Thursday, July 12, 2018

Review: "Fitness Confidential" by Vinnie Tortorich

tl;dr: Recommended, fun and useful account of a top trainer. 
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For those of us who participate in the health and fitness worlds in podcasts or twitter, Vinnie Tortorich has been a fixture for many years.

Vinnie is "Hollywood's go-to guy for celebrities and athletes looking to get fit fast." He's a "trainer", the guy you go to to lose some pounds and tone up before your next movie role, or for the rest of us, before summer arrives.

Formerly known as "America's Angriest Trainer", (he doesn't really push that line anymore) Vinnie seems to have mellowed in recent years, but you'll still get some of his attitude in this book, originally published in 2013. (You can see him in the photo on the cover, although it's unclear if he's angry about the dietary idiocy foisted on Americans, angry about a client not listening, or just in agony while on an ultra-length bicycle ride.)

What you get in this book is Vinnie's biography, essentially, peppered with mostly anonymous stories of his experiences in his own life that shaped his approach to training people. Despite the subtitled tease "get the dirt", one of the things you won't find in this book is dirt on clients. Vinnie doesn't kiss and tell and name names, although there are a few names mentioned. Interestingly, one of the non-anonymous clients Vinnie discusses is his co-author, Dean Lorey, who fired Vinnie initially after finding his approach challenging.

Lorey came around, wound up thin and running a half-marathon, and then proceeded to nag and coach a reluctant Vinnie into writing this book together.

The result is a well-written and quick read. You won't find pages of recipes or workout routines, instead you'll find concise principles that (in my experience, independent of Vinnie) will work, and lots of entertaining stories to illustrate the principles and drive them home.

Of more value is Vinnie's advice on how to select a gym, and trainer, some real useful thoughts about what works and what doesn't, and tips on how to help people get motivated. Some of it is quite counter-intuitive.

I read this book on a flight from LA to NYC, and it kept pulling me along.

The surprising thing about this book, perhaps, is that he's not an angry guy, he's caring and thoughtful, and seems to be motivated to continue his career by a genuine desire to help people, both his clients and the rest of us.

N.B. When you reach the advertised "end" of the book, keep reading. The best part, I thought, was in the chapters after the story of the training and diet stuff is over. This is the story of Vinnie's battle with leukemia and his fight to conquer a 509.5-mile bicycle race through Death Valley. It's the best part of the book, in my opinion, and is not to be missed.

Overall, it's highly recommended. If you're looking for a simple and straightforward recipe for weight loss and fitness, this is a fun and entertaining way to get it, and you'll wind up with a better approach than most PhDs.

FITNESS CONFIDENTIAL: Adventures in the Weight-Loss Game

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