Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
29 Jul

Dear Mark: How Are You Training These Days?

SlackliningOne of the most common questions I get from readers is the same one I get from people who have no idea who I am or what I do: “What’s your workout, dude?” Because I write a blog that discusses the latest fitness research, some of you might get the impression that I’m constantly switching up my routine to incorporate the latest and greatest. Many times, you assume that because I wrote approvingly about something, I must be doing that thing. Well, by and large, I am not doing that. Even if some particular lift is proven to build the most strength most efficiently, I mostly stick to my tried and true. I’m no longer an elite athlete. I don’t need the latest and greatest. If it works for me and my goals, I stick with it. Of course, it helps that the way I train was already fairly consistent with the latest research, and is easily fueled by my Primal Blueprint eating strategy.

Here’s one of the latest inquiries into my training:

Are you sticking to strictly bodyweight workouts these days or do you still hit the gym once a week or so for a heavy weight session?


For the most part, yes: bodyweight training still comprises the core of my training. Pullups, pushups, squats, lunges, rows, assisted handstand pushups, planks, dips. I’ll sometimes throw on a weighted vest or play around with angles and leverage to increase the resistance, but those are the basic movements that I work on. While I generally try to find time to do these outside, I admit that I often do these in the gym, mostly because I enjoy the social interaction that I don’t otherwise get standing at my desk in my home office most of the day. In terms of actual equipment I use, I might do some dumbbell presses (I’ve mostly given up barbell pressing – bench or otherwise – after a nagging shoulder injury at the hands of the bench), maybe some triceps pull-downs or extensions. Once a week I do a leg-focused routine where I mix in some hamstring work and an inner-outer thigh machine. This has helped immensely in my rehabilitating a decades old hip-flexor issue. I’m also a big fan of the leg press. I use a weighted hack squat machine to obviate the need for a spotter and to reduce the risk of back injuries.

No matter what, I always make sure to get a sprint session in every single week. At least one. Usually one. It’s the one workout that I can do for 15 or 20 minutes start-to-finish and feel like I’ve done enough for a couple days. That’s a good feeling, isn’t it? And nothing “cuts you up” like sprints. (BTW, if you’ve plateaued on weight loss, it’s the first addition I would make to your program). I prefer running beach sprints, of course. Something about the waves lapping at my feet, the cushion of the sand making it easier and harder all at the same time, the scenery. Ironically, my weekly Ultimate game is the hardest sprint workout I do all week – except I don’t call it a workout; I call it play. If I’m still feeling stiff from those games, I’ll often hop on the stationary bike at the gym for some cycling sprints.

I don’t run distance anymore, but frequent slow moving is still my bread and butter. I walk at least a couple miles each day, and oftentimes more than that. Weekends usually include at least one lengthy morning hike with dips and climbs and uneven surfaces, always in Vibrams. When I feel up to it, I’ll bust out a few hilly jogs or sprints within that hike.

I’ve switched things up a bit with respect to programming, however. With all the new books, events, and other ventures I’ve been involved in on top of the regular blog writing, my work schedule has been more hectic than ever. I’m not complaining, of course. I wouldn’t be anywhere else but right here doing what I’m doing. It does affect my training time, though. It’s inevitable, so I’ve had to roll with the punches and adapt to the new environmental context, especially when I travel. I guess the greatest revelation for me is that if I am forced to take a few days off (zero training) my fitness is not adversely affected. I can just pick up where I left off. That’s a huge relief from the old days of feeling immensely guilty for missing even one day.

The biggest change has been when I train. Rather than allot specific, extended blocks of time to my workouts, I’m getting workouts in when and where I can as opportunity presents. My workout volume has remained the same, but I rarely train for more than 20-45 minutes at a time.

I’ll often find myself writing snippets of posts in between snippets of training, and vice versa. Write a paragraph, do ten pullups. Every twenty minutes of writing, take a break and do a quick superset of squats, pushups, and bodyweight rows. Do a two minute plank every time I leave and reenter my office. Five minutes of slackline practice in the backyard while waiting for a manuscript to print out. Write an email while sitting in a squat. That kind of thing. I really, really enjoy it so far, and I don’t seem to have regressed, fitness-wise, but we’ll see. Maybe I’ll write a post sometime down the line looking closer at the “train throughout the day” method versus the more traditional method. So far, though, I like the freedom from set workout times. It’s also likely that this is how Grok “trained” – intermittent activity throughout the entire day. More on this later.


Of course, all this training is just a foundation for what I really love to do: play. I train so that I can play harder and not get injured. I strength train so that I can hang with the younger guys in Ultimate Frisbee, snowboard five days in a row or fight the waves when I’m standup paddle boarding. I sprint so I can beat the competition to the disc. I walk and hike so that I can spend all day out on the water if I want without losing steam. I slackline to improve balance and core strength. More than anything, I stay fit so that I can stay mobile and engaged in this life. At 60, I feel incredibly healthy and fit, perhaps more than ever before, and that’s no aberration. We can all stay this way, provided we eat well, exercise, and play as much as possible. We won’t all look or perform the same, but I’m serious when I say that everyone can be healthy and fit enough to enjoy their twilight years. It doesn’t have to be TV dinners, pill organizers, and dim, dreary living rooms illuminated only by daytime TV.

If you’re going to take anything away from the way I train to apply to your own training, start playing, guys. And start gearing your training toward supporting your mode of play.

That’s about it for my training these days. Some has changed, a lot has remained the same. What about you guys? How have you been working out these days? Thanks for reading, everyone.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Spending a week in rural NH and applying these same principles to break a sweat daily. Standup paddle boarding, sprints at local track, hiking in the mountains and of course, swimming in the beautiful lake. I love getting outside!

    kate wrote on July 30th, 2013
  2. Mark you are such a cool guy and a true inspiration! I’ve been reading your blog for years but never tell you how much I appreciate your down to earth style.

    Anyway I travel full time in an RV so I workout with kettlebells and body weight outside as well as yoga almost everyday usually outside too. The other day I did yoga on a lake at Glacier NP and it was amazing!!!!!

    Jenn (GH) wrote on July 30th, 2013
  3. My husband and i do just like you do Mark! We mostly get our workout from “hanging” ,mowing lawns, LOTS of play time in our “playground” made from trees and we keep our sledgehammer close by just in case we get a hammer fit…Lots of “fishing” but really what we catch every time is a good conversation and a great workout from climbing Huge rocks to get to our fishing spot.Scrapping our knees like 7 yr old kids do :-) .Lots of movement and believe me it will get you sore.I love my pull ups from our trees too. Thank you for all you do Mark and worker bees!!!!

    Alexandra wrote on July 30th, 2013
  4. Hi Mark,

    Awesome post! It’s very interesting and insightful to see how you train these days.

    I’m very excited about the intermittent exercising thing. I’ve started putting it into practice today after reading this post yesterday. So far so good, I really like it, it’s way more fun!

    A question popped up right away; With this approach to training/exercise, do you take rest days?

    Looking forward a full post on this topic!

    Stefano wrote on July 31st, 2013
  5. Hi Mark,

    I’m in awe of the muscle mass you maintain at your age. Do you use any sort of testosterone/hgh? As far as I understand it most people find it very difficult to maintain significant muscle mass as they age due to these compounds diminishing natually as we age, right?

    Karl wrote on July 31st, 2013
  6. Mark,

    This is one of the most helpful and practical posts I’ve read in a long, long time. I’ve been weight-stuck for several months and have gone back to IF to try to get things going, but I’m also finally feeling like I’m ready for more movement and activity (65 lbs less of me to move around helps, as does healing adrenal glands!), but with homeschooling and freelance editing, I have to be intentional about it. It doesn’t help that it’s too hot right now in Arizona to go outside during the day to do anything but sweat.

    After reading your post and the comments, I finally see my way clear. I’ve already done a few sets of incline push-ups on our bathroom vanity and am going to figure out some other triggers for other exercises, triggers that happen through the day.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    Lynne wrote on July 31st, 2013
  7. Hi,
    I am just starting out using the body weight training. However, I have a problem finding places to do pull ups other than the gym. At work I go into a spare room for press-ups, squats, lunges and burpees etc but ideas for pull ups would be great. I find reading the blogs inspiring. I am on holiday soon and hope to put the beach sprints into action.


    Nigel wrote on August 1st, 2013
    • If there’s a solid table you can slide under at your work, bodyweight rows might be a decent alternative to work some of the same muscle groups. Another option, depending on how your house is set up (need a stable doorframe with wall space above and to the sides), could be setting up an Iron Gym at home–they retail for $30-40 but probably go for cheaper on CraigsList.

      KevvyB wrote on August 1st, 2013
      • I soooo want a bar across my door to do pull-ups/chin-ups!! I LOVE doing pull-ups. I don’t even do it for any ‘exercise’ or ‘strength’ in mind, it’s just so fun to do them, especially doing them at random times and on whatever I can find.

        Eg. bus stop: There’s a bike rack looking thing. It’s low to the ground, so I am sitting in a 90′ and I pull up from there. My legs are stretched outward and I have to ‘lift’ those too. Great fun and the thing about bus terminals is you’re kind of excused for possibly looking ‘strange’. Haha.

        Here’s another cute story from the bus terminal. Some girl who looked about 10 (later I asked and she was 9). She was running across /balancing on the side part of the bike rack. I joined her HAHA and it was just a great time. She thought it was cool that an adult was joining her in this ‘silly game’. 😀 W00000t!!

        Zorica Vuletic wrote on August 1st, 2013
  8. Sounds like you’re greasing the groove!

    GHEE wrote on August 1st, 2013
  9. Good post Mark,

    Depending on the season, my workouts change. This summer I have a huge focus on golf (lots of moving at a slow pace), so my workouts have become less frequent and shorter. I still get my strength workouts in at the gym, but they are shorter. Maybe 30 mins doing heavy squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, or shoulder press. With all the great summer weather I like to get outside at the park and do sprints, crawling, handstands, muscle ups, and other bodyweight stuff in the sun. In the end though, it all depends on your goals, and staying in sufficient shape is not that complicated along with a primal diet:

    Grok on!

    Andy wrote on August 2nd, 2013
  10. What I do: Wake up and sprint first thing in the morning (my makeshift cup of coffee), run a mile or swim a mile, light weights, old-fashioned jumping jacks (a classic), mat work with stretches and amateur gymnastics with plenty of moves that I make up myself… (keeps me interested) One day off per week (no exercise no eating), one week off per month (the uncomfortable week)… I walk everywhere when I don’t want to pay for gas….
    guess that’s it

    Lisa Being wrote on August 2nd, 2013
  11. Hi Mark, interesting read about experimenting with unplanned workouts as time permits. In doing this, should one be concerned about overworking the same body parts on consecutive days without adequate time to recover? E.g. doing push-ups on everyday and overworking the chest. Thanks.

    Roy wrote on February 9th, 2014
  12. Hi Mark

    I have a question in regards to training frequency. If you train 5-6 days a week 45 minutes to an hour at time would a high fat moderate carb diet still work? Moderate carbs being around 150g?

    Thank you

    Allen wrote on August 4th, 2015

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!