Yep, working out is a waste of time. However practicing, or simply “doing” exercise is quite fun, and in my opinion one of the best things you can do for yourself.
What is the difference?
Americans it seems believe it is our God given right to believe that if a little is good then more is better. Obviously that has paid off when it comes to the waist line wars – we have the biggest! But if you are reading this in the first place then I know you already know that healthy eating and portion control are crucial aspects of fitness, no matter the goal. Besides, my next post will probably be on a nutrition topic since I am currently studying for the Precision Nutrition Coaching Certification. Instead this piece will focus on the topic of making the best use out of your precious time.
There are times when I’m lucky to fit in three 30 minute workouts per week, and I spend upwards of 10 hours a day in a gym! So I need to think carefully about what I am going to spend those 30 minutes on. Needless to say all of our members are busy, and most have 2-3 hours per week to dedicate to exercise that will help them lose fat, improve flexibility, gain strength, and mitigate the effects of sitting hunched over a computer for many hours each day.
Each one of those issues alone could easily require many hours per week to address, but they don’t have the time so therefore we have to be ruthless in our programming as to what to include, and more importantly what NOT to include. Sure I’d love to have people doing days of dedicated strength work with long rest periods, and days with multiple metabolic circuits followed up by 30 minutes of foam rolling and mobility work, but that isn’t gonna happen. Not while we all have to pay the bills.
As Bruce Lee said progress is more about “hacking away the unessentials” than it is continually adding more (or doing more miles for you cyclists and runners). And for those so inclined the recent I Am Bruce Lee documentary is quite good, and goes a bit into his philosophy background.
But getting back to making the most out of your time, I have been reviewing and revamping our programming protocols, looking for ways to give people more bang for the buck. Nothing will work the same for each person to be sure, however I have been finding that restructuring training sessions and getting minimalist with certain exercises at the appropriate time has really paid off both in terms of results and members not feeling like they were hit by a truck.
First off, we are coming at our programming with the approach that the goal is not to make someone tired. It is not to “work someone out”, it is to help provide results. To that end you should feel better, and more energized when you leave the gym then when you walk in. There are times when the training might be more grueling than others, but the way we approach it is the training is what a Buddhist may call “mindful practice“.
Mindful in the way one is moving, aware of the intensity, and of good technique. Exercising this way will not only provide better results, but also help you recover better, which pays off in terms of joint health/tissue quality and more energy to go out and play with your kids of loved ones. Win win.
This is as opposed to just doing more sets, more reps, more exercises, more miles, or other exercises in futility. There are valid reasons for doing high volume training at times, but most of us have neither the need, nor the time. And besides, we make fitness improvements when recovering from exercise, not during, so doing just enough of the right exercise is important in more ways than one.
In general We have been cutting the total volume of exercises most members do, and integrating more regenerative qualities. And for fat loss clients we have been finding that at times getting away from the dogma of short high intensity interval training exclusively has been useful.
Thom Plummer recently wrote that coaches/trainers need to keep in mind that most people are not, and don’t want to be gym rats. They are in the gym to enhance the rest of their lives, and to that end we should not only make training enjoyable, but not waste time with needless exercises that may not really contribute to the larger goal. We should only do enough quality “practice” (working out) in the gym to give us the desired results. Smart fella, so I’ll put his words into action.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to take that approach to nutrition? Just enough food of the right kind to give us the most benefit….. yeah that’s gonna happen.
So, enough yakking. What to do about it.
1. If you keep a training log or have programs review what gave you the best results, what didn’t, and what were the differences between them?
Do you need to do 3 sets of 10, or would 2 sets of 6 be enough to improve strength? Do you need 60 minutes of cardio or would a ten minute metabolic circuit give you better results in 1/5th of the time?
And if you don’t exercise using a program then find someone who can write one for you. You’ll end up enjoying it more and the results will speak for themselves.
2. If your goal is fat loss and provided you have adequate strength levels then put more effort towards inefficient exercise – or exercises that are generally not fun and expend a ton of energy. Complexes, kb swings, battling ropes, intervals and so on. Use the time saved from not doing 3 hours of cardio per week on top of hours wasted doing 3×10 bodybuilding protocols to shop for good food and cook.
3. If your primary goal is to feel/move better than figure out what mobility/stretching you need, and devote considerable time to it, then a low volume of strength training can fill out the rest of your available time.
4. If your goals are sport performance, powerlifting, strength etc… then seek out an appropriate program from a reputable coach that actually trains people, not someone who posts all over Facebook and meathead sites who the bros love.
5. Discover types of exercise that you really enjoy and pursue it. Get into a new sport or active hobby and use your time in the gym to train for that. This will also help you to focus your training efforts and probably become more disciplined when it comes to nutrition.
In short, training in the gym can and should be an enjoyable part of your day, not a chore that leaves you drained for the next two. By changing our perspective of exercise from “working out” to that of “improving health through movement” we can make radical changes to the quality of time spent and results.