Harvey Walden doesn’t want to hear your excuses, bro. The former drill instructor, who has appeared on shows like Fat Club and Celebrity Fit Club, is an all-around fitness badass. He believes that proper fitness isn’t a chore. For Walden, living a healthy lifestyle isn’t something that you should convince yourself to do. It’s the obvious play. Why the hell wouldn’t you want to be healthy? It’s an easy choice, and one that you need to make every day.

That’s not to say that you don’t have to work at it. But for Walden, fitness isn’t work. It’s an investment in your longevity. You only have one body in this life. Why not maintain it, right?

I spoke with Walden this week to get his thoughts on fitness, nutrition, dumbbell exercises, P90X and beer belly trouble. His takes were simple and refreshing. The guy knows how to motivate, and it’s hard to argue with his logic and his no-nonsense, quit-your-bitching-you-soft-excuse-for-a-man approach to fitness. Here’s the full interview:

CS: Let me ask you first about your motivational style. I know you were in the Marines for like 20 years and you bring a drill sergeant mentality to your approach to fitness, so how exactly do you go about motivating people and what do you think is the best way to motivate people fitness wise?

HW: Well that’s what works for me, because that’s what I know best. I was brought up in the martial arts as a young kid, so I always had an authoritarian type of mentality. Just kind of making people do what they don’t really want to do, but helping them come out of their comfort zone. Once they see what they’re really capable of, they really enjoy it. They like it. A lot of people get stuck in that rut and don’t want to come out of their comfort zone. But once I bring them out of that, it’s a good thing and they enjoy it, you know. And that’s my gratification, too. Like you said, I was in the Marine Corps. I was in the Marine Corps for over 23 years and there’s nothing better than taking somebody who can’t even walk and chew gum at the same time and then showing them that they can really rock and roll and kick butt and take initials.

CS: So it’s after the New Year and everybody’s got their New Year’s resolutions to either trim down or just live a healthier lifestyle. What do you think are some essential fitness elements that are missing from most people’s routines?

HW: Consistency. Everybody wants to deal with these fad diets. They see these hot new diets out there and that trash don’t work. You have to go right back to the basics, man. You know, eating healthy meals, watching your portions, actually busting your butt and doing the work in a gym or power-walking or running. Get yourself a partner, too. You know you can never go wrong if you get a workout partner; somebody who wants to lose that beer belly right along with you. You’re going to keep each other honest. You should also keep a journal. Write down everything you’ve done. Write down how much you’re eating, write down what you’re eating, put down your moods, if you’re having a bad hair day put that down in there, but still get your butt in there and work out and when you get done working out you’ll see that your mood has changed. You’ll appreciate the fact that you gave it that extra 110 percent and stop making excuses and just get it done.  If you’re caught up with the fad diets, it won’t last. But if you do it the right way, it’ll last forever. You’ll put your body in a state that always has what we call “muscle memory.” If you fall off that track, it’ll be easy for you to get right back in the fight and get all the checks and balances in check.

CS: Now if someone doesn’t have a gym membership but they still want to do some sort of daily exercises to kind of start small and get into it – get into that consistency – what are some back-to-basics types of fitness exercises that you recommend people do?

HW: You know, I got a lot of people that were hitting me up on Twitter, my website, Facebook and stuff on that same exact question. People are either scared to get into the gym or they couldn’t afford trainers, someone said he couldn’t even go out and get the book. So I said I’m putting everything on a blog. I created this “Harvey Walden Guide to Fitness,” and I put everything I could think of on the website, on the HarveyWalden.com website and I also put it on the Yell.com website. So you can go in there you and start from Day 1 all the way until Day 300 throughout the whole year. That start’s with, first of all, if your doctor says you’re good to go and you don’t have any malfunctions, start power walking, 30 minutes. If you’re a runner, then get yourself some powerful running shoes, get out there and hit the pavement, start running. If you have a gym membership, get in to the gym and just do like a round robin. If you want to lose weight, you’ve got to do the cardio. There’s no ifs ands or buts about it. You’ve got to get on the treadmill, get on the elliptical machine, get on the bike, get on the roller. If you get kind of bored with it—and a lot of people do—just a round robin. Do 10 minutes on the elliptical, 10 minutes on the bike, 10 minutes on the treadmill, another 10 minutes on the Stairmaster, three times a week. Now if you want to lose weight, you’ve got to do the cardio five times a week.

CS: Five times!

HW: If you’re trying to lose weight you need to be working out five times a week.

CS: Okay.

HW: And three of those days you should have some resistance training in there. That can be on the machines or you can do it by using the resistance bands. You know, I was working with somebody the other day and I showed them how to use the resistance bands and how to use your own body weight. Building your core on the stability exercise ball, you’d be surprised what all those little small apparatuses will do. It gives you your stomach a good work out.

CS: Now is it better to work out in the morning or the evening or does that not really matter?

HW: It matters with your lifestyle. Me, I get up at zero-dark-thirty, so for me, the morning works good. Then some days, I’m in a gym at midnight. So whatever lifestyle you have, you work it into your lifestyle. I’m tired of people making it sound like a chore to work out, you know what I mean? It’s not a chore man, it’s your lifestyle. Your life is too short as it is. If you can’t give yourself 30 minutes to an hour to give you some longevity here on Earth and get yourself healthy, then what’s the point? You know, make it work for you. If you have to get up an hour early in the morning, then do it. If you have to travel to work and join a gym that’s on your way to work, you can either stop there on your way or you can stop there on your way back home. Make it work for you. There are no riddles. People make excuses, they can’t do this, can’t do that. Man, look this is your life, grasshopper.

CS: (laughs)

HW: And life is too short.

CS: Now nutrition obviously plays a large factor in the whole fitness thing. What do you think is missing from most people’s diets or how do people eat incorrectly? I know we’re all guilty of eating horrible food now and again, but what are some easy, simple, quick, nutrition tips that you can give to people to just start integrating more good stuff in what they eat?

HW: The first thing I’d say is to have a cheat day out of the week. You know there’s nothing wrong with having one day out of the week where you just eat what you want. That’s your cheat day. The other days try to eat healthy, stay away from eating a whole bunch of carbs. Get some healthy carbs. Eat your fruits and vegetables, eat as many fruits and vegetables as you want.

In the morning, maybe have some oatmeal, egg white omelet, a low-fat yogurt, fruits, whole wheat. For lunch, have a healthy in between your breakfast—carrot sticks, almonds, dried fruits—then have a healthy lunch with a turkey sandwich, a salad, a chicken sandwich. After lunch you have another healthy snack and that can be anything from dried fruits again, vegetables, almonds. Then for dinner, there’s a lot of people who want to really pile on a lot of food at dinner but if you’re not going to hit the gym after, if you’re not going to get a workout in after dinner, you shouldn’t be piling on a plate full of food like you’re at the Cheescake Factory.  Same thing there, you want to have something healthy and stay away from all the starches and the pastas and stuff like that. If you’re going to eat the pastas, I recommend you keep your portions in control and I recommend you move that to the middle of your day so you can have the whole day to burn off the those carbs. You can’t just eliminate carbs from your body completely, because your body does need them. People go on these “no carb” diets and then they want to work out but you don’t have any energy to work out. When you think about it, that’s where you get that energy from, your carbs. The trick is just don’t overload on the carbs, unless you’re like a marathon runner. We have pasta days to get ready for our long runs, but hell, we’re out running 20 miles, you know what I mean?

CS: Right. So if you have two dumbbells at home, just some basic, small 20-pound weights, what are some good exercises you can do around the house with just two dumbbells?

HW: Oh you can do a whole lot. I’ve got these body builders – I call them 12 pound bodybuilders with the dumbbells. You can actually take the dumbbells—you start in a squat position—and you come up and you can do an arm curl with the dumbbell, or you can alternate, you can do full arm curls with the other, and you do a military press with the dumbbells. You take them over your head, and you come back down, you can do two more arm curls, and you go right back to the squat position and you put the dumbbells down to the floor on the outside of each foot.

You can also do a push up with those dumbbells. As you have both dumbbells in your hands, with your palms facing inwards, then you kick your feet out and you do maybe two pushups, you come back into the squat position, and as you come up, you take a dumbbells and you do a military press over your head.

If you have an exercise ball you can sit on the ball as well and squeeze in your gut, contracting your abs, and you can do dumbbell curls on the ball as well as the military press. So you’re sitting on the ball and you’re building your core and you’re doing your arms, shoulders, and legs.

You can also do lat raises with the dumbbells, taking the dumbbells out from your sides and raising them to about shoulder height. You can do squats with the dumbbells as well, when you’re doing the squats you can hold the dumbbells at your sides. You can also do lunges. You can do a million type of exercises with dumbbells, man. I have dumbbells at my place and I pull them out every now and again and in the middle of the night if I’m just getting ready for a shoot the next day. I do dumbbell presses, squat thrusts, curls, you name it. You can just work wonders with it. You can get a total body workout with dumbbells. There’s no excuse at all.

CS: Nice man. I know we kind of talked about the beer belly already, you mentioned cardio, but is there any way to lose a beer belly while continuing to drink or not really?

HW: Well here’s the thing, you can’t spot reduce. So to lose the belly, you have to increase the cardio and take in less calories. You need to burn more calories than you take in. So the first thing to do is just take a measurement of yourself. Take a measuring tape, wrap it around, write down those measurements and then weigh yourself. Like I said, try to get your workout in in the morning, get up, knock out your cardio workout, write down whether you’re on a machine, treadmill, whatever, write down your intensity. I recommend you start at maybe like 4, number 4 if you can, and write down you worked out at level 4. And keep track of your heart rate with the heart rate monitor. Keep your heart rate at about 65 to 70% of your maximum heart rate. You’ve got to make sure you maintain there for the 30 or 40 minutes starting out then eventually get yourself up to an hour.

Keep track of how many calories you’re bringing in throughout the day. Try not to go over like 1600 calories a day. And you’ll see the gut go. It’ll just fall off you like diarrhea. But you’ve got to do the cardio, because remember you’ve got to burn, you want to burn the fat. And as you’re burning the fat – it’s like when you put bad gas in the car and you try to drive it out, you don’t want the bad gas back in, so you try to take those calories out which is the fat being stored in your gut. So when you burn it out, you don’t want to put all those calories back in, you don’t want to do that. So like after your workout, maybe have a protein shake or something, or maybe a sandwich or something to kind of curb the appetite so you don’t want to eat a whole big meal after your workout.

I was working out with this girl yesterday, and we had a killer workout. As soon as she got done, the first thing she wanted to do was to feed her face. I said no. So I took her over, we sat down and ate and I said, “look, you look at the menu and tell me what you want to eat. You know, now they have all these nutritional guides at these franchise restaurants that tell you how many calories are in there, right? Well she picked something and I said, “look at the nutritional value of that, how many calories are in it.” It was damn near 2,000 calories. “You just burned close to 1,000 calories working out with me and now you want to put back in 2,000 calories. You tell me what’s wrong with that picture.”

And she thought about it, “oh yeah I didn’t even think about it.” I said, “yeah all that Caesar dressing is in that, you need to think about that.” And then you know they bring that bread before the dinner. I said, “you didn’t even think about that either.” You’ve got to constantly be aware of what you’re putting in, especially if you’re trying to make some money burning calories, you know what I mean?

CS: Yeah, totally.

HW: Every little bit adds up, dude. Every little bit adds up. So you’ve got to be aware. Pack your little snacks or you’re going to find yourself going out sneaking and cheating on the stuff that has no nutritional value. I’ve got a bag of carrot sticks in my bag and I pack my own protein shakes.

CS: Now one last question Harvey, do you think P90X is for everyone? What do you think about the program? Do you think people should start off slower? I’ve got a lot of friends who are into it and tell me I should check it out, but I’ve kind of got to do some baby steps first. What are your thoughts there?

HW: Oh yeah, I do like P90X. I have it myself and it’s very powerful. You can start out slow with it, but just move at your own pace. I’ve done it myself before, but it is time consuming. It’s a bit of a workout, but if you want to start out slow, just pace yourself through it. One thing you don’t want to do when you get to workouts like P90X is you don’t want to hurt yourself and then you’re going to be set back, you know what I mean?

CS: Right.

HW: Don’t try to go all out and kill yourself with it because it’ll put you in a hurt locker, but you can get some good results from it. You can also start out slow, building a base with even doing a round robin like a talked about earlier, you know on the treadmill, elliptical, Stairmaster. 10-15 minutes on each. And do some resistance training where you’re doing a total body, where you do the bench press, the chest press machine, the leg press, the lat pull down, the arm curls, hitting all those big muscles groups so you can build the muscles. When build the muscles when you’re working out and losing fat, your body’s going to always consistently burn calories throughout the day. Even when you’re not working out you can be burning calories, because you’re building the muscle as you’re burning those calories. That’s why I say it’s imperative that you get in five times a week and three times you do the resistance training and build the muscle. Once you build the muscle, I’m telling you man, it’ll work wonders. Your body will be always burning calories. And if you stick with it and you’re really giving it 110%, before you know it, your body will be burning 2,000 calories a day just without you working out. I know my body burns like 500 calories a day without me working out, that’s what my body needs just to survive.

Pretty cool stuff. If you want more tips for staying motivated and getting your pudgy ass in shape, check out Harvey’s website.

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