I was at a local gym yesterday and saw a man walking around with a piece of paper on which his “program” was written. He was clinically obese, didn’t move well, but he was committed to working out. Problem was, this gym had given him a program without teaching him what to do, how to do it, or why he was doing it. He ambled about from one station to the next, working his biceps on a seated machine here, his triceps over there. I tried to find a trainer to help him but no one was on duty, so I stepped in and gently corrected his form. I would have liked to have given the man my card and asked him to contact me, but this gym isn’t my space and I try to respect other businesses by not prospecting for clients when I’m there as a guest.
The episode made me a bit sad because I fear that I can project what’s going to happen with this man who has a real medical need to get in shape. What he’s doing, what’s on that piece of paper, isn’t going to work. He’ll continue to be obese, and what’s more he’ll likely tell people that he tried “working out” only to give up because it didn’t work. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve seen it too many times before to think that I am. This is an example of the fitness industry failing in every aspect of its objectives—all the while collecting fees from a monthly gym membership that’s about as useful as banging one’s head against the wall.
If you’re not currently working out and you’d like to begin, or if you ARE working out but not seeing results, here is one man’s opinion for what you ought to be doing.
1.) Strength training that incorporates basic movement patterns, full-body function, and progressive overload.
- Basic movement patterns – squat, hip hinge, push things away from you (horizontally and vertically), and pull things toward you (horizontally and vertically).
- Full-body function – No isolating muscle groups like “arms” until and unless you’ve done the basic movement patterns OR if you’ve been prescribed something specific by a physical therapist or sports medicine professional. Remember the obese man I saw yesterday at the gym? He’s simply not going to bicep curl away the 70 pounds he needs to lose in order to stay healthy.
- Progressive overload – You have to lift something heavier next month than you’re lifting right now or your body will cease adapting to the stimulus that working out should be providing. Now, this isn’t always linear; sometimes you need to lift less today in order to be able to lift more tomorrow. But generally your aim should be adding to the amount of resistance working against you so your body can react by building more muscle, denser bone, and stronger joints.
2.) Cardiovascular health.
Sit less, walk more, preferably every single day. This is not so much about “burning calories” or “losing weight” as it is about keeping your human body active and in motion the way it was built to be. If your goal is to be a runner, then you should run, or better yet, learn how to run well with a great coach like Sarah Scozzaro, a former Daytonian who works with clients all over the country. But if you’re goal isn’t to be a runner, then you don’t need to run.
You can row. You can bike. You can dance. You can swim. Just get your heart rate up a few times a week and try to sit less. Those things COUPLED with a well-rounded strength training regimen will help you achieve the body you want. What do I mean by that? You’re not going to Zumba your way to a great body–but you can incorporate Zumba into a well-rounded training schedule.
Combining Exercise Types
The key is to be mindful about how it all fits together. If yoga is your primary exercise, then think about how you might supplement some strength training to ensure, for example, that you’re getting in the horizontal and vertical pulling needed to build a strong back. If strength training is your primary form of exercise, then think about what you’re doing to ensure that you’re getting in some form of cardiovascular exercise. Jen Sinkler would say you can simply “lift weights faster,” which is true. Whatever you do, just make sure you’re purposefully elevating your heart rate during some aspect of your training.
There is no one perfect way of going about fitness, and I urge you to be cautious with anyone who pushes exercise dogma. I can tell you this with confidence, however: most of you reading this ought to walk right on by the rows of Nautilus machines at the local rec center. Learn how to move instead. The 70-year-old version of yourself will thank you.