Catchy title, eh? Well this isn’t a gimmick – its actually true. Keep reading.
I had a client come in yesterday explaining that she was really enjoying the results she was getting, and that, unlike other times she had started exercising, she wasn’t feeling completely exhausted after every session. She said she really enjoyed coming in because while the things she was being asked to do were challenging, they weren’t terribly hard, and actually made her feel more energetic. She also mentioned that even after four sessions she was already seeing results such as her pants fitting better, and going down a size (almost, though I have to admit that I’m an educated man, however, I’m still confused about the way that women’s sizes work…).
Oftentimes we think that the harder something is the more beneficial it will be for us. This is particularly true in diet and exercise. However its also completely false and the reason that many of us struggle to adopt healthier habits. All these fitspritaion memes have us believing that if we aren’t ready to try out for the navy seals we might as well not bother trying to lose five pounds… kinda ridiculous. I won’t get into WHY the fitness industry continues to push that message (hint – it has to do with selling product) or how some fitness businesses have taken it way too far merely to pander to the idea that “If it’s really hard its really good.”
If you really think that the only criteria for making a great workout routine is to design something really hard, I have the all time best work out plan. Take a hammer and smash each one of your fingers 5 times. Then repeat for the other hand. Then go for that extra burn and “tell that voice inside your head to shut up” and smash your toes too.
Effective at improving health and wellness? Not so much.
Turns out there is more to designing a training or nutrition plan than merely making people suffer. Most large fitness companies don’t really want you to know that because that would require their staff to actually have a fairly high level of training, instead of just throwing down some random, incredibly challenging workout that somehow will accommodate both a brand new client looking to lose 40 pounds and a Swat Team officer that used to be a professional hockey player… yeah, it really sounds like you are getting personal attention there I guess that’s why its called Insanity (perfect name)…
I recognize that elite athletes DO have to push themselves extremely hard to continue to get gains, as well. I understand this having broken several national records in powerlifting and trained national and world level competitors. That being said, when you start, the first thing we want to improve is your self esteem, and comparing you to someone that has been training for years really fails to do that.
So how about a little bit of truth to explain why my awesome client is feeling and looking better in no time without a crazy hard to follow diet or throwing up after her workouts?
It’s called Minimum Effective Dosage, and it’s something that has long been understood in medicine
Think about it, if you were told to take a tylenol to help with a headache, would you instead take 7 because you want it to go away 7 times faster? No. That would be insanity. So why on your first day in your “box”, with no prior exercise history, are you being asked to do 100 burpess?
For some reason, when we exercise, we think more is better. It’s not.
Instead we should approach fitness kind of like medicine. It’s a double edged sword – while exercise is great for many things, it’s important to realize that it is also can be a stressor, and we, in the modern busy world are already stressed enough.
When we decide we want to start exercising the first thing we should do is LOWER stress, by creating a calm, zero intimidation free environment.
So we want to do just enough exercise to cause your body to respond and start getting healthier. Once we have triggered this response, we don’t need to do anymore. For one once we get this response, your body also releases endorphins to help lower stress. This is great. It’s also a great time to stop, because if we continue after that we will actually shut down the effectiveness of the endorphins, and create more stress.
A good coach can see when you have trained enough, and it’s time to switch to something else. This is really their value when you are just starting out an haven’t really learned to listen to your body very well.
Helping people to become healthier faster is something I have spent more than a decade studying, and I feel that it can have a huge impact to have a professional helping you to customize your training, and supervise it so we create what we call a training effect without overdoing it.
In all fairness there are great coaches everywhere, and any large fitness chain is going to suffer some idiots that make the whole system look bad. I certainly don’t think every crossfit/insanity/p90x or whatever workout is going to cause illness, but overall, I think that if you are just starting out and looking to get back into great shape and reduce stress, these really aren’t the best way to go about doing it initially. Don’t be afraid to start with small steps first – you’re more likely to stick with your routine and less likely to become ill or injured.
**Find a good trainer that knows how to exercise you just enough to get a training response from your body, not blindly kick the shit out of you. Your body can only repair so much damage (that is actually what exercise causes, but the idea is in regenerating you SHOULD come back stronger) and if you do more damage than necessary to cause this response, not only do you elevate stress which leads to more cortisol, which slows fat loss DOWN, but you also don’t get stronger or have more energy because your body is working so hard to rebuild all the damage you did. **
When in doubt, or a little stressed out, go for a walk! Walking is the most underrated exercise ever and its FREE!!!
I hope this helps, have a great day and thanks for reading.
Featured image by JBLM MWR and used under a Creative Commons License.