“The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.” – Hannah Arendt

In my work at Efficient Exercise, it’s my duty to provide the most health and fitness bang for the buck for my clients —  in accordance, of course, with their goals.

Now, like any other “worth his salt”, literary/liberal arts-leaning guy out there, the cliche, “bang for the buck” severely grates — as does any cliche — on my highly developed aesthetic nerves.  In this instance, though, I’ll “bite the bullet” and “see this one through”.  No need, “at this juncture” to “re-invent the wheel” now, to get my point across.

Ha!  Anyway, so while you’re not going to get McCarthy or Marquez in this short piece, I will tune you in to what I believe are the biggest return on investment actions a client can take in pursuit of lasting health and wellness.  Important stuff, to be sure.

And remember, all of what I’m about to lay out is colored by degree — in other words, there is a HUGE difference between the pursuit of “health” and the pursuit of “performance”.  That said, the vast majority of my clients are uber-busy professionals who are trying to leverage as little time as possible to achieve maximum returns on their health.  On the other hand, I do have a few clients who, like me, enjoy pushing the health vs performance envelope to its seam-bursting extremes.  I readily identify with both approaches and have morphed between the two depending on what the overriding concerns were at various points in my life.  Sometimes career, kids — hell, just life its messy self — intervened in such a way that I had to put “pushing the envelope” aside for a bit.  But I always had the time — and everyone has the time — for the pursuit and maintenance of health.  If, that is, one prioritises correctly.

So here are my top 8 Health and Fitness Return on Investment strategies for the average guy — a guy (or gal too, of course) who is looking to maximize returns on health and fitness with minimum time investment.  Note that any movement toward the performance end of the spectrum will, by necessity, require more time and “intensity” investment.  But the good news — for anyone merely looking to maximize health — is just how little time investment is actually required.  If, of course, things are done in an efficient, well-programmed way.  So here we go; health and fitness ROI, for the average guy:


  1. High Intensity Interval Resistance Training (HIIRT).  I have this, the basis of my overarching exercise plan, listed first for a reason —  and that is that we, as a species, were first and foremost physical beings, while being, secondly (and a distant “secondly” at that) opportunistic eaters so as to support that physicality.  And yes, it this type of exercise is not in any way, shape or form, meant to be comfortable — it should “HIIRT” on a physical, mental and spiritual level 🙂  In all seriousness, one has to lay it on the line in these sessions.  And this is where intelligent programming is an absolute necessity.  Because while intensity is key, the programming has to be such that a client will not risk injury due to the performance of a highly technical exercise under duress/fatigue.  Bang for the buck?  A mere two, 30-minute sessions per week.  Cha-ching!
  2. Consumption of a nutrient dense, toxin-free diet.  Paleo?  Primal?  Sure, if either of these is the God you choose to idolize, rock on.  But I find that, for myself and for my clients, these “diet designations” can be a bit too daunting and/or constraining.  And ultimately, both of these plans come down to this: choosing, at every meal, the most nutrient-dense and toxin-free foods available.  And in the real world, sometimes these choices aren’t as black-and-white as the academia/internet world would lead you to believe.  For instance, what if the only available choice is between a processed, fat-laden piece of CAFO-raised beef or a big bowl of grass-fed-butter soaked Quinoa?  Would fasting in this instance be a legitimate option?  What if all of this needs to be navigated in the context of a social situation?  Learning to negotiate the real world of food selection is time well spent.  Eating in this fashion is an absolute necessity.
  3. Increases in everyday energy expenditure.  This nothing to do with calorie burn during the activity itself, but everything to do with the genetic, epigenetic and enzymatic profiling that is expressed as a result.  Walk, bike, take the stairs, tote…in short, MOVE at every opportunity.  This essentially equates to increasing one’s work capacity, and if the want is to push into the pursuit-of-performance end of the spectrum, a huge amount of time will need to be invested here.  For the average guy?  Not so much.  Just get up and move when and when there is opportunity, and never pass on an opportunity should it arise.  Just a good rule of thumb to live by in an increasingly automated world.
  4. Soft Tissue maintenance.  Do you have a foam roller?  Awesome.  Do you use that same roller…DAILY?  This has been this single most important recovery tool in my arsenal, and is a major reason why I’ve been able to stay as intensely active as I have been for so very long.
  5. Sleep.  I had a football coach at one point during my career who was, following a particularly arduous week of training, fond of saying “the fat’s in the fire” — meaning that we’d done all the prep work we could do, did it to the best of our ability, and so now it was time to rest well prior to kick-off.  You can (and I do) go all-out ball-busters during my waking hours.  But when it’s time to call it a day, you’ve got to put on the brakes, tune-out the world, and pull-off a night-long mini-hibernation.  Overtraining is not a concern for the 99%; under-recovery among the masses, though, is rampant.
  6. Leverage the modern technology of DEXA scan and bloodwork panel.  If the eyes are a window to one’s soul, then the DEXA and a solid bloodwork panel surely are the dual portals by which to measure one’s physical status.  Just keep in mind (and especially for the bloodwork panel) that these are merely snapshots of a larger, ever-moving target.  Used correctly, though, they put more valuable, health-related information in one’s hands than could have been dreamt possible just a decade ago.
  7. Continually assess and reassess goals.  Are you looking for health, but training like a professional athlete?  You’re going about things totally wrong, and you’re setting yourself up for a major crash.  Do you aspire to be a D1 athlete, but are only willing to invest an hour a day toward that pursuit?  Better find another meal ticket to Higher Ed U.  I can put these disparities in no simpler terms than that.
  8. Hire a professional.  Yeah, this is self-serving I realize.  But here’s the thing: if you’re truly interested in maximizing ROI in this aspect of your life, why would you treat it any different than any other highly important aspect?  You wouldn’t manage your stock portfolio or architect plans for your new dream home yourself unless you had intimate knowledge of these endeavors to begin with.  The pursuit of health and fitness is no different.  And let’s face it: we’re not talking about minimal money on the line here.  As America has shifted over the past 60-odd years from a healthcare delivery system to a for-profit, disease management system, the monetary stakes have risen exponentially.  Superior health then, is not only a quality of life issue, but a money-in-pocket issue as well.

In health, fitness, and ancestral wellness –


  1. Awesome post Keith! I’ve definitely noticed a difference since I started doing 2 kettlebell workouts a week and sometimes squeaking in a 3rd. Still need to “move” more on a daily basis, though.

    Need to give you a call for a “gut-check” workout.

    Keep spreading the word, my friend!

    • Right on, Steve! And keep those Saturday HIIRT sessions in mind as well. Post workout recovery at the Draft House! 😉

  2. These are awesome! I just finished a set of 10 “low hanging fruits” for a publication I’m working on and I’m glad to see there’s some overlap. I had a few more diet things, which I tend to weight more but definitely agree on the more movement in general.

  3. Great Article!
    I am “average” 22yo guy and I do:
    real food
    2x24h intermittent fasting (Eat Stop Eat style)
    HIT with dumbbells 1x a week
    sleep 9h
    protein intake +-120g/day
    creatine monohydrate 5g/day
    walking 30 minutes/day
    Any tips for some bang for the buck?:-) Thanks.

    • Depends on what your goals are. If you’re looking to put on muscle mass, you’ll need to up your resistance exercise exposure.

  4. I am 161 lbs (73kg)/ 5.83 feet (178cm), I guess my BF percentage is 14-15%…about 60 kg of lean mass.
    In my country (Czech Rep.) there are no HIT coaches I am aware of. I thought 1x a week training could be enough, but maybe not. I now try to push myself every HIT session. I considered 2x a week HIT, I could do it… it’s just that many HIT personas train with less frequency. Long term I’d love to see results like this: http://morganandrew.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/client-results-collage-v1-1.jpg

    • Yeah, training frequency (among a few other key points) is where i differ with the HIT purists. If you’re looking to maximize hypertrophy, 1x/week training, in my opinion, is just not going to get it done.


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