Exercise slacker.

To flog myself publicly, I’m calling up that I’ve been bad about exercising in the past few weeks, only going to the gym twice (sometimes just once) each week. All of the sordid details are documented on my Twitter exercise blog. This is all a result of my new year’s resolution to become more physically fit.

To help reach this goal, I also decided to learn about how the body is powered. I want to understand how food becomes fuel, and how to maximize my body’s benefit from that fuel. As the first step, I read Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food,” a sort of a follow-up to his “Omnivore’s Dilemma.” (I reviewed the latter a couple of years ago.) Pollan’s thesis is that food needs defending, because what we eat now isn’t food, but a food-like substance. He promotes the consumption of whole foods — things that our great-grandmothers would have recognized as food — rather than packaged foods that make nutritional claims. In fact, he’s basically opposed to “nutritionism,” demonstrating that most people are better off simply ignoring the concept of nutrition and instead eating a broad spectrum of plants and grains, with the odd bit of meat thrown in. I learned an enormous amount from Pollan’s book, and it’s had a genuine impact on how I eat. Recommended.

Can anybody recommend a decent book about the musculoskeletal system? Everything I’ve come across about the locomotor system is either meathead porn or dry textbook stuff. I’m hoping there’s something like “In Defense of Food” about the human body.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

16 replies on “Exercise slacker.”

  1. I would recommend Pete Egoscue’s books, either “Pain Free” or “The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion”. Egoscue states we don’t move our bodies like they were designed, we sit in chairs for 8 hours or other activities which utilize certain muscles at the expense of others.

    I would also recommend books by Mark Verstegen. I just picked up a copy of Core Essentials at the Library and I like his philosophy of exercise.

    Warning (shameless self promotion follows):
    I would also recommend seeing a good Network Spinal Analysis practitioner to learn more about your body. http://www.eylc.com

  2. Simply by giving up industrially produced foods and beverages (read: fluffed corn syrup and brominated vegetable oil masquerading as “soda”); reducing (but not eliminating) my consumption of meat; and eating only from-scratch cooked meals, I dropped my cholesterol over 80 points. Lost 10 pounds (> 7% of my body mass) too.

    Fortunately for me, my wife, a (lacto-ovo-pesco) vegetarian, is a very skilled gardener and cook.

  3. During the last month I’ve had great success with getting an outrageous amount of exercise and burning so many calories that my body makes persistent demands for particular types of fuel through my subconscious. I do about 22 hours a week of hard manual labor (construction, building stuff in my backyard) after work and on the weekends. The body then DEMANDS that I eat a pint of potato salad, a cucumber, half a pound of steak and a quart of orange juice. Or whatever the requirements of the day might be.

    I used to have to think about what I was going to eat. No more. Now I just shovel fuel. This approach to fitness and nutrition is certainly not for everyone but it’s definitely working for me.

  4. Jack — I get the potato salad. I get the steak and the orange juice. I’m not getting the cucumber.

  5. When I was doing my coursework in becoming a dance instructor, I found nothing more helpful than playing with the Anatomy Coloring Book. The act of coloring in the detailed sketches really helped me understand the human body in a way that all of my reading about it couldn’t. If they interest you, you can learn about the body’s other systems with this book, too — nervous, circulatory, endocrine, etc.

    You may find that this is an area where you can learn more easily by spending an hour with a professional (doctor, physical therapist, trainer, etc.) than from reading. You can always look up details when you need ’em, but through my training I have found that this is a type of learning that isn’t always easy to grasp through a traditional academic approach.

  6. Sorry to be off topic, but are you still in the Horse and Buggy CSA? I am looking to join one and was deciding between H&B and Best of What’s Around. Anyone have any experiences they would like to share? It’s just me and my husband. Thanks!

  7. We’ve done Horse & Buggy and have been happy with it.

    Don’t think we’ve done Best of What’s Around, so can’t comment there.

  8. I’ve subscribed to Best of What’s Around’s CSA for a couple of years and have had very positive experiences. You’ll get plenty of food for two and they grow everything organically.

    I know people who have subscribed to Horse & Buggy and they’ve been very satisfied with the quality of the food. That said, though, I don’t think they’re really a CSA, as you’re not dealing directly with the grower. It’s my understanding that Horse & Buggy is a middle-man, who gets produce from a number of family-owned farms, mostly in the Shenandoah Valley. This can probably provide you with more variety, but you won’t have a relationship with the farmer and all of the profits won’t go to the farmer.

  9. “Meathead porn”, heh. Never heard that before, but I know exactly what you’re talking about. Had to shovel through loads of that years ago (when I was going through a similar Learn More! phase).

    Also, Jackson makes a legit point. I have to say, when I’ve been really racking up the miles on the bike or otherwise going all out, the body tells me exactly what it needs, and it’s never junk. A beer and a pizza may sound like heaven before (and during!) a 40 mile slog along Skyline Drive, but after? I’d like a bowl full of garbanzo beans, baby spinach leaves, and pretty much any other raw vegetables you can hand me (including cucumbers).

    Now if only I could trigger that feeling ALL the time (he types, with a Chimay Red at hand).

  10. Nothing wrong at all with learning about how the body works, but achieving your exercise and fitness goal is really simple. Three or four times a week, do something — anything — that makes you sweat for 30 minutes. And don’t eat food that you *know* is bad for you. It’s not any more complicated than that.

  11. Hey Waldo —

    I’ve found this book to be very helpful, both in terms of exercise programs (which, if I recall correctly, is less of a concern for you, since you are working with a trainer) and in terms of basic know-how about the processes involved: Men’s Health: The Book of Muscle.

    As an aside, if you know that you’re going to be on a twice-weekly gym rotation, it is very easy to toggle your workouts to get maximum work done in minimal time. If you do it right, two/week won’t throw you off at all.

  12. We hired a former Army Captain who now runs a physical training consultancy up here in NoVA, and she has quite beaten the band into submission. We usually just ask her questions, but I’ve also seen some good stuff come out of Men’s health The Better Body Workout has exercises but also talks about what each one does and how you can correct certain issues, such as posture, etc. with basic core remedial exercises. Not up to the caliber of Pollan, but it has some good overall stuff.

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