“Exercise and temperance can preserve something of our early strength even in old age.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Exercise and temperance can preserve something of our early strength even in old age.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero


Cicero was born in 106 BCE. He was a philosopher and a politician in the Roman Empire and was a witness to Caesar’s death.[1] While he nor anyone in the Roman Empire were spreading the vast benefits of exercise to one’s health, this quote from Cicero shows us that attempts to prolong health and life through exercise and nutrition are relatively old concepts that have adapted over time. Before agricultural practices were established, exercise was built into a human’s day considering it was necessary to move around to hunt and gather food. As agriculture became more prominent, daily physical activity decreased. In order to keep militaries strong and populations healthy, civilizations came up with sports, gymnastics, and martial arts to keep their people strong enough to fight.[2] The Spartans are a good example of an early exercise that was specific to combat. Cicero and the Romans were a part of this era, but as the Roman Empire grew, their lavish life often allowed their nonmilitary citizens to live a sedentary life.[3]

“Our very exercises and recreations, running, wrestling, music, dancing, hunting, riding, and fencing will prove to be a good part of our study.” – Michel de Montaigne

As we entered the Renaissance, philosophers such as Michel de Montaigne believed that exercise was an important form of education and emphasized the need for exercise and games.[4] Links between the body and the mind became well known. Exercise, games, and sport continued to be a staple of human culture, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that we saw recreational exercise plans and physical education become common place.[5] Today, not only do our military train for power like the Romans and the Spartans, but we can all exercise to “preserve something of our early strength even in old age”.

[1] http://www.iep.utm.edu/cicero/

[2] https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/history.html

[3] Ibid

[4] http://www.jblearning.com/samples/0763749591/49591_ch03_mclean.pdf

[5] https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/history.html


Sprint Interval Workout

Sprints are a great way to improve your cardiovascular health, strengthen your lower body, and to aid with weight loss. A sprint is simply running at your full speed, giving it your all. This could range from a fast walk if you are just getting started, all the way to the speed of a car giving it a little gas, it all depends on how fast you can run. An interval is a stop and go style of training and is typically measured in periods of time or distance. This means a sprint interval is running as fast as you can for a specified distance or time, taking a short break, and then sprinting again. This type of high-intensity interval training can benefit you more than normal jogging due to the resultant increases in power, speed, and strength that normal running will not give you.

There are two primary ways to setup your sprint interval workout: time and distance. If you chose to time your workouts, you will choose how long you will be sprinting for, and how long you will conduct a slow jog for. When you’re first beginning, a good goal is to sprint for 10 seconds and jog for 50 seconds. Every minute on the minute you will start a new sprint. Continue doing the intervals until you reach your total workout time, which if you are a beginner may be about 10 minutes. Distance based intervals work best on a running track. Choose how many laps you want to sprint and jog, and use the track to determine your flow. On a quarter mile track it is fun to jog the turns and sprint the straight away.

While everyone’s sprint interval workout will differ due to one’s own abilities, it is always good to begin with a few interval periods where you keep it at a slow jog. Once you are warmed up, then you can begin the sprints. Jumping straight into a full speed workout can lead to an injury, so make sure you properly warm-up.

You can mix and match distances and times however you want! For example, a common sprint interval workout is to sprint for 200 meters, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat 5-15 times. Do what works for you, but ensure during your intervals you are running at full speed during your sprints.

You can also do sprint intervals with other exercises besides running. Try doing sprint intervals while swimming, cycling, ellipicalling (I think I made that word up), or rowing.

Fruits and Vegetables

Low Carb Diet vs. High Starch Diet: Which One is Better? The Answer May Not be so Obvious

Probably the most confusing part of nutrition is just trying to figure out how to eat healthily. This is difficult because you have doctors, trainers, and nutritionists who all say different things, which just confuses all of us, including myself.

Just for fun, I asked the general public using Quora what the pros and cons of high starch (high-carb) diets are. Generally, we accept that a low carbohydrate diet helps with weight loss, so I wanted to see what people thought about a high starch / high carb diet. The answers I received were very different from one another. One “advocate of low carb lifestyle” explained that a high starch diet is the cause of obesity, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, heart disease, and cancer, and these occur because of the lack of human adaptation to an agriculturally based diet. An athletic trainer commented saying there are absolutely no pros to a high starch diet and that the whole idea is a fraud. A food security consultant countered that viewpoint saying complex carbohydrates like what are found in starches are not the problem, simple carbohydrates such as sugar is the problem. There were a couple comments that I would consider to be the ‘voices of reason’ that explained the conditions of each diet, and how it depends on what you need individually. Then someone posted saying the only cons to a high starch diet are that “people love to eat what they have always eaten. You will be made fun of and ostracized by the ignorant…Eat starch be healthier and live better.” With only 12 answers to my question, I got a full spectrum of answers.



Here’s another good example of this spectrum of opinions. Both of these books were written by very intelligent doctors, and both books are highly rated best sellers. The difference is one book is telling you to eat zero grains to lose or maintain your weight, while the other book is saying you should eat predominately starches, which include grains, to lose or maintain your weight. So hold on a second, no wonder everyone is confused, these books are telling you to do two completely different things to lose weight.

It turns out there is a very simple reason why people have seen such great successes and such great failures with both diets. Losing weight is more of a factor of energy use and consumption rather than the kinds of foods you are eating. So 1000 calories of starches are pretty much the same as 1000 calories of beef in the context of weight loss. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other health benefits besides just weight loss. The general consensus believes that a plant based diet is healthier than a diet based on animal products. That should mean a starch based vegan diet like what is described in the book The Starch Solution should be healthier than a no-grain diet as described in The No-Grain Diet. Nonetheless, people are living healthy lives on both of these diets. How are both of these polar opposite diets allowing us to stay healthy?

I believe the answer is simple, both diets allow you to eat fruits and vegetables and encourage a vast majority of your calories to come from them. A typical meal on a high starch diet, according to the book, will consist of mostly fruits and vegetables with perhaps some dish with beans, corn, rice, and/or potatoes. A typical meal on the no grain diet, according to the book, will also consist of mostly fruits and vegetables but will also include a portion of meat. When eating a diet with a large focus on fruits and vegetables it’s hard to go wrong. Where people begin to see problems with their no-grain/low-carb or high-starch/high-carb diet is they will not base their diet on fruits and vegetables, but rather eat other foods that fall into their diet category. For example, someone may begin a low-carb diet and only eat beef, pork, and chicken with no other food groups.

Regardless of what diet you choose, if you want to be successful, start by filling your plate with the fruits and vegetables your diet allows.  The remaining calories you can fill with anything. The high carb high starch diet says to fill it with rice, pasta, and potatoes. The no grain diet says to fill it with meat and dairy. One or the other may fit you better, but both, when prioritizing fruits and vegetables, can help you lose weight and stay healthy. That is why both books, although contradictory to one another, are highly rated by the readers. There are many ways to reach your goals, so if one way doesn’t work for you, try another and you may be surprised that something you once believed to be the cause of weight gain can actually help you lose weight.

Is Aerobic Training the Only Way to Burn Fat?

“I have read in popular magazines that aerobic training is the only way to burn fat. Is this true? If not are there other ways to burn fat, if so what are some?”

Perhaps I do not read these popular fitness magazines that solely claim aerobic training is the only way to burn fat because when I tried to find examples of a magazine claiming this, I fell short which was a pleasant surprise. However, I have seen this misconception first hand while working with friends and family. We live in a faced paced culture where every problem ideally has a single and simple solution. For example, if you are hungry you can grab a quick meal at one of the dozens of restaurants that are in your town, or if you need to talk to someone you send them a text 10 seconds later. Instant gratification and simple single solutions rule our everyday lives, so it makes sense that some people believe there is a single method to reducing body fat. So why cling on to aerobics as the way to do it? My theory is we are more likely to attempt to add a new habit to our lives than change an old one. Old habits include the food we eat and the drinks we drink, so we are likely to turn toward exercise, a habitual addition, to burn fat. From there I believe we turn toward exercises that we can easily measure or perceive the outcome of. For aerobics it is easy to measure the amount of calories burned, thus we get some instant gratification after seeing our calorie count after a workout. We of course know that what we gravitate toward isn’t always true.

Fortunately ‘Top 10’ lists have become very common in the fitness world and seem to be the common format for fat loss articles. These lists eliminate the concept of there being a single way to lose fat. Nevertheless, the common theme in many of these lists are the websites and magazines choose content over proven research, and some suggestions are loosely scientifically backed or simply opinions. Sometimes recipes make it into the list stating that a certain food or meal will burn fat. It’s good that the fitness community is no longer pinpointing one way to lose fat, but there is still a long way to go before insignificant or false methods are fully eliminated from these lists.

Although green tea and apple cider vinegar were discussed more often than eating a balanced diet, thankfully most lists include at least [sometimes loosely] one tip about each of the following: aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise, and nutrition. Anaerobic exercise is a great way to accelerate fat loss but it is often misunderstood. A relatively common belief is by doing an anaerobic exercise for a particular muscle group you can spot reduce fat in that area. The fitness magazines are doing a better job not spreading this myth, yet it still shows up in some blog articles. Since fat loss is a metabolic process, we can use aerobic exercise to increase our metabolism by increasing muscle mass. The more lean mass we have, the higher our resting metabolic rate is, meaning we require additional calories to sustain ourselves. This extra calorie requirement paired with a static diet can decrease body fat. Nutrition is another common way to reduce body fat, and is often underestimated. When people aim for calories burned with conducting an aerobic workout, they often fail to recognize that perhaps the largest gains can be made by changing their eating habits rather than changing their exercise habits.

I have not recently seen any magazines claiming aerobics are the only way to burn fat, but that doesn’t mean the misconception isn’t out there. Like the new ‘top 10’ lists are showing us, there are many ways someone can lose fat with anaerobic exercise and good nutrition being two of the top ways besides aerobic exercise.

Nickels and Dimes Workout

Nickels and Dimes is a fun workout you can do almost anywhere. At the top of every minute for 10 minutes you will complete 5 pull-ups (nickels) and 10 push-ups (dimes). By the end of the workout, you will have completed 50 pull-ups and 100 push-ups.

Your first set you may be able to complete the nickels and dimes within the first 20 seconds. As your workout continues, it will take longer to complete each set, thus giving you less and less of a rest period. By the 10th minute, you may not get to rest at all, and you will need to power through to complete the workout! It may sound easy, but it just 10 minutes you can get one heck of a workout.

You can modify this workout as needed. For example, you can do the workout for 15 minutes instead of 10, shorten or lengthen the rest period, or you can do pennies and nickels and complete 1 pull-up and 5 push-ups.

You can also change the exercises from pull-ups and push-ups to exercises that strengthen other muscle groups. You can do 5 tuck-jumps and 10 lunges, 5 leg raises and 10 sit-ups, or even sprint for 5 seconds and jog for 10 seconds. Each one of these will be repeated at the top of the minute.

I enjoy this exercise because at the surface it is very simple, every minute you do 5 pull-ups and 10 push-ups. But to meet your fitness goals, you can modify it to be a simple timed circuit that can be completed almost anywhere.

2 Weeks to Health Book Summary on ApproachingFitness.com

2 Weeks to Health is a 14-day crash course in how to change your life by giving you the information you need to lose weight, get fit, and feel better about yourself. Approachingfitness.com recently published a summary of 2 Weeks to Health, and I encourage you to check it out if you have a health related goal and aren’t quite sure how to achieve it. You can click here to visit Approaching Fitness and to read the summary for 2 Weeks to Heath: Kick Start Weight Loss and Live a Healthier Life.

“The book continues with the basic premise in mind of “Act Now, Learn as You Go, See Results.” That is how I am going to describe it at least. I like the actionable tone. The book is set up to make you do, and learn as you go. The education structure is brilliantly laid out in the lessons. One day you learn what you need to know, and the rest of the days build upon the previous day’s lesson. That is how you actually retain information. Day Zero is Preschool, Day Twelve is High School Graduation.” – Approaching Fitness