You Can’t Get Fit Laying On The Couch All Week, Apparently.

When I was younger, I had no problem leaping onto the nearest soapbox or eviscerating people who didn’t agree with my point of view. Girlfriends (and especially my wife) and years have mellowed me a bit, as I now pick my battles. This is such an occasion.

I was alerted to a local column called “Fit City” in the Austin-American Statesman. This column features “fit” Austinites and they were in need of some younger folks for future postings. Channeling my inner Tim Ferriss, I saw this as an opportunity to pimp Efficient Exercise, since it’s still January and people are out there thinking they have to train 6 days a week with most of that being long drawn out cardio. I wanted to show how little activity, combined with a real food diet, could yield great results, so I sent this:

Hello,

My name is Skyler Tanner and I think I fit the bill for young at 27 years. Regarding how I stay fit, I keep it simple with 2 high intensity training sessions per week and intermittent fasting combined with a real food diet (sometimes referred to as paleo/primal/evolutionary). I maintain the condition you see in the photo on less than an hour a week of exercise. I hope this fits what you are looking for.

If it’s relevant, I also teach proper exercise at Efficient Exercise here in Austin but that is instructing with little to no training along.

Best,
Skyler

With the above I included this photo:


It’s a total myspace angle shot but it gets the point across. Again, I was hoping to show that people need not exercise themselves to death to gain strength, vitality, and leanness. This was the response I received:

Thanks for sending this in! You are definitely young at 27. Do you have another photo that shows you doing a training session, perhaps? I’d rather run that then the one you sent. And you do no other activities besides the two training sessions? Any running or walking or basketball or hiking or something else we can mention?

I really don’t do much else, so I elaborated:

What’s the time limit on this? I’ll be having another training session this Saturday so I could take a less “bodybuilder-esque” shot then.

Really, I’m fairly lazy away from the gym. I walk my dogs, which is really a leisure activity for me, and maybe play basketball a few times a year. I’m typically up at 5am to teach clients starting at 6, so I’m on my feet all day. It’s not a workout but it’s certainly not sedentary.

I feel that pretty well clarified my situation: I train 2x per week and my job has me on my feet all day. However, I do no other forms of “exercise” during the week. It’s similar to what Nassim Taleb would say: I either do too little or too much. Of course, this isn’t sufficient and I received this in return:

Hi Skyler,
There’s no time limit at all. I just run them as I get them.Since I posted the call for new entries I’ve gotten a flurry of submissions, so there’s a lag of a couple months now.
I’d suggest rewriting your entry a little to include the dog walking, which is a great form of exercise (emphasis mine), and maybe mention the working on your feet. I don’t want people to get the idea that laying around on the couch the rest of the week is a good way to stay fit. So, just resubmit when you have a new photo and a few minutes to rewrite your paragraph.

What. The. Fuck? This person wants me to “beef up” my activity resume so that nobody “assumes” that I just work out twice a week and keep the level of fitness. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m saying: I train hard twice a week and do fuck-all the rest of the time. While it would behoove people to be on their feet more, it’s not exercise. While going out for a walk with the mutts is a peaceful moving meditation that lets my wife and I enjoy each others company and conversation, it’s not exercise (unless you’re sedentary, 95 [and not Jack Lalanne], and/or have recently had your hip replaced). Walking is human, it’s something we should all be capable of without attaching any sort of “exercise” tag to it.

It’s this type of OCD tomfuckery that keeps people fat year after year. People who write fitness columns in newspapers tend to be those spastic type-A people who absolute HAVE TO GET THEIR WORKOUT IN! In this city that almost surely means running and/or biking at Town Lake. Fine. Great. Awesome. But when these people start believe that their way is the only way, that everyone needs (NEEDS!) that level of activity to get in that great a shape. False. I’m in good shape but if you want to see someone in really great shape on minimal activity, look at Martin Berkhan. He spends more time drinking and fluffing protein in a given week than he does working out.

My point is this: You can get in great shape spending a lot of time on the couch IF you’re not eating shit (or eating way too much real food), making your workouts count, and being consistent. So no, I’m not going to claim “dog walking” as exercise because that type of nonsense is what keeps people thinking they’re “on the road to fitness” only to end up just as fat (or likely fatter) than they were the year prior. I’m not going to beef up my activity levels to meet some predetermined “necessary” activity level to be in great shape. It’s bullshit.

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19 thoughts on “You Can’t Get Fit Laying On The Couch All Week, Apparently.

  1. Ok, then it must be the couch. Do you have one of those couches possessed by demons that hops around like a bucking bronco? Because that’s quite a cardio workout sitting on one of them.

  2. I used to lie on a couch for most of the day, every day, surfing the interwebs. I have highish total cholesterol & highish TGs even though I maintain a stable (but somewhat excessive) weight. My bad.

    Then THIS happened.

    Now I go for lots of walks and even tried 45 minutes of Zumba the other night. It nearly killed me, but I’m going to carry on doing it.

    Cheers, Nige.

    • Hey Nige,

      I guess I didn’t emphasis that part enough: while I don’t do anymore “exercise” I’m not laying around all week either. I’m on my feet all day long so I should be avoiding said unfortunate situation. I agree that more activity is fine for health but I was referring to body composition specifically.

      best,
      Skyler

  3. These EE workouts have helped keep me (no comparison to you obviously, but I’m still pleased with the results) from turning into a flab pile when I’ve been cooped up much longer indoors at my desk than I would like finishing my current animation project. I was doing 2x a week superslow style on my own for a while, and am back with a trainer doing 1x/week . I do walk several miles for my errands every other day but that is about it at the moment. I still plan to up my general activity level and also go back to 2x workouts when my project is completed after this weekend. However, even the 1x has been a life raft for me to maintain strength and tone and keep my weight stable. (I had gradually lost over 20 lbs over about 3/4 of a year after I started the Superslow method with Skyler–without expecting to! At the time I was also only weight lifting 1x a week)

    • Jeanne,

      And this is my point: you got it and you worked your tail off when you were here. Kuddos to you and your “life raft.” There’s a certain ebb and flow and if people could get more comfortable with being “stable” in training for periods of time I think they’d get more out of it in the long term.

  4. Haha, I love this post! I am a 2x a week exerciser as well, and spend my time training other people and being on my feet. I am a triathlon coach and boot camp owner and every single one of my clients works out more than I do.
    At least I do my part to get them on the primal/paleo wagon. My weight loss/boot camp clients are instructed to do no addition exercise but as you know it’s pretty hard to get someone to dump the high carb life and just exercise HARD once in awhile.

  5. I’m glad to hear your opinion on this now, Skyler. I’m 56-years-old and soon to start Mark Verstegen’s Core Performance routine at home. Thats six days a week for 12-15 weeks, then I don’t know what. After the initial period, I know I’m not going to keep at it even five days a week. Two is do-able with my schedule and other interests.

    I don’t care so much about body composition as I do about being able to keep up physically with my young kids, and not injuring myself when I fall off my horse or stack hay bales. So the focus is all-round fitness and injury resistance. Heck, I went bowling recently and my arm was a little sore after just three lines. Shameful!

    • Steve,

      I think shorter intense bursts of high-ish volume are fine as either a kick-start or a path when motivation is high. This is built into some of the “blitz” training I’ve spoken of before. It works fantastically in the short term when the stars align.

      Steve, you’re familiar with Clarence Bass, aren’t you? I don’t agree with the grain heaviness of his diet (it’s clearly worked for him) but 1 day of weights and 1 day of intense intervals combined with leisurely walking has certainly worked for him. Sounds like you have a good plan after your 12 week shellacking!

  6. To me you’re putting your ‘exercise’ activity in a vacuum and putting that out that as if it’s the only physical activity that maintains your fitness. However, that’s a flawed approach to people who have lived a life of being a coach potato.

    Obese people don’t generally get obese by over eating and then staying on their feet (physical activity = Exercise) moving around all day. They get that way by consuming many more calories than their bodies can use.

    Now I will completely agree that in the persuit of fitness there is a movement, perpetuated by the Biggest Loser-ites, that implies exercising for 4 hours and day 6 days a week is the key to lasting fitness. These are the people who will go to the gym everyday and then come home and sit because they’ve worn themselves out.

    There is NOWAY to go to the gym or to exercise enough to equal the caloric burn (among other benefits) of simple everyday activites like housework, yard work, etc.

    Specific exercise should, in my opinion, be used to supplement a more active overall lifestyle.

  7. Skyler, nice one. I agree that walking or standing around while busy should not be considered exercise. I value and strive to get my daily 1 hour walk around the neighborhood, but I would never consider it a workout. It is more like a form of meditation, than anything.

  8. You sir have earned yourself another RRS feed subscriber with this post. Thank you for helping shed light on what maintaining a high level of fitness REALLY entails.

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