Here’s my guide on how to get fit. Or, better yet, here’s how I have managed to get and stay fit. Steve at Think $ave Retire recently had a great post discussing the limited value of how-to guides. The steps that worked for the how-to guide writer probably won’t work for you. To achieve something audacious, be it the completion of a marathon or the creation of a successful blog, you gotta want it—badly. How-to guides can’t give you the intestinal fortitude you’ll need to overcome the inevitable hardships and years of futility you’ll face. How-to guides definitely stimulate your problem-solving muscles, though. They get you thinking. So in that vein, I hope the following “guide” gets you thinking.
I’m old. I’ll be 55 this October. And my job is not physically demanding. I peck at a keyboard and look at a computer screen for 40 hours a week.
So what kind of training regime do I need? I don’t have any cage fights to prepare for. And I don’t spend my Sundays taking on NFL linebackers. I want to have some muscles, though. I also want to be fit enough in retirement to travel the world and ride elephants. And, finally, I’m a cheap bastard. I’d rather throw money at my 401(k) than at a gym. So my training regime must meet the following criteria.
- It must keep my weight in check. For me, that’s means staying under 180 pounds.
- It must produce defined muscles—not bodybuilder-like muscles, but definitely something more than swimmer-like muscles. I want to look like I can still cause some damage in a fight (queue Toby Keith’s As Good As I Once Was).
- It must cost little or nothing.
- It must be sustainable—something that takes little time and can be done for the next twenty years.
With the above parameters in mind, here is the training regime I came up with.
From my humble experience, weight loss has more to do with diet than exercise. I couldn’t run enough miles to overcome the crap I used to shove down my gullet. Once I stopped eating bread and quenching my thirst with sugary drinks, though, the weight flew off. For my wellness exam in 2014, I weighed 209 pounds. A year later, I weighed 182. Right now I’m about 177 pounds. To maintain this weight, I practice the following.
Very little carbohydrates. I’ve cut way back on bread. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had a sandwich or a cheeseburger. On occasion, though, I will have oatmeal for breakfast. I’ll also indulge in some pasta a few times a month. On big occasions (my birthday, the Super Bowl, etc.), I’ll have some pizza.
Very little sugar. I used to be a sugar addict. My biggest vice was soda and sweet tea. No more. Haven’t had a sugary drink in over a year. I also stay clear of cookies, candy, and condiments. It’s amazing how much sugar is in ketchup, BBQ sauce, and salad dressing. I do make an exception for ice cream, though. But I try to limit that vice to the weekend.
I take a brisk two-mile walk almost every day. The only days I don’t walk is when the weather’s crummy or I’m on vacation. With Mrs. Groovy setting the pace, it takes me about 35 minutes to walk two miles.
For the upper body, I have one exercise: the muscle up. A muscle up is a pull up that transitions into a dip (see video below). I perform them on gymnastic rings I set up in my garage. I bought these rings years ago for less than $100, so the cost of honing my upper body is basically zero.
For the lower body, I perform air squats and split squats (see videos below). Since the only weight involved in these exercises is body weight, the cost of honing my lower body is zero as well.
I work out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for less than half an hour each day. Here’s the routine.
Monday (Volume Day)
This day is about a lot of reps in a short amount of time. I try go from air squats to muscle ups and then back again without rest. When I get to sets 7-10, I have to rest about 30 seconds between exercises.
- 30 reps of air squats for 10 sets (300 total)
- 3 reps of muscle ups for 10 sets (30 total)
Wednesday (Volume Day)
Another day of banging out reps. This day, though, I decrease the sets but increase the reps. Makes it a little harder.
- 40 reps of air squats for 8 (320 total)
- 4 reps of muscle ups for 8 sets (32 total)
Friday (Personal Record Day)
On this day, I go for the gold. I give myself plenty of rest between sets (2-3 minutes), and then I try to set personal records for consecutive muscle ups and split squats.
- A warm up set of muscle ups for 2 reps
- Another warm up set of muscle ups for 4 reps
- Max reps of muscle ups (current personal record is 7)
- A warm up set of air squats for 20 reps
- Another warm up set of air squats for 40 reps
- Max reps of split squats (current personal record is 59 for each leg)
The nice thing about walking and bodyweight workouts is that you can do them anywhere—and they’re free. Of course, when I’m traveling for work or I’m on vacation, I don’t have access to gymnastic rings. On these occasions, I substitute push ups for muscle ups.
The inspiration for my training regime came from Mark Sission. Check out his blog at Mark’s Daily Apple. He has a very interesting philosophy. He believes we should train like a caveman (aka “Grok”)—eat mostly protein and fat, walk a lot, and lift heavy things once in a while. Pretty simple. And it’s worked amazingly well for me.
Okay, groovy freedomists. That’s all I got. Let me know if this fitness “guide” was helpful.