I just spent three weeks in Iowa in the dead of winter and it got me thinking: I need more eggnog. Just being there I got so out of the habit of worrying about my health and fitness and I blame it all on the snow – and the fact that I can hide my stomach under comfy knit sweaters. Back in California, whenever I got a burst of energy, I could go for a jog (a very, very slow jog). But here? No such luck. So I sat down with Mike Hoover, aka Mike Buff-for-a-Living Hoover, and he pretty much told me it was still all my fault.

I know who you are, but just in case anybody else reads this, who are you, anyway?

I tell everyone I’m a family member, student, friend, fitness fanatic, and just about everything else in between. But in seriousness, I work for Performance Health and specialize in young adult health and physiology. My ultimate goal is to start a program for young children between 4-12 to promote physical activity and healthy living. You know, to create good habits to carry over into adult life. Beat the obesity epidemic and all.

Kids, huh? They’re more addicted to Candy Crush than I am (or more 2015-relevant games). How do you get kids outside and, you know, since this blog is about travel, exploring and doing stuff?

My parents locked me outside until it was dinner time. Nowadays parents lock their kids inside and hand out gold stars for not eating an entire package of Oreos. We gotta get the parents out first – traveling, hiking, going for river walks, to the beach, renting bikes, whatever – and the kids will have no choice but to follow suit. But the biggest part is to connect with them virtually, and plenty of developers are getting on this bandwagon. Fitocracy, for example, is a great app that tracks your workouts, gives you points and thumbs up, lets you connect with friends, level up, and feels like a game you’re winning if you’re staying fit. It’s the future.

Okay, that’s cool. Now riddle me this: I’m in Iowa in the dead of winter for a few weeks. Nonhypothetical situation. How do I stay fit while the parents keep offering me eggnog? Hint: I don’t. But how might someone else?

Thanksgiving = Thanksgluttoning. Our time is spent being social, being with family, drinking until you can tolerate being social with your family...we all do it, so don’t feel bad. You just gotta stay conscious. Tricks that I use? Drink a ton of water. 3/4th of Americans are dehydrated. Staggering stuff. The other trick that’s been around since electric razors and manscaping is the art of the portion size: just grab a smaller plate. A blue plate? Maybe. Who knows? Another trick I use – that I don’t like to use – is talking to my family while I’m eating. It’s well known that when you’re eating your brain isn’t aware of how full you are. It takes a while for that CCK to take effect. It’s like, "Woah. Hold on, stomach. I just told the mouth that bacon tastes delicious, and you got a lot more comin’ in." Slow down. Drink water. Talk to your family. 20 minutes later, you won’t have eaten all the bagel bites in one sitting. For the holidays, that's not a bad win.

What about while on vacation somewhere more exotic than Iowa? The buffets. The constant eating. You know. The wondrousness.

We kind of touched on this in the first question – instead of planning to hit up the night scene and the fancy restaurants, pack a picnic, save money, go on a top of a mountain or to a beach, and you’ll be more active than you actually realize. Volleyball, swimming, even walking, it all adds up. That’s your 150 minutes of cardiac activity that the AHA recommends. And that can be split up into 5, 10, 15 minute intervals, too. Pick activities where you’re doing something instead of sitting at a bar and drinking. If you’re staying at a hotel, pay the extra $15 a night for one that has a fitness center, even if that means just 20 minutes before bed or in the morning. Bother to pack your sports bra. Walk at a 1% or 2% incline. Bodybuilders walk all the time at a slightly higher incline – like 4% or 5%. There’s no real way to fuck it up.

If you’re at someone’s home, get out of the damn house. I get stir crazy. Find a local gym that’s open, get a pass, get out of the house, and go work out for an hour and a half. Find a workout friend. Get a dog. Get someone else’s dog. Walk it for 30 minutes. It all comes down to how committed you are. Don’t make excuses. If someone were to ask me what the most important aspect of fitness was, it’s consistency. It could be at home workouts, too. You don’t even need weights to get a decent cardio burn. Check out superhero workouts. They’re all body weight and calisthenics, and great especially if you don’t have much time – they’re 20 to 40 minutes long. It doesn't take much to get happier and healthier for the bigger picture.

Just curious. How does America’s view on working out differ from the rest of the world?

By and large, it’s not as commercialized as it is here in the US. It’s a completely different feel. There aren’t as many gyms and they're less crowded. You can go 5 blocks here and find something, except for an open treadmill. Every gym in the US has gym rats being big and strong, but the focus across the pond is completely different. You go to a gym here and you see every 20-something guy trying to get big and strong – "bigmorphia," I call it. Men have this obsession in our culture of wanting to be big and strong and look like Vin Diesel – over there, they don’t focus on aesthetics like we do. They do it more to be healthy, which is the right reason, to be honest. The other big difference? We go to work out to burn off that Big Mac – they don’t do that. They eat so much healthier than we do. They just do it to get moving. When they go for a run on the beach, they just go to be active. Germany, Norway, Romania, whatever. The belief system is different to the core. "Do crunches, get abs, run, get skinny." That's America. Theirs is "Be active, get healthy."  But regardless of which sounds better to you, just find out what works for you; different people get different results from different things. Do something that you can stick to, that you enjoy.

Woof. How’d we get here?

Capitalism. We got sold it. Michelle Obama arms and guys wanna look like the Rock and Chris Hemsworth. 

Are you thankful it’s so commercialized in America?

Am I thankful? I mean, it’s job security. It’s nice to know there will always be people with body insecurities that ensure my income. That’s comforting from a career standpoint. But me as an empathizing human being, no. The fitness industry profits off of people’s insecurities and lack of knowledge.  I want to help people face these insecurities head on and beat them. Once you’re happy with your body, you can start with the rest of your life. That's what I want to see.

Do you honestly believe that exercise can make any vacation better?

That depends on your attitude. Blanket statement for life, huh? I would never tell someone, "Hey, you need to work out while you’re on vacation." I don’t think you should stop yourself from having fun or relaxing just to get your pump on. That doesn’t make sense. If you're like me and you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and you get angry when you go three days without working out, maybe getting a 30-minute workout is productive for you. That’s an addiction. It's all relative. But being active? Sure. It means you're going out, doing things, and having experiences. There's nothing to not like about that, whether you're on vacation or not.

Yeahhh. I refuse to take up 1/10th of my suitcase with my tennis shoes. Then what?

Your bad. This goes back to your attitude of what you want your vacation to be. If you want to take a few days off and relax, great. There is nothing wrong with that. Not everyone is as dedicated as their personal trainer is. But if you’re to the point where you want to commit, then you gotta make that sacrifice. And if you pack it, maybe you’ll get to a gym once or twice. However, there are things you can do at home. One thing I love to do is jump rope. You can throw a jump rope in your bag, no problem, and go for it in your room, whenever and for however long you want. 

Slight non-sequitur: how do I stay happy in shitty weather? I’m asking because you do life coaching, too. Well, sort of.

Ha, thanks. True, the "sort of" part. Again, it all comes down to your attitude. Something that I’ve found is that staying active physically is important, but staying active mentally is even more so. Do a puzzle. Read a book. Crochet. Write a blog. Read my blog. Badger your friends to read my blog. What drives us insane is being cooped up, having cabin fever, so get out of your head. And even though winter sucks and its cold, a way to avoid the winter blues is to suck it up and go outside. Bundle up and go for a walk. Find an outdoor hobby that you can do. Build a snowman. Shovel. Go help the neighbors. Ski. Just go outside. It might be difficult, but damnit, it’ll be good for you.

Oh, another thing I like to do is plan day trips. Find a friend a short drive away and get out of your house. Explore their town, see your friends. Beat the winter blues. Talk to people. With winter, we all become recluses. All the feelings start to bottle up. Give that friend 1000 miles away a phone call. Somethings bugging you, talk it out. Blog it. Or do push-ups. Or do both.

Cheese or bacon. Justify.

Wow. This is the toughest question by far. I eat cheese every single day. I put it in as many meals as possible. I've told waitresses at diners whatever you can legally put cheese on, do it. But bacon? There’s something about bacon that is…it stimulates every sense. You’re cooking bacon, you hear that sizzle, it’s like Pavlov’s dog. I drool. It smells fantastic – cheese, unless you got your nose in it, you’re not smelling it. That’s half the reason I like cooking bacon. It’s crispy. It’s delicious. And it’s an aphrodisiac. I have to go with bacon. 

Thanks, Mike. Good talk. I'm gonna go make some bacon now. But then I'll try to put the rest of your words into action. #noexcuses2015! ...Well, #noexcusesjanuary2015. More goodness can be found at Mike's fitness blog, where I occasionally yell at him for misplacing commas and being funnier than me.