Expectedly the book kept us hooked from the very first page. It was extremely informative and A.J's immersion in the traditional and non-traditional health concepts left us in tears. We came in expecting a bunch of laughs along with a fun easy read but we all left with an even bigger interest in becoming "Drop Dead Healthy." We all hope you can have as much fun power reading through the book as we did.
Dual Fit: Could you tell us a little about yourself for those of us who aren't acquainted with your fantastic books like: "The Know it All," "The Year of Living Biblically," "The Guinea Pig Diaries" and "Drop Dead Healthy"?
A.J. JACOBS: Thanks for calling them fantastic. My wife will be annoyed at you for inflating my ego. As a writer, I like to immerse myself in my topics. Really dive in and become a human guinea pig. I've spent the last ten years trying to improve myself (I needed a lot of work). First, I tried to improve my mind by reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z. Then, I tried to improve my spirit by following all the rules of the Bible, from the Ten Commandments to growing a long beard. And for my latest, I tried to improve my body in Drop Dead Healthy.
Dual Fit: What was your initial inspiration to become "Drop Dead Healthy"?
JACOBS: I was in terrible shape. I was what they call 'skinny fat.' My body looked like a snake that had swallowed a goat. Then, on top of that, I was hospitalized with pneumonia. My wife said to me, "Listen, I don't want to be a widow in my forties. You better shape up." So I figured, okay, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to go all in. I'm going to follow every piece of medical advice, and see what works. I'm going to revamp my diet, exercise regimen, sleep schedule, stress level, sex life, you name it.
Dual Fit: How much did you enjoy this immersion into healthy living compared to your previous topics?
JACOBS: It was certainly the most physically painful. When I grew a massive beard for my year of living biblically, it was itchy, but this was a whole new level. I'm glad I did it, though. Because my energy level has doubled.
Dual Fit: How much exercise did you actually manage to fit into your busy day with Guerilla Fitness and how can we implement it into our lives?
JACOBS: If you're committed, you can fit exercise into almost every nook and cranny of the day. I call it Guerilla fitness, or 'Contextual exercise.' Take the stairs, avoid elevators. Park your car a block farther away. I was just at the airport, and I avoided the people mover. Yes, I moved my own person. Heroic, I know! I also started to run errands. Literally. Run to the drugstore, buy toothpaste, then run home. I also found I work and think better when I'm active. So I bought a treadmill and put my laptop on top of it. I walked (slowly) as I typed this book. It took me about 1,200 miles.
Dual Fit: Did you learn something that was completely unexpected and contrary to your prior beliefs?
JACOBS: A whole bunch of stuff surprised me. I was surprised to learn there's very little evidence stretching is good for you. By which I mean, static stretching, where you try to, say, touch your toes and hold that position for 30 seconds. There's some evidence this kind of stretching actually hurts your performance. I was also surprised by some of the tricks you can use to improve your workouts. Several recent studies talk about taking a sip of Gatorade -- and then spitting it out. The tongue senses the presence of sugar, and sends a message to the body, "Energy on the way!" But you don’t get the water weight of swallowing it. Or holding a cold bottle of water while you work out. This lowers your core temperature and increases endurance.
Dual Fit: Out of the workouts and diets you have tried in this experiment, what is the most effective workout and the most effective diet in your own opinion?
JACOBS: I'm a huge fan of the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). I do it either running outside, or on the treadmill or stationary bike. I go full-throttle, just sprinting my legs off, for 30 seconds. Then I rest for 30 seconds. Then I repeat that several times. You can get a full, metabolism-changing workout in 30 minutes. I do something similar with resistance training. At home, I have a dumbbell set and weight bench. I like to do circuit training with very short rest periods, and I lift till muscle exhaustion.
Dual Fit: How did your wife, Julie, handle all of your new healthy living routines?
JACOBS: Overall, she was happy that my belly no longer protrudes. But she thought I went a little too far with all the fitness routines. I took her to this one class called IntenSati, where you do aerobics while shouting affirmations. "I want it, I want it, I really really want it!" It was way too Hare Krishna for her.
Dual Fit: Do you feel physically and mentally healthier after completing the experiment? Are there any routines you still incorporate into your daily lifestyle?
JACOBS: I do feel healthy. I hesitate to say that, because if I boast about how perfectly healthy I am, then tomorrow I'll come down with rickets. That's just the way the world works. But honestly, I feel healthier than I have my entire life. I lost my four-month-pregnant belly, as my wife called it. And I feel like I've got a caffeine high, but without having to drink coffee.
Dual Fit: What is the best piece of advice you can give to anyone trying to live a healthier lifestyle?
JACOBS: Avoid sitting in one place for more than an hour. Even getting up once an hour from your desk and walking around for a couple of minutes can make a huge difference. Or else, build a treadmill desk, if you can. I'm a treadmill desk evangelist.