Friday, April 02, 2010

It seems like almost everyone is getting involved in group exercise today. On any given day in a warehouse, in a park or at the gym you can find people exercising together. There's everything from Running Clubs, Active X, and Roller Striders to Boot Camp classes. So why exactly are so many people jumping the 'lone wolf' ship to work out with others in a group setting? What is the big attraction?
I've been involved in fitness for 25 years now and have belonged to power lifting and running clubs, but I've also been that solitary figure in the gym and on the road. I do feel this has given me a pretty good understanding of the appeal and the dynamics of both. Years ago I started my own outdoor fitness company, Gut Check Fitness, which recently got voted "A-List Best Boot Camp" San Diego and Competitor Magazine, "Hardest Workout." This is where my passion lies.
Whether you join a workout group or get your own group of friends together for a workout, here are three reasons more is merrier for earning your fitness gains.

Unless you're that rare person that can jump out of bed at 5 a.m. and hit the ground running, odds are that getting and staying motivated are difficult for you. You are not alone. The majority of the people I've worked with over the years have had the same problem. That's one of the great things about the group setting. Many people who attend a class will show up exhausted from the ups and downs of everyday life. But once they join the group, they become re-energized. With a friendly fitness instructor there to light a fire under you rear, it can't get any better.
Not only are you more motivated to get out of bed and exercise, but there's the motivation to improve your current fitness level. If you work out with people who are faster, stronger or fitter than you, you are probably going to get in better shape. There's an old saying that goes, "The lead dog sets the pace for the rest of the pack." Think about it.

Remember when you were a high schooler and your mom would wake you up in the morning to go to school? She was holding you accountable. If you were anything like me, you probably wouldn't have graduated without her wake-up calls. Thanks Mom! A workout group can do the same thing for your exercise routine. I've had countless clients over the years at Gut Check Fitness say, "I wouldn't be there in the morning if I didn't know that Kim, Ron, Nancy, etc. were going to give me a hard time for not showing up."

The fear of group teasing gets them out of bed. Hey, it works!
Plus, there's the friendly instructor again that keeps track of your tardiness. I take a daily roll at my classes then each week I look to see who's been playing Harry Houdini. If I haven't seen someone for a week or two, I'll generally send them a friendly reminder with the threat of numerous burpees. This usually does the trick.

Group Camaraderie
Human beings are social creatures. Yes, a few are hermits and recluses, but the majority of us love to be around other people. We love to laugh, joke and have fun. I feel this is one of the greatest products of a group workout setting. Nothing brings people closer quite like misery and physical suffering. If you've ever done a boot camp or similar class, you'll understand what I'm talking about.
Many people sign up to get more fit and along the way become friends through this mutual ritual. Many become lifelong best friends. My classes not only work hard together, but they play hard together. We regularly have happy hours, wine tastings, and sports days where we do races and events together. We sincerely enjoy one another's company. It's truly one of the best ways to meet people like you and develop a common bond while getting into the best shape possible.
Joining a workout group can keep you motivated, hold you accountable and help you develop a sense of group camaraderie.

Finally, in a world where we've become so dependent on email and texting, working out with a group offers that human interaction that is slowly disappearing. We can do just about everything today virtually without ever talking to a person. That is outside of a group fitness setting. With group fitness, you have to get involved. You can try to escape to the back of the pack, but a good instructor will integrate you into the group whether you like or not. That's why it's called group dynamics, and that's why technology will never replace the good 'ol fashioned group workout. Get out of your cubicle, your car or your house and go meet other people that have a common interest just like you. You never know, you might just meet some real friends instead of the ones you find online.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Today's Deal: $29 for Five Boot-Camp Classes at Gut Check Fitness

Hey gang! Don't miss out on this incredible offer at It lasts today only!
Sweating by oneself in a gym or underground elliptical bunker can cause blinding rage or the common cold. Work out with pals in the sunshine during boot-camp classes with Gut Check Fitness. With this Groupon, $29 gets you five boot-camp classes, a $75 value.
Gut Check is run by Joe Decker, who broke the Guinness World Records Physical Fitness Challenge Record in 2000 for completing 100 miles of cycling, 10 miles running, five miles of power walking, six miles kayaking, 10 miles hiking, two miles swimming, 3,000 abdominal crunches, 1,100 jumping jacks, 1,000 leg lifts, 1,100 push-ups, 10 miles on a rowing machine, 10 miles on a Nordic Track, plus 278,540 cumulative pounds of weight-lifting all at once and all in less than 24 hours. That means he's fit.
Decker’s workouts are full-body, muscle-toning, fun agility exercises with heart-pumping workouts. The schedule includes classes at 6 a.m. in Torrey Hills Park, 9:30 a.m. at La Jolla Shores and Torrey Hills Park, or 5:15 p.m. at the Carmel Valley Rec Center with one of Gut Check's friendly, energetic trainers. During a workout, Gut Checkers may lift rocks majestically above their heads, flip tires, or carry each other on their backs up steep inclines simply for the love of exercising. The instructors won't make you march in step, salute them, shave your head, or do push-ups until your arms quake worse than San Francisco in 1906, but they will make you sweat buckets and challenge, tone, and trim your body.

ReviewsGut Check Fitness won's A-List award for Best Boot Camp in 2009, and it has a perfect five-star rating on Yelp:

- I have never had more fun getting my butt kicked in my life. If you are into fitness or want to be into fitness, look no further. – trevor h.
- Don't expect to pump iron in a gym, but you should expect to get in incredible shape if you let Joe and the rest of his clients motivate you to push yourself as far as you can go. – Derek L.
- Joe Decker runs the best boot camp in San Diego. – Brian B.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Burpee: The One Exercise to Rule Them All (from The Art of Manliness)

When I played football in high school, my offensive line coach had an exercise he liked to use on us for punishment. When we were caught screwing around or didn’t respond with “sir” or didn’t hustle in-between plays, Coach Chamlee had to say just four words to elicit an audible groan from the offensive line: “Get your feet moving.”
Those four words marked the beginning of one minute of pure hell. It was burpee time.
The Benefits of Burpees
The burpee is the ultimate full body exercise. There’s a reason why football teams, CrossFit practitioners, and elite military forces use the burpee in their workouts. Just one simple movement tests both your strength and aerobic capacities. Below we go into a few more details on the benefits of the burpee:
Strength. The burpee is a full body, strength training exercise. With each repetition, you’ll work your chest, arms, front deltoids, thighs, hamstrings, and abs. Trust me. Your legs will feel like they’re pumping battery acid after you complete a set of burpees.
Fat burning. Because you’re using your full body when doing burpees and because they’re such an intense workout, the burpee is one of the best exercises to burn fat. Studies have shown that high intensity exercises, like burpees, burn up to 50% more fat than conventional strength training exercises. They’ve also been shown to speed up your metabolism which helps you burn more calories throughout the day. If you’re looking to get rid of that spare tire, step off the elliptical machine and start doing burpees.
Conditioning. Many men today spend hours a week in the gym sculpting washboard abs and bowling ball biceps. While those muscles look nice, they don’t do much for you when you have to split a giant pile of wood or even save your own life. Burpees are an effective exercise for developing the conditioning and endurance, the manly vim and vigor to tackle any challenge. They’re also a great exercise to include in football conditioning drills.
Free. There are no fancy gizmos, classes or gym memberships required to perform a burpee. All you need is your body, a floor, and an iron will.
Portable. You can do this exercise anywhere. On the road? Bust some out in the hotel room. Don’t have a gym membership? Get your burpee on at the park. In prison? Do them in your cell.
Burpees are how Mike Rowe keeps in shape to work his dirty jobs:
How to Perform a Burpee
The burpee is a ridiculously simple, full body exercise that will leave you gassed after doing only a few.
To perform a basic burpee, just follow these instructions:
Begin in a squat position with hands on the floor in front of you.
Kick your feet back to a pushup position.
Immediately return your feet to the squat position.
Leap up as high as possible from the squat position.
When performing burpees, the key is to perform them in quick succession in order to get the conditioning benefits this exercise is famous for.
Some of you might be thinking, “Hey, this is a squat thrust.” While the squat thrust and burpee are indeed similar, the crucial difference between the two is the leap at the end. That leap is what separates the men from the boys.
Besides the basic burpee, you also have your choice of a few burpee variations that will not only kill your body, but also your soul.
Burpee with push-up. Perform the burpee normally, but after you kick out your feet to a push-up position, go ahead and do a full push-up.
Burpee with divebomber push-up. Instead of just doing a full push-up, make it a dive bomber push-up.
Burpee+Pull-up. Stand underneath a pull-up bar or tree branch that is high enough that you have to leap to reach it. Perform a burpee normally, but when you leap up grab the bar and perform a pull-up. Repeat. Did you hear that? That was the sound of your soul dying.
The Coach Chamlee Burpee. I hated these. As mentioned above, my offensive line coach would use the specter of burpee punishment as motivation to keep us from slacking off. When Coach Chamlee said to get our feet moving, we had to “chop” our feet in place as fast as we could. When he said “hit,” we’d hit the ground and perform a burpee. Between each rep, we continued rapidly chopping our feet. I’m tired just thinking about it.
Burpee Workouts
Because they’re such an intense exercise, you can make a quick and effective workout using just burpees. Below are a few suggested burpee workouts that will whip your flabby butt into shape.
Descending Burpee Ladder. Start with a set of 10 burpees. Rest one minutes. Then do a set of 9. Rest one minute. Continue lowering your reps by one on each set until you reach just one rep.
100 Burpee Challenge. Pretty simple. Just do one set of 100 burpees as fast as you can. I can usually do the first 20 in a minute or so. After that I hit a wall, and it takes me about 15 minutes to finish the rest as I lay on the ground to rest between reps. Take as long as you need until you hit the 100 burpee mark.
2 Minute Drill. Set your stop watch and crank out as many burpees as you can in two minutes.
Burpee Ladder with Sprints. So you’ve been doing burpees for a bit and feel like you’re in good shape. Try this little ditty to take your burpetitude to the next level. Perform the burpee ladder as described above, except instead of resting a minute between sets, perform a 50 yard sprint. I tried this a few months ago thinking I was in good shape only to barf after the second set. You know a workout is good when it’s barf good.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Death Race 2010

I turn 40 next year and have found myself pondering what I can to do bring this decade in properly and torture myself at the same time. Oh, I'm going to attempt the Barkley 100 Miler and the Running of the Bulls in Spaiin but needed something a little more sadistic. Enter the Death Race - I just signed up 5 minutes ago officially to head to Vermont in June with 99 other wackos and try to survive. Why you might ask? Well, I could go get completely piss ass drunk like many of us have in the past to wake up 40yrs old and not remember what the hell happened. I figure this event will leave a big enough emotional, psychological and physical scar that I will never ever forget where I was my 40th year alive!

"Get Busy Livin' or Get Busy Dyin'!"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

North American Wife Carrying 2009

Hey Gang!

Just got back from the 2009 North American Wife Carrying Championship. Here's a link for some quick coverage to give you an idea of what it is.

I will tell ya, it's definitely harder than I thought it would be. Running 300 meters with a 128lb person slung up on ya gets friggin' hard! Plus going through mud, over logs and through a water pit just wears your ass out. We did well but I fell to my knees once on the sand hill and was penalized time which dropped us to 11 place. I'm perfectly fine with that. We went there to jsut have fun. I gotta tell ya they kept announcing the World's Fittest Man is here. Which I hate! Everyone wanted to kick my butt of course. It makes ya nervous. Nik and I lined up against a 29yr old x-country stud and his little wife. He even had on running spikes. I was like "oh shit!" We were neck and neck until the sand hill where I tripped to my knees. He wanted to beat me so bad he launched over the hill and drove her into the ground!haha...Luckily it was soft. I got back up and passed to win by 3 seconds. Made me work. Just a good time. I would do it again. I love events like this that are fun, goofy but challenging. Isn't that we're after in the long run anyway? You gotta have the fun factor! Getting settled back in. I'll start putting up daily workouts tomorrow. Time for me tos start training for the Barkley 100 Miler so will keep ya posted. Got that then Texas Water Safari and hopefully La Ruta de los Conquistadores. Remember, don't take yourself to seriously. Enjoy life and have one helluva good time while doing it!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Top 10 Fitness Gear From the World's Fittest Man

I've been involved in competitive fitness of some sort for about 25 years. I started out as a powerlifter and football player while also running track for a little farming community in the Midwest where I grew up. Then I joined the military only to find Uncle Sam's one-of-a-kind intense fitness program.
After my time in the military, I decided to combine a couple newfound passions of Strongman with ultrarunning to eventually go on and break a World Record for fitness. Having a love of such diverse outdoor disciplines has called for a unique array of gear. Here's my top 10 list of favorite gear that has helped me run long and fast, stay strong and be continually fit.

1. Real Food

I eat an array of fruits, vegetables & lean meats plus drink plenty of water daily. I take no supplements, no shakes and no shortcuts. My mantra is and always has been, "eat right, work hard and play harder." You'll find quite a bit of helpful eating information at

2. Body Glide

I do not leave home without it. As a big strong guy who likes to run, cycle and lift, I've found my frame more prone to chaffing in all the wrong areas. This stuff is a life saver, especially on long runs and rides.

3. Under Armour Compression Gear

Listen, if you're going to be on the ground doing push-ups, on your back doing sit-ups or just running around in shorts and shirts all day, these babies keep the pieces and parts in place. Again, not glamorous but this is for real people and not prima donnas.

4. Injinji Socks

I swear by the toe socks. I've worn them across Death Valley, through the Himalayas and during numerous 100 mile trail races without getting one blister. They're like Isotoner gloves for your feet.

5. Running Shoes

I have two favorite running shoes. My longtime love that has been with me since before the Guinness Book in 2000 is the New Balance 1220. There have been many styles since, but none can compare. They are inexpensive, fit great and still hold up well.
My next pair is for down and dirty, in your face billy-goat-style trail running. They are the Salomon Speedcross 2. Not quite the ride of the New Balance, but I call them the "Monster Truck of Off-Road Running." They are going to the Barkley 100 miler with me in 2010.

6. Watch

I'm not a big gizmo guy and actually still wear my old school Casio G Shock watch. It doesn't have a compass or GPS but it is affordable, durable and still looks tough. I don't like to sweat my pace or the mileage, but just enjoy my time on the trail.

7. Hydration Pack

I've been using CamelBak products for hiking, trail running and cycling since they first appeared on the market. I still love and use their products today. I have a 100 oz. old school HAWG hydration pack that goes everywhere with me. I wouldn't leave home without it.

8. Torque Pull-Up System

One of the most difficult to master but effective exercises you can find is the pull-up. If you want a strong back, biceps and grip--do pull-ups. I have a traveling pull-up bar that I got from the guys at Torque Athletic. It travels in the back of the truck to the beach or to the park with me. Add some rings and presto! Instant gym. Plus, their stuff is still 100 percent made in the USA.

9. Strongman Gear

My two favorite Strongman implements are the tractor tires and atlas stones. You can get large tractor tires from many implement dealers that are looking to get rid of them. I have about a dozen in my garage that range from 200 to 500 lbs. Who doesn't love throwing around a big tire? And it's an incredible workout. My next favorite piece is the atlas stone. Atlas stones range in size from 75 lbs all the way up to 500 lbs. This is another old school strength exercise that is lots of fun. It's very effective and can be done outdoors. I got my stone molds from Slater's Hardware.

10. The most important piece of gear is a healthy body, a strong mind and a fire inside of you.
You cannot buy this in a store. You have to be born with some of it and build the rest. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, only to fail miserably and then learn from your mistakes and come back stronger than ever. As the saying goes, "Where the mind is willing, the body will follow."

These are just a few of the things I have continued to use over the years. They have helped me along the way and will hopefully do the same for you. But remember, gear can only help. You have to do the rest. Hope this helps you on your journey!

Active Expert, Joe Decker is an ultra-endurance power athlete and renowned fitness trainer who has helped thousands of people get into shape. He has completed many of the world's toughest endurance events, including the Badwater 135, and the Grand Slam of UltraRunning. In 2000, Joe broke the Guinness World Records® Twenty-four-hour Physical Fitness Challenge to help inspire and motivate people to get fit. He is recognized as "The World's Fittest Man." Visit his website at .