Three useless words for getting healthy

31 03 2012

Diet and exercise.  How I hate those words.  Although true, they are 100% useless.  Here’s a similarly useless answer to the question, how do I run faster?  Turn your legs over faster.  Again, while true, this is not useful advice to someone who wants to run faster.

Diet

Healthy or unhealthy?

There are a million diets out there, so telling someone to diet is pointless.  Most people have no clue about the most effective diets, but assume stupid things the mass media tells them are true.  If I were to guess what the typical American thinks a healthy diet is, I would say the only thing they think they know is that they should eat more salad, which by the way is not going to help much.  To the right is an image of my breakfast: two eggs cooked in real butter, three slices of bacon, a fistful of frozen spinach and flax seed.  I consider this to be a healthy breakfast.  Most people probably think that oatmeal and fruit would be a healthy breakfast, but I think that is an average breakfast.  Telling someone “you should diet” doesn’t help them choose a breakfast.

My above complaint addresses the idea that if someone says “diet and exercise,” they mean you should get on a diet.  However, if by diet they mean “eat less,” then they are a complete idiot who is probably naturally thin and knows nothing.  No one keeps weight off simply by eating less.  It may work for a short while, but eventually they cave and regain the weight.  There is one scenario in which losing weight by eating less could work: if they are overweight because they have been purposefully over eating, such as me doing GOMAD.

Exercise

Exercise can mean anything.  When most people want to start exercise they go out and do the most useless things: super slow jogging at minimal distances and workouts like light weights and lifts such as bicep curls.  Again, useless.  Contrary to what you may believe, there is a correct way to run, and if you’re not doing it, you’re likely destroying your joints, which is why something like 70% of runners get injured every year (citation required).  Lifting light weights does just about nothing for you, unless you’re doing it all day, which you’re not.  To give you an idea of the intensity you need, below are two examples of me in my prime, in two different ways, running and lifting.

Below are a couple of videos of me, spaced 9 years apart.  The first is me in my last two mile track and field event in 2002, I was probably 16 years old, 5’7″ tall, and weighed 130 pounds.  I’m the one in yellow and green passing the two other guys in the final stretch and I believe my time was about 11:54, meaning I ran two miles sub 6 minutes.  The second is me deadlifting 360 pounds, the most I’ve ever done.  I was 25 year old, 5’10” tall, and weighed about 185 pounds.

I’ll try to give you an idea of the workouts I was doing leading up to both videos.

For cross country we ran 6 days a week, during training season it was like this: Monday 3 miles average pace, Tuesday 2 miles of sprinting (16 back to back 100’s, 16 200’s, or 8 400’s) with a mile warm up, Wednesday was 3 miles average pace, Thursday sprints again, Friday 3 miles again, Saturday 10 miles.  Race season was similar but Thursdays were meets and Saturdays were lighter or off.

For lifting I did 3 months of stronglifts followed by a 6 weeks of Madcow.  You can download my Madcow Excel sheet if you want to see how much I was lifting.

So now I have two questions for you.  First, would you rather have a skinny build or a strong/athletic build?  I ask because when most people think of “exercise” to lose weight, they think of jogging, and are thus aiming for a lame skinny build like me in CC.  However, I think most people would agree that an athletic build is better, so they should be lifting weights instead of jogging.  Second, are your workouts anywhere near as intense as the workouts I listed above?  If not, don’t expect to see the same kind of results.  People who jog/run don’t see much results because A: they don’t do enough mileage and B: they don’t do hard sprints.

Useful advice for you

You might be thinking to yourself, “well smartass, if telling people to diet and exercise is useless, and doing crazy training like what you did is out of my league, what is helpful?”  The best advice I can think of off the top of my head: research healthy living/weight loss programs and then experiment with different programs with 3 month commitments.  My suggestions are: stronglifts.com, paleo, primal blueprint, and Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Body.  This method involves (at least) 3 things you’re not doing.

1: Researching different programs that have worked for others.

2: Committing to a program for at least 3 months.

3: Experimenting with different programs.

Are you operating on this level, or are you just trying the latest fad diet and taking advice from coworkers?


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