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Merrell’s ‘Minimal Effective Dose’ outdoor exercise with Tim Ferriss

Old Merrell Pace Glove minimalist running shoes
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You know him as the best-selling author of books like “The 4-Hour Body” and “The 4-Hour Workweek.” Tim Ferriss is a fitness freak, an outdoor junkie, and now the face of a new exercise video and project with Merrell, “4 Fundamentals of Outside Fitness.”

Tim Ferriss mid-workout, here doing a military-influenced ‘blurpee’ pushup

GearJunkie caught up with Ferriss last week from his home in the Bay Area for a few questions on fitness, gear, the outdoors, and something called the “quantified self.”

GearJunkie: So many fours! Why the “4” in your books, and now this workout regimen with Merrell?

Tim Ferriss: It was not intended to be a brand. It really came from the first book, “The 4-Hour Workweek.” It was the amount of time per week I spent managing my company, so the number was based on personal experience. But it became a useful tool for communicating other things and as a metaphor for hyper-effectiveness.

You have a pulse on a lot of forward thinking. How will people be exercising in 10 years from now?

In ten years time, the tools people associate with the “quantified self” movement will become so prevalent that you’ll not need to opt in, you’ll have to opt out. The act of tracking things like heart rate and blood sugar will become standard. You’ll wear something like a nicotine patch and see stats on your iPhone. You’ll be able to see it or give it to a company like Wellness FX to manage and analyze for you. What gets measured gets managed. Think Strava, altimeters, lactic acid measurements, and all the things we use now, but much more integrated.

What are the biggest fitness mistakes people make?

People believe the first purpose of sports or training is to improve performance or lose body fat. That’s dangerous. Injury prevention should be the first priority. Bulletproof your body first, then focus on performance. Beyond that, it depends on each person’s motivations. You need to distinguish between recreation and exercise. A 10-mile run to remain sane is fine. But do the minimal effective dose [only what’s needed to gain positive effects]. Also, people tend to only do what they are good at. If you’re a runner, you run. Mix it up or you will develop stress and overuse problems.

“Fitness does not need to be complicated.” Explain this line from your Merrell video.

For exercise, take simple steps. Stick with it. Do [equipment-free] body weight exercises. Use a kettlebell. You can workout effectively just 5 minutes a day if that’s what you have. Sneak it in! Super effective exercise can often be the least time consuming. I’ve worked with gold medalists and pro athletes for years. They all keep it simple. Also, get outside! You’ll be happier and healthier.

Who is the audience for the “4 Fundamentals of Outside Fitness” video?

Anyone who spends too much time in front of a screen, or anyone who needs to get in better shape but is putting it off because of gym memberships or the commute needed to get to a gym. [See the video here.]

Where did the exercises come from?

I’ve used some of these exercises for 10+ years. The “cat crawl” exercise came from the world of parkour. The person who taught this to me is Brian Orosco. The “trap walk” came from Eric Cressey, a physical therapist who trains baseball players among others. The “pistol” exercise I’ve known of for ages, but the technique and subtleties come from Pavel Tsatsouline. And the “blurpee” is a military-influenced move I learned at the Health Gracie Academy.

How did you start working with Merrell?

I’ve been wearing Merrells for years, including for training to learn Japanese horseback archery. They are comfortable and use minimalist soles. Merrell came to me with this project. It’s the first time I’ve done a partnership like this.

What Merrell shoes are you wearing now?

The Vapor Glove is an extreme minimalist shoe. I like it for a workout and for running. They are so light you can practically roll them up. The Reach Glove looks almost like a dress shoe. It has laces but you can slip it on. I wear them to business dinners and everywhere.

I saw Black Diamond carabiners and SealLine waterproof bags, among other gear, on your blog. What are some of your other favorite pieces of outdoor gear?

I love a lot of gear but I don’t often use the gear for its intended purposes. For example, those SealLine waterproof kayak bags, I use them as travel-friendly weights. I fill them with water for weight and snap them shut then use them like a kettlebell for a workout in a hotel. I have a climbing harness and shoes, a BlueSeventy wetsuit. I use a lacrosse ball to roll out my feet in morning, and I also roll out my chest. That’s a good tip for people with back pain from sitting at a computer. The pec muscles shorten, so you can use the ball and stand against a wall and roll out the pecs.

What are some of your current obsessions?

I skied with Jonny Moseley last week. We did dawn patrol at Lake Tahoe, at Squaw Valley. It was set up by Zozi.com. Another thing is archery tag. You use arrows with foam tips and paintball masks. I took kiteboarding lessons at Ocean Beach in San Francisco here last month. I can tell I might be getting into that.

What projects do you have coming up? Are you working on a new book?

Taking a breather! Nothing huge planned right now, but I am sure that will change within the coming months. Downtime, I have learned, is just as important as working hard.

—Stephen Regenold interviewed Tim Ferriss. See the “4 Fundamentals of Outside Fitness” project with Merrell here, or watch the video below. Tim Ferriss is at www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog.

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