Vail Daily column: The process of fitness development |

Vail Daily column: The process of fitness development

My first real job as a kid, aside from mowing neighborhood lawns, was dishwashing at Ponderosa Steakhouse in Athens, Ohio. Ponderosa is a Midwestern restaurant chain that sells an all-you-can-eat buffet, with the option of a steak of your choice. You can figure it out in a hurry; a rural town in Ohio with plenty of big farm boys who can eat as much as they want for $8.99.

There were a lot of dishes to be washed in an eight-hour shift. An entire summer was dedicated to mastering the skills required to excel at dishwashing. There is a science to organizing a dish tray that gets fed through the conveyor belt. Learning how to deal with angry bussers on Saturday nights who were frantic from clearing 38 plates a table every 10 minutes took a certain skill set. Yet, dishwashing is mindless and as easy as it gets.

Now think about your current career. How long did it take to become really good at your craft? A year? Maybe 10 years? Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years. Why would fitness acquisition be any different?

Sometimes people never come back. It’s all too common. A typical scenario; I get a phone call because Sue is ready to get into shape after several setbacks including childbearing, a hip replacement and the loss of her father earlier this year. “I just let myself go over the last few years. It’s time to stop making excuses.” Sue shows up and decides it’s not for her. Maybe her hip flares up the day after an assessment, or perhaps she didn’t like how sore she was. Another common trend is the individual who just wants a six pack by summertime. They don’t really care about their legs or shoulder health. They need to be ready for bathing suit weather regardless if their workout puts them at risk for problems down the road.

Chris Colucci just published an interesting article on the effects of supplements, performance enhancing drugs and other methods that has caused life altering changes and death within the bodybuilding community. Past indiscretions of this somewhat bizarre sport are rearing their ugly heads.

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In his article, he stated “in the 1980s, Dr. Robert Goldman began asking top-level athletes if they’d accept a proverbial deal with the devil that guaranteed victory in every competition they entered … but also guaranteed their death within five years. Goldman consistently found that the majority of athletes would eagerly accept the deal. It became known as “Goldman’s Dilemma.” Would you accept this deal? Many competitive bodybuilders and even non-competitive lifters have.

Goldman’s Dilemma has far greater implications than the notion of top level athletes’ willingness to accept victory in exchange for death. Goldman’s Dilemma carries much more benign inferences. Specifically, our willingness as lay people to go on cleanses, 90-day challenges and other crash courses to get us there right now! We refuse to accept that it might take a few months to figure out what is causing our low back pain. It often requires trial, error, regrouping and patience. It necessitates at least a good six months to a year to develop a double body weight back squat for a novice. It will take 72 to 156 training sessions spread over the course of months; diet, sleep, injury prevention and attention to progressive overload included. Exercising one day per week isn’t going to cut it. Binging on pizza and beer on your cheat day won’t magically help you get that six pack you’re after.

What does this long process look like? You need a stress, response and an adaptation. Stress is what takes place in the gym. Let’s assume you squat 100 pounds for five repetitions; this activity adequately stresses the body signaling a reason to get stronger in the first place. You hit the shower and head home. You eat a big dinner and watch television. You go to bed. After sleeping for eight hours, your body continues throughout the day to repair the damage done from squatting 100 pounds the day before. This is the response pattern. Your body uses its available resources to repair the damage. If adequate food and rest are accessible, your body will now become adapted to respond to a greater stress in the future. The next time you walk into the gym, you’re going to squat 105 pounds for five repetitions. This is how fitness is acquired plain and simple. Regardless of whether you are training for a marathon or attempting to shed a few pounds. Fitness development involves an industrious attitude, time and a generous share of patience.

There is only one hard fact in the quest for fitness. Stress, response and adaptation. Rinse and repeat for several years. Years; not days, weeks or months. The training process takes time just like any other endeavor in life that you seek excellence in. The process includes setbacks like back pain, muscle soreness, strains, missed sessions and angry restaurant bussers that life brings to the table, pardon the pun. By the way, summer end “perfecting” my talent as a dishwasher at Ponderosa, I was promoted to the In Store Trainer. I got a nickel raise! So the next time you feel tempted to avoid embracing the reality of the process, remember the wise words of Warren Miller, “If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. 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 or 970-401-0720.

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