Fitness has undergone some interesting transformations over the last several years. As an oldie but goodie in this industry I have seen it all, from Jane Fonda to Bootcamps and ultimately CrossFit. I suppose it depends on which fitness camp your in that determines which craze a person feels drawn too. I do not believe it really matters as long as you’re under the supervision of a good coach or instructor. You want to spin around and shimmy to Zumba…great…you want to carry tree trunks around like a cave man…great…you want to kick and punch a bag like a martial arts master… GREAT! You know what’s not great? The injuries that are on the rise from poorly constructed fitness programs, bad coaching and individuals participating in a fitness trend that is completely beyond their fitness level. There is no one size fits all in exercise, unless we are talking about Silver Sneakers…all you need are some Velcro white sneakers and it’s a go. Pretty sure the injury and soreness ratio in that class is somewhere in the negative.
It’s interesting to me that obesity is on the rise while simultaneously all these latest greatest fitness trends are popping up like Dollar Bargain stores. I know this is not going to be a very popular statement to make, but I’m going for honesty not political correctness…for all these individuals I see burpee-ing and squat thrusting their way to a fitter, slimmer body…their body composition doesn’t seem to be paying attention. And unfortunately it is not the fault of the fitness participant it is the fault of the fitness professionals and the myth that if it hurts…it works. It used to be people exercised to improve performance and gain better health, now they seek soreness over performance. What the hell happened! Martin Rooney the creator of Training for Warriors calls this the Illogical Four: Novelty, Coolness, Ability to Produce Soreness and Ability to Produce Fatigue. I can tell you that it’s not very hard to make a person sore or tired, we just beat the shit out of you for an hour doing a billion repetitions of something and that pretty much will do the trick. Does it make you stronger, faster or leaner…uhmmmm well probably not like you had hoped for. I used to tell people if I give you a shovel and tell you to dig a ditch for an hour, I promise you’ll be sore and tired but will you have actually gained the results you felt were attached to hard exercise? Probably not and is that your fault or mine? I am supposed to say “Mine”, but I think this is a shared responsibility to a degree. I am responsible for providing my client with evidence based proven exercise and research driven programming, you the client are responsible for using your noggin to protect your back, in other words use some common sense when you approach a fitness trend. For instance, suppose your about 50+, have spent the last 20 years talking about how you “used” to climb the old oak tree while carrying a bag of rocks on your back, does this in fact make you in anyway fit enough to flip a tire or jump on a big high box for an hour. No…no it does not. It does not because while it may seem unbelievable …the fact is what you did 20 years ago no longer counts. Nope…it’s nothing more than a memory and not muscle memory just brain matter memory.
Now that we got that out of the way, I’d like to talk about the whole concept of HIT (high intensity training), and why when done right it works and when done wrong you can’t get out of a chair without intense pain screaming out of your quads. The concept of HIT is based in EPOC…scientists…we love big words…E=excess, P=post-exercise, O=oxygen, C=consumption. Shall I simplify? The body has 2 energy systems the anaerobic “without oxygen” and the aerobic “with oxygen”, together they process the transfer of energy from food to ATP. ATP is like a line of credit, the more you have the more your muscles can spend. If your ATP has a low credit score you won’t get very far, a higher score and the better your chance at making it to Vegas. When you are doing anaerobic work (HIT) your body depletes the credit line really fast and goes to the aerobic system to borrow some more ATP. The aerobic system loves to use fat as fuel, EPOC involves stimulating the aerobic system to repay ATP to the anaerobic systems. This means when you finish high intensity exercise, your body is still burning calories in an attempt to replace the used up ATP. So…hang in there…You do 60 seconds of Goblet Squats, Goblet squats use large muscles (as in your butt), large muscles use “anaerobic” ATP, you finish and now the “ anaerobic” bank has to go to the “ aerobic” bank and borrows some ATP to replenish the account. The aerobic system makes a loan and then goes to it’s “fat’ stores to replenish its own ATP. With HIT training you build muscle and burn fat, that’s what makes all this high intensity training so effective. Confused? Listen I apologize if that does not make sense, I just condensed 100 pages of science into a few sentences and that’s all I got.
The perfect science of Interval Training understands that the rest intervals are equally important as the work. Rest periods are where the ATP is replenished it’s where the fat cells are burned to replenish the ATP this is the essence of Metabolic Training. What makes it performance based rather than soreness based is the systematic approach. My functional training programs have been using this form of circuit training for over 10 years, so I have a system of training for each and every workout based on these principles. Tossing a bunch of hard exercises at a person is NOT Metabolic Training that’s called Beat Your Ass Training. This is where you’re limping away from a workout and sore as all hell the next day. I guess for me to really make my point let’s look at a professional athlete. Do you think that they train like animals 24/7, 365 days a year? Because, if they did they would be limping down to the 50 yard line, not sprinting. Good programs use systems that provide you the opportunity to build muscle, speed and power that improves your performance. Beating your body with a stick week after week will not improve your performance. You never give your muscles a chance to rebuild and regroup. You deplete your energy system bank and instead you end up bankrupt not rich. You end up driving a beat up Chevy and not the Porsche you had hoped for.
So what’s it going to be Performance or Soreness? Injury or a sleek physique? What I hope for is that next time you think that a hard workout is a good workout I hope you consider did you dig a ditch or strategically build a mean lean power machine? When I design a program it has stealth like qualities. The look is so deceptively simple yet when layered with complex exercises and restorative exercises the end result is a body that burns fat, builds muscle and performs like a high level athlete. There are lot’s of options out there in training land, choose one that fits where your body is NOW, not WAS. When you get up to speed choose a different option that challenges that and train like an athlete. Athletes vary their training though out the year, sometimes it is tough as nails other times it’s like a fluffy lamb. They allow for recovery, eat right and sleep right. Lastly be aware of overtraining, because it will make you sad…seriously sad…no joke… like weeping at Hallmark commercials sad.
All opinions are mine based mostly on science and some theories that I dream up when running. And I might have stolen some of the science stuff from Martin Rooney’s book Warrior Cardio.