I received a book to review and really liked the cover. Well, sure, the author is amazingly attractive but I also appreciated the title: You Are Your Own Gym. I'm all for gyms because I believe some people need the accountability and support that gyms offer to succeed in exercising consistently. But there are times when you can't make it to the gym, and this book offers great ideas for a home-based program. The creator, Mark Lauren, has coached almost a thousand military trainees in U.S. Special Operations forces (e.g., Navy SEALS, Army Green Berets) in the past decade. Through his training experiences, he's developed an exercise regimen that you can do in the privacy of your home without equipment. Some of his thoughts about fitness are provocative, going so far as to suggest that the current exercise recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are flawed. Mark shared his insights with me in a recent interview.
Q: What's missing from a traditional strength training class that your program offers?
A: My bodyweight exercises engage many muscles at once. Often, exercises requiring equipment have the user sitting or lying down while isolating only one or two muscle groups. This is less effective since people rarely exert themselves while lying or sitting down. Many strength training, yoga and Pilates classes fail to address all the qualities of fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, strength, power, flexibility, balance, speed and coordination. With my program these qualities are developed systematically through the use of bodyweight movements engaging several muscles in short intense interval-type workouts. The user is gradually and safely progressed to these intense workouts by beginning with longer less intense workouts.
Q: Do you disagree with the CDCs exercise recommendations for adults that include regular aerobic activity?
A: The problem with their advice is that splitting up cardiovascular training and strength training is outdated and inefficient. Through the use of short intense interval-type workouts, you get much better results in far less time, especially if you're using bodyweight exercises, and you can train anywhere. High intensity interval training (HIIT) produces incredible changes faster. Cardio can actually make you lose strength and muscle, since not all muscles are engaged, and very little muscle is needed to perform an easy movement over and over.
Q: What do you suggest for frequency and type of exercise for someone who wants to lose weight?
A: My program is effective with 16-40 minute workouts performed 4-5 times a week (or 2-3 hours total). With short intense interval-type workouts using many muscles at once, you build muscle and boost your metabolism. One study found that HIIT was 9 times as effective at burning fat as cardio. HIIT produced greater changes in body composition in less time (20 minutes of HIIT vs. 1 hour of cardio). Muscle is always active so you not only burn calories while resting, you also burn far more calories while training. It's like working with a 6-cylinder motor instead of a 4-cylinder motor. The bigger motor requires much more fuel when working, and that fuel is calories.
Q: Have you trained frail elderly and those with more limited physical function, or mainly athletes and military personnel?
A: Most of the feedback I’ve received from this book is from people 40-60+ years old but I've gotten great feedback from many elderly people. Some require advice regarding ways to train around particular injuries, usually bad knees, which I address in my website’s forum section. This program is especially beneficial for the elderly because it develops functional skills that translate to activities of day-to-day living. Through improved balance, flexibility, muscular strength, joint strength, bone density and coordination, people are able to get through life with greater mobility and safety.
Here are my two cents on this book:
PROS: Mark is a thorough writer with clear explanations and accompanying photos. His nutrition section gets a thumbs-up with very sound advice. The exercise variations are great; for example he demonstrates 10 different kinds of push-ups! Most exercises offer basic to advanced levels. If you're a seasoned exerciser, you'll get many new ideas. It's perfect for days when you don't feel like the gym or if you're traveling.
CONS: He uses props such as phone books, food cans, backpacks and gallon jugs for weighted resistance. I question some of them simply because they're not made for weight training: your hands may not grip them properly, causing potential injury if say, a heavy can falls on your foot! Other props are downright scary: using a broomstick propped on stereo speakers for pull-ups (a cheap broom handle might not support a very heavy person), and use of plastic deck chairs, which are generally flimsy.
BEST AUDIENCE: Those who are moderate to advanced exercisers who've taken a strength training class and understand basic proper form. A benefit of a class or personal trainer is that the instructor can correct improper movements that could cause injury. If you're a novice, I'd suggest using this book along with a strength program at a gym or with a fitness trainer. Want your own free copy? Click on "Contact Me" and send your name and email address by September 21 to be entered in a random drawing. I'll contact you if you're the winner and send you Mark's book You Are Your Own Gym ASAP!
Also check out the p90x workout for an effective exercise program performed with high quality equipment in the convenience of your own home.
Below is one of Mark's exercises demonstrated by Mia, one of my Zumba students and an undergraduate at MIT studying chemistry. The movement simultaneously works the triceps, shoulders, glutes and hamstrings.
Congratulations to Stacey for winning a copy of Mark's book. She wanted new ideas for mini-workouts while traveling on the road. You go Stacey!