5 min read

THIS is how you should work out (Part 1)

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I got served about 10 articles this morning about how I could get myself in shape. Never mind that I'm married to the world's best coach. The always-tracking-me-internet doesn't seem to know that – or, more likely, doesn't care, because it wants to sell me something.  

I hate being told that whatever I'm doing is not good enough. This type of article is the bread and butter of so many different types of organizations, and it's designed to keep you on the page for ten more seconds of self-loathing. You don't need to feel bad about yourself, and you don't need tips from some writer who has a quota of getting 10,000 views on their articles per day or they'll get fired.

Yeah, that's how most publications work. If they don't use a quota, they pay based on views, or whatever other metric makes the publication money. Most of the ones I know of use views, though, because advertisers pay publishers based on views.

Of course those articles are all going to be sensational. They're all going to do things that make you feel horrible about yourself, even if you're doing everything you can. It's meant to instill in you this feeling of never-enoughness. And it's almost impossible to block it out once you've read it, or watched it.

Don't get me wrong: there's some really good content out there. My wife is constantly looking at what other Pilates teachers are doing to get ideas. I love to read scientific papers about metabolism, distance running, and the like. One of my favorite podcasts is a wonky one for ultra-marathon distance runners, The Science of Ultra, even if I have no plans of ever running that far.

But there's nothing out there that says that doing 10 push-ups a day is the key to fitness. There are articles, like this one from Livestrong, that bait you with the idea that a push-up-only workout will work... only to tell you later in the article that, no, it won't work. Because of course it won't work. And that's actually a good article, because it's got citations and someone writing it who interviewed reasonable people.

So this is part one of a series I'm going to do about how to actually get into shape. tl;dr: exercise however you can and eat real food as often as possible.

Actually, that's really the whole article.

More variety is better than less variety, at least for me: in January, I decided I wanted to row a quarter million meters. So I did. And I got really, really good at rowing, which is one of the sports that uses most muscles in your body. Cross-country skiing is the other one that uses most muscles, and that was the other sport I did.

Did I lose weight?


Did I gain amazing strength elsewhere?

Nope. Actually, other exercises that I had been doing at the time, like dips, got significantly worse. So did pushups.

My body kind of wants to be stressed in different ways. So I went back to stressing it, and now I'm in better shape than I was when I was doing 20,000 meters at a time... but I can't really row that distance anymore, or at least, not as easily as I could.

What turns out not to matter that much for me, or for my friends, is how hard we push. None of us are regularly booting our faces off after a workout because we pushed ourselves to our absolute limit.

The part that matters is just showing up to the things that force you to move differently.

This also turns out to be true in work – you need to stretch yourself to the places you're uncomfortable – although I'll tackle that a different day.

As for real food, we drink a lot of smoothies in the morning. It's a nice way to start the day:

beware lest the smoothies revolt

We find that the stuff we put into our bodies makes a huge difference in how we feel all day. Starting out with a smoothie means we started out our days with almost all of the fruits and vegetables that we'll need.

Will any of this work for you? I have no idea. Each person is different. YOU are different. This is what works for us – two people in their early forties who make time to work out for an hour or two a day. Well, at least, I try to make that time.

Don't let anyone on the internet make you feel bad about how you're exercising, eating, or anything else. Most of those people make their money by making you feel bad.

All you need to do is show up and do the things that make you uncomfortable, and then eat your dang vegetables. Nowhere in that list is listening to people who want to tell you that you're living your life all wrong.

It is your life, after all.

Fun stuff I found

I know that I used to fantasize about just not showing up for work and seeing what would happen. I kind of did that for my honeymoon a decade ago – we wanted to go to Tahiti (I had many, many points and airline miles to pay for the trip from work), but I didn't have enough vacation time. So I took what I had... and then didn't show up for another 2 weeks. I didn't get fired, and they kept paying me. But this guy who didn't show up for work for 15 years... he's got me beat.

I'm hugely negative on Bitcoin – I think that the high concentration of bitcoin with a few people and mining operations is generally a bad thing, because those holders have pretty limited incentives for long-term stewardship of the coin in the way that a country has for its currency (not that countries are all that great there either). This article, whose authors are also negative on bitcoin, is one of the first ones that makes a coherent argument about why you should hold some anyway.

This is totally awesome – a kid built his 96-year-old grandmother a telegram that lets her text and have calls, and it looks like an old-school switchboard. I kind of want to buy that for my 87-year-old stepfather.

Finally, for you Disney / Frozen fans out there:

The Best Therapy from webcomics

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