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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Beat the Gym: Book Review

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Okay, I'll admit right up front that I met Tom Holland in person and we really connected, but I still think I was as objective as possible when I reviewed this book.  Little did I know at the time, however, that Adam had just finished reading his book about marathon training!

Tom is a spokesperson for Nautilus retail fitness equipment and I was invited to come check out their latest cardio machines, the Bowflex Treadclimber and the Max Trainer.

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As far as cardio machines go (I'm currently on a cardio machine-free life), these are top notch.  Both offer low impact but high intensity workouts on sturdy equipment that have all sorts of connectivity options to allow you to track your progress.

I spent a while chatting with the Nautilus company reps and Tom about fitness and health promotion and just how tough it is to get people on the exercise bandwagon.  They're from New York, so we had a fun discussion about our favorite healthy restaurants in Manhattan and we complained about how tough it is to get brown rice at any Asian restaurants in Toronto.  Not sure why we Canadians are so behind in that area, but then again, I think NYC is unique because I've been to lots of other cities in the U.S. that are not nearly so health and nutrition conscious.

Anyways, back to the book.  I had no idea what to expect, but I was really pleasantly surprised. This book will be very useful for anyone who currently has a gym membership or anyone who is considering joining a gym. 

I guess it should come as no surprise, since we seemed to be on the same page about most things when we talked, that Tom echoes almost all of my own observations and opinions about fitness and gym culture in this book.

He starts by giving you insider tips on how to choose a gym and on how to get the best deal on a gym membership.  One point he makes that I never considered, but is so true, is that purchasing an overnight locker rental can help you stick to your fitness routine.  It makes life a whole lot easier and gives you extra incentive (because of the additional investment) to go and keep going.

In the second chapter he debunks various fitness myths, explains how to get the best results from cardio machines and squeezes in little gym etiquette tips. 

Just like me, he favours the stepmill and stairclimber, when used properly...no leaning all your weight on the handlebars folks!

In chapter three he focuses on strength training and explains, with photos, how to properly use all the strength training machines you typically see at the gym.  Tom also includes an entire section on free weight exercises and another on core training, which also has photos and detailed instructions for proper execution.

Tom also suggests doing low-level aerobic activity like walking to minimize Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), and I have definitely found this to be most effective...followed by Epsom salt/lavender oil baths.  After my heavy lifting routine and spin class on Sundays, I feel way better if we get out and active with the kids in the afternoon rather than being totally sedentary.

A rather unique feature of this book is that he evaluates group fitness classes typically found in gyms and explains the aspect of fitness they best address (i.e. strength, cardio, mind/body, etc.).  He says all the things I've been saying on this blog for years, like HOT YOGA IS NOT CARDIO and PILATES IS NOT A WEIGHT LOSS ACTIVITY!).

I laughed hysterically when I got to his section on Woo-ing.  This is the call and response motivational yells often heard between instructor and participants...I think it was a bigger thing in the 90s when we were all doing step aerobics.

His section on nutrition is sound too.  Basically he gives the general advice I always give: eat real food and the appropriate amount of calories for your energy levels.  But I don't happen to fall into his definition of what trainers eat: Egg whites. Chicken breasts. Tuna. Fruit. Oatmeal. Salad. Protein Shakes.  Okay, I do eat all those things except protein shakes, but I also eat a ton of other foods too...and I generally prefer cooked veggies to salad.

I agree with his take on carbs, which is, we shouldn't eliminate them, just eat the right ones (whole, unrefined, like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, fruits and veggies).

In chapter six, Tom offers over 20 training programs based on the exercises outlined in the book, that you can follow and concludes with a short section on how to stay motivated and stick to your routine.  As a bonus, the Appendix has recommendations for choosing a personal trainer, and how to build a home gym.

Overall, Tom really does deliver what he promises: pretty much all the knowledge you'd get from a personal trainer without the cost!  The only thing that's missing is having someone counting reps and yelling at you to keep going while you're working out.  But if you ask me, unless you CAN afford to workout with a personal trainer 3+ times a week, than you should learn to motivate yourself.  This book is a great resource for anyone who currently works out and is looking to get better results and/or someone who wants to start an exercise program.

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