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Exercise Is Not Entertainment

Today’s blog post is part coaching tip and part rant on the subject of fitness training. I’ve witnessed a disturbing trend over the past ten years or so where fitness training went from something that was used to condition and develop the human body, to something that provided entertainment or fun while working out.

Now I certainly don’t advocate picking a form of exercise that you dislike as that won’t do much for compliance and habit formation. However, any type of physical conditioning or training worth a hoot is going to provide some sort of short term discomfort.

I’m not talking about the dumb adage of “no pain no gain.” Pain while training is a red light, not a green light. Discomfort, fatigue, shortness of breath, a burning sensation in the muscle, etc…these are all a different story. While they’re by no means fun, they’re part of the trade off one makes to see results.

After all isn’t that why we train anyways, to see results? No matter how fun or entertaining a workout routine is, if it doesn’t provide some sort of progressive overload over time it’s not going to produce much of a change. That’s the cold hard truth.

More after the jump…

I pin a large portion of the blame with this trend of exercise being entertainment on the very people who should know better….personal trainers, exercise instructors, and the such.

It’s the personal trainer who gives their clients an endless array of different exercises they’ve seen on Youtube as a means of keeping clients engaged and entertained.

It’s the exercise instructor who produces a workout video with hip-hop, Salsa, or whatever dance moves and promises a body transformation by doing the routines a few times a week in their living room.

Give the people what they want…make if fun and easy.

Now again, don’t get me wrong, I’m not some sort of zealot who thinks that everyone needs to be doing CrossFit or some type of high intensity exercise. People have different goals, wants, and needs, which all should be factored into exercise selection and workout program design.

Truth be told all forms of exercise have their place or appropriate application. The problem arises when they’re misapplied, used for the wrong reasons, or promoted with misleading claims of the end result.

Are you going to get six pack abs just by dancing around the living room? Probably not, but if you wanted to do this as a form of aerobic exercise instead of getting on the treadmill, that would be fine.

Likewise, is it in your best interest if the workout your personal trainer runs you through more resembles a circus show then something that’s actually going to help you lose those love handles?

I think you already know the answer.

Things like TV’s in front of or built into treadmills, standing on a BOSU ball while tossing a medicine ball (or other dumb exercises), these are all pet peeves of mine.

Again, if appropriate there’s nothing wrong with challenging yourself, or your client if you’re a trainer, with movements that provide a meaningful progression. This isn’t about workouts being boring or mundane with the same movements being done over and over.

However, I will say this…I frequently see no where near enough reinforcement of basic human movements and compound weight training exercises, and far too much of what’s new, fun, hip, or a fad trend at the moment.

If what you’re doing or what your personal trainer is providing you produces the results you’re looking for, far be it from me to say what you’re doing is wrong.

But if you’re NOT seeing the results you want from the training you’re doing, doesn’t it makes logical sense to assess the effectiveness of the exercises in your routine?

Are you being entertained or are you being changed? In the end that’s what it comes down to.

I hope I’m not coming across like an old fuddy-duddy, but I think physical culture has changed and I’m not so sure it’s for the better. I’m all about finding new and creative ways to encourage people to become active as there’s no question we have an obesity crisis in this country.

Let’s just not throw out the old in attempts to make fitness training fun. What’s really fun is seeing results and looking hot in that little black dress or whatever. Embrace the ends and not the means.

I understand I’m probably in the minority because I love to get under the iron, challenge myself with a kettlebell, and anything else that blows off steam and reduces stress. Plus I like the way it makes me look and feel. But even after being a gym rat pretty much all my life, I don’t think I’d go as far as to say that anything was ever “fun” about doing a 20 rep set of squats, etc.

But the thing is the hard work, the intense effort, giving it all you got, that feeling you get when you’re done can be addictive. No drink or drug could ever match it. It’s hard for some folks to get their heads around this and truth be told it’s hard to explain, it’s something that just has to be experienced.

Being fit, strong, healthy, these things all have the biggest returns. It allows you to do the activities you want to do and have fun doing them. If you love playing golf, you can do more of it and have more enjoyment from each round when you’re fit. It’s no fun when your back hurts, you’re exhausted after nine holes, or whatever.

I could go on and on but hopefully you get the point. Exercise is not entertainment and it doesn’t necessarily need to be fun, it just needs to be effective. If your workout routines provide you with the means to have fun with your hobbies or everyday activities, then they’ve done their job.

I’ll leave you with this…two words that you may not know the true meaning of.

Kalos Sthenos

The translation for this ancient Greek phrase means “beautiful strength.” It’s the root foundation for the word “calisthenics.” Today the word calisthenics is often associated with body weight exercises or something you might do in gym class. This is not the true meaning or history.

You see the Greeks believed that exercise should resemble something that was beautiful and demonstrated strength and skill. I don’t think this would apply to someone wobbling on a BOSU ball while trying to juggle a barbell.

Granted your kettlebell swing, lunge, squat, or whatever may not appear beautiful or reflect strength and skill when you first get started, but it will over time if you stick with it.

Make “Kalos Sthenos” be your end goal and not just having fun with your workouts.

In the end you’ll be glad you did as the results will be there.

Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides fitness consulting in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation for middle age adults. See our success stories from numerous Lowcountry residents then sign up for a no-obligations consultation today.

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Category: Shane's Commentary.