I think the Pillsbury Doughboy could beat me up.
September 13, 2009 5:50 PM   Subscribe

In high school, you (a dude) were an athlete, and in great shape. Then came college, and then graduate school, and then all of the busyness of career, marriage and two small children. Four years ago, you had a brief flare-up of athleticism (ran a 10k, two half-marathons, and a very slow full marathon). Now, things are worse then ever. You are heaver than you've ever been, have no energy, and are not looking so great. You know you need to work out, and watch what you eat, that this needs to be a way of life, no more excuses, there are no shortcuts, and all that. You also just found yourself in posession of a $100 gift card to Amazon.com. How do you spend it?

Yes, I know that there is nothing I can buy that will magically solve my problems here. It just seems that since my physical and psychological health are the Most Major Issues in my life right now, I should invest this little windfall in something that will ultimately benefit my health.

Thanks for your help.
posted by 4ster to Health & Fitness (37 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Body for Life and the Atkins book. And then some workout clothes?
posted by gjc at 5:57 PM on September 13, 2009

lately I've been thinking I would like a bodybugg. Tracks calories burned. I would find that motivating to burn more, I believe. Like the pedometer made me want to walk more.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:58 PM on September 13, 2009

You spend on whatever the heck you want as a reward for getting in shape.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:58 PM on September 13, 2009 [4 favorites]

Heart rate monitor and recipe book for vitamin and energy packed smoothies. And a yoga dvd. Any workout regimen can be made excellent by supplementing it with morning yoga.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 6:06 PM on September 13, 2009

I can think of a number of purchases, but what will be most important to you depends on what you already have and what motivates you when working out. For me, exercise is a chore, so I invest in things that will make working out as simple as possible, and items that will reduce injury (I'm somewhat injury prone), both which eliminate excuses for me to slack. Investing in a good pair of sneakers that correlate with the activity you are planning to do was my first thought. If you find something on sale, new socks that will wick away moisture would also be a good idea. Actually, workout clothes that fit and wick away moisture would be a wonderful investment, but that will cost more than $100, especially if you want enough clothing to get you through a week of working out.

Depending on what type of exercise you want to do, a heart rate monitor is an excellent tool. If you're going to use cardio machines that have heart rate monitors already built in though, I would skip that. If you are going to a gym, a good gym bag like this one from UnderArmour is a small thing that can make integrating your workout routine into your everyday life much easier. Lastly, I *need* good music to workout, so maybe downloading a bunch of mp3s to make an exciting new workout mix would be key for you, too. That's probably the most fun of my suggestions. I'm amazed at how much money I've spent on working out, and we are talking about no frills, purely practical purchases, most of them on sale. I think this gift certificate will be a great way for you to get started. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 6:08 PM on September 13, 2009

p90x gets awesome reviews from beefcakes. And just under budget.
posted by shownomercy at 6:12 PM on September 13, 2009

Jump rope, exercise ball, medicine ball, Rodney Yee's Power Yoga, yoga socks, pedometer. $130.78. You shell out the extra $30.78 because you're worth it.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:14 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hang one of these around your neck - do 10000 steps/day . I challenge you to gain weight whilst doing so ;-)
posted by southof40 at 6:14 PM on September 13, 2009

You could buy something that runs Palm OS, and install the "Eat Watch" on it.
posted by birdsquared at 6:16 PM on September 13, 2009

You needn't spend money to get in shape. Save it and spend it on a reward when the tough stuff is over.
posted by fire&wings at 6:18 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

A while after my grandmother had hip replacement surgery last year, I bought her a simple pedometer so she could see how far she walked and keep track of improvement. Sounds like you've been into running - maybe something similar? They make them for runners, as well.
posted by dilettante at 6:19 PM on September 13, 2009

This post presumes there is not a specific athletic endeavor you enjoy more than anything else. If there is, pursue that.

However, getting fit again is going to be a matter of three things:
(1) Diet
(2) Weight training
(3) Cardiovascular health

(1) DIET
A simple digital scale like this one. Make no mistake, you need to get your diet back on track and the best way to do it is the weigh and measure everything you eat, and enter it into FitDay.

The Paleo Diet by Cordain. There's a lot of hand-waving around the Paleo Diet, but the principle of eliminating grains and sugars from your diet and replacing them with lean protein and a shitton of fruits and vegetables is sound.

(2) Weight training
Starting Strength is a great basic strength training book that will go in-depth on the basic lifts and get you started with a basic program. The wiki has additional information.

(3) Cardiovascular Health
For this, buy a nice jump rope or something gimmicky-yet-dead-useful like FitDeck. It is a great system with a bunch of different bodyweight exercises that you can combine into an intense cardio workout (note: cardio is not just 30 minutes of the elliptical or running, there are other, more effective ways to do it). Add the pull-up booster deck because pull-ups are the only thing the original deck lacks that you should really, really add. Or just forgo the booster and add the pull-ups on your own.

Starting Strength three days a week. FitDeck 2-3 days a week. Make sure you have at least two full rest days. Stick to your diet. Eat lots of veggies and sleep more. This will all work, I promise.
posted by Anonymous at 6:26 PM on September 13, 2009

(And honestly, if you are very overweight I would advise against running, it's hard on the joints even for people of normal weight and for the overweight it's just an injury waiting to happen)
posted by Anonymous at 6:27 PM on September 13, 2009

Running is not "hard on the joints" for people of normal weight. This is psychosomatic mumbo-jumbo.

If you believe running will "hurt" your joints then it will probably happen- but the pain will be all in your mind.
posted by Zambrano at 6:41 PM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I could have written this topic. Do you have running/workout clothes? I don't, or at least, I don't have running shorts or shirts that fit and don't hang down from the man-boobs when attempting to get some outdoor exercise (run/walk combo). My running shorts don't protect me from chafing either (a recent development, due to a more sedentary lifestyle and some weight gain). If I were to spend money on fitness, I'd try to make it more convenient for me to run - it seems the most efficient way to spend my meager free-time.
posted by chookibing at 6:57 PM on September 13, 2009

For me, it was a kitchen scale. That and the free program "cron-o-meter" on my laptop. It has a food database and allows you (with the scale) to track everything you eat and get the corresponding nutrient breakdown (calories, protein, carbs, fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals, ...). Any similar program would do, of course.

Now I also got dogs, which increased my activity level because they need to be exercised every day, and bought a power rack, bench, and olympic weight set. But that's all a bit over budget :).
posted by madmethods at 7:05 PM on September 13, 2009

Be inspired. Set out to beat this dude's 365 Days of Working Out.
posted by ericb at 7:05 PM on September 13, 2009

Do what schroedinger said. The Starting Strength DVD will probably help, too.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:05 PM on September 13, 2009

I agree with those people who say to save it as a reward. You don't need more stuff. You need motivation.

What would you buy if fitness were not a concern? Set a goal for yourself (run a mile, run five miles, do 100 pushups, ride a century). I'd make it a fitness goal rather than a weight goal, because it'll be easier to motivate yourself to achieve specific tasks rather than obsessing over a scale. And then, when you achieve your goal, buy yourself that thing you've always wanted.

Alternatively, buy a bunch of DVDs or books you can watch or read while doing aerobics or running on a treadmill or whatever is your activity of choice.
posted by decathecting at 7:31 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

You don't spend, you exercise. Just do it. Walk, run, swim, lift, whatever. Once you start doing that, then spend the money to support your new habit.
posted by caddis at 7:36 PM on September 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'd save it and buy yourself something you like after you reach half your goal while losing weight the free way - running, hiking, push ups, sit ups, squats, and lunges.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:41 PM on September 13, 2009

OK, I was never an athlete or even fit in school, but like you things have gotten worse since. Like others I am going to only partially answer your original question, but it is in the spirit of trying to provide you the most help.

The following things have succeeded (so far) for this office worker with a very long commute (i.e., sitting at a desk or in a car a large % of the week):

- membership in a gym with extended hours so I can get there whenever I can, and use their elliptical machines, rowing machines and resistance machines
- Sansa MP3 player (cheap and very non-fragile) loaded with just one playlist: Exercise
- wrap around back of the head headphones with volume adjustment on cord
- shorts with lots of pockets...I bring a spare battery for the MP3 player, my wallet, keys, water bottle, etc.
- I eat basically the same thing every weekday: a dry Bagel, Starkist Lunch to Go Albacore, Healthy Choice Meal with Dessert, 2 Dannon Yogurts, 4 pretzel rods total, one or two "servings" of poker chip size Tostitos, Shredded Wheat w/skim milk & craisins for dinner, maybe a Smart Ones or a single serving bag of Doritos if I'm still hungry...by eating the same thing every day I establish a baseline where I am not hungry and food is less of an obsession, so I am poised to lose weight slowly...exercise helps, but can never overcome overeating.
- I use Gyminee to track all this
- I do have a good electronic scale, and I did buy both an Omron Fat Loss Monitor and a Omron Pedometer at Amazon, but I would not say that either of them are essential since Fat Loss is a VERY slow process and your waist size would do just as well, and the Pedometer is unnecessary at the gym since the machines tell me...it's nice for nature walks though.

The above is working for me after years of no success. I offer it only in case it helps you, because I would have loved to have had help years ago. Of course, if you don't think it would work for you ignore it. If you have any questions feel free to Mefi Mail me.
posted by forthright at 8:00 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

The trick isn't to lose weight. Losing weight is not the goal. The goal is to change your lifestyle - get more exercise, eat better. Your weight is a symptom, not a scarlet letter. To change your lifestyle, I prescribe that you should have more fun than you're having now.

Bike accessories - nice OnGuard Bulldog Mini lock, waterproof pannier to hold your computer bag, maybe a helmet if you roll that way. Then bike yourself to work, or to the nearest point where you can pick up public transportation, every day, rain or shine. Why? Riding a bike isn't exercise and hard work. It's fun. Who wouldn't want to ride a bike everyday? It's like being told you have to play with legos daily to lose weight.

You may also need to invest in rain gear and bike - get a used ride from a bike store, and it will be two hundred bucks or so, tuned up and ready to ride.

Spend some money on cookbooks, and make dinner for every night in the week, making two meals at once if you know you're going to be too busy to cook the next day. Cooking is a skill you can take pride in, and you get better and better and better with practice. Doesn't have to be super-healthy, stuff, either - this is because you will find brown rice and whole-grain pasta to be more delicious than the processed stuff. Matter of fact, the less processed your food, the tastier and healthier it is, and the more fun and rewarding it is to make.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:16 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think you should spend $11.66 (current price) on Dick Watson's book The Philosopher's Diet. The book is not about dieting, really (though some reviewers are misled by the title); it's about the commitment required to accomplish something hard.

Save the rest of the money for a reward once you've reached a milestone toward your goal. Meanwhile, figure out the goal and some concrete milestones. "Getting fit" might be your goal, but a milestone might be doing 100 pushups. If you have a bicycle, and you like (or at least can tolerate) riding it, a milestone might be "bike to work twice per week," or it might be "ride 100 miles per week," or "ride a century in March 2010." I made a lot of progress as a runner when I decided to train for a 25K road race, because the goal meant coming up with a training plan and intermediate milestones. Now that I commute by bike to work, and try to take at least 1 long ride every weekend, I've set up similar goals for myself.

Some milestones might involve getting rid of bad habits. Reward yourself for those, but don't fool yourself either. You've got to be honest with yourself, even if you equivocate with everyone else. For example: if you drink every day, cutting back by one standard drink per day means losing nearly one pound per month (mutatis mutandis, this applies to sodas, juice, etc. too). But if you cut back, you've got to be honest about how much you do so: measure portions. (This applies to everything, in fact, not just booze.)

I'd also suggest focusing on getting fit--especially on being more energetic--at first. Let weight loss come later. Over the last year I've lost 12 pounds--only about 5% of my starting body weight--but I've gone down two trouser sizes and I'm much more energetic than I was. I can't complain about what the scale tells me, other than that it's going down too slowly, but needing to buy smaller clothes is a big ego booster.

In short, focus on actions you can take, especially involving things you do that you know are unhealthy, and expect that weight loss, energy gain, and fitness will come as consequences.

Good luck! As Watson writes, we already know this advice; most diet books are bought not because they teach something new but because they're inspirational literature.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:45 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would buy Ali MacGraw's Yoga DVD. And do it every other day. This is a great way to exercise when you have small kids and you may not be able to get away to a gym. And I would buy some cheap 5 or 10 pound weights and keep them right by my tv chair and never watch tv without them in my hands.

You have to eat less. Find out how many calories you really need and then stick to it. Write down everything you eat.
posted by cda at 9:08 PM on September 13, 2009

I'll go ahead and nth Starting Strength as a great way for a guy to decrease your body fat ratio.

Lots of people talk about losing weight, but I suspect what you really want is to have less fat, and adding muscle mass is a great way to do that. Not only do you burn calories while lifting, but, once you've added muscle, it will burn more calories 24/7/52 just sitting around. Plus, I don't know about you, but I love the slight tightness you feel the few days after a good workout. Lets you know that you're getting somewhere.

Good luck.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:10 PM on September 13, 2009

When you did those marathons, did you get a certificate or something showing your accomplishment? If you still have any of them, take a good, hard look at them. Relive the moment you crossed the finish line, whether it was a "slow" time or otherwise. Seriously, remember how you felt? Tired yes, but more than that, you probably felt like you had accomplished something pretty special. Now set yourself a reasonable goal for the future. Be it a marathon, triathlon, long distance bike ride, whatever. Look for something that you'll enjoy finishing. Then be disciplined in reaching that goal. Eat healthier, stay focused and train like an animal. Nothing else besides yourself can do that. No book, video, or diet. Only you can! Your the one in charge of your body. No more excuses, like they say....just do it.

Good luck.

Oh, and the gift card? I'd have to browse the Amazon site first. But thats just me.
posted by Taurid at 10:46 PM on September 13, 2009

I'm with the bike stuff. If you cycle to work, it really is the easiest way to build exercise into your day without losing any time. Also, if you don't already, buy some decent cookery books and cook as much as you can from scratch. This seems to work for me (I'm 38) although it's possible I could just be genetically slim and all this is a waste of time.
posted by rhymer at 2:15 AM on September 14, 2009

Run less, run faster.
posted by flutable at 2:50 AM on September 14, 2009

Nike + has had a big impact of my fitness.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:59 AM on September 14, 2009

Zambrano, if you are of normal weight and know how to run properly, which in this day and age of office jobs and over-cushioned shoes and fallen arches most people don't. In fact, most people are not of normal weight--that is part of this guy's problem.

Cross-country is one of the most injury-prone sports, just under rugby and lacrosse. Running is one of the leading cause of injuries for new exercisers and people pursuing general fitness. We have a highly romanticized view of running in this country, that you can just put on a pair of sneakers and be fit!, but anything that involves repetitive pounding on the joints (and God forbid you do it on pavement or go around a track over and over) and poor form is going to mess you up. Add extra weight and the problem gets worse. If he wants a good steady-state cardiovascular activity he's better off getting on a rowing machine--full-body AND extra weight actually works to your advantage.
posted by Anonymous at 9:26 AM on September 14, 2009

New running or walking shoes.

I just (inadvertently) persuaded a friend who's in a sort of similar situation to yours--he goes to the gym now and then, but hasn't really done any outdoor cardio in a while--to train for an 8K. He came back from his first two-mile run and said that it hurt like hell. When I found out he was trying to run in years-old shoes, I (vehemently) persuaded him to buy a new pair, for which he was quite grateful. Running shoes, sad to say, aren't built to last forever, and if you're not running barefoot you need something that's not going to work against you.
posted by kittyprecious at 10:46 AM on September 14, 2009

Do you like to play video games? WiiFit and EA Sports Active for the Wii are pretty good for keeping you engaged, and are a bit more interactive. Alternately, there are games that just require energy (read: burning calories) to play, but are fun as hell. These include the Dance Dance Revolution series, and Rock Bands (at least on drums!).

Remember, less strenuous exercise that you can make yourself do every day is much better than the more strenuous exercise you only do once a month.
posted by explosion at 11:23 AM on September 14, 2009

Under armour shirts.
posted by callmejay at 11:52 AM on September 14, 2009

Workout clothes, new running shoes.

Then sign up at a local boxing club for their boxing fitness classes (no getting punched in the face). Or join a local Crossfit group. I've found as I get older that I enjoy the more social aspect of working out, although I still do lots of running by myself.

Having a coach and exercise partners is very motivating.
posted by jcmilton at 2:03 PM on September 14, 2009

As much as everyone is talking Wii Fit (seconding), I'd like to interject and promote some highly active RockBand/GuitarHero action as a great and fun way to burn some calories. Especially Drums on Expert.

Of course, with the right sound reinforcement you can make anything aerobic. Just some good headphones and an mp3 player w/the gift card.
posted by HyperBlue at 4:15 PM on September 14, 2009

Born to Run

Great read that will teach you about nutrition, why expensive running shoes suck, how we are built for endurance running, and a little known tribe of peaceful mexican cliff dwellers who can run better than you in tire-tread sandals.
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:21 PM on September 15, 2009

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