By Jim Harris
Most of us have an inclination, when facing a substantial challenge, to look for a shortcut or an easy path to success. Fitness is no different. Buy this device, take this pill, and all your problems are solved. Except for one small detail; those don’t work. Period.
One could easily look at the contents of this article and, at first glance, assume it to be self-serving. It does come from someone who owns businesses that these points would seem to compel a reader toward. The flip side of that equation, however, would be that we have designed our business for the fitness, health and well-being of the clients we are blessed to serve in the most effective manner possible. Our methodology is entirely created to serve that purpose and to shore up the weak points found in other programs. While these facts may be unpleasant to some, they are lessons learned from tens of thousands of client sessions. They are offered here to help everyone find a more effective path to a fit lifestyle. Whether you are our client or not, we want to see you get the maximum return on your investment of time and money in your fitness program.
Convenience is an enemy of Fitness. 24 hour health clubs. Bootcamps that have 12-15 sessions per day. Quite simply, if convenience was the answer, wouldn’t those result in the entire population being fit? From experience, the clients who schedule their fitness in advance and prioritize their fitness appointments with the same level of importance most would place on a doctor’s appointment, end up being clients that see the best results. It is easy to say that your life is different and/or more hectic than most. We all feel we are busier than others, that we don’t have the luxury of committing in advance, yet we work with people who also balance jobs, family, faith, activities and life in general and succeed in doing it every day. It is too easy to put off heading to the gym when you’ve had a rough day and it costs you nothing to skip. Having something of value to lose by not showing up may just be what compels you to stay the course. I can assure you the people you see making great progress aren’t blessed with an abundance of free time. They do, however, understand the value in prioritizing their health.
Low cost is an enemy of Fitness. Almost every community has a free or very low cost outdoor bootcamp. Planet Fitness, which has locations almost everywhere, has memberships available for as little as $10 per month. If budget is the only issue in the way of your fit lifestyle, that should solve that problem, correct? The opposite holds true. Low cost, low amenity providers like Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Workout Anytime and the like add tons of members every January from the New Year’s resolution crowd. Most of these folks are nowhere to be found by Valentine’s Day. Why? First, they don’t know which exercises are right for them. Proper form, number of reps, sets, etc., as well as how to do whatever they are doing safely is a guess. As a result, they don’t see any change, so they quit showing up, thinking this just isn’t for me. Had the people invested in quality professional guidance, the outcome would likely be different. Secondly, they aren’t accountable to anyone else to show up, to work hard, be responsible in their eating, so it’s easy to drop off. Plus, when you only have $10 each month invested, it isn’t like you are feel as if turning your back on a major investment if you don’t use it. Thirdly, they have no idea what to eat, how often to eat, who they should look to for direction for nutrition, so they often venture online. There is a lot of good info available online, also a lot of bad. An inexperienced person would likely not be able to discern between the two and could easily end up following the wrong plan. Would these folks be better served by a higher, but more effective investment in proper guidance? Use your own experiences to answer that question.
Body weight exercises likely won’t get you there. You will make more progress using state of the art equipment. In the Olympics, professional or college sports or any highly skilled athletic activity, you’ll see some amazing athletes showing tremendous prowess in their specialties. It is doubtful that any of them got there doing body weight exercises alone. They likely utilize cutting edge fitness equipment. Let’s look at a couple of popular programs that utilize primarily basic equipment. In a Fit Body Bootcamp, for example, you will see big numbers in attendance in January as they are excellent promoters and do a great job attracting people who are not currently exercising.What you won’t see is the same kind of results that you will see from a program like an advance HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training, like pulse45, F45, Barry’s Bootcamp). Utilizing equipment like Concept rowers and skiErgs, punching bags, surge water filled resistance tubes, Jacob’s Ladders, TRX suspension frames, professional bikes, landmines and the like will challenge your body much more effectively that their basic calisthenics that are much like a high school P.E. class. Orangetheory Fitness is another popular brand in the US and around the globe. However, it consists of basically a treadmill, a rower and a short session with small hand weights, BOSU balls and wall mounted suspension work. Can OTF help you lose weight with its primarily cardio based workouts? Absolutely. Can it help you like how you look in the mirror as well, stave off a loss in bone density, get you stronger and provide and overall fitness benefit as well as a program like Pulse45 Fitness, F45 or Barry’s Bootcamp? Not even close. A program that utilizes dozens of types of additional equipment will provide far superior results. Many of our members have come to us from a Fit Body Bootcamp or Orangetheory. Once they started making progress they began looking for what would help them go farther. The answer was often an advanced HIIT program, giving them what they say is a better full body workout and burning a higher number of calories.
You will likely not get there on your own. Get expert and individualized help. Statistically, you are probably looking at a 90% or higher failure rate when trying to get fit on your own. Most of you have tried joining a gym and doing it on your own before. How did that work for you? Do you emulate the exercises you see others do? Every day, it seems, we see people in gyms doing exercises that would make a knowledgeable person cringe. Military presses and lat pulls behind the neck. Squats with bad positioning. People using weights that are much too heavy to keep proper form. Getting coaching from people who have no idea what they’re talking about. These are things we see novices doing in gyms every time we visit. An orthopedic surgeon will tell you that those shoulder exercises are good ways to get to meet them on a professional level, as it puts your delicate shoulder joint at precarious angles. Yet gym newcomers do them because they’ve seen someone else do them. Exercises that put the spine into unhealthy positions, improper form in load bearing exercises, improper spine angles under load, incorrect grip and/or foot positioning; all can lead to injuries that can create major setbacks, or worse. Individual attention to your specific goals, issues and concerns is also an important consideration. In most chain operations, for example, the workouts are created in a home office, hundreds or thousands of miles away, by people who don’t know you and you will likely never meet. The Tuesday 9 AM workout in these franchised programs is the same regardless of who is attending, 18 or 80, uberfit or just starting. A program that is adaptable to your unique circumstances and is created by the trainers that you actually work with is highly advantageous.
If you don’t dial your food in, the rest may be a waste of time. You cannot out train a bad diet, almost without exception. If you are blessed with enough free time to be able to spend hours in the gym every day, then you may be able to be more flexible in the food sins you can tolerate and still stay healthy. For those of us in the real world, however, it is challenging to get to the gym or to class for an hour, much less two or three, that just isn’t realistic. Let’s say you spend an hour working out, burn five hundred calories, then grab a smoothie on the way out and meet a friend for a couple of beers or glasses of wine. If you burned 500 calories, and the smoothie has 200, plus each of the beers or wines 150, you’ve wiped out the calories you burned, negating your workout benefits as it pertains to leaning out. To maximize your fitness, you need to consume the proper amount of the proper foods. A gimmick diet or food plan won’t get it done, and neither will a cleanse or the last fad pill you see Dr. Oz or some other snake oil salesman promoting.
It will require intensity. Walking and easy does it doesn’t cut it. For most when beginning a new fitness program, losing pounds and inches are among our goals. So, we go to the gym, spend 40 minutes on a treadmill, four times a week, then wonder why we aren’t seeing progress. It comes down to simple math. A pound of body fat, in general terms, is around 3,500 calories. A 55 year old female that weighs 150 pounds, walking on a treadmill for 40 minutes at 3 MPH would burn around 200 calories. If your food was dialed in perfectly, that means it would take 17 ½ treadmill sessions, or over one month, for you to lose one pound of body fat. Now, compare that to a 45 minute pulse45 session, or spin cycling class, for example. That same participant would burn around 500 calories in 45 minutes, plus create an EPOC (excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption, or afterburn, that would amp up her calorie burn for up to 36 hours afterward), so she would lose the same body fat at least a 250% faster rate. A male in the same pulse45 or spin session could burn up to 1,000 calories, so your body will change much quicker when you add intensity to the mix.
These statements may sound harsh, coming from someone whose mission in life is to help everyone possible lead a healthy lifestyle. The reality is, however, you can’t only hear what you like and achieve the results most of you would like to see. Factor these six facts into your workout strategy, get the professional advice and/or direction that will help you see maximum results from your efforts, then enjoy the new, healthier you!
Jim Harris is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, ASFA Master Personal Trainer, Member Men’s Health Fitness Council, ACE Certified Nutritionist. Owner, pulse45 Fitness LLC, Max Results Training LLC, BodyPlex Oakwood, Fitness editor, Local Life Magazine.