Shedding The Gift That Keeps On Giving

After packing on the holiday pounds, many will target the battle of the bulge for their New Year's Resolution. Men's Fitness magazine lends readers a hand with its new "Get Fit, Stay Fit 2009 Guide." Roy Johnson, the publication's editor-in-chief, gives listeners a sneak peek.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Hopefully we will all cherish the memories we've made during this holiday season, but what we will not cherish are the extra pounds from the holiday parties, the cookies Santa didn't manage to eat that we, you know, helped with, the chocolate snacks people thoughtfully left on our desks. Don't get me wrong, we appreciate the love, but if you want to fit into a suit other than a Santa suit come January, you have got to pay attention.

Men's Fitness magazine has some help for you. Their "Get Fit, Stay Fit 2009 Guide" is available now, and joining us to talk about it is Roy Johnson. He's the editor-in-chief of Men's Fitness. He's a regular contributor to the program, and he also compiled the guide. Roy Johnson, welcome back.

Mr. ROY JOHNSON (Editor-In-Chief, Men's Fitness Magazine): Thank you, Michel. It's such a treacherous time of year, isn't it?

MARTIN: Well, I don't know. I guess you're going to help us with that, so...

Mr. JOHNSON: I'm not going to help you in terms of getting in trouble. I do that well enough on my own in my own household where I have a wife from the South who makes a lot of Southern desserts.

MARTIN: Ah, yes. So what's in the guide and how did you decide what to put in the guide?

Mr. JOHNSON: Well, the guide is a comprehensive look at everything you need, starting right after the holidays, in order to get yourself in shape. It's got nutritional elements, talking about ways to eat smarter now and looking at different aspects of the grocery store and helping you to make smarter decisions when you're there. It also has different types of training.

We've always believed at Men's Fitness that if you want to work out, why not learn from the best? And those are people who tend to make their living with their bodies, athletes in particular. We've got two particular sections that are focused on athlete training, one which looks at athletes from a lot of the mainstream sports and another one that focuses on mixed martial arts training, which, of course, you know and we've talked about is increasingly popular. We bring workout secrets from some of the best in the business, as well as nutritional suggestions that should guide you through the year.

MARTIN: Let's take those separately, and let's talk about the nutritional piece first. Women's magazines have - often have a lot of articles on food and nutrition. Do you think that men's magazines could focus more on these issues?

Mr. JOHNSON: Well, there is no question about it that men are becoming more cognizant of what they eat and when they eat. You know, we're not trying to deprive men of man meals and to go out and have a good steak, but we preach moderation. We also talk about being smarter when you make selections at the grocery store, having balanced meals, eating a good breakfast - it's the same thing your mama told you but it's still just as effective today. Have a smart breakfast. Start your metabolism in the morning. Feed yourself throughout the day, and just eat smart so that when you do indulge, when you do go out and say, I'm going to have dessert, I'm going to have a big meal tonight - that it isn't something that penalizes you because you prepared yourself along the way.

And we also try to teach you to be smarter at the salad bar. Everybody thinks that I'm going to have a salad today, so that means I'm eating healthy. Well, half the things at the salad bar are just pounding on extra calories that aren't particularly good for you. So we have an article there about looking at the salad bar in a smart way to help you make smart decisions there, as well.

MARTIN: And of course, it wouldn't be a men's magazine, would it, if there wasn't the best-sex diet? You've got to have that in there, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JOHNSON: Now, I've looked at women's magazines, Michel. There you can't go every other page in a women's magazine without finding something to enhance your sex life. So give us a little break, you know. We want, you know, we're partners in this. We're partners in this, Michel.

MARTIN: I'm just reporting here, Roy. I'm just trying to find out what's going on with the magazine.

Mr. JOHNSON: And if I can get a little bit at the grocery store that helps me perform a little bit better where it counts, then why not?

MARTIN: Why not? If you're just joining us, this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Our guest is Men's Fitness editor-in-chief Roy Johnson.

Now, let's talk about the workout section. The book has workout tips, as you were telling us, from a lot of pro athletes and celebrities. Now, I have to tell you, this is eye candy, it is very interesting to - if I say, if I may say - but it's interesting to hear how these guys work out. But I have to say, it's their job to do this. It's their job to stay fit. And I have to ask, do men look at those workouts and really think, I can do that too? Do you know what I mean? Can a regular person really do this?

Mr. JOHNSON: Absolutely. There's no question that the people we feature in the magazine each month as well as in this book are the elite of the elite, people who are paid millions of dollars to perform at the highest levels of athleticism. But what you can take from them is an understanding of what it takes in order to be the best you can be. So for instance, you know, most people believe they're going to the gym and focus on lifting weights to try get bigger. Most top athletes don't lift weights to get bigger. You know, there is more of an attention to just getting stronger, flexibility, core strength and balance.

And what I've learned over the last year just in talking with these athletes and what our readers love is the fact that there are these cutting-edge theories and a lot of them that debunk some of the myths about what is the most effective way to work out and how you should work out. And readers take those things from a Ray Lewis, a Ray Allen, a Sydney Crosby, LaDainian Tomlinson - incorporate them into their own workout so that they can be as fit as they can be.

MARTIN: Can you just give me one - one example?

Mr. JOHNSON: Well, sure. Torii Hunter, who is the star centerfielder for the Anaheim Los Angeles Angels. Here's a guy who is clearly strong and fit but working on balance and flexibility using, you know, the large balls that we see in the gyms to get more flexible, to develop core strength so that he is able to do some of the athletic moves that he does.

But just talking about balance and working out on your toes, LaDainian often works out barefoot just to strengthen his feet and his ankles. And for any of us, I mean, those are the kind of things that you don't even think about when you go to the gym. You only think about the big muscles, but your body is comprised of large and small muscles, and it behooves any of us to not neglect any of them.

MARTIN: One of the things I do like, though, is that you've got, as I mentioned it, it's eye candy, but I do like the fact that you've got a lot of different body types, a lot of different sports - a very wide array of sports represented...

Mr. JOHNSON: Yeah. I'm sure you did study the different types of bodies.

MARTIN: I did. I did closely. I just wanted to be sure that I...

Mr. JOHNSON: Journalistic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Absolutely. Just doing my job, just doing my job.

Mr. JOHNSON: Your job, absolutely.

MARTIN: Now one of the things I think we noted, speaking of doing our reporting, is that going through a recession, I think everybody knows that for a lot of people the first thing they cut back on are things like gym memberships. You know, a lot of people are trying to spend less on food, which means they're going to try cut out the organic food and things like that and try to go to the cheaper bulk staples. A lot of those are carbohydrates and things of that sort. So do you have any advice for people who - for whom penny pinching is just a necessity, when you need to watch your pennies. Do you have any thoughts about that?

Mr. JOHNSON: Well, the first thing I would say is that in times like these, it's increasingly important for us to try to stay mentally and physically fit. As we develop more stress in our lives, as we worry about our jobs, as we worry about the prices of food and gas, we know that there's going to be more stress, and you have to manage stress in a number of ways. And one of the ways of doing that is to stay fit, to do something that keeps you active and sort of takes your mind off of some of the things you can't control.

As you try to pinch pennies and save a little bit, of course, some people may drop their gym memberships, and that's a decision that people have to make. But what is great about staying fit is it's not expensive. You get what's called an Ab Roller, which looks like a little tricycle wheel with two handles on either side, and you roll out with that, or there is another great ab workout, get some resistance bands, where you can get a workout for upper body, lower body, triceps, biceps, chest, back - just using resistance bands and putting it up against the door or underneath your feet. And then get a jump rope. You can get an amazing cardio workout with a jump rope.

So if you really can't afford a gym membership, it's really no excuse not to stay fit. Go to your local department store, get those staples. You can probably get them all for under $100, and then it requires the dedication and commitment. Rather than sit...

MARTIN: I do have - I'm sorry, I do have one question about that, though. Safety, that one thing you do get when you go to a gym is someone to make sure that you're exercising in such a way that you won't injure yourself. So do you have any thought about that?

Mr. JOHNSON: Well, that's why you should read Men's Fitness and read some of the - the sister publication, Shape, for women because we give you detailed instructions so that you are able to get on a machine or do a particular lift without injuring yourself because when you do that, then you're setting yourself back for months.

MARTIN: If there was one fitness tip you'd want your readers to follow in the new year, what would it be?

Mr. JOHNSON: To incorporate fitness as a part of your life. Don't look at it as something that you have to do but something that you want to do and need to do. You know, it is as important as eating well. It is as important as getting a good night's sleep. It is an important foundation that allows you to be the best that you can be in every aspect of your life.

MARTIN: Do you have a fitness resolution for 2009?

Mr. JOHNSON: I do. I've planned - my hope is to get my own body fat content down a little bit. I haven't quite come up with a number yet. I've got a trainer, so we're going to sit down before the end of the year and set some goals for '09. I work out with him now twice a week. So in '09, you know, look out, Michel. I'm going to be thinner and stronger than ever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Well, I must say, and I hope you don't mind my saying, that when I last saw you, I thought you were looking very fit.

Mr. JOHNSON: Well, thank you very much. I don't mind that all. Who would mind such a thing?

MARTIN: Just, you know, want to be sure that we were clear.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Happy Holidays to you.

Mr. JOHNSON: Same to you and you and yours. Be safe, be strong, and see you in '09.

MARTIN: Roy Johnson is the editor-in-chief of Men's Fitness magazine. He was kind enough to join us from NPR's New York bureau. Roy, thanks again.

Mr. JOHNSON: Bye-bye.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Remember, at Tell Me More, the conversation never ends. We want to hear about your New Year's resolutions, whether they are getting in shape, saving more money or getting closer to family and friends. To tell us more, please visit our Web site on the Tell Me More page at npr.org, or you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. That number again is 202-842-3522. And please remember to tell us your name and where you live. Tune in later this week and you might just hear your resolution on the air.

And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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