One of the most difficult things for fitness consumers to do is identify the difference between objective best practices and the subjective preferences of various coaches.
I’ve used this space to argue before that it is an objective fact that everyone would benefit from doing progressively overloaded weight-bearing exercise. Everyone.
But hopefully I’ve also made clear that “progressively overloaded weight-bearing exercise” can take on many forms.
Crossfit. Powerlifting. Weightlifting. General strength and conditioning. Pilates. Yoga.
Everything on this short list contains pros and cons. But they all involve some sort of weight-bearing aspect. The question, then, isn’t “which one is best?”
The question is, “which one is best for you?” based on your schedule, preferences, background, experience, likes, and dislikes. Fitness for busy professionals involves a balance between what we want out of our bodies and how much time we’re willing to spend on achieving those things.
Once you weigh all of those variables, generally the best option for you will emerge. But people confuse this notion with there being a best option for everyone.
I know dogmatic yoga people who tell everyone who will listen that yoga is the best—no, the only—way to achieve balance between mind and body.
I know strength and conditioning professionals who declare in no uncertain terms that if you’re not lifting weights then you’re a (what would Donald Trump call a political rival?)
Don’t believe this con game. There’s no right way. There’s only the best way for you.
Now, this doesn’t give you carte blanche to do whatever the hell you want without regard for science or basic common sense. If you want a lean, more mobile body then Zumba classes aren’t going to do you much good for very long. That is an objective fact. If you’re new to fitness at some point you’re going to have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Understand the difference between there being no one right way of exercise and the fact that there are some basic truths when it comes to fitness. Let me give you some concrete examples.
There’s no one right way to lift weights.
But there are generally accepted principles around how to do a barbell back squat.
There’s no one way to learn yoga.
But there are generally accepted principles around how to properly execute a downward facing dog.
There is no one right way to eat.
But there are generally accepted principles—on which both ardent Paleo enthusiasts and Prius-driving vegans can agree—that govern what the body does with macronutrients like protein, fat, and carbohydrates. (And almost everyone can agree that we all should be eating more vegetables.)
There’s no right way to do cardiovascular exercise.
But there are generally accepted principles behind how aerobic exercise affects one’s body.
The dirty secret is that fitness isn’t all that complicated. While we’re learning new things every day, chances are the kettlebell guru you see on Facebook hasn’t discovered the best path to strength any more than the yoga expert has developed a system that works for everyone.
All of us fitness types try to bat 1.000. But none of us do. The best way for you to distinguish between a fitness pro who is secure and open-minded and an insecure dogmatic charlatan lies in the answer to this question: are they willing to tell you they’re not the best option for you?
They ought to be wiling to tell you you’d be better off going to a yoga studio.
They ought to be willing to tell you that you ought to go to a powerlifting gym.
They ought to be willing to tell you that you ought to spend your money on a nutritionist instead of personal training.
They ought to be willing to tell you that you’d be better off going to a physical therapist.
There’s no right way. There’s only the right way for you. It’s simple advice, I know. But more people like me need to be giving it.