I just finished my workout for the day. It took about 10 minutes, and I feel pretty tanked. It consisted of four exercises with some warm up and cool-down (the cool-down actually made it go a little over 10 minutes). Not enough to get a good workout? Too intense? Too quick and not enough rest? How many sets? How many reps? Dang that’s a lot of questions to answer when all I did was exercise. All of this led me to wonder if this whole thing has become over-thought.
I was reading a post by my good buddy The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy called The Barefoot Running TMI Problem and he was saying about barefoot running what I’m saying right now about working out. Disclaimer: I’m plugging and recommending his site even though in the very post I’m referencing he says you should all stop listening to me and reading what I write because he is better, but I digress. Basically we (fitness professionals) have all had to take the time to put our two cents in on the subject. Many people out there have seen an opportunity to get rich and famous through fitness on some level. For some it has been DVD routines, others have created gimmicky home equipment, and a few have even created entire fitness models for people to come to a gym and follow. I’ve been in this business for 16 years, and I’ve seen it just go nuts, and all of that has led to people just wanting to know what to do without ever putting in the time to learn anything for themselves. With all this information and the advantages the internet offers, people can now just log on and start reading stuff to see what they should be doing. They can also simply ask around online and get advice from myriad people who have no idea what they are talking about.
Is this a bad thing? I don’t completely think so. I do think it’s gotten a little excessive, but anything that shows the potential to create success in this world will become excessive so it’s a natural progression. Where I think we’ve gotten off track is the actual point of all this, and that’s just exercising. So much of what I get asked about these days isn’t about basic exercise but more about which program is best, which diet is right, and what equipment works better. People want me to tell them exactly how to get in shape and look a certain way, and the truth is that there isn’t a perfect way. It’s all so individual that I can’t just meet someone and immediately give them the keys to absolute success. Can I get just about anyone to a personal fitness goal? Yes, I can, but that involves work and time together where I study how they operate and how they respond to the things I have them do. It’s a process that involves a lot of studying and learning a person’s body, and even though I consider myself very good at what I do I cannot just take any random person and get them to their goals by simply giving them some preset plan.
We are all different, and everyone needs to learn who they are and how their body responds to exercise before they will ever fully reach their potential. It’s fine to take advice, but don’t just blindly follow it because they said it’s good.
I go back to my workout from today, and it is not the old school stereotypical workout that I started in this industry prescribing. Back in the day it was about heavy weights, 6-10 exercises with 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps with at least a minute or two of rest in between each set. I watched the world say they didn’t have time for that kind workout so we changed it up. Things started becoming about keeping the heart rate up and burning as many calories as possible in a small amount of time. Then everyone started getting hurt so we focused on injury prevention, developing the core, and creating a better balanced body. Now I’m seeing the trend go back to high intensity because we’re all still really busy, and that’s where my workout from today comes in.
It was four exercises which is pretty close to a standard routine from any era of fitness. It was squats with a sandbag on my back superset with bent over rows using the same sandbag. I then did a superset of deadlifts and swings with my sandbag and then I was done. I did a round of 30 seconds for each exercise, didn’t count reps, and after each set I rested one minute. For those keeping score that is one minute of non-stop action followed by one minute of rest. Each superset was done twice so that’s four minutes of hard and fast exercising with four minutes of rest because I took a minute after the last set before I did my cool down and stretching.
Under some plans that wouldn’t begin to be enough, and for some it may have been too much rest, but for what I needed and the time I had today it was great! My heart rate was way up, my muscles were tired, and I felt like I got a good one in. I didn’t have to spend hours planning out my routine and making sure it was perfectly balanced. I also didn’t subscribe to any one theory or method of training. I just took what I had available and did something which, to me, is what this should all really be about. Just make sure that you do something.
Am I against the plans and systems like Crossfit? Not at all and, in fact, I really like the heart and core of Crossfit. Am I against the technical styles of focused training? Nope because I have a bum knee that requires that be in my routine. Do I think there is one way to do it right? Not even close, and that’s why I have gone on this rant. I do not think there is a specific way to do things, and I do not think that you can get the perfect plan by just reading some stuff on the internet, in a book, or magazine, or just listening to whatever someone tells you to do. You have to try things out on yourself and see if they work, and when they do you have to capitalize on that knowledge and use it for results.
I’ll end this rant with the most commonly asked question I have gotten over the years: “What should I do to get the best results?” The answer: do something. It’s that simple. If you are consistently doing something then you will find success. It doesn’t always have to be something big and planned out. You just have to get up every day that you are supposed to and do something.
So maybe there is one simple answer to all the great fitness questions after all.