Welcome to Geek Fitness Week!
Getting in shape isn’t just for the contributors of jockdad.com. I think there’s this misconception that geeks are just sitting around with an X-Large drink in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other as we read our game manuals or watch our favorite shows. But I’d argue that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I believe that most geek dads today are probably a bit more knowledgeable about the pros and cons of a sedentary lifestyle and even if we’re not counting every calorie that goes into our bodies and even if we’re not spending hours out of each day running and lifting weights and swimming and biking and… you get the picture… we are probably all well aware of the benefits of working towards a healthier lifestyle.
We geek dads are also concerned about the health of our children and our spouses as well. I’m looking forward to playing a lot of video games with my sons as they get older, but I’m also looking forward to a lot of bike riding, swimming, and even a few games of paintball when they feel they’ve got what it takes to take on dear ol’ Dad.
This week, we’ve got some odds and ends to post concerning fitness. And I’m going to open up this series of posts with a review of a suitably titled new book that has some excellent discussions and suggestions for getting in shape. The book is Fitness for Geeks, and it’s written by Bruce Perry who has plenty of geek and fitness cred — he’s a software engineer and writer as well as a fitness fan who enjoys hiking, running, skiing, and resistance training.
The book differs from other fitness books in that you’re not going to find one specific diet to follow or one particular workout routine to perform. Instead, Perry uses the book to educate geeks by talking to us on our terms and understanding that we often want as much detail as possible so that we can make our own decisions rather than have one provided to us.
An example of this is with his chapter on carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. He educates us first, by explaining how we get these components into our diet and what their function is with respect to our bodies. Throughout his discussions, Perry isn’t preachy — he’s not going to tell you the right way or wrong way to eat, the proper percentages of fat vs. carbs vs. proteins to aim for, or the best times to eat and exercise. Instead, he’ll give you a rundown of the research that’s been done as well as a large number of sidebar interviews with experts in various fields that offer up all the information geeks will want before making their own decisions.
I’ve been doing my best to get back in shape since discovering Fitocracy — it’s been a great motivational tool that’s kept me heading to the gym and getting stronger and more fit. There are chapters here that introduce you to the basic (and what many feel are the best) movements and exercises that are good for your body. Perry doesn’t assume that you have any experience in a gym, and he gives you photos and plenty of detailed descriptions on a number of techniques for working out. And if you don’t have a gym or don’t want to join, you’re going to find a lot more information in the book that will still get you back in shape, For example, I had no idea of the health benefits provided by a particular type of sprinting called Tabata sprints (page 166). I gave them a try just recently this last week and I could only get halfway through the standard eight repetitions (with short rests between each) before I was completely exhausted. I’ll definitely need to build up to the full eight reps, and after hearing Perry’s explanation along with some other research I did on this version of sprinting, I’m quite convinced about the benefits.
Perry also covers the topic of fitness tools quite a bit. I use my BodyMedia device constantly, and I never really understood completely the concepts of MET, Metabolic Equivalent of Task. I knew that a sedentary person would receive a 1.0 value for sitting and no real exercise. My body monitor allows me to check my value each and every day to make sure that I’m getting some sort of exercise, even if it’s walking around the block with my son at the end of the day. This book covers quite a bit of the various devices (including the FitBit) and the software that’s available for mobile devices for helping you with your fitness goals.
One of my favorite parts of this book is Perry’s discussion on how our modern lifestyle compares to those of our ancestors. Not everyone buys into the Paleo Diet (changing your eating to match early man’s foraging and hunting for meat and berries), and not everyone buys into the idea of using a podium at work to stand while working. But before you completely make up your mind about these concepts, give this book a read. Perry’s explanations and data that talk about how our bodies and our genetics were not designed for 7+ hours of sitting per day is quite shocking. After reading about the benefits of standing more and sitting less, I’m totally willing to give it a try. In my job (and most likely yours), sitting at a desk is just something I’ve come to accept as the way to do things… but my eyes have been opened a little bit with a better understanding of how our genetics simply have not changed enough over the thousands and thousands of years to suddenly go from hunting and foraging to sitting in front of a screen.
One of my least favorite parts of the book is Perry’s discussion on intermittent fasting. I say least favorite because I’ve implemented it and I’m seeing results… to the tune of having to change my eating habits and finding myself occasionally hungry. Intermittent fasting is a hot topic right now in the fitness world, with folks claiming it’s a fad and others saying it provides unbelievable results. I refused to take a side on it after reading about it (both in this book and with my own research) and decided to put it to the test. After about a month of intermittent fasting, all I can say is that it works for me. My body seems to be literally scavenging my fat reserves (what I have left) for fuel. Page 142 will give you a complete list of what’s going on in your body when you choose to fast, and there’s some solid research referenced here. (Perry also provides some apps that help with the fasting process should you choose to implement one.)
I’ve only covered about six of the eleven chapters in Fitness for Geeks — other chapters include information on supplements, outdoor exercising, food hacks (for helping to change your habits), and much more. You’ll find this 300-page book an excellent source of information to digest (pun intended) and mull over if you’re looking for some incentives, some rationale, and some options for improving your health.