Vail Daily column: Manage your fitness expectations |

Vail Daily column: Manage your fitness expectations

I am unapologetically brazen with my message. Sometimes my eager attempt to upheave the current fitness culture can upset you. I receive heat at times because you don’t like what you’re hearing. To add insult to injury, the reason I must stand firm is because of the plight of the fitness industry — we are still fat and out of shape even though we have all of the top experts, diet programs and fitness clubs awaiting your arrival to participate in the racket. In the heat of the post-election apocalypse, I thought it would be a good time to get all of this out of the way; I might as well vent while we’re all warmed up from the battle.

I always make my best attempt to objectively inform the public about fitness. Sometimes, and often, my own biases can lead to controversy because I often attempt to solve fitness problems with unorthodox methods. The conventional wisdom isn’t working, folks. I understand that we don’t necessarily have poor lifestyle related issues in Vailtopia, but even the overweight mom or the post-surgery middle aged man can do a lot better. I don’t even need to open Pandora’s Box regarding our nation’s obesity epidemic. Here’s how I arrived on my soap box.

I was a very fat child who suffered from obesity through my mid-adolescent years. I had to undergo an 18-hour spine operation to correct severe kyphoscoliosis. Dealing with childhood trauma and the resultant lifestyle choices that led to many problems throughout my life has challenged me to consider wellness. Nobody figured this out for me because there aren’t books or studies done on how to live an active lifestyle after having your spine fused 13 levels. It’s nobody’s fault, by the way. The medical and fitness communities do their absolute best.

Advocacy and fitness

My experience tells me that ironically, our robust health care megastructures let us down at times. I’ve always maintained that to be our absolute best, we must be our own professional advocates. It is my sincerest hope and goal to be an advocate for you. I have put in the hard work ahead of time so you can avoid the failures I have experienced throughout my journey — take the path laid out in front of you; avoid the detours that will lead you astray in your pursuit of fitness stardom.

I never purposefully intend to create controversy or disdain towards your fitness attempts. I avoid labeling exercises or fitness programs as good or bad; optimal or suboptimal is a better alternative to labeling something that isn’t black or white. Recently, I discussed the pitfalls of using corrective exercises as the main ingredient in the dish. Corrective exercises are designed to restore function in dysfunctional movement patterns. Strength and specific work capacity programs promote fitness. I received critical feedback from a third party who claimed a few readers of my recent column felt upset — I suggested that corrective exercises don’t promote fitness. Don’t kill the messenger. Corrective exercises improve movement competency which precedes fitness, but let’s not get carried away. Fitness and movement competency are two different things. Moving well has little to do with losing 20 pounds which seems to be everybody’s goal these days. Want to lose weight? Let’s talk about that. Do you want to be generally fit and well? Let’s get very clear on what that means. If I interviewed five different trainees and asked what their definition of fitness is, I would get five very different answers.

At the end of the day, great leader and fitness professional Mike Benedict, of the Sonnenalp Club, said, “It’s always about managing expectations.” Translation — if you expect miracles and really want to acquire fitness, then it takes serious consideration, discipline, work, accountability and a level of discomfort that most people haven’t truly come to terms with. If you don’t have grand expectations, then nearly any exercise or program will fit the bill. For my strongest students, fitness is a monumental part of life. Eating well, lifting hard, sleep considerations, spiritual and emotional well-being and stress management are foundations of who they are. This is a complete paradigm shift away from whether or not we should perform five sets of five today, or the efficacy of the leg extension machine.

My hope is that you find refuge in my message. Sometimes I go right for the jugular to get you stop and reconsider your path. It might be harsh. But the sting is always meant to bring about a new understanding. Mark Twain said it many times and I repeat it often, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”

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 and 970-401-0720.

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