A Seemingly Contrarian Take on Staying Fit
Wow, I just kicked some serious ass and want to tell you about it. It took me 24 minutes and 31 seconds to walk 1.53 miles around the hood with my dog. During this brutal journey I maintained a 16 minute per mile pace, an average heart rate of 110 beats per minute, and burned 118 calories. And yes, I’m being facetious, but only partially so. Admittedly my old-school self wouldn’t have regarded this as any form of workout. I mean, how many of you go on Facebook and read frequent accountings of grueling CrossFit and OrangeTheory Fitness workouts? Yet almost nobody shares their tale of the walk they took.
But my new-school self considers a simple walk THE cornerstone for great physical fitness. Take a look at some of the most healthy, vibrant and long-lived people on the planet. They don’t go to SoulCycle or kick boxing classes. Nope. Now you may think their antiquated way of life is contrarian but it is actually anything but. In fact it’s THE way ‘we’ operated for most of our human existence on this planet. These Blue Zone communities around the world comprise people who simply ‘move’ for many hours each day. Of course I recognize you probably put in a 60 hour workweek, have children, and even more onerously, a freakin’ spouse to love and nurture. And so let me suggest to you the three underpinnings of a core, minimalist fitness program that will take you less than 60 minutes each day, will not drain you, and won’t require weight machines or free weights. And then I’ll tell you who I plagiarized this from.
BASIC MOVEMENT AT LEAST FOUR TIMES PER WEEK
Consider briskly walking for a minimum of 150 minutes per week. How about starting your work week with a brisk 30 minute walk and doing the same on Wednesday and Friday. On Saturday or Sunday, take a brisk 60 minute walk. During your treks you can listen to podcasts, crank up some Sturgill…whatever! Notice I keep repeating the word BRISK. You’ll want to walk as rapidly as you can without breaking into a jog and with no hard landings on your heels. No, you don’t have to engage in speedwalking or some ‘silly walk’ variant.
What kind of pace am I talking about? Simply do what I do. Play an internal soundtrack in your brain of “The Caissons Go Rolling Along.” Keep your posture upright, those shoulders confidently flung back and your abs nice and tight. You can certainly walk more if you’d like to. Case in point: Before taking my kennel-coughing dog out for her constitutional, I started the day with a brisk three mile walk. Although my wife won’t agree, waking up at 4 a.m. has its benefits.
In addition, you get extra credit for even more walking and for biking instead of driving to complete food market runs and other short-haul errands during your week. And mowing your own lawn. And weeding your own garden. And I think you get the point so let me stop sermonizing.
BASIC STRENGTHENING TWICE PER WEEK
Fire your trainer. Why? Because you can get and stay plenty fit by selecting a few simple body weight exercises that strengthen and sculpt your physique. Have those old Beach Body infomercials convinced you of the need for “muscle confusion” gained through an ever more complex sequence of weight exercises? Homey don’t play that. Do you think our ancestors worried about muscle confusion? No! They simply lifted, pulled and pushed stuff. Yeah I’m sure there was plenty of bare-handed killing of wild beasts in there as well, but I digress.
My weekly regimen includes pull ups, push ups, squats with no weights and sit ups. For one of my two strengthening days I simply rotate between these exercises, i.e., 5 pull ups, 12 push ups, 20 sit ups, 12 squats — rinsing and repeating for 30 minutes. You should be moving through this sequence at a fast enough velocity to get your heart rate up. Think more about a fairly but not fully intense High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout. Huffing and puffing versus gasping for air indicates you’re at the right level. I typically finish up with 30 weight assisted dips and 30 Australian push ups, both of which take no more than six minutes.
On the second strengthening day I simply complete as many pull ups, squats and push ups as I can for 10 minutes each with a bit of a break in between. I then finish up with a five minute ab workout. During the weekend I’ll quickly work in some side planks.
ANAEROBIC ACTIVITY ONCE PER WEEK
Once per week I concentrate on really getting it up. Oh come on! I’m talking about my heart rate. The 20 second ‘all on’ and 10 second ‘off’ nature of a four minute Tabata interval, in which you repeat this cycle eight times, is virtually unmatched for kicking one’s ass. Lately I’ve been using battle ropes for my Tabata. When my hip is more compliant I like doing burpees because afterward when I don’t have a heart attack and die I feel pretty f’ing victorious. Other Tabata variants include sprinting on a field, jumping rope, busting out on an elliptical machine…anything that involves most of your body and enables you to enter an oxygen deprived mode at a full exertion level. During a typical Tabata workout I’ll complete two intervals with some ab work in between.
This regimen adds up to 250 minutes per week. Add in some daily stretching and the full tally will be about 3.5% of a week — approximately six hours. I know you may not think you have time for this, but if the net result is exuding more energy and vitality, becoming more productive, and living a longer and higher quality life, I think it’s worth giving up some screen time and useless news ingesting.
Lest you think I came up with this novel fitness approach on my own, let’s give credit where it is due. The philosophy comes from Mark Sisson, one of the giants in the Paleo movement. Although I no longer follow a purist Paleo diet, there are many logical principles for everyone to consider from this “primal” lifestyle, including Mark’s excellent primer on exercise. Dig a little deeper on the Daily Apple site to learn about the potential pitfalls of what he calls “chronic cardio.”
Who’d have thought you can become a serious bad ass simply by walking, briskly of course?
PHOTO: The dog gives it her all during our walks. The aftermath is often not pretty.