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The Healthy Skeptic: New Year’s Fitness Advice

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One of the annual, clichéd resolutions that most people make for the New Year has something to do with getting into shape/losing weight/being healthier, yadda, yadda, yadda. And as noble a pursuit as this may be, many people – make that MOST people – “pursue” the wrong way. This “bad pursuit” results in failure, usually by the time the Super Bowl comes around (February 6th this year).

So, after a handful of weeks of “trying to be good,” too many people give up and spend the next forty-five or so weeks digging themselves into a deeper hole, hence the getting into shape/losing weight/being healthier becomes an annual, clichéd resolution.

The fitness business is in large part responsible for causing this ridiculously high rate of what I call “user failure,” as there is no shortage of fitness “experts” who are willing to sell anything to the public in order to make a buck.

In an attempt to get the interested parties on the right track – and to prevent some failed resolutions – I’m going to introduce a concept called “the least amount of specific work” and apply it to the “get-in-shape for the new year” crowd.

“The least amount of specific work” – or TLAOSW – simply means that you should start slowly and see what happens as a result of your efforts. If twenty minutes of exercise a day, two days per week produces results then that’s all the activity that you should do, especially if you are a beginner. Getting in shape shouldn’t be about pounding yourself into a pulp and a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t include five – or more – days per week of exercise.

The concept of TLAOSW focuses on establishing a reasonable exercise program first, before you worry about embarking on a draconian nutritional program. You must crawl before you can walk.

The problem with the crash diet/crash exercise approach is that this philosophy starts at such a “high point” that there are no adjustments that can be made when the results stop coming, and make no mistake, they WILL stop. Someone who crash diets and exercises will only be able to keep up this high-intensity pace for so long.

When this person stops losing weight, what more can they do? If a person starts out by training five or six days per week, adding a sixth or seventh day will result in severely diminished returns. If a person is on a restricted calorie diet, how many more calories can be cut if they are already at a minimum? And besides, how can you know exactly what is responsible for the weight loss? Is it the restrictive diet or the frantic exercise schedule?

With TLAOSW, a converted couch potato gives their body a chance to respond slowly – and properly – to the new stimulus called “exercise.” Losing weight slowly and steadily is the only responsible way to go, and gives you the best chance to keep up with your program in the long term, which is the only thing that matters.

Starting slowly and carefully monitoring progress will save an enormous amount of time, energy and heartache. Paying attention to the details of your workouts – and later on your diet – will show you where and when you, or your trainer, need to make adjustments.

The crash diet/exercise philosophy results in over training and when you over train, there are concerns regarding the injuries that can occur. Besides the injuries, over training can contribute to “burn out,” where you just can’t keep up with the ambitious schedule and the workouts become drudgery.

And worse, there is the disappointment that comes from getting hurt and/or burning out and/or failing to achieve the desired results. Unfortunately, some trainers are guilty of taking this approach, as well.

Participating in a training program is a constantly evolving process, for both the professional and amateur. TLAOSW requires that you re-evaluate your program and your goals – as well as the methods prescribed to meet these goals – and will help a program to be successful in the long term.

Read more of The Healthy Skeptic here.

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About Sal Marinello