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Fitness for Geeks: Real Science, Great Nutrition, and Good Health Paperback – 4 May 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (4 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1449399894
  • ISBN-13: 978-1449399894
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 2 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 490,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Over the course of a decades-long writing career, I've written on the environment, software, and fitness. Now fiction-"Barbarous Coasts" is the first novel I've published (literally, self-published). I think the natural world, ecology, and human fitness are deeply entwined. I like spending lots of time in the mountains-skiing, climbing, hiking, thinking.

My next novel, coming early this summer, takes place in the mountains.

Most of my time is spent with my family in Vermont and Massachusetts, USA.

Product Description

About the Author

Bruce W. Perry played college soccer in New York, then amidst a varied career in journalism and software engineering finished literally (ask his knees!) hundreds of road races and multisport events. He's since moved on to family life and recreational alpine hiking, skiing, and resistance training. He has also written two recent software books for O'Reilly Media. After an unguided youth, he now hangs out weightlifting in gyms again, and climbs with guides now, recently Piz Palu in the Swiss Alps, Mt. Whitney's Mountaineer's Route, and Mt. Rainier.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Shazzer on 1 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
My latest choice of book as part of the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program was Fitness for Geeks by Bruce W Perry.
I was hoping for something light, fun and filled with recommendations of gadgets and apps that might entertain and motivate me to exercise. This book is not that. It is absolutely not a light or an easy read - it's a serious, detailed, in-depth treatment.

If you're into facts and figures, and evidence-based analysis and opinion on dietary fads, exercise, metabolism and the like, it's yer only man. I'm too much of a light-weight, I'm afraid.

There are gadget and app reviews, but they're almost secondary to the main focus of the text. The author does make recommendations of best uses of the tools available, and points to a number of excellent websites from which you can get more in depth information on the topics he covers.

Perry looks in some detail at exactly what diet and exercise do to the human body, what works and what doesn't. There's lots of science and technicality. There are also lifestyle tips, interviews and case studies. It's a thorough treatment, but a bit too thorough for me: in places I found myself glazing over as things got more technical and detailed than I could easily digest.

I'd recommend this as a great reference text to have at hand to dip in and out of when you have specific queries and want detailed information rather than a one-liner: for example, why do we need certain vitamins, and what happens if you exceed the RDA - and for that matter, what is an RDA, and how does someone decide what it should be? But it's not a fast-paced, cover-to-cover motivational read, so if that's what you're after, look elsewhere.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Cross on 24 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
There's a movement afoot in the geek world. After decades of sitting in front of screens and only eating flat food we're finally realising that this lifestyle isn't that good for us. And many of us have decided to do something about it.Of course, being geeks we see fitness as a phenomena to be investigated, a problem to be solved. As a result we now have books like Fitness For Geeks which examines all of the areas that you need to consider when trying to get fit and presents them in a way that that appeals to the geek mentality.

The first chapter is really an introduction. It explains why most current lifestyles (and not just geek ones) are at odds with the way our metabolism has evolved. Perry's thesis (and it's a convincing one) is that it's only ten thousand years since all humans were hunting for their food and that's not long enough for our bodies to have evolved away from their hunter-gather blueprint - which means that we need to find other ways to burn off the calories which we no longer use hunting.

Chapter two switches to full-on geek mode and surveys some of the many gadgets that are available to help you lose weight and get fit. Geeks love their gadgets and this was one of the most interesting chapters for me. The idea behind most of these gadgets is that if you can measure something then you can improve it and track the improvements. For example, I was using a FitBit before I started reading the book. The FitBit tracks the amount of exercise you take during the day - basically by monitoring the number of steps you take and the number of stairs you climb. By reducing these measurements to a few simple numbers it becomes easy to see how well you are doing.
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Format: Paperback
I found it hard to start this book because it meant I'd have to do something about my pot belly which is exactly the reason why I needed to read it. Not wanting to give up my beer or actually do anything approaching physical work I finally got to opening it up and was surprised that I enjoyed it.

First thing, it's for geeks as the title says. The blurb says any kind of geek (someone obsessive about a subject) but it tends towards software speak which might go over a lot of non computer geeks heads. Having said that, there is a lot of good advice that is understandable to all. Widgets and gadgets used to be the domain of proper geeks, now everyone uses them and there is a good chapter on these and how they can aid your progress tracking.

The content ranges from evolutionary fitness (is sitting in front of a screen really what we are evolved for) to a comprehensive discussion on food science (what are carbohydrates, High Fructose Corn Syrup etc) with plenty of other content (interviews, food choices, gadget guides, exercises).

It can be very heavy going if you read it cover to cover but used as a reference manual or to help you plan your diet, activity or sloth a bit at a time then it works well.

In summary, if you want to track, report and manage your exercise regime in detail then this book has plenty of advice on what to look for and possibly what to buy. It's not a page turner, but then is any exercise book? Although it says it is for nerds of all sorts, you'll need to skip the computer bits if you are not a software developer.

So, have I lost my pot belly? Nope, I'm already following a lot of the advice anyway and for me personally, it just boils down to eat less and exercise more (more than walking the dog anyway).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 27 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Wanted to like it, but... 31 May 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have a real soft spot for "geeky" fitness, being a self-proclaimed geek who's been reading everything from nutrition to training literature over the last year or so in a quest for self-improvement.

Unfortunately, I felt this book fell short of its promise, despite really wanting to love it. If you're a true geek, the book really doesn't go into enough depth on many issues, and lays out a lot of surface-level science without diving into the whys and wherefores. For example, the Paleo diet is mentioned repeatedly, but the Paleo arguments against carbs and grains - from the insulin response to lectins and anti-nutrients - were nowhere to be seen. "We should eat like our ancestors" is about as far as this book goes, and that's not geeky enough for the intended reader, I fear.

In general, I felt the pacing, content and delivery were all just a bit off. Way too much easily-outdated information on apps and tools (and how many times does the author plug Endomondo?), over-saturation of information on vitamins' properties and far too little on exercise itself. Also, much of the content was too anecdotal -- it would have been great to hear from geeks with different lifestyles, transformations, and goals, rather than the author's many adventures. The interviews with experts were a nice touch, however.

While other reviewers praise the "lay out all the facts and make your own decisions" approach, this book started making some decisions for you, the reader, while falling short in other areas. Actionable steps would have probably been more helpful than patronising.

Summary: A lightweight read which may be a great kick in the pants for a geek to go and read some real literature, if they can get through all the lengthy app descriptions. Not advised if you're already interested in the subject and have begun your own research.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Crying Uncle 17 July 2012
By Craig Maloney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I tried to like this book.

About three chapters in, I decided this book wasn't for me. From indirectly talking about people's auras after working out, to indirectly recommending paleo diets, this book just hit my woo-woo trigger one too many times. I enjoyed the discussion about different sites for tracking fitness, but when push came to shove about nutrition and such, I felt like I was spending more time on the web trying to verify every little piece of information in this book. I felt like I was reading the equivalent of an infomercial for something that will be thoroughly debunked in ten years.

I was really hoping this book would be something I could enjoy reading without having to be too critical, but this book isn't it.

(Note: I received a promotional copy of this book from the publisher, of whom I have enjoyed just about every other book they've published).
52 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Real Science: auras, feelings, and other pure Awesome! 10 May 2012
By Patrick Darden - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hey! What a book! Lots of real science! Like on page 15 when the author is reading peoples' auras! Awesome! Or page 14 where he states you should stand on the subway for the 35 minute commute "just because it feels better."

The rosy commute into work passes all the faster when you fast! That's right--according to the author you should skip breakfast!

And in this author's world, it never rains! Sunshine makes you high! Ride that bike or walk to work every day!

If you do eat breakfast, eat organic eggs! Locally grown! In your own yard if at all possible! Because that makes them healthy! Plenty of science by non-partisans like Mother Jones to back that up! Because you don't spray your yard with chemicals, and neither do your neighbors. Your house doesn't have paint on it nor sealant. Your deck isn't stained. And there are no plastics within a hundred miles!

Ok, by now you get the point. This book is vaporish feel-good pop science.

Frankly, after fasting, walking ten miles in to work, climbing up and down 12 flights of stairs, eating a salad for lunch, standing almost all day in lieu of sitting at a desk... you are going to be exhausted. Your feet will hurt. You will limp home and collapse. You'll start drinking and doing coke to feel better. You'll probably take up crystals and aromatherapy because or your pure despair. You will likely develop a binge eating disorder (hungry and exhausted you will tuck in to whatever is in the fridge when you get home and quit only when it is empty). And you won't have time or energy to actually work out.

And if you do work out, it shouldn't be for more than 30 minutes every couple of days or so. More than that is a waste of time. So... somebody needs to tell that to Olympic and professional athletes. And to competitive amateurs. And anybody training for a marathon or a triathlon. Or a half marathon. Power lifters. And, uh, anybody who actually wants to transform their body--make a difference, actually see something happen. Because 30 minutes 2-3 times a week isn't enough to make any difference at all. "just a dash on the treadmill" is all you need? Hardly.

And as any athlete knows--you do not stand when you can sit, you do not walk when you can ride, you do not take the stairs when you can take the elevator. Exactly the OPPOSITE of this book's advice. Because when you are not exercising you are recovering. Heavy squats or sprints on Monday should NOT be followed by 12 flights of stairs on Tuesday. It is ridiculous and nonsensical. You would never recover, you would never get better, you would almost certainly injure yourself.

I can only guess that the assumed audience for this book is some kind of retarded nerd who lives in a basement without any sun or exercise or food other than doritos. Because it certainly isn't the Geeks suggested in the title. The title makes it sound like a book filled with exacting science, cool gizmos, nifty state-of-the-art techniques for the mind and body--things that work, and can be replicated, like visualizing the color red before you do a power lift, using creatine, or the techniques of progressive resistance as applied to either weights or endurance running. Instead it is ... just downright patronizing bologna.

TIL: The only meat in this book is bologna.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Fitness Overview, but Non-Geeky 6 May 2013
By AmandaGal - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The only thing geeky about this book is the terminology the author uses. He tries a little too hard, calling your genome the body's source code and dieting hacking your code. I found myself rolling my eyes at some of his attempts to get geek cred. He also makes several jokes about geeks not getting any sun or proper nutrition that remind me of grade school insults. Is that really what you think of your target audience? That geeks sit in a comic store swigging Mountain Dew and Cheetos? Come on. Don't be so juvenile. There are all manner of geeks, and that type of geek probably wouldn't be buying your book anyway.

As for the info, I was a little disappointed. It is highly referenced, but a few of the references are either poor studies or the results were taken out of context (I didn't look them all up, but I knew a few of them). That's kind of what expected from a pop science book, but this is a book for geeks. Geeks read. Health geeks supposedly know how to evaluate scientific literature.

I was most disappointed because I thought, judging from the cover and the title, that this would be a book about health gadgets and geeky health things. It barely touches on that topic. The only on body monitor that is mentioned is the Fitbit. I love the Fitbit, but I think it's competitors, especially the BodyMedia devices, deserve a mention. Withings has devices that measure BMI and blood pressure. Where were those? Even the section on apps for fitness was really lacking. Some of the most popular and common players (MyFitness Pal, RunKeeper) weren't even mentioned.

The book claims to not support a particular lifestyle or diet plan, but it does have an overly Paleo feel to it. There's nothing wrong with that, but this is a "geek" book, not a paleo book. It also seems to support intermittent fasting, which, again, is fine. There is evidence supporting intermittent fasting, not enough to say it's the only way to eat. I felt the book was pushing this lifestyle instead of just educating you about it.

I'm going to give it a few stars because I felt like if the book hadn't presented itself as a "geek" guide to fitness, it would have been a decent overview of modern day fitness. However, I don't feel like it was geeky or detailed at all.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Do You Have to be a Geek? 28 May 2012
By John Jacobson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Why a book on fitness for geeks? This is actually a book on fitness for anyone who wishes to do a little research on getting and staying fit. The two main aspects of fitness are covered, diet and exercise. Geeks are interested in knowing how things work, and as one might assume from the title, the main emphasis of the book is charting the mechanisms of health.

Also, as befits the term "geek," a major portion of the book is devoted to describing a number of cell phone apps and web sites that can be used in the endeavor. These range from apps that detail activities and caloric use, to apps that can be used to plan meals with certain goals in mind, to apps that can help one search for particular nutrients when one is on the road. The author makes a case for buying food locally. Most economists will counter that pursuing local buying is actually less "green" than buying at your local supermarket. There are several additional opinions in the book that not backed up by current data.

The basic food groups (macronutrients) are described including how the body uses them, and how certain foods in excess are more likely to contribute to reduced performance and even disease. A recurring theme through the book is the "paleo" diet, a diet based on food choices available to our ancestors 10 millenia ago. A strength of the book is that many of the suggested life style choices are based on articles that have appeared in peer-reviewed journals. There are also many brief interviews within the book which give the opinions of dietary experts, conditioning coaches, world class athletes in many different sports.

A section I enjoyed talked about the benefits of fasting, there is a growing literature on how fasting improves metabolic effiency in the body. Modern lifestyles for many lead to high insulin levels, and high insulin levels are linked to many serious adverse health outcomes. High metabolic efficiency is characterized by low insulin levels, a state that reduces the chances of developing many serious diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

The last chapters discuss fitness regimens, both indoor and outdoor. The focus is on a balanced fitness regimen which includes aerobic cardio exercise and strength training. Specific descriptions and recommendations for indoor gym based exercise and outdoor aerobic and anaerobic activites are included.

The importance of sleep, including apps that may help one understand their sleep patterns is discussed. The value of avoiding a set routine, of introducing some randomness into one's exercise activities, is presented. And finally the author talks about massage! A great place to end a book on life style choices.

The book includes endnotes, and a 9 page index. It is published by the Make section of O'Reilly, so it is clearly intended for the DIYer.

This is a comprehensive look at current ideas of how to maximize our health and fitness. It is not perfect, it includes some opinions which are not supported by current science, it even includes some opinions that are countered by a different opinion later in the book. It is appropriately documented, with many stories thrown in for interest. The question is left hanging, are we healthier than our paleolithic forebears? Leaving aside the medical and hygienic advances that rescue many of us from our life style choices, are we healthier than our ancient ancestors?

Highly recommended, partly for the information presented, but more for the spirit in which that information is presented.
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