On Fitness and Diet

It was my father who first got me into fitness when I was young. Little boys want to be like Dad, and my Dad would do some pretty weird fitness routines when I was young. He was usually training for a canoe race, or just burning off excess physical energy.

He was a welder at St. Regis mill in Maine, and the men he worked with called him the Three Million Dollar Man. I’m not sure if he was half of Steve Austin’s height, or capabilities, but it didn’t matter to me: He was cool. He’d walk on his hands around the living room, or hold onto one toe while jumping over his leg with his one planted foot. All of this from a guy who was over 40. He had virtually no body fat either, and looked young enough that people used to think he was my older brother.

When we were out to camp, I’d be sitting on the beach and he’d wake up to me. “Time to go for a run, Doug.” We’d run around the lake on the beach. People would look at us like we were nuts. I guess we were. Then we’d paddle the canoe around the lake or we may paddle to some remote location like “Thirty Nine Tannery,” at which lie the ruins of an old tanning facility. I’d help port the canoe, which built some pretty tremendous upper-body strength for a 10 year old.

Because of all this, I always did really well in my fitness tests in Junior High and High School. I was a little kid, but it didn’t hold me back.

I think I was blessed with a combination of good genes, and a father who knew how to make exercise fun. There was always some random physical challenge he’d come up with, and he never shorted me on praise.

I think that the attitudes he passed down to me are still of help, as I routinely max my physical tests and am told that I look much younger than I am. So, from Dad I learned that physical training should be fun and random. One day I may lift weights, another I may go for a run or just a walk. I rock-climb, do body-weight exercises, just about everything you can imagine.

In recent years, two types of training have been of considerable benefit. The Combat Conditioning routines advocated by the controversial Matt Furey (It’s an all body weight routine) and working with Russian Kettlebells. Kettlebells are iron balls with handles on them. You can do various swings and presses wih them, and they build an excellent balance of strength and endurance. One other form of exercise that I like and science has proved to be a great training protocol, is interval sprinting and hill sprinting.

I plan to begin training with kettlebells again as soon as I’m out of AIT.

As far as diet goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Some say 5 or 6 small meals a day is the way to go. Most experts agree, but from what I’ve noticed, these experts don’t appear to be in very good physical condition themselves.

Here’s what I’ve found to be effective, and what recent science is suggesting may be of great benefit. It’s called controlled fasting, and yes, it’s controversial. The person who got me onto this is named Ori Hofmekler, and his book–The Warrior Diet–has helped a lot of people with their energy levels. It’s premise is that the best diet is one large meal at the end of the day, with some nuts or small amounts of fruit during the earlier parts of the day. Coffee is advocated, which of course I like. The diet may not be for everyone, and I personally don’t agree with everything that Hofmekler says, but he does back his ideas with science, and my own experiences say there’s something to his ideas. Mice, subjected to a fast, then given the opportunity to eat as much as they pleased lived approx. 30% longer than mice who were fed a normal diet. This occured without the normal negative effects of reduced calorie diets (muscle loss, lowered labido, loss of strength).

To sum up my overall attitudes about fitness and diet:

1) Make exercise fun.

2) Don’t make exercise something that breaks you down. It should build you, and make you feel more energenic.

3) Eat instinctively and naturally. You know what you want to eat, but the easiest and quickest food available may be what you grab for. Resist the urge and eat natural food as much as you can.

4) Finally–don’t make your eating too Spartan. Treat yourself every-so-often and if you have a food you don’t believe you can live without, eat it. I like beer and wine. I also like ice cream. I eat them and drink them in moderation and my results are fine. And, actually beer and wine in moderation are probably a good thing. Here’s to Heineken and Merlot.


4 Responses to “On Fitness and Diet”

  1. 1 Mike Rozos
    September 29, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Yes, most people get their fitness tips from other clueless people. Remember the 80’s?

    “Eat 6,000 teeny, tiny meals a day.” “And NO fat!!”

    And then they advised lots of jogging, aerobics, and crunches, for those six pack abs. No power training, and lots of charts.

    I know from experience that eating and exercising based on bodily cravings is perfect. If you do both in kind, as you suggest, you won’t ruin yourself with either.

    Remember when I was all trained up and ready for the academy? I went there and did extremely well at all the fitness tests. Yet two weeks before the course your 45 year old dad still ran us both into the ground at Brandy Pond wearing shredded Converse All-Stars, then cracked open a can of bud and started cooking dinner on the fire, like he hadn’t moved.

    What was for dinner?


  2. November 2, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    At the risk of being a pain in the a55, I figured it might be ok to ask since you mention it. Basically, I was in excellent shape almost all of my life until I got to 29. I used to run 10ks regularly and did one marathon. I broke my leg though and was bedridden for a while. i got fat during that time and I’ve really struggled since then. Right now, I’m working out regularly and do pretty intense cardio at least 3 times a week – often 4 or 5 and I’ve really been paying attention to my diet. You mention the Warrior Diet. B/c of how much I’m working out and not losing weight commensurate with it – i have to think it’s my diet. Although I’m keeping calories in line and eating healthy stff – something isn’t working like I’d expect.

    I followed the link when you posted it but went back last night. Ori is definitely ripped and a lot of what he says makes sense. It’s also quite contradictory to conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom is not working so good though so I’m more open to it than ever. B/c I travel a lot with work, it may be a little hard to do but I think I can do it.

    Looking at your pics – you’re clearly in shape – from your posts it sounds like you’ve always been in pretty good shape Anyway, would you recommend the diet for pretty much anyone wanting to lose weight/gain muscle? Or is it something better targeted to someone in shape? I ask b/c I used to eat pasta by the boatload and went out of my way to keep calories up. But the same diet that worked when you’re training for marathons is terrible if you’re just getting back in shape. For some reason, I just got the vibe this diet is more suited to folks already in shape.

    i ordered the book earlier so I’ll certainly read it for myself, but it’s always better to have the opinion of people that tried it. It’s not too radical of a shift so I’m definitley willing to give it a try – just wondering in advance if it’s pretty good for everyone or mainly for people already in shape.

    P.S. You’re no doubt a busy guy and I asked a lot – so no biggy if you don’t have a chance to answer – just figured it’s worth a try.

    Thanks !

  3. November 2, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    I do recommend Ori’s book. Just remember that you don’t really have to take it to the extreme level that he does, though you can if you’ve got the will power.

    One of the things I like about the book is that Hofmekler makes it clear that relaxation is as important as tarining and being tough on yourself. The diet may take a while for you to get used to, but take it slow: Move your first meal ahead an hour at a time or skip the first meal. You’ll find what works for you.

    One major factor is training on an empty or almost-empty stomach. Certain survival mechanisms in your body are activated when this happens and your body secrets more growth hormone when you do this. Growth hormone plays a large factor in fat matabolism. Also, while I don’t recommend avoiding carbs, you should use them sparingly before bed, as they block growth hormone release when sleeping–and that’s the primary time that GH is secreted.

    In the morning, snack on a small amount of protein and maybe one piece of toast. Then go as long as you can until supper. Use coffee–it’s got verified health benefits and reduces appetite.

    I would do some resistance training along with your cardio.

  4. November 4, 2008 at 2:38 am

    I really appreciate your response. Thanks and I’m definitely going to give it a try. my metabolism isn’t what it was back in high school, but like most things, it’s winnable. I dont’ think the diet is going to be too hard to stick to – as much as I travel and travel between coasts, it’s close to how I eat anyway.

    BTW, as i mentioned I’ve been a lurker here for a while now and really enjoy this site. In more ways than one it’s quite inspirational and it’s a constant reminder that the good guys are more common than it appears.

    I couldn’t find a contact link so i posted something on your about page – not the type of thing i’d normally post publicly but wanted to make sure you got it before you ship out.

    Thanks again man, i really appreciate it

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