Saturday, July 28, 2012

The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds

Available from Amazon

What really did it were my wedding pictures.

On what was supposed to be the happiest day of my life, my gut was enormous, and it showed. And when had I picked up that extra chin?

Of course, I didn't see myself that way. In my head, I was still the skinny kid I was in college. But those pictures, which began to show up in my inbox almost as soon as the ceremony was over, said otherwise.

So, without much fanfare (mainly because I doubted my own 'stick-to-it-iveness'), I started to focus on getting healthier. Which, of course, meant dropping the extra weight and getting stronger. I cut the snacks & sugary drinks from my diet. I started to run. And I dusted off the weights in the garage and began to use them.

Also, given my own bookish nature, I began to read up on fitness.

When The First 20 Minutes came out near the beginning of this year, I dutifully gobbled it up. But I must have been in a workout-induced fog, because it wasn't until a couple of months later, when I read the book again, that its revelations really sank in.

Written by New York Times writer Gretchen Reynolds, The First 20 Minutes offers a comprehensive tour of the current state of fitness & health research, ranging across a variety of disciplines, and the book's conclusions were, for me, revelatory.

Among the things I learned: 
  • Inactivity is as deadly as tobacco use.
  • Stretching is overrated, but superstitions aren't.
  • Vitamins & supplements can do more damage than good.
  • The more you exercise, the smarter you get.
  • Chocolate milk is a better recovery drink than Gatorade.
  • Most of the health benefits of exercise can be gained just by going for a brisk 20-minute walk every day. (Hence the title of the book!)
Arranged in neat chapters, each of which is concluded with a nice, numbered encapsulation that offers practical advice on how to implement its lessons into your life, The First 20 Minutes is a book that I cannot recommend enough.

Since reading it and integrating its insights into my own daily routine, I have greatly increased the efficiency & effectiveness of my exercise routines, doing more good in less time. If any of you know what a Tabata or a Fartlek is, then you'll know what it is I do every day.

The result: I've lost 65 pounds since the beginning of this year and my energy levels and moods have never been better.

I'm not saying The First 20 Minutes was instrumental in my weight-loss & improved health. I am saying that reading this book gave me the intellectual ammunition to stay the course. In other words, it's a book that helped me keep talking myself into working out.

Do yourself a favor: Read this book, and then get up, get moving, and keep moving.

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