A few years ago, I had an epiphany while watching an older gentlemen exercising. He was in his late 50s and not terribly fit. He profoundly bounced a 2-pound medicine ball against the wall with his arms outstretched above his head at a very low amplitude. I thought about the broader implications of such an odd exercise choice and why it isn’t necessary for most exercisers to choose random, peculiar exercises.
Over the past decade, there has been a seismic explosion in growth within the fitness, nutrition and wellness industry. After all, the world is looking for the magic pill, the right program or the advice of a veracious guru in order to look and feel better, mitigate the risk of death and improve their quality of life. Because of the large impact of free enterprise and competition, fitness professionals often use wellness hyperbole to magnify their impact on the world.
One of the trademark strategies fitness professionals use to increase their value is to tell you that in order for fitness results to be realized, the right program has to be varied, difficult, arbitrary and confusing. Maybe they should include indiscriminate, odd exercises like bouncing a 2-pound medicine ball against the wall. The more complicated a trainer makes a program for you, the more you need their services. Goodness forbid you find out how simple exercise really is. You may in fact realize you can actually do this stuff on your own.
Often in conversations with friends and family, people ask me what I think about a specific “program.” Or what I think of alternative fitness cultures such as bodybuilding (which should probably be investigated by psychiatric professionals).
“I heard that Laura lost 3 inches off her thighs by using that Exo-Tron C3000.”
NOT THAT COMPLICATED
If you are reading this and are tired of the confusion, how about picking a few basics like push-ups and squats and consistently do them a few days per week until progression halts? Once progression plateaus, change the reps, sets and rest time. Progressively add weight to the squat. Try doing as many bodyweight squats as possible during every commercial break. Perform as many pushups as possible in a short window of time. While you’re at it, stop eating so much and consider that you probably don’t really need grains, processed carbohydrates and refined sugar.
How many calories do you really need anyway? I doubt you need the extra calories to plow the field for the harvest, and the next famine isn’t coming anytime soon. How about yoga? Do you have fun performing yoga and does it give you a sense of physical well being? Then do it, and forget about the details. Anything that gets you moving and helps you achieve your specific goals is worth pursuing.
After eight weeks (of basics), if a program you are using isn’t producing the results you expected, that’s the time to go back to the drawing board and consider other options. This may be the time to introduce variation to reduce boredom and create a fun factor by mixing things up. Variation creates excitement, which can keep the casual exerciser engaged in the long run.
Variation also builds several fitness qualities at once and therefore can prepare you for nonspecific general tasks. The virtues of this cannot be overlooked, and I support this attitude.
With respect to variety though, often overlooked is the intelligent, simple approach to add diversity while still keeping your goals in perspective without randomizing exercise for the sake of randomizing.
WHEN TO HIRE A COACH
Lastly, it is the exception, not the rule, that people need highly specialized programs because they have glaring weaknesses, movement dysfunctions or joint problems. These ailments present themselves often in the middle aged and baby boomer populations as life in the active valley has taken its toll over several decades.
For example, as great as the squat is, it can cause problems in the knees, hips, and lower back in certain cases with this population. Sometimes the weighted walk is a better alternative. This is where good coaching is invaluable and specialization is often required. The time to hire a coach is when you are unsure what you may need because you have limitations.
For the rest of us, the basics programmed intelligently deliver every time. Don’t pursue the program that informs you that the Exo-Tron C3000 has the secret to unlock your genetic potential. Run the other way when somebody tells you that the best way to fitness is to eat Vita-Cure and they too can be a distributor for a small token of only $29.95 per month. There is nothing new under the sun folks. The good ol’ basics trump all the fancy hyperbole every time!
Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at www.r2hp.com or 970-401-0720.