Recommended Health & Fitness Books

Buff DadThis is literally where my own fitness journey began. I picked up Buff Dad shortly after my daughter was born.

I saw it in a bookstore, flipped through the first few chapters and realized it was perfect for me. I was way out of shape, very overweight and needed a realistic way to ease into improving my fitness.

I learned basic dumbbell strength moves from this book as well as getting my eyes opened (pried open forcibly is more like it) to the need to get more sleep (4 hours a night is a bad idea for everyone. It’s a terrible idea for a fat and sick guy who wants to be healthier and less fat).

If I ever meet Mike Levinson, I will give him an embarrassing hug. Without this book, I don’t know if I’d have ever gotten started.

The Primal Blueprint

One of my biggest challenges was figuring out how to manage my nutrition. My habits at the start of my journey were awful. I rarely ate breakfast, tended to gorge myself at lunch (usually at a restaurant) and ate seconds and thirds with practically every evening meal. My first attempts at fixing this were to try to follow restrictive diets like South Beach and Atkins (tried both, wouldn’t wish either on my worst enemies).

Along the road I got interested in Paleo, but I found the dogma of the Paleo crowd irritating, and the tendency to misrepresent what is essentially magical thinking as science infuriating. A friend recommended Mark’s Daily Apple, and I found the way Mark Sisson talked rationally and reasonably about ancestral health (and his willingness to admit just how much no one actually knows about what our ancient ancestors ate) refreshing and inspiring. So I picked up this book and really loved it.

If you’re looking for a measured, non-dogmatic and reasonable approach to nutrition, fitness and health, from a guy whose mission is to keep us all in it and having fun for the long haul, this might be a good stop for you.

Making The Cut There are few more polarizing figures in the fitness world than Jillian Michaels. Heck, I’m of utterly two minds about her. On the one hand, she has a lot to answer for due to her role in the nasty program that is The Biggest Loser. On the other, if you’ve listened to her podcast or read one of her books she’s actually full of solid knowledge and advice. It’s just unfortunate that she decided to make her brand about being cruel to people who need compassion and gentleness in their lives.

Anyway, I’ve read two of her books, but I recommend this one for one very specific reason: brutal honesty.

What Jillian does in this book is strip away the nonsense most fitness celebrities hide behind – namely, the notion that they look shredded all the time. She goes into detail here about exactly what it takes to look like a fitness model, and it’s not pretty. If you’ve got any critical thinking capacity at all you’ll rapidly realize after reading this book that aspiring to being shredded unless you actually make a living that way is stupid.

The New Rules of LiftingThere are few things more confusing, discouraging and demotivating than walking into a gym weight room to do a workout and having no idea what to do or how to do it.

One answer is to hire a trainer to show you the ropes and create a program for you. I had very little luck with that route.

If you’re looking to learn how to lift and what lifts actually matter, this book is a great place to start. I’d also highly recommend Alwyn Cosgrove and Lou Schuler’s other books in this series, particularly The New Rules of Lifting For Life, which is focused on routines for older adults.


Food Rules

Nutrition and diet is needlessly overcomplicated, most often by people who are trying to sell you a diet book or who have some sort of political agenda.

I actually think Food Rules ought to be a required text in public school science and health classes. Or maybe it’s part of the kit they ought to give you when you become an adult of legal voting age to help guide you to be less gullible, stupid and confused about food.

You can read this book in a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon and keep it handy to keep you on course for the rest of your life.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.


The 4-Hour Body

Most health and fitness books are severely lacking in fun and weirdness. Not so, The 4-Hour Body. Tim Ferriss experiments on himself so you don’t have to.

This book is full of tips on nutrition, exercise, health, sex and a pile of other things. It’s also large enough to kill a small mammal with.

One key concept that Ferriss really nails in this book is the idea of a minimum effective dose. Part of the problem with people striving for health and fitness goals is that we almost always go into it thinking we need to bust our humps for hours at the gym, or we need to eat like a Buddhist monk in order to really see changes. Tim Ferriss hacks his way through that mindset. Oh, and did I mention this book is fun to read?


Big Book of ExercisesThis is another great resource if you’re just looking to expand your exercise vocabulary.

Great if you’re stuck in a rut doing the same routine, or if you’re just starting out and you don’t know your way around a gym.

There’s a women’s version too, but I’d actually recommend this one for both men and women. The folks over at Rodale mean well, but they have a tendency to get stuck in that mindset that says they have to offer “girlie” exercises for women. I’m not a fan. I say anyone who can gestate a human inside of them can probably do the same lifts and moves I can.


Core Strength for 50+We are not getting any younger.

49+ year old me is different than the 38 year old version of me who started my fitness journey. Along the way I’ve had to adapt and adjust in order to keep going.

This is a great resource for exercises to keep things like chronic back pain at bay.

I’m still reading and re-reading this one because my focus as a coach is shifting toward helping older adults. If you’re at, over or close to 50, this is a great resource for you.



Body Maintenance & RepairLike I said, we ain’t getting any younger.

Even if you are a bit of a young pup, one of these days you’re going to tweak something.

So many people’s fitness progress gets stalled or stopped by injury. Most are avoidable, but stuff happens. I live with chronic back spasms due to an old injury that happened when I was a kid. It blossomed about 5 years ago because I was doing too much cycling on a bike that didn’t fit me correctly. Now it’s a permanent resident in my life.

You don’t have to do anything wrong to get hurt. Having a means to unhurt yourself is worth it’s weight in gold.


More to come. Stay tuned…

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