Contrary to popular belief, strength and fitness is far more than the 60 minutes we spend in the gym. Opportunities to improve health begin from the moment we wake, until the moment we fall asleep. Just as weight loss is more than what we eat, fitness is more than time spent at the gym. Unfortunately, most adults sit 7 – 15 hours each day. We sit while driving to work, we sit at work, we sit while watching t.v., we sit while playing on the computer, we sit at dinner, and we sit in our bed before we lay down to sleep. When are we not sitting, really? The 60 minutes while you’re at the gym? That’s not enough.
Take a Stand for Your Health
Take a stand for your health and commit to spending more time standing. Humans evolved for active lifestyles involving hunting-gathering and agriculture. However, with recent advances in technology, there has been an upsurge in desk jobs that require prolonged sitting and limit physical activity. Unfortunately, most adults sit 7 – 15 hours each day. We sit while driving to work, we sit at work, we sit while watching t.v., we sit while playing on the computer, we sit at dinner, and we sit in our bed before we lay down to sleep.
When are we not sitting, really? The 60 minutes while you’re at the gym? That’s not enough. In fact, evidence suggests that all this sitting is in itself a health risk, regardless of the amount of time we spend at the gym. Take a stand for your health and commit to spending more time standing. Opportunities to improve strength and fitness begin from the moment we wake, until the moment we fall asleep. Just as weight loss is more than what we eat, strength and fitness is more than time spent at the gym.
To reduce your risk of injury, be sure to stand with proper form, avoid locking the knees, and sit when you are tired. With time, you will build the strength and endurance necessary to support standing for longer periods of time. Depending on your current level fitness, it may be beneficial to initiate bodyweight exercises prior to standing for long periods of time. For example, walking lunges, body weight squats, and even flat-lying glute bridges.
Walk Your Way Thin
When it comes to health and wellness — and achieving sustainable weight loss — walking is one of nature’s best remedies. What’s more, walking is the most eco-friendly form of transportation and it’s free. Walking for just 20 minutes a day has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and depression.
In fact, a study published by the University of Utah in 2014 found that women lowered their risk of obesity by 5 percent for every minute of brisk walking they performed throughout the day. In cancer patients, a walking program reduced percent body fat in patients with breast cancer after only 12 weeks.
If walking is new to you, you may feel compelled to purchase athletic shoes with a lot of cushion – don’t. Athletic shoes should protect your feet while supporting natural foot structure; they should not add 2 inches to your height or interfere with gait.
Strength training is a form of physical activity that is designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance. Strength training, like all other fitness-related training activities, requires the design and implementation of an effective program (also known as programming). When combined with proper nutrition, strength training serves to increase strength and power while improving sports performance and body composition. Not to mention, reduce risk of injury.
Examples of strength training activities include weight training and bodyweight training. Weight training can be performed using free weights (e.g., dumbbells), machines (e.g., leg press), or barbells. Examples of bodyweight exercises include walking lunges, push-ups, flat lying glute bridges, chair dips, box jumps, and leg raises. When it comes to barbell training, the major lifts (also known as the big five) include the back squat, deadlift, push press, bench press, and power clean.
The strength training resources I utilized to learn the big lifts include Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength Basic Barbell Training book, Basic Barbell Training DVD, and Practical Programming for Strength Training book. I also attended Ripp’s Starting Strength Seminar in Wichita Falls, Texas in 2014.
If you are genuinely interested in barbell training (specifically, barbell training), I highly recommend Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program. Starting Strength has been called “the best and most useful of fitness books” and I would agree.
If you’re serious about shedding body fat, add high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to your current workout. HIIT alternates periods of moderate-to-high intensity effort (such as sprinting) with periods of low-to-moderate intensity effort (like walking or jogging). It is often contrasted with long duration, “Steady-state cardio” (e.g., jogging).
One of the great things about HIIT is flexibility – unlike most specialized training programs, HIIT can be easily modified to meet all ages and fitness levels. Not to mention, is generally considered safe – and beneficial – even in populations with high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. While it’s often used in the context of sprint intervals, HIIT can actually be employed while running, walking, biking, and swimming – as long as you are alternating periods of moderate-to-high intensity exercise with a short rest period.
The health benefits of interval training include improvements in cardiovascular fitness and strength, fat loss, and reduced risk of developing certain chronic diseases (e.g., obesity and type 2 diabetes). Did I mention shorter workouts? Interval training is usually completed in 15 minute sessions.
When structuring a HIIT program, you need to consider 4 factors: duration, frequency, intensity, and the recovery (or rest period). When it comes to intensity, HIIT generally requires 80% or more of your maximum intensity. In simple terms, you are working at an intensity that makes carrying on a casual conversation difficult.
Run Fast or Be Last
Sprint intervals are my favorite type of interval training. Do you remember sprinting the 50-yard dash in elementary school? Perfect! Sprint intervals are more or less like sprinting the 50-yard dash, except, a lot of times. No really, sprint intervals consists of sprinting a short distance at maximum intensity (or close to it), and then walking back. Once you are back to the starting line, you sprint at maximum intensity again. Yes, it’s hard work, but sprint intervals are the ticket when it comes to fat loss.
If sprinting is too much for you right now – no worries. Start off slow. Walk fast for 30 seconds, and then slow for 60 seconds, then repeat (do this for 10 – 20 minutes several times per week). With time, you will build up your strength and fitness capabilities.
Rock My Fitness Program
My training program consists of strength training, interval training (sprint intervals), and indoor soccer. The major barbell lifts I perform include the low bar back squat, deadlift, push press, and bench press. My strength training program varies, but in general, I train each lift twice per week.
- Strength Training (5 x 5)
- Sprint Intervals
- Indoor Soccer
In general, most of the strength coaches I’ve worked with utilize either the 3 x 10 or 5 x 5 strength training methodology. After experimenting with both methods, I’ve developed a combination approach that includes higher repetitions to warm-up and lower repetitions (5 x 5) to train. Prior to strength training, I do some jogging and stretching.
- Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: Squat and Deadlift (5 x 5)
- Tuesday and Thursday: Bench Press and Press (5 x 5)
- Saturday: Bodyweight Exercises and Indoor Soccer
- Sunday: Rest
The bodyweight exercises I utilize include walking lunges, push-ups, flat lying glute bridges, chair dips, box jumps, and flat lying leg raises. I don’t perform these exercises every time I train. They are there when I feel like I need greater variety, lack access to the gym, or simply want to challenge myself that day.
My favorite HIIT exercise is sprint intervals. I sprint 90 yards, walk 90 yards, and repeat. I do this for 20-30 minutes, 3 times per week. Last, but not least, I play a little bit of indoor soccer whenever possible. Growing up, I played soccer for one of the most competitive soccer clubs in the country, Challenge Soccer Club, and was ultimately awarded a full soccer scholarship to McNeese State University. Soccer is my happy place. 🙂
Rules Breed Rebels
Keep in mind, I am not someone who can adhere to strict rules, not even the ones I program for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to imply I slack off (or skip workouts). What I mean is, if I want to modify my programming just a bit for that day (e.g., add something in or take something out), I will. Considering I’m not training for a competitive event, I keep my personal programming fun and flexible.
Granted, I’m not suggesting this approach is best or that you need to implement a flexible program like my own – at all. I’m simply trying to explain the madness behind my training program. My point is, I’m not a fan of strict rules, in any area of my life. Nor can I do the same exact thing, day, after day, after day. How boring..
My Strength Progress
Below is a poster I created to demonstrate my gains in strength and fitness. In summary, I gained 15 pounds (or 15 percent of my total body weight) in a 6 month period using the strength and fitness regimen I described above. Which, is a LOT by anyones standards. Gaining 15 percent of your total body weight without gaining a lot of adipose tissue (I actually lost fat tissue) is difficult for most guys.
And no, I did not use any protein supplements, ergogenic aids, or consume animal products (e.g., meat or dairy). I was vegan then like I’m vegan now (I’ve been vegan for 5+ years). You can learn more about my nutrition philosophy via the page titled Rebel Lifestyle, but in short, my diet = intermittent fasting and minimally processed plant-based foods. You can view examples of my food via the page titled Rebel Grub.
A Word About Athletic Shoes
I am a huge proponent of walking barefoot and minimalist shoes. Walking barefoot (or grounding) has been associated with improvements in physical and mental health. According to Patrick McKeon, a professor at Ithaca College of Health Sciences and Human Performance, walking barefoot can improve balance and posture, and prevent injuries such as shinsplints, plantar fasciitis and tendonitis. Granted, I personally limit walking barefoot in public places to avoid injury and disease (e.g., cuts and viruses).
When it comes to athletic shoes, opt for shoes with the least amount of cushion (or padding). Other names for minimalist shoes include barefoot or zero drop shoes. Ideally, athletic shoes should protect your feet without interfering with gait. Minimalist shoes have been associated with neurogenesis, improved running economy, and increases in foot and ankle strength.
As a high school soccer player, I underwent bilateral compartment releases (or shin splint surgery) twice. Sadly, I struggled with shin splints for the remainder of my soccer career even after the surgeries. The good news is, after I made the switch to minimalist shoes, my shin splints disappeared. Sure, this association may have been coincidence, but either way, overly cushioned athletic shoes aren’t necessary or beneficial for most people. Our ancient ancestors certainly did not run in cushioned athletic shoes. Neither do modern day tribes. Those who didn’t believe in running barefoot would have been eaten. 😉
If you do decide to transition to minimalist shoes, you should plan to transition gradually over several weeks in order to reduce foot and ankle soreness and reduce risk of injuries. My feet were sore for weeks after I switched to minimalist shoes, but then again, I didn’t gradually transition as I am suggesting here because I didn’t know any better. I had no idea my feet and ankle muscles were so weak. Heck, I played soccer all of my life.
My point is, most people should transition to minimalist shoes gradually (over a period of weeks) to reduce risk of injury and lessen muscle soreness. If you can’t tell, I can’t recommend minimalist shoes highly enough. If you can safely transition to minimalist shoes, you should do it.
FAQs and Misconceptions
I don’t want to get too big
I often hear women state that they don’t want to “get too big.” Our goal is to increase lean muscle mass while decreasing fat tissue via a comprehensive strength and fitness program, not simply increase the size of certain muscle groups via isolated training. You can easily increase strength without looking like a powerlifter. If it were that easy to “get big,” men wouldn’t waste their time or energy using dietary supplements, reading fitness and strength magazines, and perusing online resources – they’d just get BIG. Besides, just because someone has big muscles doesn’t mean they are actually strong. Our goal is to actually increase strength and power, not just look strong.
I don’t want to get too bulky
I’m not sure what “bulky” even means, but it’s important to understand that strength is not equivalent with bodybuilder physique. Professional bodybuilders (both male and female) utilize a very specific training method including “bulking and cutting” as well as ergogenic aids (e.g., steroids, protein supplements, and diuretics) to achieve their desired look.
What are your thoughts about cutting and bulking?
Not good, using anabolic steroids and engaging in the act of “cutting and bulking” isn’t healthy long-term. You can get lean without bulking.
How do I get 6-pack abs like the girl on the cover of _____ magazine?
You don’t. The girls who flaunt 6-pack abs on the cover of fitness magazines are fitness models – not real athletes. In order for a female to get 6-pack abs like the fitness models seen on the cover of fitness magazines, you need to use diuretics and female steroids. Most athletes are not super ripped as a certain percentage of body fat is required for optimal athletic performance.
Muscle striations are not normally visible in well-nourished, hydrated individuals. As I briefly mentioned above, this look is achieved by using diuretics (to promote dehydration), anabolic steroids, and extreme carbohydrate restriction (which, serves to further enhance dehydration). Dehydration is desired to achieve visible muscle striation.
My point is, fitness models get ripped for photoshoots using practices that are unnatural and unhealthy long-term. Competitive female athletes, on the other hand, avoid dehydration and carbohydrate restriction as these practices severely hinder athletic performance, and instead, achieve their physique through proper nutrition and exercise.
Thoughts about pre-workout?
The active ingredient in most pre-workout supplements is caffeine. Caffeine is added to pre-workout supplements because caffeine increases power and intensity, and reduces fatigue during exercise. Not to mention, reduces delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after training. Unfortunately, pre-workout supplements also contain a whole host of other ingredients, which may be harmful to health or even illegal.
An alternative to pre-workout supplements would be pure anhydrous caffeine (e.g., 200 mg tablets); which, can be purchased OTC at most grocery stores and pharmacies. I have a poster about the benefits of caffeine on athletic performance in the photo gallery below.
To learn more about my lifestyle, click here.
To view photos of my clean and green grub, click here.
Posters and Charts
To view my posters and charts, click here.
To view my shopping lists, click here.
To view meal planning information and inspiration, click here.
Pinterest and Facebook
Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. This means you are free to use my work for personal use (e.g., save the file to your computer or share via social media) as long as you do not modify the image or use the image for commercial purposes ($).
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