, such as Lorne Cordain, and they manipulate the science to try to fit it to their ideology rather than asking what the truth is about the health consequences of their diet advice. If you look at any reputable science on the topic, it’s extremely clear that diets high in fat (more specifically, high in animal products) lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some forms of cancer, Alzheimer’s and a host of other conditions. This has been shown both on a population basis and through mechanistic means.

    Lifting heavy weights with a low-carb diet is a recipe for heart disease. The exercise regime without compensating cardio activity could lead to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and the high fat/cholesterol/protein content of the diet will lead to the development of atherosclerosis.

    Please at least look into all of these topics before suggesting that a low carb diet is a suitable diet to promote health. Yes, cutting out processed food is a start in the western world but that is setting the bar extremely low. A high-carbohydrate, plant-based, whole-food diet has been scientifically shown to be the most healthy diet for humans both in terms of immediate health improvement and long-term disease reduction. If you want sources of information on the topic, I would be happy to provide them.

    Reply
    • Amanda December 14, 2016, 7:39 am

      The guy behind Atkins Exposed is a well-known vegan, so excuse me if I take that site with a humongous grain of salt.

      Reply
    • Marc December 14, 2016, 7:48 am

      I beg to differ with you on your statement on peer reviewed science. If you simply search google scholar for “Meta-analysis” + “saturated fats” + “Coronary Heart Disease” you will find that one of the newer meta-analyses comes to the conclusion and I quote “There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.”
      Reference – http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.short

      Meta-analysis is the process of combining various previous studies to increase the precision in estimating the effect of some factor on another (i.e. Saturated fats on Coronary Heart Disease).

      Reply
    • Matt S December 14, 2016, 9:28 am

      I was going to post something similar – a lot what Taubes spouts in Why We Get Fat has not shown true in scientific studies. I know that the Nutrition Science Initiative (co-founded by Taubes) recently did a study and found no link between low-carb ketogenic diets leading to greater energy expenditure (and thus fat loss) relative to a high-carbohydrate diet.

      Granted, the study didn’t prove that low-carb diets don’t work – it just failed to show low-carb as the magic bullet it is sometimes espoused to be. I can personally attest that a low-carb diets does work (for me anyway), but I believe the mechanisms for why it works are probably different than the ones described by Taubes in his books. A lot of experts that I’ve read seem to think it’s the fact that when people go on low-carb diets they also tend to eat more protein as an alternative, which is more satiating than carbs. Eating more protein vs. carbs then leads to less overall calorie consumption and thus weight loss. The “more protein” hypothesis seems to hold up better scientifically than Taubes’ “insulin-response” hypothesis.

      Anyway, I don’t think that you’re giving bad advice exactly – if anything, I think the truth is that there are many healthy diets and that most people could greatly improve by just avoiding desserts and soda and eating more meat, veggies, and fruit. Not very complicated!

      Reply
    • Paul December 14, 2016, 12:34 pm

      I followed the generally accepted conventional wisdom from the medical community re nutrition and exercise for years and my weight kept creeping up, my blood work slowly got worse as I aged, and my blood pressure continued to get higher. I finally decided to try a lower carb-higher fat diet and replaced some of my cycling with resistance training. I lost 25 lbs, my BP is now normal, and my blood work is now back to what it was 15 years ago. Sometimes I wonder which side of the diet debate has been infected with ideology. Most scientific studies on nutrition are based on observational studies and are therefore very unreliable, so be careful of the “orthodoxy”. Check out the writings of Gary Taubes and Peter Attia.

      Every housewife from the 1950s knew how to lose weight: stop eating breads, pasta, and other carbs, and eat more meat and veggies. This was the standard diet in the military when a new recruit enlisted who was obese.

      Every person is an experiment of one, so YMMV.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache December 15, 2016, 9:35 am

        YES – Stories like Paul’s story (and a few hundred similar ones) were the reason I got into this controversial-to-science-I-thought-was-established low carb / high fat stuff. In fact, here is the article where I first discovered it in 2012:

        http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/08/07/mr-money-mustache-vs-marks-daily-apple/

        I decided to simply try it out for myself, and the results have been hard to deny: I can control fat while holding on to muscle SO much more easily now! Then, every other athletic person I know has found the same thing: Excess Carbs = Body fat. High dietary fat = a full tummy so you don’t feel like eating until you’ve burned it all off. Plus an odd tendency for muscle to not fade away as I had with deliberate calorie restriction on my old a carb-based diet.

        So, I gave up established science for a “study of one”, and am too hooked on the results to ever go back.

        Reply
    • Euclidean December 14, 2016, 1:27 pm

      Given the low level of activity the average westerner actually does, a high carb diet is horrible. I never felt better on a low carb diet during uni, and I was cycling 40 minutes a day, had a physical job, and lifted 3 times a week. I eat more carbs these days mainly since I do between 5-7 hours of BJJ a week, but even so, it’d be less than the average person

      Reply
    • RobbyJ December 14, 2016, 1:28 pm

      Pete suggests biking & walking everywhere you go, which is plenty of cardio for any person. There are many points to address, but by the way you frame your argument it’s clear you’re not looking for a real discussion of the topic, so I’ll leave it there.

      Reply
      • Tom December 14, 2016, 2:51 pm

        I would say this is framed persuasively. Diets with a relatively high percentage (40-50) of carbohydrates, such as the Mediterranean diet, have consistently been shown to be among the most advantageous in terms of long-term health. Cutting curbs entirely (or almost entirely) may be a good way to crash diet and lose weight, but there’s nothing from a scientific perspective to suggest that eating carbs in moderation is bad for you. Nor is there anything to suggest that drinking an occasional glass of orange juice will make the sky fall.

        MMM actually acknowledges all of this towards the end–“there is still scientific debate on the ideal diet and some reputable doctor friends disagree with me.” People are obviously free to eat how they wish, and if this kind of diet helps you lose weight, all the power to you. I think it’s fair and correct, however, to note that (1) a lot of this is based on the advice of heavily marketed self-help plans that lack a significant scientific background, and (2) there is a weight of scientific evidence out there that disputes this kind of plan.

        Reply
    • PeasantFoodie December 14, 2016, 2:00 pm

      I have to mention the diet advice as well – there is no ideal diet. It’s a myth – but laying off of refined carbohydrates is pretty good standard advice. (Dairy is high in carbs, and so are whole fruits – but they have some great micronutrients you need). And judging your heath by your six-pack isn’t a great idea (genetics).

      That being said, Move More, Eat Whole Foods (and not in front of a screen) is an excellent idea.

      Reply
    • Buried December 14, 2016, 2:46 pm

      It’s not low-carb so much as it is no-junk.

      That being said, every time I’ve done a low-carb diet I’ve felt 100% better, lost weight, & had more energy.
      It’s great until I start listening to everyone who sabotages my progress then end up back where I was.
      When I was lifting & eating about 3,000 calories a day my belt was getting looser & my arms were getting bigger. I was doing exactly what MMM is saying here. It works. Carrying around 30lbs of fat your whole life is FAR worse than not doing a bit of cardio.

      Reply
    • Tim R December 14, 2016, 4:48 pm

      Huh. I’m vegan, and trying to move in the direction of a ketosis diet (very low carbs, high protein and fat). If that’s bad for me, I’d like to know! So I would be interested in sources of information on this topic.

      Reply
      • Amanda December 14, 2016, 5:09 pm

        I just read MMM say in a different post that he believes Vegetarianism and Veganism to be more ethical and/or healthy. I highly recommend a listen to these 2 podcasts to refute this: http://www.danielvitalis.com/rewild-yourself-podcast/why-im-not-a-vegan-daniel-vitalis-94?rq=omnivore
        http://www.danielvitalis.com/rewild-yourself-podcast/why-im-a-conscientious-omnivore-daniel-vitalis-arthur-haines-100?rq=omnivore

        Reply
        • Tim R December 16, 2016, 11:11 am

          Thanks Amanda, I’ll have a listen – these look quite good. I have recently read a couple well-argued posts from organic farmers about the environmental impacts of veganism, which affect the ethics. So I am probably familiar with the main points made.

          I am not sold on the argument, but anyone with an alternative to factory farming is a friend of mine!

          Of course, you can eat healthily or unhealthily as vegan or omnivore. I’m mystified why so many vegans seem to feel bound to adopt ridiculous health arguments. Grass-fed beef is good for you, moderation in all things, etc.

          It’s inventions like this that will ultimately change people’s eating habits, I think: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/12/revolution-begun-beyond-meat.html

          Reply
      • DCJRMusctachian December 15, 2016, 2:42 am

        A lot of very prominent doctors/organizations* find that a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do. Keep going! A couple of items to stay away from are sugar and junk food, and minimize other “empty” carbs like white flour and white rice. Protein and fat are probably not going to hurt much as long as you keep active. Maybe add back in some good carbs like wheat bread and potatoes.

        I think MMM is envious of those who are badass enough to go vegan. He himself is paleo, which means he eats a lot of veggies, but he’s still stuck on expensive meat. Vegan staples like beans, wheat flour, brown rice, etc are very cheap too, so its a great way to eat wonderful food while accomplishing your saving goals.

        *Some references to check out; The China Study, PCRM, Plantpure Nation, Forks Over Knives, vegucated, etc.

        Reply
        • Tim R December 16, 2016, 11:13 am

          Thanks, DCJR, I will check those out. I’m keeping salads and so on as light carbs, of course. :-)

          Reply
      • american in canada December 16, 2016, 4:02 pm

        Tim, technically, ketosis involves eating high fat but not too high protein. If you eat too much protein your body will covert it to glucose (via gluconeogenesis). Eating to maintain ketosis has been amazing for me – I’ve been doing it for about 18 months now to help reduce my chronic migraine.
        Best source of info I know is eating academy: http://eatingacademy.com/nutrition/ketosis-advantaged-or-misunderstood-state-part-i

        It may be difficult to do it as a vegan. Look into adding some MCT oil into your diet.

        Reply
        • Tim R December 18, 2016, 10:36 am

          Wow, that link is in-depth – I’ll use it to get educated. Thanks for the note re: protein. I think it is harder as a vegan, though a couple of dedicated websites exist, e.g. http://meatfreeketo.com

          Reply
    • Rod December 14, 2016, 6:56 pm

      Have you read Weston Price’s “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”? He studied the diets of traditional societies and found a large variety of macro-nutrient combinations. The consistent point being natural foods and in the case of animal based foods – the animal is following a natural diet too. Is it surprising that we develop problems if we are eating cows fed grain when that’s not their natural diet? (He also noted fermented foods as a consistent factor). Some people work better on higher carb, some on higher fat, some on a balanced ratio. Try different combinations, check your waist line, get the blood tests and you will soon work out what works best for you.

      MMM – loaded carries too. Grab a heavy load in one hand and go for a walk, your core will take care of itself.
      Spend some time getting down on the ground and back up again too – great for maintaining mobility!

      Reply
      • Carrie Willard December 15, 2016, 5:27 am

        Rod, I read this book and was fascinated with WaPF for years. What I found astounding is that Price traveled the world, convinced that vegetarianism was the perfect diet, and found that there was NO native population that ate vegetarian! So his paradigm was blown. Hindu Indians eat veg, but they don’t live as long as meat-eaters (Asian and French women outlive everyone, and they’re omnivores).

        Veg does NOT agree with everyone. I gave it a go twice in my life, for a year each time, and both times I suffered health consequences.

        Reply
    • Nate December 14, 2016, 7:42 pm

      I’m with you on the diet, but is there any actual evidence that weight lifting (with or with out cardio) contributes to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy? Isn’t it mostly commonly caused by a genetic mutation?

      Reply
    • Marushka December 15, 2016, 2:55 am

      I think you have misread MMM’s article if you think he’s on the Atkins diets. The Atkins diet is a High Protein diet, and for weeks you aren’t supposed to eat any vegetables. Any diet that limits vegetables is bad from the get go. From what MMM has written, his diet is nothing like the Atkins’ diet. What I understand of reading this post is that MMM eats lots of fruit and vegetables, nuts, protein and good fats. Little sugar. Lots of vegetables! Vegetable are carbohyates! (You keep mentioning he’s on a low carbohydate diet. As mentioned before … the Atkins diet limits vegetables because… they are a carboyhydates!).

      The latest research show that a person’s health is mainly determined by their gut bacteria (gut microbiome). There’s are many different medical institutes who have been doing research and testing trials on this. To try to summarise this: The more diverse and numerous a persons’s gut bacteria, the more likely they are to be healthy. Diets that promote good gut bacteria are diets high in fibre, particularly the fibre from fruit and vegetables. One of the last hunter gatherer societies in the modern world – the Hudzabe of Africa, that eat up to 200g of fibre a day from F&V (compared to a lot of people on a bad diet in the Western World who have less than 20g of fibre a day), have extremely diverse and healthy gut bacteria. Diets low in fibre that result in very limited gut bacteria result in obesity and diabetes, and auto-immune conditions such as asthma and other inflammatory conditions.

      You mention that diets high in (animals) fat are really bad. Again, I don’t know how this relevant to what MMM has said – he eats Good Fats. Eating some animal fat in a basically healthy diet is not bad. It just sound like you are one of the Fat is Bad, You Should be on a Low-Fat Diet Brigade. If so, you have behind on the research. The real culprit of most modern health problems is turning out to be sugar.

      That is, unless you’re looking at research funded by the American Sugar Association. Of course it is in their best (profit margin) interest to keep saying that Sugar Is Not Bad For You, Fat Is, and they keep saying it, despite all the new research. The same as the tobacco industry kept saying that smoking didn’t cause lung cancer.

      Fat is Good. I’m talking about good fat in a healthy diet. (Of course eating high fat foods like MacDonalds is bad, but that is processed food high in sugar and fat with carbs but no vegetables and no fibre! No argument that kind of diet is bad). Good fats from eggs, avocado, nuts, good oils isn’t bad at all. If you’re also eating lots of fruit and vegetables, plus protein, and yes, even some animal fat, with very little processed food and very little sugar – that’s a healthy diet. Saying that MMM is damaging his health being on this kind of diet is just laughable. All because he isn’t eating some bread and grains?? The Hudzuke don’t eat grains, the Australian Aborigine before the invasion didn’t eat grains. The Hudzuke are exceptionally healthy. The Australian Aborigine was exceptionally healthy before the introduction of a Western diet.

      In a healthy diet (as defined above, eating lots of healthy fats) you can get 50% of your calories from fats, be healthy, have NO visceral fat, your appetite control works properly (you only eat when you’re hungry, you don’t crave food all the time), and according to medical tests, have excellent liver function and ….. far from being on the road to diabetes, you’re at the other end in excellent health in every way.

      Most “low fat” diets substitute sugar for fat. The Low Fat Brigade say that Fat is Bad and you need to cut it out of your diet. The new research says that (healthy) fat stops hunger cravings, whereas a diet high in sugar puts people on a treadmill of being constantly hungry, but when they eat they aren’t satisified, so they eat more.

      Here are links to two TV science shows about the Gut Microbiome. They are Australian, and it is a popular science shows directed to the general public, but the names of some of the respected research institutes are given, and their research. (Some of the research mentioned is in America)>

      http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/gut_reaction_part_1/
      http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4511643.htm (gut reaction part 2)

      Hey MMM – did you know about the American Gut Project that has their headquarters in Boulder Colorado… If you haven’t, you could get a kit from them and contribute. You could see how healthy you are from the results…. (Watch the videos above to learn about the American Gut Project).

      There is a really interesting documentary called That Sugar Film by an Australian called Damon Gameau. He went from a healthy (yes, lots of Good Fats, plus lots of fruit and vegetables, protein), onto a Sugar Diet for 60 days. When I say Sugar Diet – no candy, no junk, just Hidden Sugars from Supposedly Healthy Low Fat Foods. He did it under the supervision of doctors who monitored his health, took blood tests etc.
      Basically, he ate the same kind of food that most Australians (the 60% of Australians are obese) eat – that is Hidden Sugars in processed foods – ones that are touted as being healthy. (That they should eat because they are Low Fat. That they should eat Instead of Fat).

      It is really fascinating. His health deteriorated, and he went from being excellent health with excellent liver function, to lots of visercal fat on his belly, and on the road to diabetes.

      The most fascinating of all, is that the “fact” that we have been told for so long that a calories = a calorie = a calorie (e.g. 1 calorie of sugar = 1 calorie of broccoli), and that if you just eat more calories than you burn, you lose weight… seems to not be true, and would explain why so many people find it hard to lose weight.
      Damon’s calorie intake (2300 calories per day) did not change before/through/after the experiment. But he put on 8kg, put on 10cm around his waist by substituting sugar for healthy fats. His weight returned to normal (lost the weight he put on during the experiment), eating the same amount of calories he did during the experiment. Substituting good fats for bad sugar.

      Reply
      • Marushkak December 15, 2016, 5:47 am

        Should have said “eat less calories than you burn, you lose weight”….

        Reply
      • Marushka December 15, 2016, 1:14 pm

        Sorry, meant to say “if you just eat LESS calories than you burn, you lose weight” ….

        Reply
      • nic December 16, 2016, 8:33 am

        I watched this movie too and it is SUCH an eye opener. I was shocked at the sugar content in many “healthy” foods – yogurts, granola cars, those small cans of fruit that go into kids lunchboxes….it is absolutely shocking. Spaghetti sauces, I never thought to look for sugar content on spaghetti sauce but it is so much higher than I would ever have anticipated. I have read nutrition labels for years…always looking at fat, salt and fiber, and never thinking about sugar. Now I am thinking about sugar and it is a HUGE eye opener!

        Reply
    • Kaylee December 15, 2016, 5:21 am

      Great post Evan!

      The problem with the type of diet MMM recommends is that limiting carbs and eating high fat and protein animal foods is that it works…in the short term. People often do lose weight on this type of plan (probably from caloric restriction and cutting out processed food) but it’s difficult to maintain and, as you mentioned, there are serious long term health consequences from eating what is essentially a re-packaged and heavily marketed resurrection of the Atkins diet.

      People love hearing good things about bad habits. They want to continue to eat their burgers and bacon, and all the better if some celebrity author like Tim Ferriss confirms they can. Going plant-based is viewed as too much of a wholesale change, despite the fact that not only has this diet been demonstrated to be the healthiest on a long term basis but also the best for the planet.

      On a side note, I’m always a little surprised that MMM, who appears very cognizant of his impact on the environment, doesn’t consider the devastating impact of factory farming on the environment. I wonder if he’s watched Cowspiracy? That seems right up his alley.

      Reply
    • Ellen December 15, 2016, 12:39 pm

      My physician recommended a really useful book when I asked about ways to get healthier (esp. cholesterol) based on peer-reviewed medical research. She recommended “Eat to Live” by Joel Fuhrman, MD. The philosophy behind his view of human nutrition is to maximize the nutrition per calorie consumed. Which leads to a plant-based, whole food diet with healthy fats (e.g. from nuts) and adequate protein (also plant-based sources).

      While I recommend Fuhrman’s overall thinking, I especially recommend the data-driven basis of the approach. There is also a parallel with MMM clear-eyed analysis of spending. I am very healthy and quite active, but I can optimize my health only if I consistently eat very healthy food and no more calories than I utilize.

      Reply
  • Kerrie Solsberg McLoughlin December 13, 2016, 10:22 pm

    Thanks for the bike rental info. My husband is big into biking and was sent to Canada for work recently and just figured he wouldn’t be able to bike at all. I told him to call local bike Shops to see if he could rent one and it worked out great! The renting from locals is even better!

    Reply
  • kiwano December 13, 2016, 10:46 pm

    A few notes on pushups for people who don’t always have some extra weight handy to keep them challenging:

    – Consider your body as a lever and your arms as levers. It’s really common to see people doing pushups with their hands on the ground beside their shoulders, maybe a litle bit up towards their heads. These are bullshit slacker pushups. Put your hands right under your shoulders, maybe inching them towards your feet a little so they’d be directly under your shoulders when fully extended, so that every inch your arms extend is an inch that your shoulders lift off the ground. If your arms were at an angle where you were only getting 2/3 of an inch of shoulder lift for every inch of arm extension, doing your pushups right will allow you get 50% more resistance from the same exercise, without having to round up any weights (living or otherwise) to put on your back while you exercise. And if you do put weight on, remember that weight at your shoulders counts nearly twice as much as weight at your waist, because you’re lifting it nearly twice as high with the same movement.

    – Don’t count your pushups, time them. When you do a slower pushup, not only are your applying the force necessary to move your body to where it’ll be when your arms are extended, but you’re milking every second for that extra bit of resistance against just plain falling back down. Try to make a single pushup last for an entire minute. This is the sort of thing that yoga takes huge advantage of.

    – Ok, maybe count some pushups, but clap your hands when you do them. If you want to build your fast twitch muscles instead of just your slow twitch muscles, then you’ll want some of that sudden explosive exertion, rather than the minute-long resistance from one long pushup. So if you’re going to give an explosive burst of force, go the whole hog and push yourself off the ground so hard that you’ve still got some upward momentum when your arms reach full extension. If you leave the ground with enough force that you’ve got time to clap your hands before you land, then you’re getting this kind of pushup right.

    Completely unrelated to pushups, I once worked in an office where there were escalators, and an alarmed emergency staircase. Based on my experience there, I’m inclined to suggest that it’s totally ok to ride the escalator — if you use the handrails to do dips while you’re riding it.

    Reply
    • The Vigilante December 14, 2016, 6:54 am

      All good advice!

      I have two former neighbors who taught me these same things. One was a jacked ex-Marine who insisted that pushups are not done properly unless (1) the hands are closer to your nipples than your shoulders and (2) your elbows stay close to your sides (although I’m not sure whether that came from his Marine days or his decades of bodybuilding experience). The other was a personal trainer who still lives next door to my parents, who taught me that the time spent on a rep is, for most purposes, more important than the number of reps completed. He proved his point by coaching me through some dips that left my arms sore for days. Anecdotal? Yes. But was he right? Also yes.

      Reply
  • Gold Medal Finance December 13, 2016, 10:48 pm

    Great article – I wish most people understood this!

    My personal GYM involves a scenic route to run (for free) around near my home, the same to cycle around, as well as free weights in my house which I picked up second hand years ago.

    I’ve been working out for years using this now and it hasn’t cost me a penny :)

    Whenever I have to actually use a GYM (usually when travelling for work) I find it painful. The 10KM I find it so enjoyable and refreshing to jog out in the open becomes painfully boring on a treadmill. Same for the exercise bike.

    Really, anybody who has read this article has no excuse not to be in shape.

    Reply
  • Matt December 14, 2016, 2:01 am

    A few helpful resources for beginners:

    – the book Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe
    – the Strong Lifts website
    – Youtube channels from the above and many others. I’ve found Alan Thrall helpful.

    – For people that want to do endurance work too, the biggest mistake people make is using roughly the same intensity every time. 75% of your workouts should be really, really easy (not short, just low speed or intensity). Then once or twice a week you do a hard day which needs to be really, really hard, not just kind of hard because you’re weren’t fresh and fully recovered. And remember to take at least one or two days off per week.

    Reply
  • Carrie Willard December 14, 2016, 4:07 am

    Love this. I think the obsession with the idea that one has to join a gym or take classes to get fit is part of the whole “I have to rely on an expert/product in the marketplace” to do anything in my life worldview that is so common these days.

    One can find so much FREE gym equipment on Craigslist. I have a mom friend who collects free gym stuff, cleans it up a little and flips it for profit on Craigslist as a nice little side gig.

    Staying slim and fit is my personal rebellion against the narrative that “babies ruin your figure”. I’ve had seven of ’em, and I’m the same size as my slim 13 year old daughter. I really dislike it when women blame their precious babies for their crappy diet or lack of movement. I’ve never met a baby that didn’t LOVE being walked in a sling. Toddlers are human kettlebells, they love to be swung and thrown up in the air or used as extra resistance for push-ups.

    You can burn a crap ton of calories just carrying them around all day. My biceps never looked better than when I have a little baby in arms!

    Reply
    • ClaireB December 14, 2016, 10:36 am

      Please, let’s not body shame moms on this site. It is wonderful that you’ve been able to maintain your figure.

      Reply
  • Marcie in the Martimes December 14, 2016, 5:20 am

    Slave away at running? Hardly. Running is very good for your mental and physical health. Cardio and strength training are both very beneficial. It does not have to be one or the other. A woman would hardly create enough muscle mass to burn the calories suggested here. It is still important for women to strength train. There is nothing like a nice run in the snow here in the winter to make you feel good. PS I absolutely agree about the stairs. Also my coworkers feel bad for me for biking to work and walking in the winter and I keep trying to convince them that it is very enjoyable and they do not understand.

    Reply
  • Chris December 14, 2016, 5:23 am

    Great post! If more people took responsibility for themselves like MMM, the world would be a much better place, with healthier people, lower health care costs, and heavier wallets.

    Reply
  • Max December 14, 2016, 5:40 am

    Darn it!! Now that I’ve read this post, it’s going to haunt me for the rest of the year, and through the holidays no less! Great advice as usual, 99% of any rebuttal would simply be an excuse. I’m about to turn 40, and it’s time I got my butt in gear. A low carb diet coupled with strength training has always worked for me in the past, but my biggest weakness is an affinity for all things foodie…first world struggles indeed.

    Reply
  • Rasmusj December 14, 2016, 5:48 am

    “You’ll love the fun of doing this ridiculous thing together in public, and the reactions you’ll get from the strangers, almost as much as you love your new sculpted and bulging quadriceps and buttocks muscles . Pain equals gain!”

    Man I think you are ready to do infomacials :D

    Reply
    • Rasmusj December 14, 2016, 5:51 am

      Ohh, and I am fine about a lot of the other stuff you write.
      Can mention that when I drive to work (yep, I do that sometimes, working on changing that), I always park at the far end of the parking lot, so that I at least get a little walk forth and back :)

      Reply
  • Hulu December 14, 2016, 5:51 am

    What is the utility of physical strength? Any correlation to mental or spiritual strength?

    I like the idea of gamification so might start up breakdancing which is really good for strength. Thanks for making me think so early in the morning!

    Reply
  • Fahd December 14, 2016, 5:57 am

    What are people’s thoughts on the 7 minute workouts the New York Times pu online a couple years ago? I am a big fan of interval training but fell of significantly the past several months and need something to get going again.

    Reply
    • Matt December 15, 2016, 7:42 pm

      Interval, AKA VO2Max workouts are a useful tool, but if your plan is to do that every workout, that is an extremely bad idea. There are two likely outcomes:

      1) You do real interval training every workout 3-5 days a week. You quickly overtrain and run yourself into the ground. Depending on how much you overtrain, you may or may not show any improvement, but you would undoubtedly improve a lot more with a sensible endurance training plan and/or a good strength training program.

      2) You devolve over time into doing half-assed interval training, which isn’t interval training at all. You fall into the so called valley of death. Every workout is roughly the same and to make that remotely sustainable, it will be medium intensity. It will feel like a high intensity workout because you never get to properly recover to do a truly hard workout, which is essential to the concept of an interval workout. You will improve very slowly with lots of plateaus, while still working at the upper limit of what is sustainable recovery-wise.

      Roughly 75% of endurance workouts should be easy. Like, “does this even count as exercise?” easy runs or whatever you do. Interval training should generally only be done once a week. You might be able to get away with twice a week in a serious, periodized program where you’re used to very high work volumes. To understand endurance training of any kind, read Daniel’s Running Formula. You can easily extrapolate it to other sports by looking at durations instead of distances. If you want to learn how to do strength training, start with the book Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. I suggest doing a periodized combination of the two.

      Reply
  • Sue December 14, 2016, 6:25 am

    Brilliant post Mr MM. I’m glad I’m not the only person who can see how insanely some people live their lives! Not only does walking/gardening/housework save you money and keep you fit but it also massively increases your sense of well being! I am hitting the big 50 next spring and am giving up my miserable, lethargic, desk bound job for a local gardening job. It’s a win win – I can save money by not commuting, enjoy the outdoors, keep fit and get a tan! Wahoooo!

    Reply
  • saveinvestbecomefree December 14, 2016, 7:00 am

    Excellent and inspiring post. I’m a long-time proponent of weight lifting and exercise in general (BTW I’ve seen millionaire surveys where 98% of the respondents say their health is their most important asset). But with a very busy schedule and young kids, I’ve given myself the excuse that I don’t have enough time to weight lift consistently. This is BS and your article called me out. I already have a nice freeweight set in the basement and I’ll be going down each day even if it’s a short workout, instead of the 1-2x per week I’ve been doing. The difference between a little bit of weight lifting and none at all is quite significant. Thanks for the reminder and face punch!

    Reply
  • Jona December 14, 2016, 7:12 am

    I would like to add Darebee.com to the resources, it’s a great way to keep yourself motivated to work on your physique, has loads of resources, has a great team working on it, and is completely free.

    Reply
  • ClaireB December 14, 2016, 7:17 am

    My YMCA has free childcare, so yes I will continue to go there. Date night! Or morning. Free childcare exchange only works if there are other couples you know that have free time to watch your kids and I don’t live near any mustachians with kids.

    Reply
  • Jr December 14, 2016, 7:45 am

    I just can’t seem to make non endurance exercises fun. I absolutely love running longish distances (15+ mile runs on trail and road) and riding 100k+ on my bike but anything related to weight training just feels like a chore. I have not been able to find a routine of weight training that I can stick with for more than a couple weeks at a time.

    Reply
    • Suvi December 15, 2016, 7:16 am

      Same. I try because of health and vanity, but find it very hard to enjoy any weight training. Where as long distance puts my mind at ease. I think it’s differences in our disposition, maybe based on dominating muscle type.

      Reply
    • Matt December 15, 2016, 8:08 pm

      I used to feel the same way. I found a few changes that make a big difference:

      1) big compound exercises only. No more isolation exercises like bicep curls, tricep extensions, leg extensions, leg press, etc.

      2) heavy barbell exercises and pull-up variations only. Dumbbells should be regarded as rehab tools or for senior citizens too frail to use even an empty bar. No more machines or cables except for rehabbing, etc.

      3) aim for 3+ sets of 5 reps. Not 10 or 12 or 8 or whatever. If you can do that many reps, the weight is probably too light for you. Take as long as you need to fully recover between sets. We’re talking about strength training here, not muscular endurance or interval training stuff.

      4) don’t do anything that could be described as more awkward than difficult. No more screwing around with single leg exercises or Bosu ball crap or bands or kettlebells or silly balancing acts. You’re trying to make your muscles stronger, not practice technique for a sport here. If the exercise doesn’t scale to making long term progress, AKA adding weight, don’t do it. You can only add so much weight to sit-ups or Pallov press or most machine and body weight exercises other than pull-ups before it becomes unwieldy.

      5) try to do full body workouts every time using 3-5 different exercises. give yourself a minimum of one rest day between workouts. You want to stick to the same lifts so you can get better at them, not constantly mixing things up. That will ensure you never make progress.

      6) they’re not the best place for beginners to start, but the Olympic lifts can be a lot of fun. Squats, deadlifts, standing overhead press, flat barbell benchpress, Pendlay rows, and weighted chinups or neutral grip pull-ups are the kinds of lifts to build your program out of.

      7) Make PROGRESS! As a beginner, you should try to add weight to the bar every single time in whatever the smallest increment available is.

      Reply
    • Chris I December 23, 2016, 7:37 am

      Have you tried rock climbing? Like you, I enjoy long runs and bike rides, and hate standing in a room and lifting weights. Rock climbing is fantastic strength training, but has an element of risk/reward and accomplishment. Combining running/cycling/rock climbing, I have never had to worry about maintaining my weight.

      Reply
  • Primal Prosperity December 14, 2016, 8:25 am

    I actually have the Primal Blueprint Expert Certification. However, I don’t advocate the diet as a one-size fits all though, and I minimize animal products in favor of fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. I also like the concepts in Eat to Live, by Dr. Fuhrman. I always walk up and down stairs, and being car free, it is not unusual for me to walk 5 miles a day in the nicer weather. Once a month, I go on a “walk-about”, where I walk for about 4 hours, just wandering, with no particular destination and just think and ponder. You are correct that we are meant to move all day long. One hour at the gym doesn’t cut it, if we sit all day.

    Another great resource is Katy Bowman, of Nutritious Movement.

    Reply
    • Primal Prosperity December 14, 2016, 9:03 am

      I’m curious, do you do any kind of fasting, one meal a day, or other non-traditional approaches in lieu of the three meals a day?

      Reply
  • BH December 14, 2016, 8:44 am

    MMM:

    You have to click on this link. Jaromir Jagr is now the oldest hockey player in the NHL (44 years old). He passed Gordie Howe in scoring and is just 4 points behind Mark Messier. After Messier he will be number 2 in all time scoring after Gretzky (sorry he won’t ever catch him). One of his secrets:

    He has done 1000 squats per day since he was 7 years old:

    http://www.stack.com/a/jaromir-jagrs-insane-training-routine-includes-1000-squats-per-day

    Reply
  • David D December 14, 2016, 8:45 am

    Great post. I just did 50 push ups at the office before typing this. Diet wise, we differ. At my house we are fans of the McDougall diet concept. https://www.drmcdougall.com/index.php. We aren’t perfect, but we mainly eat pasta, potatoes, rice, and other carbs as our primary source of calories. We limit fats and animal protein. This type of diet is what generations of people around the world have eaten to live. Now we break from this diet regularly, but in general this is what we do. The science supports it as a way to minimize disease in life. Who knows which is really better for any individual, but it works for us…energy is steady throughout the day, health is amazing, and fitness has always been important to us.

    Reply
  • ESI Money December 14, 2016, 8:50 am

    1. YOU ARE RIPPED!!!!!

    2. I belong to a $149 luxury gym, which I’m sure you find disgusting. I also pay a trainer. I’ve gone from 28% body fat to 16% and going down. Between the four in our family, we use the gym about 60 times a month, so the per use cost is ok.

    3. If I worked out outside I’m 90% positive that the neighbors would call the police.

    4. I live in Colorado Springs, so there’s lots of free stuff to do to keep in shape — trails, the incline, Pike’s Peak. You should come down sometime and do the incline with me. I’ll watch you run up and down it three times while I try to make it to the top. :)

    Reply
  • Jane December 14, 2016, 8:52 am

    My exercise regime was weighted gloves, ankle weights, & power walking. I’d go about 5 kilometers as fast as I could, doing arm rolls, off & on, as I walked.

    When I got home, I did about 20 minutes of Totalgym workout.

    All cheap to purchase & you wouldn’t believe how strong & lean you become. The Totalgym I have was only about $200 & I actually wore out the wheels & had to get replacements! It’s the best exercise machine I’ve seen & is extremely versatile & low joint impact. The more expensive one allows for weights to be added.

    My eating plan was basically modified Atkins. It was the healthiest I’d been in my whole life. At 48, I was taken for early 30’s.

    Unfortunately, a major car accident in 2011 sort of ruined that for me. Shoulders, back, hip- all damaged. I’m still in physio for the back, even now.

    But! I’m going to find a way to exercise somehow! It’s just proving to be a bit of a challenge.

    Good luck to everyone who is inspired to get fitter.

    :)

    Reply
  • Kathy O December 14, 2016, 8:53 am

    Thanks. This is a great Christmas present to your followers. I plan to spend the rest of December and January working my way through your individual strength exercises. I like the idea of incorporating a couple of them into my life every day.

    Reply
  • Brad December 14, 2016, 9:03 am

    Great article MMM! A free resource that I’ve been loving over the past few months is Mark Divine’s Sealfit Yoga: http://sealfit.com/yoga/

    In particular the first ~5 minutes of Warrior Yoga Short Form A and B. This is a fantastic workout, really connects your breathing to your movement (so there’s a meditative aspect to it) and helps with flexibility as well. It took me a while to get to the point where I could do them only breathing through my nose as he suggests, so that was a nice accomplishment.

    The other thing I’m loving is the Gymnastic Strength Training that Tim Ferriss talks about. Though not free, the Fundamentals course wasn’t terribly expensive (Tim had a link for a discount) and I’m glad I purchased it. These are some amazing full body exercises and it only takes about 10 minutes per day.

    Reply
  • TrevorMeth December 14, 2016, 9:38 am

    MMM, loved the article. Then as I admired your well formed back squat, (i’m a weightlifting coach) I noticed something horrifying! Not to mention, there is something in the picture that is a TOTAL WASTE OF MONEY! If you must insist on having one, you could have easily built it yourself! I’m talking about the barbell pad you’re using! Don’t you know you could’ve built one yourself?!?! It’s called your TRAPS! :) :) :) No seriously, great squat form!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 15, 2016, 1:54 pm

      Yeah, the crossfit coach said the same thing, back when I had a short stint at the local outfit.

      Me: Can I use a foam pad to protect my shoulders for these squats?
      Coach James: Only if it goes with your purse.

      Since there are no bossy coaches around, I’m all over that little 45 cent piece of pipe insulation now. Less pain from the bar means more concentration on the legs, for me.

      However, I acknowledge that you don’t NEED the foam pad. Back when I was about 20 pounds larger in my 20s, the muscles up there were pumped up enough to make a bar comfortable without a pad. It also probably depends on your particular bone and body shape.

      Reply
      • Jwheeland December 15, 2016, 2:09 pm

        I’ve found that the callous I got on my back from the bar grips was a badass reminder to keep squatting :)

        Reply
      • Le Barbu December 15, 2016, 5:16 pm

        Stop using the pad, NOW!!

        Seriously, move the bar lower, just under the spine of the scapula. It’s a lot more comfortable, you can load a lot more and go deeper. The gluteus and adductors are more engaged this way. Look at coach Rippetoe teach this on YouTube.

        I am about your shape (5’11” @ 188#) and just did 5 sets of 5 @ 310# today and still improving every week.

        Thank you Pete, since I read your post about weigth lifting, I got under the bar, increased my strength by 50%, gained 15# BW, no more back pain, sleep better etc.

        Reply
  • Joe December 14, 2016, 9:39 am

    Highly recommend Jesse Itzler’s book “Living With a Seal” – documents his training with former Navy SEAL David Goggins, beautifully expanding on this concept.

    Reply
  • Josh December 14, 2016, 9:58 am

    It doesn’t surprise me that FI / paleo / lifting / DIY tend to come together. All of it makes one more bad ass and reflects a specific type of personality, thinking, and critical analysis.

    My favorite benefit of simple and correct barbell workouts is that a very strong core and discipline apply to every day life, which means no stupid injuries. My main problem is that the big muscle groups grow and become a burden. I want to be strong and fit, but I don’t need to tear my pants or chaf because my god damn lats/quads are popping out of everywhere. If you back off from progression, aka maintenance mode, surely the efficiency / calorie burning benefits of this approach diminish.

    I think you undersell cardio. Probably biking around all day at elevation already puts you at the 99% in cardio (VO2/FTW/whatever). Spending time at high heart rate is important for cardiovascular health. It also supports my bastardized philosophy that my personal heart rate is inversely correlated to my potential lifespan.

    PS, why haven’t’ you DIY’ed (to the extent that code allows) a nice big PV array yet? Surely the ROI (6%+ ?) is sufficient for it to represent a excellent component of a well diversified portfolio

    Reply
  • Kevin Knox December 14, 2016, 10:05 am

    Agree with Evan 100% and also have to point out that the muscle-burns-more-fat so forget cardio stuff is utter nonsense. James Fell, who otherwise fits the Mustachian profile pretty well and is every bit as irreverent, offers a concise summary of the actual science here:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/16/health/la-he-fitness-muscle-myth-20110516

    Reply
  • bryan December 14, 2016, 10:06 am

    Loved the article. Thank you so much for taking the time to write your blog.

    The idea that everyone has what they need to be strong and healthy close at hand is important. Learning to cook was the best investment in health and savings. Living a real life where we walk, ride, hammer nails, drill in screws, gather firewood, chop firewood, etc gives a level of overall health. Adding in a hobby such as weights or hiking with heavy loads, etc give further strength, health and mental happiness.

    I didn’t like weights. So I hike. We could start with our kids book bag on. Go from carrying a water bottle, 10, 15, 20, 25 pounds. A year later, when you max out your shoulders around 15 to 25 pounds buy a cheap Craigslist backpack with a hip belt. There is no reason not to carry 45 pounds. Go from hiking around your block to hiking for eight hours in the forest.

    We need to think outside the box too.

    In winter I hike on a rocky (no mud) trail that goes up to the 800 foot hill. Snow and Ice, then I use my wife’s treadmill. It is nice with software to simulate various hills. 30+ pounds for an hour or two is a good workout when mixed with pushups and dips.

    Gather firewood found free at the burn dump, thin the forest for a $20 permit while protecting the town from wildfire. Chainsaw and chop 6 truck loads of wood will give you a fantastic summer long workout and save hundreds of dollars in the process.

    When it comes to health if I have a lot of time to work out then I make life less efficient? Example, I used to haul firewood in the winter using a wheelbarrow. I now use an old canvas tarp. I put wood in the middle, bundle it up and pretend I’m Santa. Maintaining hand strength is the number one benefit of this.

    The ideas are endless and with the right attitude, fun.

    Reply
  • Lucas December 14, 2016, 10:13 am

    Muscle on, MMM! This article is a succinct summary of lots of what David Zinczenko wrote about in the Abs Diet about 15 years ago. I read it in college, learned about major muscle groups and how muscle burns fat 24 hours a day, and have been monkeying around, looking for strength-building opportunities in the built environment, breaking up my office job with push-ups at regular increments, and challenging friends to push-up competitions while drinking beer since then. Whoooo! The burn feels good and bliss is walking around with sore, spent legs after some mega squats. Thanks for writing this.

    Reply
  • Alex Salo December 14, 2016, 10:48 am

    Great summary! A few additional tips:
    1. If you don’t have a barbell for squats and lounges – use your wife (girlfriend)! You put her on your shoulders and exercise playfully. Highly enjoyable and productive, works in any conditions.
    2. If you hate running, but still want to, just play some team sports! Join your local community of soccer or basketball. While in the game, running is much less painful, but you feel all the nice soreness in the muscles after.

    Reply
  • Brian December 14, 2016, 11:04 am

    can you give me an example of what you eat in a day? While I’m at work with no access to a microwave, I eat some nuts and fruits for snacks, but more of peanut butter jelly sandwiches, tuna salad with crackers, and gas station pizza to fill up on. That’s a lot of carbs. I’d love to stop this. I’ve brought to work things like raw cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini. But it’s flavorless and unsatisfying. Sometimes it goes uneaten. You say you eat eggs, nuts and olive oil all day, but how does this provide enough energy? I’m 6’0″ 190 pounds and I eat 4 eggs at breakfast and I’m hungry in an hour, same with 4 handfuls of nuts. Let’s assume one day u are helping to replace a friends roof. You wake up late and skip breakfast. It’s going to be a twelve hour day at work. What do u eat all day?

    Reply
    • Andy December 14, 2016, 1:44 pm

      This needs answering!

      Same question, how can you fill up or get upwards of 3000 calories from vegetables, oils nuts and seeds etc. I can only physically eat enough food and get these calories by including sugar, without this I will feel sick by forcing myself to eat to get these calories. I was around 2700 a day with no weight gain yet I am (6’4″ and 160lbs!)

      Reply
    • Carlos December 14, 2016, 9:46 pm

      Try adding more beans and pulses (chickpeas) to your diet. I ditched meat, dairy and eggs 8 months ago and went whole food, plant based and it’s been great. I’m a big eater and have found that rich, “meaty” bean based dishes with plenty of leafy greens and olive oil will keep me feeling fuller and more energetic for longer than meat based meals. I’m not trying to preach about veganism here, just try it out man! It’s good shit! And don’t worry about protein like a consumer sucka, there’s plenty of everything you need some plant based foods. PS- Peanut butter and avocado are also great ways to add satifying and nutritios foods to your diet. Also oatmeal!

      Reply
  • RobbyJ December 14, 2016, 11:11 am

    I love walking to get groceries! All summer I walked to the farmers market on lunch & back to my office with a box full of produce. It’s only one mile round trip, but carrying the box was serious exercise! In the first month my arms would be shaking when I arrived, but by the end of the summer I was carrying the box with ease. It also forced me to have good posture & strong core, which carried through to the rest of the day.

    Reply
  • Jwheeland December 14, 2016, 11:49 am

    Like a lot of MMM’s philosophies it all about (rational) lifestyle adjustment that our culture just doesn’t espouse. For example, this last year, when not biking in, I’ve been running home from work (after taking the trolley in). I bring a backpack and look dorky carry it while I run, but it’s about 4 miles that I get before picking up the little one from daycare. Just a little more badassity in your life goes a long way towards the good life.

    Reply
  • Jon December 14, 2016, 12:02 pm

    Great article! This really hits a chord with me, as I used to be insanely dedicated to fitness–until the daily grind of office life started. Now I’m equally committed to my financial health, but need to focus more on physical health. It’s all a balance! I’ve been putting off getting back into shape until I reach FI, but I’ve been realizing lately that that’s just an excuse. Thanks for motivating me to stay in shape even while I’m still on the treadmill of office work!

    100 pushups are happening TONIGHT!

    Reply
  • Nacho December 14, 2016, 12:06 pm

    Do you or have you ever worn a fitbit? I wonder how many steps you get in a day.
    My guess would be in the 20k range, minimum. Would be a fun experiment to see where you’re at.

    Reply
  • Brent December 14, 2016, 12:06 pm

    I think another great point that both you and Danielle made in Ecuador during a small group discussion was that the more outdoor-related activities you are doing, the more the body adapts to natural barriers like allergies, sickness, etc. For Danielle, I remember her saying her 20 minute walk to work has drastically changed how often she has been getting sick, and how overall she feels much healthier. And that’s just for a 20 minute walk!

    As always, great stuff MMM! Now, off to do some lunges around the office.

    Reply
  • Ryan Pierce December 14, 2016, 12:07 pm

    Love it!

    Even if most people at the cube farm do just a little of this, it would make a huge difference.

    I’m a lifelong geek who just happened to like martial arts and some weights. Gyms aren’t terrible, but the crowds, competition for gear, and having to go outside if it’s horrible out make it all too easy to make excuses.

    I sit at work, and sit at home, but I’ve noticed some pretty simple ways to keep from ballooning up to the size of a Hummer:

    1) Unless it’s mega hot/cold, I walk for my lunch hour. Not everyone can do that, but many can.

    2) We lift 3-4x per week, and vary it up every 4-6 weeks.

    3) our natural state at home is to sit in front of our individual computers and rot our brains. So again, before or after dinner we go for a walk unless it’s really cold/icy out (your mileage may vary with your tolerance, but it’s at least 9 months per year).

    4) if we just need something simple at the store, we walk the mile to get it and walk back. Sure, we cheat and use the car for big trips, but just getting a couple of bags worth each is fun if it’s a non-lifting day.

    5) darebee.com. It’s free (you can donate!), and they have a HUGE array of workouts that vary from cardio, bodyweight, and some equipment workouts. There are even geek-related challenges where you can earn points and such. The online community is great as well, very supportive, with lots of recipes and other relevant diet plans.

    Have fun! You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or a long-distance runner to enjoy the benefits of a healthier life.

    Reply
  • EJ December 14, 2016, 12:11 pm

    No argument with the benefits of short, high intensity work outs, particularly weight lifting but as a cardiologist I also have to stress there is benefit to cardiovascular exercise. 10 minutes of getting your heart rate up is huge for your cardiovascular health. Whether this is done with sprinting, lifting heavy weights, or jogging on the treadmill, it is very important to get that heart rate up. It decreases the future risk of heart attacks and stroke.

    Thanks for the post. Weight lifting is the best way to decrease/loose fat but don’t forget to get the heart rate up doing it.

    Reply
  • Alex vT December 14, 2016, 12:22 pm

    Fantastic article, MMM. That’s a refreshing way of looking at exercise and I will apply these ideas to my life.

    For those who insist on sitting for extended periods of time: I use an app called Time Out on my Mac, which reminds me to stand up every 15 minutes or so. It’s great to feel the blood gushing through my legs again. If all else fails, drink lots of water – that’ll force you to get up.

    Reply
  • Mitch December 14, 2016, 12:22 pm

    Sound advice, thank you. I spend a lot of time in the sick care space (it has nothing to do with health care) and tell people all the time: Eat clean, prioritize sleep, move regularly and make sure to lift enough so it hurts on occasion.

    Reply
  • Tom December 14, 2016, 12:23 pm

    Worth adding that while it’s true that jogging doesn’t do all that much for most people in terms of calorie burning and weight-loss, it’s still a kick-ass activity for your overall health. It’s likely helpful for depression, can lower blood pressure, make us smarter–see below for a article today from the NYT–and can help prevent dementia. So if your goal is overall health, either in addition to or as opposed to weight loss, jogging is still a good part of the plan.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/14/well/move/running-as-the-thinking-persons-sport.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fhealth&action=click&contentCollection=health&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront

    Reply
  • Runner.Pub December 14, 2016, 12:36 pm

    Couldn’t agree more, but I’ll throw in a quick defense for distance running. I’ve been doing it passionately (marathons, half marathons, etc) for 15 years and I find it’s a great way to save money, too. When I’m in training, I’m less likely to spend too much at the bar on a Friday or Saturday night (big run in the morning!) and it creates a great free, social environment if you go running with friends. It also builds a great sense of self-reliance and self-confidence in your ability to bike, walk or run anywhere and fosters a healthy disdain for car culture. (I’m sure this all could apply to backyard body builders, too, of course ;-) Rock on!

    Reply
    • Ryan December 16, 2016, 10:21 am

      Couldn’t agree more. Running is fantastic exercise with so many benefits it’s time prohibitive to even list them all here. The opinions given in this article do not match my experiences with running in the least. In 12 months time, I went from beginner to being able to run 50mi ultras. Sounds like pretty fast results to me.

      Reply
  • Mike December 14, 2016, 12:37 pm

    There is a gym in the building I work in which is totally free. I use it consistently. It has a bunch of free weights, weight machines, and locker rooms with showers. I work downtown in a big city and many buildings have such gyms. They might not be fancy but they have most of the basics and they don’t cost you a thing! And I can tell you that despite there being a ton of folks in my 12 story building, that gym is never crowded. I am also a member of a YMCA because they have a pool. I’ve got a bulging disk and swimming seems to be the only thing that can eliminate the pain completely so I’ll likely be a swimmer for life. But that is all of $65 a month and well worth the money.

    Reply
  • Kathleen Schwab December 14, 2016, 12:42 pm

    MMM-

    I live with chronic pain and fatigue. The whole MMM philosophy applies to chronically ill people because we need to simplify our lives, have fewer possessions (can’t do the upkeep) and do less work and less stressful work (the chronically ill body can’t handle it). Chronic illness is exploding in the population, and I think it is a symptom of the over worked and over emotionally stressed modern life we get funneled into. Exercise is necessary yet tricky for chronically ill people. I feel better if I keep moving, yet I often have aches and pains that make me want to crawl into bed with a heating pad. Like many other things, exercise for a chronically ill person is a balancing act.

    Reply
  • Rick in Baltimore December 14, 2016, 12:53 pm

    MMM and Wider Universe,

    Curious about your approach to weights, push ups, etc: every day or alternate days?

    Reply
    • Paul December 14, 2016, 1:39 pm

      As noted in another post, I switched from mostly aerobic exercise in the form of bicycling, to a combination of cycling and weight lifting and had great results in terms of weight loss and fitness. I only lift weights twice a week. One day is upper body and one day is legs. But, my weight lifting sessions are fairly heavy and intense and my body seems to need a lot of recovery time between sessions. This has worked well both in terms of results and how it fits with my job, family life, etc.

      In my experience, heavy, intense weight lifting requires plenty of recovery time. Your body may respond differently.

      Reply
  • Liesbet December 14, 2016, 1:13 pm

    We have been eating a plant-based, mostly sugar-free diet for a couple of years now. I do want to loose some weight gathered the last year of living on land instead of on the water still, but the fact that you feel better mentally and physically following such a “diet” is not to be underestimated!

    Reply
  • Anna Banana December 14, 2016, 1:14 pm

    I live in a city without great access to a gym. Outdoor running has been my go to but I am in total agreement that strength training (and yoga) are things that are needed to vary up the routine and help build different muscles groups.

    That being said I’ve been very happy using the Aaptiv app! They have outdoor running, treadmill, elliptical, yoga, strength training and etc classes! It’s about $50/year (so yes, definitely cheaper options available online) but I think it’s a pretty good deal and trainers will tell you exactly what to do and things to think about

    Anna

    Reply
  • Mary December 14, 2016, 1:16 pm

    Can you post some pictures of your butt to show everyone how well the squats are working?

    Reply
    • lurker December 20, 2016, 3:31 pm

      Now Mary ……. ha ha ha I imagine Pete’s blushing on that one…..

      Reply
  • Marcia December 14, 2016, 1:27 pm

    I love this so much! Much of it mirrors my own life choices.

    “Incidental exercise” – husband and I started biking to work again 2x a week (one way each day). 10 miles. It takes me a long time (an hour), but I’m blaming the old heavy bike and not my old body. My coworker told me that “you are a working professional, buy a new bike!”. Well, for 2x a week at 10 miles, an 18-year old Schwinn is FINE, and it still has 14 working gears.

    Other things that I enjoy are walking to the grocery store, walking my kid to school, walking on my lunch break with a former coworker who works nearby, walking to Costco or Kmart.

    I’m really really bad at weight training. I tend to go for P90X, P90X3, 21 day fix DVDs, You tube videos, OR body weight exercises. They are short and effective. Yes, what I do is minimal but it’s super easy to do pushups and squats and lunches and crunches on my living room floor in 10 minutes. I also really enjoy the occasional yoga workout online.

    I do, however, have a gym membership, used primarily for the pool (both laps for me and general swim practice/ safety for the boys).

    One of the things that helps me also are little challenges (like the 100 pushups). I’m a joiner, so I do much better in group settings (a running/hiking group, fitness classes, etc.) I’m a member of a facebook group holiday challenge where every day the leader posts a workout – either a you-tube video or a list. It ranges from 3 to 15 minutes every day. Some days have been 10 minute abs, or 10 min tabata HIIT, or “leg day”, or a 15-minute full-body workout, or whatever. Things that many days I’d shrug and say “eh…don’t feel like it”. Like burpees. I am more likely to do them this way.

    I LOVE fitness as a part of life. I don’t necessarily see as many out of shape people here in So Cal, though there are plenty.

    I like your eating philosophy too, though I don’t eschew carbs completely. I learned post-2nd-baby (at 42/43) that I cannot eat the carbs I used to and maintain a reasonable weight. However, I’m not willing to give up beans, rice, bread etc completely. I limit my number of servings to maintain a reasonable weight, but I guess I don’t really care about having the hard body. I love Mark Sisson, but I’m okay with a little tiny bit of fluff. If you take away ALL the fluff on my body, you are left with loose belly skin (thanks, kids!) I also doubt the evil-ness of carbs for long term health, when you consider research that you would find reviewed in “The Blue Zones”.

    For me it’s more about health and fitness and comfort. I prefer the middle ground when it comes to diet and exercise. Diet-wise, a high carb diet is a recipe for weight gain for me, no doubt about it (been there, done that, have the oversized t-shirts!) But going too-low carb was not great for me either – I had a lot of brain fog. These last years I’ve had to experiment for sure on balancing carbs and protein. Just like experimenting with exercise – certain things my joints cannot handle anymore – not a lot of jumping. Yoga, swimming, biking, hiking, body weight exercises have won.

    Reply

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