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01 March 2011 ~ Comments Off on 4-Hour Body Review

4-Hour Body Review

If you haven’t heard of The 4-Hour Body, you must have been living in a cave (I don’t believe Tim Ferriss’ promotional tour of caves starts for another week or so). The book’s “Slow-Carb Diet” is possibly the hottest diet trend since South Beach.

But is it right for you? I went on the Slow-Carb plan for a month, and the results are a part of this 4-Hour Body review on my men’s lifestyle site, Tao of Bachelorhood.

If you’re a man and haven’t been to Tao of Bachelorhood, it’s a treasure trove of lifestyle advice, from clothes to fitness to tips for meeting women. If you’re a woman, I also offer tips for navigating this crazy world, interacting with others and figuring out what it’s all about.

Anyway, back to the 4-Hour Body review. To offer a summary, I was impressed with the little things I didn’t know, as well as the surface simplicity of its solutions. However, it is a 550-page book, and Mr. Ferriss is an absolute geek about hacking, well, everything about his life, so it’s possible to get lost in the details.

But the point is that you should be experimenting too—rare is the one diet or the one workout that works for everyone. (“Nonexistent” might even be a better word.) And with a cover price much less than most Internet plans, it won’t hurt to give these tips a whirl.

How did I do in my month of Slow-Carb? read it and see.

The 4-Hour Body Review [Tao of Bachelorhood]

23 February 2011 ~ Comments Off on Oatmeal: McDonald’s vs. Starbucks vs. You

Oatmeal: McDonald’s vs. Starbucks vs. You

Even the cartons are over-the-top.

Call them the “oatmeal wars.” Two major corporate titans, spending vast amounts of money to convince you the healthy, convenient answer to your breakfast problems is to stop in and buy a cup of oatmeal.

I’m currently sitting on a stack of free coupons McDonald’s and Starbucks have sent me in order to have me sample their new oatmeal offerings. Are they really healthy? Do they make it convenient to have a good breakfast?

Scratch “Healthy”

The first problem is that the oatmeal you’re getting from these food giants isn’t necessarily healthy. In fact, according to this NY Times piece, if you use the “healthy” fruit and “cream,” the McDonald’s oatmeal contains more calories than their regular hamburger! The article also points out that the “cream” has seven ingredients.

As for that fruit, it should be pointed out that dried fruit is essentially a fruit-flavored sugar lump, almost free of the fiber and nutrients that exist in non-dried fruit. All in all, this is “oatmeal” created in a lab.

The Starbucks oatmeal, on the other hand, can be had completely plain (although the “oatmeal” itself contains 13 ingredients), but who does that? To top it with the included accoutrements makes it even more carb-laden than the Mickey D’s version, despite a smaller size.

Scratch “Convenient”

Since we know these “healthy options” aren’t so healthy when fully dressed, surely the make-or-break selling point must be the incredible convenience. I mean, who has time to make a healthy breakfast at home?

Not so fast. (Pun intended.)

The time it takes to wait in line, order, pay and have it made probably total, what, 5 minutes when it’s not busy, more like 10 when it is. And if you have to drive to the joint, add a few more.

Just like the illusion of a healthy food product, these multinational corporations are selling the illusion of convenience. Here, let me show you how to get truly healthy oatmeal in a much shorter time.

Make Your Own Damn Oatmeal

Did you know that old-fashioned oatmeal cooks up in just 2 minutes in a microvave? “Quick” oats take even less time. Two minutes or less. Ronald and his peeps can’t beat that. Neither can Dr. Evil’s cash cow.

Instructions, should you need them:

  • Pour about a half-cup of oatmeal into a large microwave-safe bowl.
  • Cover the oatmeal completely with water. (You can adjust the ratio after the first time or two.)
  • Microwave it on high for 2 minutes or less. During this time you can continue getting ready for work, or just relax for a moment.
  • Remove (bowl will be hot!) and add anything you like. I recommend plain greek-style yogurt (protein!) and some water-packed fruit cocktail.

No time to actually consume it? Put it in a container to take with you, or just bring the ingredients to work and make it there. (If I really have to help you figure this out, McDonald’s might be for you after all.)

Using common sense, you can avoid unhealthy “healthy” foods and actually free up some time instead of waiting on line for “convenience.”

09 February 2011 ~ Comments Off on Screw Calories

Screw Calories

No, they're not chocolate donuts.

Apologies for the long pause. Down to work:

Stop counting calories.

That’s right. Ignore the calories you’re eating. Screw ’em. Have they ever done anything for you? If you’re still looking for answers, probably not.

What is a calorie?

Let’s start by defining the calorie: a “food calorie” is the amount of energy it takes to heat one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.

If you’re wondering what that has to do with the price of tea in China, know that people don’t even agree on how much energy that is. But let’s go with the rough equivalent of 1.84 joules. What’s a joule? You sure you wanna know?

So even after we get a rough consensus on what a calorie represents, how do we know how many calories are in that cupcake? Well, in an exact world, scientists would burn that cupcake in a special device and measure the results. But you can’t burn every food item in the world, that would be silly. What they do instead is chemically test (or just add the ingredients) to determine the fat/carb/protein makeup of the cupcake, then use a simple table of values: fats are 9.4 calories per gram, proteins and carbs 4.1.

But wait: there are a lot of kinds of fats and proteins. Do lard, margarine and flaxseed oil all really have the same calories per gram? Beef and fish proteins are identical? Cane sugar and molasses?

Hell if I know.

Exercise Does What?

But let’s back up again and assume fats are fats and everything averages out in the end. After all, if it didn’t someone would have stood up and corrected it, right? (Riiiiight.)

So now you know that cupcake is 350 calories, what does that mean to you?

Will you need to burn it off? Well, first you need to know how many calories you should be eating in the first place. They say 2000 calories are required by the average person, but like most things “they” say, that number is so general it’s practically useless. Are you short? Tall? Sedentary? Active? If your exercise consists of switching the remote, you may gain weight from 2000 calories. If you’re an athlete, 2000 calories would be a starvation diet.

Let’s assume those 350 calories are “extra.” So you go hop on the treadmill for a nice run. Now you’re burning about 10 calories per minute. One episode of How I Met Your Mother and the cupcake is gone, right?

Wrong. Your body burns two calories a minute just watching TV. So if you want to burn off “extra” calories, subtract those from the total. Now you’ll need to run for 20% longer. That’s about a five-mile run you’ll need, to burn off those two minutes of enjoyment. Maybe more.

But wait, what if that cupcake is just part of those 2000 calories? No problem, right?

That too depends on a lot of other factors. If your daily diet is otherwise veggies, lean, clean meats and good vitamin and mineral supplements, it’s not such a problem. But if your breakfast was a big bowl of breakfast cereal, lunch was Chinese takeout and dinner was courtesy of the guy with an antenna ball for a head…you should watch Super Size Me for a visual.

Counting calories is a lot harder than you thought, huh?

Diet Without Calories

Listen, if you’re trying to lose weight, calories aren’t what you should be paying attention to. The mere fact that you feel you have to add together the raw calorie value in the foods you’re eating tells me you need to make a change in your diet.

People count calories because they don’t want to pay attention to exactly what they eat. If you pay attention, you’ll never have to add another calorie again.

You know what you should be eating. (If you really don’t, I can help you.) What you have to do is eat it. Fresh (or frozen or canned or even home-juiced!) vegetables. Lean meats, fish and pasture-raised (grass-fed) beef. Good oils and nuts. And for dessert, a serving of whole fruit.

Keep it simple. Throw away the cookies and chips. Have no temptation in your house. Stop buying bread (veggies, fruit and legumes are plenty of fiber) and milk products besides plain yogurt (broccoli does a body much, much better). Get a good multivitamin.

Learning to prepare fresh foods is a skill you need. Buy spices, salsa and marinara to liven up eggs or a chicken breast. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef, just find a few simple meals you like.

Once you’re doing that, you’ll have half the equation to a leaner, happier lifestyle. If you’re eating crap and you switch to good food, you’ll lose weight. If you’re eating too many carbs and you switch to protein, you’ll find it easier to gain lean muscle.

It’s so simple a caveman could do it…and he did!

24 January 2011 ~ 1 Comment

Remembering Jack LaLanne

Every gym owner, personal trainer and infomercial fitness guru owes their career to Jack LaLanne, who did it all first, back when fitness was a hard-sell and the term “workout” hadn’t yet been invented.

He opened his first gym in the 1930s, had a national TV show in the 1950s, and sold countless Juice Tiger juicers through paid airtime in the 80s. His name was literally a synonym for a fit, healthy-living man. He happened along at the right time, when many humans were no longer performing physical labor and needed something to keep our bodies from turning to mush.

Jack LaLanne died on Sunday at the age of 96. I’ve written a longer piece on him at my other site (A Lesson from Jack LaLanne), but I’ll be offering a few of his more inspirational bits over on the Simple Workout Facebook page. Here’s one to start you off:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBVk071N88M

31 December 2010 ~ Comments Off on Tips for Your New Year’s Fitness Resolution

Tips for Your New Year’s Fitness Resolution

Okay, a little tonight. But tomorrow... (Photo by John Morgan)

New Year’s Day usually brings two major changes: the need for a new wall calendar, and the start of millions of new year’s resolutions. Statistics, however, paint a bleak picture where fitness resolutions are concerned: of the millions joining gyms in January, only about 10% will last into February.

I want you to beat the odds, so I’ve compiled a few simple resolution-keeping tips, whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle or just live a healthier lifestyle:

Don’t Tell Everyone

We live in a sharing society, but psychologists have found that people who tell everyone their goals are less likely to achieve them. Why? Your brain gives you the illusion that you’ve accomplished the goal already. (There’s more in this TED talk from entrepreneur Derek Sivers.) There are two ways around this:

  • If you have wonderful willpower, just surprise everyone with your achievement.
  • If you don’t have great willpower, tell your friends/family but have them track you or join you.

Go Big (But Be Specific)

Just want to drop that “last 5 pounds” or “start running again”? Studies have found that people who set higher goals accomplish more than those who set “realistic” goals.

What’s your ultimate goal? Go there. Just make it a specific, actionable goal (“I want to get to 15% bodyfat,” “I want to run a marathon without walking.”) That way, when you do drop the last 5 or run that 10k that would have been more “realistic,” you not only get there faster, you have a new goal already waiting.

Don’t Try for Perfection and You Won’t Find Failure

Some days I don’t get to the gym. I’m on a deadline, or it’s insanely snowing out. Does that derail me? Nope. I change into my workout gear and start a routine of bodyweight movements—or if I really want to go for it, tabata intervals of burpees. Zero equipment, 10 minutes max.

If you can’t do what you initially planned, back off but do something. Walk around the block if that’s all you can manage. Keep the forward motion and you stay on track.

Don’t Let the Gym Scare You Off

This is specific advice for those who are joining a gym for the first time—when you first show up, you may not know anyone and may have to get used to the equipment. Maybe you’re intimidated by the gym rats who seem to all know each other. It’s kind of like the first day of a new school when you were a kid, right?

It gets better with time. Do your workout. Bring some good music. Pay no attention to the muscleheads, and do not emulate them! The gym’s for everyone, and I’ll tell you a little secret: if you’re obeying all the gym rules, you’re a better customer than most of them.

Seek Help When You Need It

When you’re feeling stuck or just want some support, don’t be afraid to ask. Even those muscleheads will usually be happy to show you how to do an exercise. Talk to the desk staff if you have questions about the club or its rules. Try a personal training session if you can afford it. (If you can’t afford it, I’m about to release a program that’s just like having your own personal trainer for no ongoing cost!)

For general questions or support you can always e-mail me or leave a comment on any article. I read them all.

Have Fun

Above all, any trip is about the journey as much as the destination, and a fitness goal is no different. Look for the fun in your workouts, the joy in the healthy food you eat, and before you know it your goal will arrive.

A New Year’s Resolution is just another occasion to reaffirm your goals. The daily steps you take are much more important than the resolution itself.