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Press Takeaways: On Fasted Workouts, Strength Training and Sprints, and Not Being a Physical Yo-Yo

This Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer Health section featured an article by Justin D’Ancona entitled Fasting workout, quicker results? with a number of quotes from yours truly. It first tackled the question of fasted workouts and their usefulness before handling workout prescriptions. Here, for your benefit, are 6 expanded takeaways. #6 is my favorite, so if you’re in a rush, jump to it.

1: “Like most fitness questions, and answers, this one falls into the gray area.” – Justin D’Ancona

Smart, smart, SMART quote from D’Ancona. The article itself tackles two studies that fall on opposite sides of the fasted workout equation. One proclaims no results, while the other reports significant – up to 20% bodyfat! – improvements in its subjects.

Your takeaway here is to stop headline hunting because headlines tell you very little. Studies can be flawed and have an assortment of small sample sizes, biases in gender, age, ability, etc, and narrow thinking (displaying a positive/negative without considering a resulting positive/negative elsewhere). Studies are useful – yes! – but they require your critical thinking and personal experimentation to derive real results.

2: “The researchers discovered those in the group that exercised fasted didn’t compensate for missed meals by consuming additional calories during lunch, nor did they complain of an increased appetite for the remainder of the day.” – Justin D’Ancona

Here’s an example of a study takeaway that requires the aforementioned critical thinking and personal experimentation. It’s an intriguing idea. Can you fast through breakfast, not suffer cognitively or physically, and consume fewer calories (which would in theory be an effective weight loss strategy)?

My experience with fasted exercise is this: it works for lower stress output. If you’re typically more relaxed in the morning and walking or doing low intensity work, it’s worth considering. If, however, you’re a morning high performer and doing higher intensity work, my experience says it will break you.

3: “For the most part, my recommendation is to eat balanced… My philosophy revolves around a positive source of protein, positive source of carbohydrate, positive source of fat.” – Me

“Low” or “no” anything are short-term strategies and are maaaaybe applicable from-time-to-time for the right reasons. If you consistently and significantly deprive anything, it’ll have unintended consequences. Give yourself well-rounded and focus on quality sourcing.

4: “Get a big strength workout and a big sprint workout in a week. Where with the strength workout you’re pushing your limits on the type of weight that you’re able to push, pull, squat, and deadlift…” – Me

Strength is the foundation of your house. Quick message to the ladies: if I never again hear the “but I don’t want to get muscular” retort to my strength programming, I’ll die happy.

After your best friend of walking – yes, walking – strength is next on your priority list. It’ll sustain and build muscle mass, which is worth its weight in gold, while also preparing you for the daily stressors of life – picking up babies, landscaping, snow shoveling, and playing pickup sports.

Quick self-evaluation: If you are someone with back pain AND someone who regularly shirks strength training (with sound form, of course), re-evaluate your life. Immediately.

5: “…And then on your sprint workouts, you’re working shorter, but super high intensity. So, like, 30 [seconds] on, a minute off, eight times, but every time you’re doing that 30 on, toward the end of that 30 you’re really struggling.” – Me

Intensity. Scaling yourself up the intensity spectrum sends a direct signal to your primal physical wiring to improve… or else. If you want that next chunk of physical results, you’d best find the time to sprint.

A few words on sprinting. My definition: performing an activity as intensely as possible for the prescribed block of time. That means if it’s :10, you’re dying at the 10th second. If it’s :30, you’re spent at 30. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

6: “Wait, weight loss results from only two workouts per week? ‘I think people usually start too fast with too much. Prove to me you can do two workouts a week first.'” – Me

More is not better. It’s not.

Thought experiment: would you rather…

  1. Train like hell for 10 weeks, work yourself up to a physical peak you enjoy for 2-to-4 weeks, and plummet off a cliff without a parachute. End scene: 1-year later you wake up in a worse position than you were to begin with.
  2. Develop reasonable health habits that progress you slower up a hill (not a mountain). End scene: 1-year later you wake up in the best shape of your life with the ability to sustain it.

I get that you want results, and you want them NOW. I get it. But do you really want to vacillate between periods of killing yourself for 6 workouts a week, getting injured and/or petering out, then not doing a damn thing? Do you really aspire to be a physical yo-yo?

Start reasonably. Sink your energy into walking, strength, and sprinting (Have you listened to the Keith Norris podcast yet? We handle that exact formula.) Prove that formula to yourself. Then add the frills if you’d like.


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Free Fitness Results! Interested?

While I respect and am proud to offer external accountability to many, there is another side of the coin. When striving for physical results, it’s essential to understand. Allow me to explain…

First, a spark. I recorded a follow up podcast – release in two weeks – with real-life Hulk Keith Norris (listen to his first one here). Late in the conversation we talked sleep. More specifically, we discussed how an individual can spend so much time stressing over breakfast, supplements, and workouts while getting choppy 4-5 hour per night sleep. Doesn’t that seem counterproductive?

Second, a flame. I programmed a heap of walking for a friend to develop the habit, which we know drives body composition improvement and long-term health. Unfortunately the response was that while my effort was appreciated, walking wasn’t intense enough and would be swapped out.

This isn’t a diss to those who don’t sleep well or to my friend, who I love. With that said, here’s my emotion right now. W. T. F. Spelled out more specifically, that’s “what the fuck”, people.

When FREE samples, sessions, or supplements are offered, most people jump at the opportunity. However when FREE physical results are offered, most people ditch them like a bad habit.


  • Supplements cost significant money. Broccoli doesn’t. Many people buy into supplements and rarely steam broccoli.
  • Personal training sessions cost significant money. Walking doesn’t. Many people attend their sessions and skip the walks.
  • Television cable packages and technological devices with screens cost significant money. Sleep doesn’t. Many people watch television, keep their screens on, and sleep horribly.
  • Meditation retreats, programs, and apps cost significant money. Meditation itself doesn’t. Many people go to the retreats, complete the programs, buy the apps, and then don’t meditate.

Here’s a damn simple formula: eat unprocessed, walk prodigiously, sleep well, and find a consistent outlet for your stress.

Do these things and do these things well. Then allocate your money to a personal trainer who revolutionizes your strength world, to a supplement that fills in a blank, or to a retreat that interests you.

Don’t be someone who spends thousands upon thousands of dollars on fitness without carrying your own weight in the fitness equation. Work on establishing internal accountability, then add external accountability.

Look inward, not outward.

It’s free.

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How 52 Push-ups Becomes 22,344

Consistency. I beat that word like a dead horse. Consistency produces results.

What does consistency mean in practice? This recent self-challenge helps illustrate:

  • Complete 52 push-ups on a Monday in any way you choose. Rinse and repeat for 6 of 7 weekdays. Grand total: 312 weekly push-ups.
  • Complete 53 push-ups for 6 of 7 days the next week. Grand total: 318 weekly push-ups.
  • Continue the process of adding a push-up to your daily total each week. Do this for 48 out of 52 weeks of the year, taking 4 full weeks to either rest or break up the monotony with something completely different.
  • End result exactly 1 year later: 100 push-ups per day. Grand total: 600 weekly push-ups.
  • Cumulative end result: 22,344 push-ups.

Now it’s your turn! It’s an official challenge.

Rules of the Challenge:

  1. Choose an exercise that makes sense for you. I chose push-ups based on chest development and personal interest.
  2. Choose a starting point that makes sense for you. Pick an attainable number that does not produce significant soreness. 52 push-ups fit the bill for me.
  3. Vary your daily set structure. Chop it up in baby sets of 5 or two larger sets. Perform the sets in close proximity or far apart throughout the day. Experiment with variety and don’t sweat the details. (Note: Avoid leaning too heavily on grinding max sets, as they’ll increase soreness)
  4. Practice perfect form. You have thousands of cumulative repetitions to understand the exercise better and ensure it’s done perfectly every time.
  5. Use your rest weeks… but not necessarily to rest. I advocate changing up your motion patterns from time to time, as it will help with overuse injuries. 4 “off” weeks are built in, so use them to do anything except [your exercise].

One final thing. Choose an exercise that travels well. Push-ups can be done anywhere, anytime, anyplace – no excuses. I successfully took my 53 push-up week on a beach vacation! Simplicity and ease of access mean you’ll get the job done without added mental stress.

That’s it team.

How simple is this? 52 push-ups equates to about a minute per day. 100 push-ups (the end of the challenge) equates to two minutes per day. You can perform them at work, on the road, or at home. You can perform them in a suit, athletic gear, or your underwear.

What is the reward? Your upper body and core benefit. You’ll look and perform like a push-up champion. You’ll have a newly ingrained habit that translates to infinite other wellness behaviors.

Are you willing to pay the simple price of consistency for disproportionate results?

Go get it.

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The “Secret” to Mass Building

Here for your benefit is an email exchange I had today with a friend. While it only scratches the surface of a popular topic and prefaces a drill-down into specifics, it’s a window into a sound philosophy. Magic pills and more-is-better are short-term strategies. Resist those avenues and focus on your fundamentals for results that last. Unmodified cookie cutter plans are also short-term strategies. Practice self-awareness and adapt them in the name of consistency and personal interest.


I just started working out again (probably since college) with the goal of putting on some size.  Any workout schedules/tips would be a huge help – I’m kind of making it up as I go.  Also, I know there’s a ton of BS with supplements – but wanted to ask if you had any recommendations before I go into GNC and get worked over by a sales rep.


Your strategy to put on mass is simple and two-fold: (1) increase strength volume and (2) increase eating volume. I know that sounds outrageously minimal, but it is the time tested formula. Allow me to expand…

ANY improvement over your current baseline (what you’re currently doing) produces results. Period, end of story. The actual results depend on your programming and level of improvement. Too little produces a minimal change. Too much crashes and burns you over time.

Strength Volume:
Start slow. If you’re picking up from way back in the college days, begin with 2x/week total body strength with ample rest between workouts. Include upper body pushes and pulls and lower body presses/squats/lunges (pick one) and deadlifts. 3-ish sets of each, 8-12-ish reps per set. Keep it vanilla. Focus on redeveloping your fitness habit and using strict form. Feel free to conclude each workout with the bro muscles (arms, calves, etc.) you’re interested in and a challenge along the lines of a farmer’s walk.

Get several weeks under your belt before advancing. When you advance, you’ll have a decision to make. How many days do you realistically want to workout and how singularly do you want to focus on size? The answers to these questions determine whether you begin splitting up the body and whether you layer in conditioning work (sprints, etc.) We can always revisit then.

Eating Volume:
Keep it simple. Eat more. You’re also lean to begin with, so don’t skimp. Stay well rounded and prioritize a blend of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. If you can handle lactose, a fantastic post-workout beverage is grass-fed full fat milk. Which brings us to…

Keep them simple as well. Most are junk. Protein and creatine are the two backed by data and geared toward your needs. I don’t like getting crazy with creatine quantity, and if I’m using it I’m on 5g/day. Here’s my preferred protein due to quality, simplicity, and its blendability (I doubt that’s a word).

Bottom Line:
The harder you hit the fundamentals, the stronger your house’s foundation. The simpler you keep things, the more likely you’ll see the project through. Go get it.

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Input, Output, and Improvement

I spent my weekend watching two sporting events.

On Saturday night, I watched the loud, brash, walk-right-through-you Conor McGregor knock out Chad Mendes at UFC 189 after struggling through early challenges.

On Sunday morning, I watched the cool, calm, classy Roger Federer display grace in defeat to Novak Djokovic in some of the best tennis you’ll ever watch.

Two athletes displayed the consummation of years and years of behind-the-scenes blood, sweat, and tears on the biggest of stages. Both shined in their own ways.

In both instances, I came away inspired. I came away wanting to work harder and be better. That is what sports do for me.

But sports are not the point of this post. The point is input=output, the simple equation at the root of everything. 

What you choose to usher into your eyeballs and earholes and all of your sensory channels is a cause, and every cause has an effect. 

The cause/effect combination is unique to you, and there are a host of useful effects depending on the circumstance – ignition, inspiration, improved perspective, empathy, meditation, relaxation.

Are you consciously choosing your causes? Are you consciously aware of their effects?

If you want to improve your mind, body, and business, start there.

As I’m typing this, I turn my head to the right and see Arnold Schwarzenegger on the wall. He’s telling me to get to work, and so that’s exactly what I’ll do.

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Exercise is Overrated

Are we too tied to the concept of “exercise”?

It comes with a host of expectations.  Exercise _ times per week.  Exercise _ minutes per workout.  Exercise at _ intensity.  Exercise in _ format.

Ironically these criteria can create pressure, which in turn create excuses.  This is a crazy week, so I’ll pick it up next week.  I only had 20 minutes, so it wasn’t worth working out.  I didn’t feel up to it, so I bailed.  My trainer wasn’t available, so I’ll get after it next time.

Studies and data back up a useful point to internalize: the most important variable is that you do something – anything! – consistently.  Almost anything (safe) performed above your current baseline produces positive physical results.

The exception to this is the athlete/competitor tearing after aggressive goals.  Yes, this requires detailed, personal, and progressive programming.  But let’s be honest – how many of us fit that description?  Not many.  Most of us want healthy bodies that we can be proud of without requiring huge sacrifices on the personal and professional fronts.

Your takeaway is to forget “exercise”.  Take the pressure off, and strip away the expectations.  Try “movement” on for size.  It’s a comfier fit.

Now re-assess those excuses.  Any movement you fit in during the crazy week helps.  20 minutes is hugely beneficial.  When you don’t feel up to it, take a walk.  Any trainer worth his or her salt will provide an at-home/outdoor routine to keep you on track, so just ask!

Take an honest look at your lifestyle – your profession, your family, your recreation.  Instead of forcing in exercise, find opportunities to seamlessly integrate movement.

Have a walking conference call.  Go to yoga with your neighbors.  Play a game of Ultimate Frisbee.  Hike with the dog.  Engage your best friend in a push-up challenge.  Engage your family in a Fitbit challenge.  Choose to take the stairs.  Use the free workout videos on your cable package (did you know I have some of those?)  Hold a plank a day.  Do a pull-up every time you pass the bar in your house.  Do 10 squats from your computer chair every half-hour you’re seated.  Learn a Turkish Getup.  Lift, run, bike, swim, row.

Start simple.  Move.