Is Spending hours in the gym the right thing to do?
Training to look good is the reason most people will join a big commercial gym at sometime in their life. Getting lured in with the promise of a new beginning or a new ‘you’; getting the body ‘you’ve’ always wanted! The problem I have with this approach is that society perceives the ideal body as that of a bodybuilder. It blows me away that this same approach is still considered the norm and to be honest who can blame people as bodybuilding culture spawned most of your modern day gyms.
It is the reason most of your gym walls are lined with mirrors and people spend a baffling amount of their workout time staring at themselves! Yes, mirrors are a great feedback tool, but feedback to what exactly? Most of your generic gym exercises are not only easy to replicate, but don’t require very complex movement! It is the reason why gyms are stacked with machines that replicate these simple exercises and require as little thought and feedback as possible!
Then we have the issue of inexperienced personal trainers adding fuel to the fire, demanding ridiculous amounts of money to act as a mediator for your training needs, but then mostly act as a catalyst between client and machine! This takes away any thought and creativity and fails to address the specific needs tailored to you as an individual. Unfortunately for such a complex industry more and more companies offer a 2 week online personal training certificate that leads to an influx of inexperienced trainers.
It’s mind boggling to think that your most important possessions, your body and health, can be left in the hands of what I like to call a ‘fly-by-night’ personal trainer for hours and hours a month. Would you have a medical student of 2 weeks operate on your body? Surely not, but for some crazy reason we trust such inexperienced people and machines with our complex bodies because of the promise of a better physique or aesthetic.
If you base your training hours regime solely on how you look as a measurement of effectiveness, your program will lack any eventfulness and as such be boring, vain, mentally draining and short lived in its efficiency. In my approach to training my athletes I take a different perspective. I use movement and mobility as the metric of improvement and success. What movement can you do now, that you struggled with before? Do you feel a difference in your strength? Do you feel more mobile when moving around?
The most important benefit that will accrue with such a training approach is that of longevity. In my opinion longevity should be the most important reason for wanting to train for hours and keep fit! Unfortunately most people tend to realize the true meaning of longevity once it’s too late. Older clients that I work with don’t care about aesthetics but what they do value is being able to live the best quality of life at their age! Being able to play with grandchildren, waking up with no back pain, climbing stairs with little to no effort! These are some examples of what I believe should be a consideration when designing your training regime! Longevity as an extension of training will not only improve your quality of life but motivate long term commitment!
The same applies to athletes! Unfortunately in most athlete conditioning programs there is a big misconception that heavy weightlifting exercises will make for stronger and better looking athletes. If you are a misguided athlete that believes in these approaches I strongly recommend you do your research in the field of functional training. I firmly believe what happens in the conditioning session should be able to directly correlated to movements on the area or surface of play! Why should a baseball player be able to bench press upwards of 200lbs when the average baseball bat in the MLB weighs more or less 32 ounces! How an athlete moves and develops his or her athletic abilities in the gym context should take preference over how impressive their physique and training loads are!
What is the best part about training functionally for movement and mobility? Your body becomes characteristic of those abilities and gains. You will build muscle in a more athletic way. You will become leaner and tone in the correct areas. And better yet you are constantly challenged to reach new levels of physical evolution which means your physique will continually develop.
I’m not arguing that it is not essential to feel good and be proud and confident of how you look in the mirror; I actually believe it is really important. I just trust it can be achieved in a more methodical way as a by product of the correct training with knowledgeable professionals that knows to focus on the longevity of becoming stronger, more skilful and more mobile!
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