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Book Review: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Fitness by Jake Nash

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I started this Fitness Sanity feature in order to help our readers separate the good and useful fitness information out there from the dregs. All I see and hear around me are amazing claims — “lose a pound a day,” “melt your body fat with green tea,” “do this insane workout to burn 5000 calories in 30 minutes,” and my perennial favorite, “lose weight without trying.” So when I received the assignment to review Jake Nash’s new self-published book, The Thinking Person’s Guide to Fitness, I was really hoping for a refreshing, clear guide for the general public on what really works and what really does not. And while I may have a few issues with Nash’s take on things, in general this book did not disappoint!

In my work as the fitness and pilates teacher at the very high end Parrot Cay Resort I train the upper echelon of world society, and I am always amused at how little everyone knows about fitness. I go into the gym and see our guests slogging away at moderate intensity for hours on the treadmill or elliptical, or using only the weight stack machines instead of the cables or free weights. I have watched grown men try to lift kettlebells like dumbbells (which doesn’t work), people doing all kinds of crazy maneuvers on the bosu, and I continually watch people lifting extremely small weights for long amounts of time.

When my clients realize that with high intensity training, good basic old school full body exercises with good form, and heavier weights they can get better results in half the time, they are astounded. And when their bodies start to change in just the week or two that they are here on holiday they are even more surprised.

This way of approaching exercise is exactly what Nash recommends in his book, along with some of the science behind his claims. Nash takes his readers through the myths of exercise and into a clear new world of free weights and high intensity cardio. Squats, lunges, deadlifts, pull ups, planks, rowings, chest presses — all the basics are reviewed along with attention to form. Think stretching your back will help ease your back pain? I know it doesn’t and so does Nash, who also explains the science behind maintaining a neutral spine curve as you exercise.

Where I disagree is with Nash’s blanket negativity regarding Pilates. Pilates is NOT all about stretching or ab work with spinal movement, but is in fact an all over strengthening workout that when properly taught strengthens the neutral curve as much as anything else. I would also like to see a bit more attention paid to my two favorite inexpensive and easy to use workout tools that can offer cardio, strength, and full body exercise at varying intensities — the kettlebell and the TRX Suspension Trainer.

Nash also includes some good basic information on proper nutrition and diet along with some sample workouts. You can visit Nash’s Thinking Person’s Fitness website to read excerpts from the book, along with more sample workouts (in progress), helpful links, and other books and products that Nash recommends.

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