Infrequently Asked Fitness Questions

Up at 4, did Insanity's 50-minute Max Cardio Conditioning followed by its 18-minute abs workout, then foam-rolled. Drank Beachbody's Recovery Formula during the workouts, then had Shakeology. Now drinking Starbuck's Via, cold.

People have been asking a lot of questions about the Time Barrier, weight loss, training, and nutrition. So now and then I'll answer them. My friend Lee Michaelides is helping with research, and I'll include that as we gather the studies and data.

I use a Blender Bottle (plastic, with a loose stainless steel wire ball) to shake up my elixirs and Starbuck's Via instant coffee.

I use a Blender Bottle (plastic, with a loose stainless steel wire ball) to shake up my elixirs and Starbuck's Via instant coffee.

Why do you get up so early just to work out? Are you crazy? That's two questions but let's not quibble. People who work out first thing reach their  fitness goals more often than those who work out at any other time. There's an added benefit: If you work out before breakfast, you can train your body to burn fat. When I want to lose weight, I skip the recovery drink until after the workout, with just water in my stomach. It's one of the most effective weight-loss techniques I know. My wife, Dorothy, now works out on an empty stomach. "I never thought I could do that, because I used to wake up so hungry," she told me yesterday. "It proves you can get used to anything." 

I'm not a morning person. Neither am I. But then, Londoners aren't all morning people and they get up five hours earlier than people in my time zone. Those Limeys aren't superior; they're just in a different time zone. So I decided to declare my own time zone. I call it Jay Savings Time. In Jay Savings Time, I get out of bed at 9 a.m. London time. Or 4 a.m. East Coast time. You may have your own Savings Time.

You talk about "plyo." What's that? Plyometrics. It's a type of workout  that entails jumping and other explosive moves. Plyometrics emphasizes power over pure strength. I consider it the closest thing to the fountain of youth. Past 30, we don't just lose muscle mass; we lose our muscles' ability to move rapidly with a full range of motion. Plyo means power. To run up a mountain, you need more than strong legs and glutes. You need muscles that can leap and vault and push up. Popular programs like Insanity and CrossFit emphasize plyo.

Sounds like guaranteed injury. Yep. You will get injured. But if you're 20 pounds overweight and don't work out at all, you'll get injured. Most injuries--muscle pulls, minor tendinitis--will put you out of commission for a few days. Chronic injuries--torn tendons, knee problems, heart troubles--can bench you far longer. I suggest working on weight loss and more moderate programs before beginning intensive plyometric workouts. But if your doctor tells you to avoid plyometrics even though you're healthy and reasonably fit--simply because people get injured--find another doctor. Are you alive? You'll get injured.

Why do you drink powders? I believe in real food. So do I. I drink two powder drinks in the morning: Beachbody's Results & Recovery Formula and its Shakeology, with Super Seed (made by a different company called Garden of Life.) I'm a celiac, which makes nutrition a challenge. Shakeology and Super Seed consist mostly of ground up plants and seeds. They deliver a vast amount of nutrients with few calories. Super Seed also contains a lot of cinnamon, an anti-inflammatory. I have bursitis in my hips, and cinnamon seems to work better than ibuprofen for me. For lunch, I eat a giant salad made of lettuce and various veggies along with meat or hard-boiled eggs and seeds. Dinner is a fruit smoothie, made with real fruit (and yogurt and cider) and no supplements. Plus popcorn--kernels popped in the microwave without oil. Oh, and I take creatine.

Creatine? Isn't that like a steroid? No, it's not. I avoided creatine for years until my pal Lou Schuler, author of The New Rules of Lifting, convinced me otherwise. Check out this well-researched report, which Lou edited. Beachbody's Recovery Formula contains creatine, but I also add a bit into my Shakeology and Super Seed. The stuff helps with my recovery, making me ready for the next day's workout.

How often do you work out? Six days a week. One of those days is a relatively easy one; though, frankly, even the "recovery" workout in Insanity is insane. I try to give myself an exercise-free day a week. Sometimes snow conditions force me to ski on a "rest" day. On the other hand, travel can create rest days. I travel a lot and sometimes don't have time to work out in a hotel room.

How will these workouts help you run up a mountain? As my friend Alex Kahan says, the best training to run up mountains is to run up mountains. But here in New Hampshire, there's still a foot or two of snow on the trails. And the roads have been icy. Also, the indoor workouts let me prepare my whole body. Trail runners, like everyone else, need upper-body and core strength, not just skinny bodies and powerful legs.

What do you mean by "core"? Below the chest and above the legs. That includes glutes (the gluteus muscles in the buttocks), abs (abdominal muscles in the stomach), and back. I don't do sit-ups or crunches anymore, because they can cause an imbalance that leads to back injuries. Instead, the Insanity workout makes me do lots and lots of high-knee moves. So does trail running. The weird thing is, I get more of a six-pack with plyo than I ever did with endless crunches.

Should I do Insanity? Probably not, to start with. My wife started with a Beachbody program called Slim in Six, transitioned to Rev Abs, and then began Insanity. She does only the first phase of it, with shorter workouts. And she was fit before she started doing those DVDs. (Now she has the body of a fit 30-year-old.) If you get in touch with me, I can suggest ways to explore workouts. Remember, I'm not an expert. But I can steer you to the right places.

Do you work for Beachbody? No, but I've been doing consulting work for it. The company got in touch after reading about me in Businessweek. The profile mentioned that I was doing P90X, a Beachbody workout. The company's products tend to be based on good research, and their quality is high. I was an advocate before they paid me. But I don't hide the fact that I'm a consultant.

Are you doing this Time Barrier project just for yourself? If I did, I wouldn't be spending so much time writing about it. I think we've all been seriously misled by diet books and most workout plans. My Time Barrier quest is an experiment to find what works best for us normal people, and to share that with others. If more of us did what it takes to eat sensibly and get in shape, we could cut our national healthcare costs at least in half. 

Come on. That's your sole reason for running your age? Well, no. George Mallory climbed Everest because it was there. I'm trying to run my age because I'm here.