The second in our series of interviews with fitness buffs and nutritionists is with Ben Greenfield, also known as “Get Fit Guy” of the Quick and Dirty Tips network that includes Nutrition Diva and Grammar Girl. Ben has been on the fitness and exercise track ever since playing tennis in high school and college. He enjoyed playing tennis so much that he decided to major in sports science, get a master’s degree in exercise physiology and human nutrition, and make a career out of being a personal trainer and sports nutritionist.
Currently Ben holds down several part-time gigs as a blogger and podcaster. In addition to being Get Fit Guy, Ben has his own blog and podcast at Ben Greenfield Fitness, and actively contributes to Endurance Planet, Rockstar Triathlete Academy, and Train for Top Dollar.
Now that we know his background, let’s check out his answers to our questions! (Note: this was a phone interview, so the answers are paraphrased.)
Q: Doing all these different podcasts and blogs, do you ever get tired of answering people’s questions? Do you tend to get the same questions over and over again?
A: Not really. Each of my different podcasts and blogs caters to a different audience; the Get Fit Guy listeners represent a large sector of the fitness population and tend to be people who are just starting to work out, whereas my followers on Ben Greenfield Fitness are people who are already really serious about fitness and have specific questions about different diets to try (e.g. Paleo vs. Atkins) and different workout regimens to follow (e.g. Kettlebell workouts vs. Crossfit). Endurance Planet is mostly marathon runners, Rockstar Triathlete Academy is obviously triathletes, and Train for Top Dollar is for trainers and fitness professionals. So I have a pretty varied audience and get to discuss many different topics.
Q: What is the most interesting topic you’ve addressed lately?
A: I did a podcast on Ben Greenfield Fitness about a new way to measure body fat. There’s this new ultrasound device that you wave over a muscle or joint and it instantly produces a picture on your computer and tells you your body fat percentage.
(Psst – If you’re interested in hearing more about this device, go to minute 45 of the podcast I linked to.)
Q: Is that more accurate than the BMI calculators that you squeeze?
A: Much more accurate – it’s not even a fair comparison between the two methods. The ones that you squeeze are easily affected by things like what’s on your hands, if you’re sweating, etc. The ultrasound device is pretty new, but starting to become more mainstream.
Q: Ok, now I have some questions from our site that our users would like to get your opinion on. First of all, what are some common fitness myths? What is the worst one, in your opinion?
A: The biggest myth out there is that you need to do cardio to lose weight. In fact, that’s probably the most inefficient way to lose weight. A combination of high intensity efforts like sprints, coupled with weight lifting (squats, overhead presses, and other fully body moves) and eating right is much more efficient. You get a greater “after burn” with weight lifting, and you’re more likely to overtrain with cardio and therefore not stick to it.
Q: What other things keep people from sticking to an exercise routine?
A: Not quantifying goals is a big one – just working out for the sake of working out could cause you to get stuck in a rut. It’s really important to change up your workout routine and have fun with it. Playing basketball, going for a walk – all that stuff counts. You only need to spend lots of time in the gym if you’re not being active otherwise.
A: Listen to the Get Fit Guy podcast! In all seriousness, there are some good tips on there. But also, a good way to start is to go to the gym and just go from machine to machine doing a set on each one. It’s a good way to expose your muscles to a variety of different activities. Be sure to bring a notepad and write down your seat settings so you can remember for next time.
Q: Do you think that could be intimidating to people who might not know how to use the machines? Do you have any tricks to make going to the gym less intimidating to people who are just starting out?
A: Actually, what many people don’t realize is most gyms offer a free personal training session when you first join, so that could be a good way to learn how to use the machines. Even if you don’t get a free session, there are always trainers hanging out in the weight room – and it’s their job to be there and answer questions, so take advantage of them.
A: I recommend lifting weights at least 2 days a week, preferably 3, and then doing some other kind of exercise, like a class at the gym, once. It’s important to stay active the rest of the week too – that could be anything from walking your dog to gardening. As long as you’re staying active you don’t need to go to the gym every day. Personally, I do an upper body workout on Mondays, a lower body workout on Fridays, and I play basketball and tennis twice a week.
Q: How much is too much?
A: That really depends on your fitness level. If you’re a body builder, you’re conditioned to work out 2-3 hours a day 6 times per week. If you’re just getting started, you could do as much as 40-60 minutes a day as long as you have 1 day of rest each week.
On behalf of Stack Exchange Fitness & Nutrition, I’d like to say thanks to Ben for doing this interview for us, and I encourage everyone to check out his podcasts!