Here are some excellent resources to support you in your fitness adventures. This page, like everything else on the site, will be growing and evolving, so be sure to check back from time to time.
Core Fitness and Health Knowledge
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is a solid resource — a brief-but-comprehensive education in the importance of being active throughout our lives. It’s well organized, readable, and FREE to download (a PDF file) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025
A similar document to the Physical Activity Guidelines, above. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a FREE document (PDF) from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS). It’s a great source of information about nutrition, including our changing requirements throughout life. You’ll learn basics like how to read Nutrition Facts labels, how to estimate your calorie needs, and more.
Healthy Sleep Habits
Sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our health and fitness. This site from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers Quick Sleep Tips for good sleep habits, plus collections of articles and videos you can access at the left side of their site.
Mental Health Crisis Resources
Please see If You’re Having a Hard Time … near the bottom of this page for a collection of resources for anyone struggling right now.
I have probably read hundreds of books on fitness and related topics (psychology, anatomy, behavior change, coaching, etc.). Here are a few that I think everyone should read.
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey, MD
This is an excellent book on why physical activity is important for our cognition and mood, not just our bodies. I have both the audiobook and the paperback. Easier to flip through the paperback for quick references, but I have listened to the audiobook about five or six times, which I definitely wouldn’t do if I had to sit down and read the thing. In any case, I highly recommend it to anyone who has a body and/or a brain.
Fat Loss Happens on Monday : Habit-Based Diet & Workout Hacks, by Josh Hillis and Dan John
How to build habits that will support you in eating well and being active, regardless of how “motivated” or “disciplined” you feel on any given day.
Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, by BJ Fogg, PhD
A very detailed guide to BJ Fogg’s proven method for designing and forming habits. No vague concepts, just plenty of specifics, examples, and how-to instructions. A highly pragmatic book from one of the world’s leading experts in behavior design.
Fitness Leaders to Know
These are a few folks who demonstrate exceptional empathy, knowledge, and common sense about fitness for regular folks.
Girls Gone Strong (GGS)
In addition to certification programs for fitness professionals, Girls Gone Strong offers a collection of FREE online courses for women, on topics like nutrition, menopause, body image, and more.
Molly Galbraith — Author: Strong Women Lift Each Other Up
Molly Galbraith is one of the founders of Girls Gone Strong. Her book, Strong Women Lift Each Other Up, is not specifically a fitness book. It applies to any professional field or area of interest, including fitness. You can follow Molly Galbraith on Instagram (@themollygalbraith).
Hampton “Brother Hampton” Liu — Author: Hybrid Calisthenics
Hampton Liu is exuberant, encouraging, funny, smart, and inspiring. At the moment (late 2023) he has over 800K followers on Instagram (@hybrid.calisthenics), and for good reason. His basic message is (my own wording): “You can do this! Start small, and work your way up.” He has hundreds of engaging instructional videos.
He has written an excellent book, Hybrid Calisthenics: Get Healthy, Fit, and Strong with Just Your Body and Gravity. It’s perfect to keep in your workout space for easy reference. Hampton also offers his Hybrid Routine for FREE on his website.
Dan John — Prolific Author, plus Dan John University
Dan John is one of the most sensible, no-nonsense people in the fitness world. He is a well-known and respected strength coach, discus thrower, and Highland Games athlete, but also a scholar, philosopher and religious studies teacher. You can count on him to not promote hot new fitness trends, sketchy lose-weight-with-no-effort schemes, or any other horsepucky.
I found Dan’s work encouraging when I was first getting into fitness because he is a voice for a common sense approach to training, especially with regard to deconditioned ordinary people, in his Quadrant III: “Everybody Else.”
You can find Dan John’s books on Amazon. I recommend the audiobooks, which he narrates. Definitely engaging material! But you might also want the printed versions for reference, especially for the workouts and progressions. All of them are excellent, but I’d recommend starting out with Can You Go? — Assessments and Program Design for the Active Athlete and Everybody Else, which is essentially a four-hour introductory education to serious, sensible training.
You might also enjoy The Dan John Podcast (over 200 episodes, each about 25 to 55 minutes long). He’s also active on social media: @coachdanjohn on Instagram, Dan John University on Facebook, and @DanJohnStrengthCoach on YouTube, with over 2,200 videos! Check out his Exercise Demonstration playlist. He also offers Dan John University, which provides custom workout programs appropriate to your fitness level, available time, and built around the equipment you have available.
Dan John does tend to speak to an audience that already has good familiarity with equipment and exercises one would encounter in a weight room, often fitness professionals. If that’s you, perfect. But even if that’s not you, you can still learn a lot and be inspired by his work.
Fitness Pro Education
If you’re inspired to take your enthusiasm for health and fitness farther, to help others with training and coaching, or just to deepen your own knowledge, here are some well-regarded places to begin:
If You’re Having a Hard Time …
We have a lot of fun here, practicing our snarky attitudes and celebrating little victories. We try to take a healthy, balanced, and positive approach to living a fit, active life.
People often engage with fitness during major life transitions: a bad health scare, divorce or death, getting clean and sober, an empty nest, job loss, a move to a new community. These are appropriate times to reexamine who we are and what we want out of life. We get our hopes up. We start out full of determination. But change is hard, and body and health issues can be especially challenging, bringing up past traumas, our perceived failures, uncomfortable feelings.
Anyone can get discouraged, frustrated, disheartened. It’s easy to go overboard, and it’s easy to give up. I deal with chronic pain and health issues. I’ve seen friends flounder in their lives. I lost my only sister to alcoholism and addiction when she was only 42.
I know how tough things can be. I want you to be OK.
Here are some U.S. based resources if you are in a bad place right now:
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Just dial 988 in the U.S., 24/7 or (800) 273-8255 (chat available)
US Gov’t Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) – a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year service that provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
You know yourself best. Give yourself a break. Get help. Talk to a friend. Go for a walk. Call 911. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.
You have a 100% success rate for getting through hard times so far; you can do this. Go you.