I feel compelled to write this. The everyday consumer that sets forth upon a quest to achieve a greater level of fitness, fat-loss, or sense of well being is being shoveled misinformation by the truckload and the data becomes overwhelming. The fitness industry has become a multibillion dollar competitive monster that is constantly driven to out do the previous hot trend promising less time, less commitment, less work, and ultimately an easier street. Sad news friends it's not working.....at all.
This burden ultimately gets placed on the trainer population. We work with people everyday that confide in us expectations that are absolutely unrealistic. While shows like the Biggest Loser parade contestants around each week melting away double digit figures and late night infomercials highlight participants that have completely remodeled their bodies in less than a couple months the question we have to ask is, yes but at what cost??
I would like to take a moment to explain what it actually takes for one to achieve a high level of fitness without complete negligence of their future health. No B.S., no flashy marketing gimmicks, no asterisks providing a disclaimer of results not typical. Just the truth about what it takes...what it REALLY takes.
You Must Develop MOVEMENT COMPETENCY
Say I walk into a new company to apply as a sales associate. We will say this company sells computer software. During my interview I tell my soon to be boss that within 3 months I want to be vice president of the company. How do you think this individual will perceive this desire? How realistic does this proclamation sound? Good I'm glad we are on the same page.
I see people all of time that want to lose 20lbs, develop more strength, get in the best shape of their life, etc... and the time line is always underestimated. If you can't squat properly, pick something up of the floor that weighs more than 50lbs, can't do 5 push ups, and can't hold a plank for more than 30seconds then there is some basic physical competency that needs to be gained FIRST before you start pursuing more dynamic goals.
This may not be the news you were hoping for but in order for someone to achieve a high level of fitness they have to be able to move well and also be able to accomplish basic physical tasks first and foremost. As famed Physical Therapist and Strength Coach Gray Cook states "First move WELL, then move often".
Strength Rules All
I don't care what any aerobics instructor tells you strength should be the #1 priority of ANY fitness program. Why you ask? Because strength is the pre-requisite to doing all physical tasks well. Sure you can buy the new Nautilus XLBFTRG40000 Exercycle and you might present a challenge to yourself over the course of the next few months but inevitably the body will only be able to adapt so much before your lack of strength will halt your progress.
You see if you lack basic strength capabilities then your physical potential will be extremely hard to realize. Think about it like this, if I have superior leg strength and go for a run with someone who doesn't when we approach a steep hill I can blaze up that hill because my lower body has been conditioned to tolerate high levels of stress while the other person's hasn't. Because I have greater strength capability I can leverage that to create additional intensity (thus caloric expenditure) in this environment or in any other aspect of training I undergo. Unfortunately if you are weak your results will quickly fizzle out and you will plateau faster than if you take the necessary amount of time to get strong.
You Have to Master Your Mind
There is that old saying that goes "the mind will always quit before the body does", well let me tell you friends that is probably the truest statement ever spoken. The thing about developing an appreciable level of fitness (especially if you have none to start with) is that it requires discomfort... and copious servings of it. Most people don't like to be uncomfortable. In fact the majority of people will do just about any and everything to avoid it. This is a mental paradigm you are going to have to shift in you want clear quantifiable results.
When I have a training session I begin preparing for that very session 24hrs before it actually happens. I start to visualize what I have planned. I watch myself completing the tasks, accomplishing the challenges, enjoying the feeling of pushing myself beyond what makes me warm and fuzzy inside....way beyond. I picture how my confidence will grow after I have crushed the workout and what this session's importance is relative to my goals. By the time my session comes I have probably completed at least 10 times in my head. I know it is going to be hard, it's going suck at times, but that ultimately I will dominate it. THIS is part of a continuing strategy that Todd Durkin would call "Getting Your Mind Right", and it doesn't happen overnight but the more you practice it the better you get at it.
It Never Gets Easier
My new clients often ask with hope-filled eyes, "when will this get easier?", "when will I stop being sore?", and inevitably I have to break the news that it doesn't ever get easier.... and for that matter it shouldn't. The first word in working out after all is Work.
From now on you can file training in the same category as marriage, raising kids, and your job. It is constant unrelenting hard work but MAN.... is it worth it. Training is the ultimate investment in your own health and as far as I am concerned there is no greater investment. The journey is on going and the challenge will always increase in some way... that is if you are doing it right. I have 15 years of strength & conditioning under my belt and it is the continued challenge that keeps me hooked and it should be the reason you stay hooked as well. Now don't get me wrong the consistency will get easier, the habit of exercise will get easier, and the enjoyment you get from looking and feeling your best will make the time commitment easier, BUT the work itself.... will always be hard.
Fitness is a wonderful thing because it is truly authentic. It is one of the few things that exists in which you get out of it EXACTLY what you put into it. If you commit, do what you know is right, and never quit the rewards are endless. If you take shortcuts, put in half assed efforts, and cheat yourself, you get nothing. It's something that lets you know where you stand every time you engage in it. It provides a constant opportunity to improve. Fitness is completely un-biased and never plays favorites, it's puts your achievements in your own hands and it's up to you how far you want to go. Good Luck.