Within the past 10 years there have been some amazing advancements in exercise theories and tools. In a culture where there are a lot of people out there claiming to know what they are doing, how do we know where to look for the right information? Where do you start when every program is supposed to guarantee success and the latest devices make it easy to achieve your goals faster than ever. There is a lot of information to weed through and some is more credible than others. Here are a few guidelines to help with your journey into the fitness industry and world.
- There have been people in this field longer than some of us have been alive. At some point their theories and ideas have worked. If they have stood the test of time, then they are doing something right with a specific population. That’s why people that write on the internet without experience or a specific population in mind probably aren’t worth your time. Find a person that is trying to help others in your population and have been around the block. Chances are they won’t be that easy to find because they don’t need to have infomercials on at 3am selling products. Do some research; word of mouth is the best way to find out about a company, so ask around.
- What works for some doesn’t work for everyone? The tips on yahoo about losing weight and staying in shape are so general that they can’t possibly work. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator isn’t going to get you thin. It will provide a new stimulus for a week or two but not for continual weight loss. Athletes need to be conditioned for their sport, power lifters need to move mass amounts of weight and weight loss folks need to focus on calories in calories out. In short, things that are mass produced and seen on a regular basis probably aren’t that good. Be cautious of things on TV and on more than one popular magazine.
- Hard work will trump any program. I have heard this a thousand times from guys who train top athletes and competitors. A junk program done with a lot of intensity will still yield results. The body works on a “add a stimulus and get a reaction” basis. To some degree it’s almost an all or none reaction. If the stimulus isn’t strong enough then the body won’t react to prevent the effects caused by the stimulus. If given a program that has the best exercises for strength gains but done at a low intensity the body won’t react because it doesn’t have too. On the flip side lift extremely heavy and cause muscle fibers to tear and become damaged, the body reacts and repairs the tissue stronger than before to prevent tearing. Same can be seen in running distances or sprinting. The body will improve the efficiency of the cardiovascular system to support the needs of the actions. Rapid adaptation is probably one of our best traits, use it. Hard work creates a strong enough stimulus to cause a desired reaction, going through the motions doesn’t.
- You can’t out train an injury. Numbers 3 and 4 are a balancing act. There is a point when the human body breaks down. Its ability to repair itself is amazing but still has its limits. A good analogy is if you are a pro athlete and get hurt. Now you can’t play and have lost your effectiveness for your team. The same goes for the general population. If you are exercising and get injured, you may not have a 5 million dollar contract to worry about but being side lined with low back pain will hurt your own productivity. Rather than being able to do things on the weekend you are stuck in bed with pain. If you have a little tweak and think nothing of it, chances are it might catch up with you eventually. A prevention state of mind is always a shorter road than a wait till happens and deal with it. Add in easier (deload) weeks to your program to allow the body to repair itself and make time to reassess your weaknesses. If you don’t know how to do an assessment, it’s worth it to ask someone. Going back to the first bullet point of finding the right person might lead you to someone with a more injury based background. Here at FT we have a mix of knowledge that helps us work with a very diverse population. Without our assessment we only get a small amount of information. We need to understand a lot more about how your body works in order to design a safe/progressive program.
- Specific Goals are the only way to achieve success. Far too often we have people come in and have a goal to lose weight and get in shape. Having someone there to help you narrow your goals down and write a program that will make it easier. But being on your own with this general idea of exercise is a sure way to failure. What is “fit” for someone in your situation? What is appropriate weight loss? If you are someone who is considerably overweight and has a picture of a figure competitor in mind as “fit”, then your timeline should be at least 2 years of extreme work. How many people plan that far ahead or even have the patience to look 6 months ahead? General goals can’t be measured and also typically have a large timeline (get in shape /lose 50lbs/squat 300lbs). If I had a month to work on 1 lift (squat) I would shoot for an increase of 5lbs. if I was able to add 5lbs each month I would be increasing that lift by 60lbs in a year. For some of you that might not seem like a lot but for others who have plateaued that would be the best year of their lifting career. It all depends on what category you fit into and what your specific goals are. If you are trying to lose weight pick a goal weight to be at by the end of the month, 3 months, half a year and year. Also think about adding in a fitness goal (run a mile under 7 min) to accompany weight loss. Pushing yourself to train at a higher level will accelerate your weight loss. An athlete should work on mobility deficiencies (humeral internal/ external rotation) and power (hang clean). Try to keep them as individual as possible and detailed.
In short, find someone that knows what they are doing and have a specific goal in mind. Have them do an assessment to give you a starting point and build off that. So give it your all and know when it’s time to back off. This isn’t a 100 yd dash to the finish; this is more like a marathon.