Mr. Groovy’s Guide on How To Get Fit

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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.

Training Philosophy

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.

Diet

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.

Cardio

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.

Strength

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)

Final Thoughts

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.

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20 Comments

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! I love MDA. Are you familiar with the Athlean-X channel on YouTube? I like this guy because he shows a lot of bodyweight exercises. And right now I’m fascinated with bodyweight exercises. My ultimate fantasy is a one-arm pull up. I started training for it about six months ago but I tried to progress too quickly and hurt my elbow. Damn, it’s tough being old!

    • Mr. Groovy

      I humbly apologize. You know, after I wrote it, I knew it wasn’t right. Some of my best friends in high school were on the swim team and they were build like Greek gods. But my editor (Mrs. Groovy) is such a taskmaster, she wouldn’t let me refine the post. We HAD to go to press. And, yes, the exercise is hard. The girl in the video makes it look easy. It took me two years of training before I was able to do one. Obviously I had to get stronger and work on the transition from pull up to dip, but what finally turned the tide was this: I lost nearly 30 pounds. Once I got to 180 pounds, I succeeded. If I would have remained 210, I don’t think I ever would have been able to pull it off. So for saying something stupid, I deserve a sanction. The first and last round is on me when we get together later this year. Does that work for you?

  1. The muscle-up is no joke- I’m super impressed!
    I love walking too. It’s easier on your body than running, and I read a book while I walk on the treadmill. If the book is good, the exercise actually feels like a treat.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I got my first one in April of 2015 and now I’m up to 8 in a row. My goal is to get to done by October (my 55th birthday). Not bad for an old man.

  2. I love jumping rope. I am very limited on time currently. Done in under five minutes. All my muscles are engaged. My rope was around $5. Can do it almost anywhere.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent reminder. I haven’t jumped rope in a while. What’s the conversion? Five minutes of jumping rope equals running a mile? Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. Jumping rope is great exercise. And like you said, it doesn’t require much money or space to do it.

  3. Mike

    Great routine. Your diet is great. Sounds like you got it going on. Here are some alternatives: On that walk, pack a backpack w weight and increase the weight over time to enhance the exercise. Want to make it even harder? Walk on hiking trails and uneven, steep inclines. Here’s another idea to increase the muscle groups you are working: Learn and use the one armed snatch. Simply place a weight on the ground and use a deep squat action to then thrust the weight over your head in one motion.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Mike. Thanks for the suggestions. I’m gonna start with the weighted backpack tomorrow. That’s an excellent idea. Got a question about the one-armed snatch. Can it be done with kettlebells? Or should you use a barbell? Also, I’m fascinated with the one-arm pullup and started training for it recently. Right now this training consists of weighted one-arm hangs. I can do 30-second hangs on both arms with 15 lbs. on the weight belt. If you have any ideas on how to train for a one-arm pullup, I’d love to hear it.

  4. Most of the chronic illnesses that are plaguing far too many Americans are preventable.Simple workouts like yours can do wonders for one’s health.The key is starting. Even if you can only do one pushup or situp do that every morning.Soon you’ll be doing more and mixing in other exercises.Listen to cool podcasts about FI and personal development while working out to keep you inspired.Personally, I work out for 30-40 minutes 6-7 days a week(early morning) at the end of my “Miracle Morning” routine in my living room.It’s a fantastic way to start my day ! I feel awesome every morning.

    Losing weight is not hard to do as you proved.Cut your portions in half,eliminate sodas,sugars,and processed foods from your diet.Exercise everyday even if it’s only for a few minutes.

    Next time you are behind an overweight or obese person at the grocery store take a look at what is in their basket.

    I’m 53 and still wear the same size pants(30) that I did in college 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey Bobby, you are so right about chronic disease being preventable. Exercise is critical for everyone, especially for those of us in our 50s. Maintaining flexibility and muscle mass are important to me as I age. And I’m with you on that Morning Miracle. It’s a great way to start the day.

  5. Great topic. I’m a firm believer in the idea that in order to fully enjoy your financial success, you have to be physically fit … and mentally and spiritually fit. Total well-being involves fiscal, physical, mental and spiritual (i.e. your relationship with yourself, family and friends) fitness.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, James. Couldn’t agree more. Financial success wouldn’t be very enjoyable if I were a bitter physical wreck with no friends and an estranged family.

  6. Sounds like you’ve got a great routine going! I’m older (will be 67 in July) and I already have some health problems, so my exercise plans aren’t quite as ambitious. I try to avoid sugar and salt in my diet and I try to get to the gym a couple times a week to use the treadmill and some of the machines. The winter cold really stops me from going outside much which is why I have a (very affordable) gym membership. Exercise can definitely save you on medical bills…I only wish I’d done more earlier.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Gary. I was very lucky. I cut out bread and sugary drinks and the weight just started dissolving. Mrs. Groovy cut out bread and nothing happened. She curses me to this day about it. The walking really helps too. And the nice thing about walking is that it isn’t to stressful on the joints. I feel your pain about the winters. When I was in New York, I always ditched the exercise when winter came around. Keep trucking on that treadmill, my friend. And thanks for sharing.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Michael. My “gym” is in my unheated garage. And I have a hard time dealing with North Carolina winters. If I had to deal with New York or Chicago winters, I think I would take the winters off as well. And you’re so right about the connection between exercise and medical bills. Let me know when you start your routine again. I look forward to swapping workout stories. Cheers.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Jaime. The hardest part is starting up again, especially in the dead of winter. But start small. Get on that stationary bike for 10 minutes in the morning. You strike me as someone who is unstoppable once you set your mind on something. Thanks for stopping by.

      P.S. I love your site and your interviews.

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