workout

Up the rebels.

By any official or unofficial method of measurement, summer is here in the Northern Hemisphere. And to salute the return of hot (or hotter—hi Phoenix) weather, here are some articles to help you dress, eat, and date better this year.

Dress Up (or Down) for the Weather

There’s nothing like grabbing that old favorite t-shirt (just a few little holes), the calf-length jean shorts and a pair of flip-flops and hitting the bars with the guys, right? Funny how the women you meet all seem to have a phone number of 555-1212, huh?

Grillin’ and Chillin’

Is that lighter fluid I smell? If so, why? Get yourself a damn charcoal chimney already, and then make sure you’re using the grill right, and complementing your meat with a tasty, healthy, cool salad.

Summer Survival

It’s not all fun and games when the weather gets hot. Keep yourself safe and healthy, and live to skinny-dip another day.

  • How to Hydrate is the complete why and how of keeping your body moist on the inside, because by the time you get thirsty you’re already late on the hydration train.
  • How to Perform 14 Basic Skills, Part 2 includes “Learn the Breaststroke,” and advice to help you learn how to swim. This is a basic survival skill everyone should know.

Look Great

You want that beach body? Well, time’s a-wastin’. If you haven’t already subscribed to receive your free Starter Workout, you can find some basic help here:

  • A Simple Starter Workout is the original workout plan I happen to be using again right now to get into fighting trim. You can too.
  • No-Weights Workout offers some easy moves you can do outside. Just don’t hog the kids’ jungle gym for too long, okay?

Get a Date

Yes, the ladies seem to look even prettier in their summer clothes. No, it’s no more difficult to talk to them than it was when they looked like Eskimos. If you’re not using my online dating book (available free), at least forearm yourself with a few tips.

  • What Do You Say to a Girl? You’re walking on the beach with a buddy, and the girl of your dreams is coming right toward you. Do you start with a firm, “Hi,” and then confidently move on to an intriguing question for her, or devolve into a puddle of jelly? I can help you there.

The National Pastime

If you’re absolutely stuck for something to do, and living in America, there’s probably a ballpark five minutes away. And whether you want to go nuts for your favorite player or kick back in the sun with a brew and some conversation (not too loud), the ballyard is an excellent place to do it.

  • Take Yourself Out to the Ballgame will help you if you decide only the big-leagues will do (try Triple-A instead, trust me) you can navigate the minefield of consumerism that is a major league ballpark with your credit rating intact.

Whatever you do this summer, be safe, calm and confident. Have fun out there.

 

1 comment

The 4-Hour Body Review

by Michael on February 27, 2011 · 0 comments

Even this took more than 4 hours.

Why has it taken me so long to get you this review of Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Body?

Because I got caught up testing it. And I’m still doing that. However, the time has also enabled me to more properly digest the book than many of the parade of 5-star (and 1-star) reviewers on Amazon. First the review, then my story.

By a Geek, for Geeks

I once worked a writing gig at Microsoft. The year was 2003, the height of the Atkins craze. Microsoft provides a chain of cafeterias so that its employees never have to venture off-campus (and thus too far away from their desks). As I’d wait in line at the grill, it seemed each and every code jockey was ordering a double buffalo cheeseburger, hold the bun, hold the veggies. After a while, due to heavy demand, the cafeterias actually started offering carb-free buns to the Atkins-frenzied hordes.

In the year I was there, I didn’t see a whole lot of weight lost.

Tim Ferriss has a built-in audience via his previous book, The 4-Hour Workweek (which was actually less of a misnomer than 4-Hour Body, because very few of these techniques take 4 hours), which engendered a legion of techies leaving their desks (or trying to), selling stuff online (or trying to) and geeking out in foreign lands (or…you get the picture). And Tim is by his own admission someone who loves testing various tricks and systems in all aspects of his life—the ultimate geek. The appeal to America’s tech workers is obvious.

On the surface, the book is written very simply. There’s a setup involving the best possible result of the technique or a semi-famous person using it (see the cameo by Neil “Style” Strauss), then a very simple layout of the technique, then a detailed elaboration of everything necessary to get the best results. Later chapters devolve somewhat into simple tips to do very specific things (jump, run the 40 meters, swing a baseball bat) slightly better.

Lose Weight While Eating Bear Claws?

The “money” chapter in The 4-Hour Body is “The Slow-Carb Diet,” Mr. Ferriss’ contribution to the weight-loss industry. The actual methodology for losing fat—dropping all carbs except vegetables and legumes—is sound, because any restrictive diet change will initially help you to lose fat.

And this “diet” is restrictive in the extreme, with meals that must consist of a protein source, vegetable and beans or lentils. Many of the negative comments on the Amazon.com page involve some variation on “who the eff eats pinto beans with breakfast?” Aside from the unintended insult to an entire race there, suffice to say that if you actually do this program, you will eventually be forced to learn to properly spice your food.

But the “breakthrough” in the Slow-Carb Diet is binge day: one day a week, you not only are allowed to eat anything you want, you must eat to excess. In Ferriss’ exact words, “binging is not optional.” The theory is that by shaking your system out of ketosis once a week, you keep the fat-burning furnace fully firing.

While many reviews “reserve judgement” on the binge portion of the diet, I actually tested it. More on that below.

Sex (Like a) Machine

Another talked-about section of the book is “The 15-Minute Female Orgasm”: a step-by-step process for theoretically giving a woman the orgasm of her life. Unfortunately, as a man who has had voluminous sex in many different positions, I can tell you that the process (and it is a “process”) in the book is more like working on a hobby than romantic, exciting sex.

Oh, it may result in a big-time orgasm for her, but I would suggest that if she gets hooked on this method, it won’t be so much fun for you. But it’s highly technical, and has very detailed instructions—again, a big attraction for someone who has no frame of reference for what feels good to a woman. But I can’t help thinking this is a poor substitute for learning to use your tongue.

Bigger, Stronger, Less Ouchy

The crux of the book is something Ferriss calls “the minimum effective dose.” That’s another way of saying “the easiest way.” There’s a 15-minute lean-mass-building workout, a single-exercise “bodyshaping” (to use the ’80s term) workout, and a super-simple strength-building workout. There are tips for boosting testosterone, sleeping better, learning to swim, and stretching those hips and back that have gone all out of whack after a 14-hour programming jag.

Most of these aren’t new (the section on improving bat speed is Baseball 101), some are contentious (the bodybuilding community in particular seems to be foaming at the mouth—in fact, most of the harshest critiques are from those who have vast expertise with the one system that works for them), but the information is so dense that you’re almost guaranteed to find something you’ll want to try.

So there’s something for everyone in The 4-Hour Body—the only question is whether you can apply yourself to the task. Although the setup is simple, there’s an element of willpower to almost everything, and some (sometimes many) details necessary to turn that “minimum effective dose” into the “most effective dose.”

The Most Valuable Tip in the Book

The genesis of the book is Tim Ferriss’ almost fanatical desire to test, document and make changes to himself: he mentions it at the beginning of the book, and goes into great detail in the appendices’ 80 pages of small print. He encourages every reader to do likewise.

Ultimately, this is the most important takeaway: that your mileage may (and often will) vary, not just from Mr. Ferriss’ but from many other humans’. Humans are not made with a cookie cutter. Our chemistry can vary, our needs usually vary, and so the adjustments must vary. Standing on one leg before bed like Tim does might not help you sleep better, but something else probably will. You’re going to have to try, and sometimes fail, in order to ultimately succeed.

Just like life.

But not everyone (likely not even most) has the time or willpower to keep a food/sleep/exercise diary. That’s understood, and why this book offers a virtual clearinghouse of quick tips and simple plans, and why it has become successful.

How I Tested The 4-Hour Body

In the spirit of testing that The 4-Hour Body promotes, I decided to test the Slow-Carb Diet. I devoted a month to sticking to the 2-page version, which meant I didn’t use the supplements (aside from fish oil, which was already a part of my diet) or most of the “tricks” for cheat day.

The results were predictable: I lost weight, and that weight lost was pretty much all fat. My weight went from 172 to 165, and my bodyfat percentage declined by 15% of my total bodyfat, or just over 3% of my total bodyweight.

Why do I say predictable? Because any restrictive change in diet will cause fat loss, at least in the first 4-6 weeks of the diet. Usually I can decrease my fat while building some muscle by following an easy workout plan and not eating crap, so that wasn’t the point.

The real reason I wanted to try this program was to see how restrictive, difficult and/or monotonous it would be. And without cooking skills or imagination, this diet will be monotonous. After three weeks of legumes, black beans were about the only version I could choke down…until I started throwing hot sauce on everything. Breakfast was actually a breeze, once I discovered I loved spinach omelettes, and I basically rotated the veggies between microwave-steamed frozen broccoli, big leafy salads and different styles of spinach.

But hanging in for a month was fairly easy for me, and the binge days didn’t seem to impede the weight loss (although I’m not sure how that would work for someone predisposed to eat an entire three-layer cake or whole chicken at a sitting). I debated carrying on for a second month, but I’m eager to start another chapter. I’ll give you the results of that test later.

Conclusion

If you geek out over “body hacks,” The 4-Hour Body is for you. Likewise, if you need structure for improving your life, there’s enough step-by-step hand-holding here that you won’t get lost. If you’re already using a weight-loss program or workout plan that works for you, you can probably pass this up. And if you’ve already bought into the dogma of another guru or community, you’re just going to get angry, so don’t bother.

As with any program, approach it in the spirit of testing, and it either works or it doesn’t. But it’s no instant fix, no magic pill—drive and willpower are still required.

Have you tried The 4-Hour Body? What did you think?

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6 Gym Mistakes Guys Make

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A fitness club is more than a good place to start your road to a healthier life. It’s often like a community center and spa as well. You can meet your neighbors (or colleagues), encourage each other as workout buddies, and in some clubs have a post-workout sauna. But as with any micro-society, there are […]

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Workouts for the Unemployed

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We live in challenging times. Here in America, there isn’t a person in the country who doesn’t have several unemployed friends or family. Others are working for less than their previous salaries, just to put food on the table. Still others, having learned there’s no such thing as “job security,” are squirreling away cash like […]

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P90X vs. Men’s Health

June 7, 2010 Health & Fitness

Acknowledging that the P90X Extreme Home Fitness Workout Program is one of their top search terms, Men’s Health finally decided to grab some Google juice from it, using a review/blog post titled “The Truth About P90x.” (Note: As of July 7, 2010, the original Men’s Health review was deleted. Read to the bottom for more […]

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Exercise on the Cheap (or Free)

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The comment on Thursday’s Spanx article got me thinking: keeping physically fit is probably even more important in a period of stress. Unemployment is definitely stressful for many men. However, a gym membership might not even be an option when you’ve got to tighten your belt. I’m working on a full piece that will include […]

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Workout: High Intensity Interval Training

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Conventional wisdom has long held that an effective weight-loss program requires a good 30 minutes or more of fat-burning exercise, 4-5 times a week, before you’ll see much of a result. Well, what if I told you there’s a way to trigger your body’s fat-burning chemistry in 20 minutes or less, 3 times a week? […]

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Need Motivation for Your Morning Workout?

April 13, 2010 Health & Fitness

Every once in about a thousand videos, Howcast comes up with something that might not be just a minute of your life you can’t get back. This is one, although you should probably substitute “shower” for “bath.” (And if you have the time to take a bath after your workout, you’re a much earlier riser […]

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