BREAKTHROUGH WEIGHT-LOSS PHENOMENON
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The fitness industry listens to its customers, so we are bombarded with non-sense programs that promise a miracle but leave us fat and poor. I think we are tired of quick fixes that don’t fix anything. What America wants from the fitness industry and what America needs from the fitness industry are two separate beasts. We want weight loss, fast results, and low commitment programs; however, we need a program that is more about human performance, a program that is dynamic, comprehensive, realistic, and actually works.
Why is it that the miracle supplement “simply didn’t work for me as well as all the other testimonials,” and why the hell am I still fat!?
So why is it that America is still overweight, billions of dollars are spent on medical interventions, and we are looking to the government to regulate the size of soda bottles rather than making better choices ourselves? Why is it that weight loss in and of itself is such a boring motivator for all the work it requires to actually get healthy, and that while our 25 minutes a day works for 2 months, it doesn’t work for a lifetime? Why is it that the miracle supplement “simply didn’t work for me as well as all the other testimonials,” and why the hell am I still fat!?
WHAT AMERICA WANTS OUT OF A FITNESS PROGRAM
From a business-man’s perspective, I have a ton of respect for fitness companies that ask customers what they want, create programs to give them what they want, and then make millions for doing so. I could be much richer if I applied my knowledge to give people what they want. Unfortunately, I care more about changing lives than making millions. Let’s take a look at three major motivators for what the vast majority of us want from our trainers, our gyms, and our home-DVD programs.
According to the CDC, 70% of the population of the United States of America is obese or overweight, which leads to heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and certain cancers, which accounts for approximately $147,000,000,000 in health care costs. There is no doubt that we want to lose weight because we need to lose weight. As a result of this need and want, the fitness industry has come up with nutrition plans, fitness programs, and health recommendations for ways for people to lose weight.
Unfortunately for many people, that number on the scale becomes so important that they allow their weight to define who they are.
We are told that being fat is unhealthy and we look in the mirror and know that being fat is not healthy. We grow frustrated that gaining weight seems to come so naturally and losing weight seems to be such a mystery. We become tunnel-visioned on the number on the scale, and we begin to view our success or failure based on that number. When the number doesn’t change even though we are exercising and trying to eat better, we become desperate for a miracle. Sometimes we miss workouts, eat too much, and we slip into a funk of unhealthy habits when our all-or-nothing nature takes over. Unfortunately for many people, that number on the scale becomes so important that they allow their weight to define who they are.
We like our fast food fast, we like our Amazon deliveries arriving next-day, we like our high-speed internet, and our expectation of weight loss is not much different. While the anatomy and physiology of homo sapiens has not changed, we seem to think that there will be some discovery of a plant, or perhaps the design of a break-through piece of fitness equipment that will be able to miraculously shed pounds instantly. The fitness and nutrition industries are listening, and they are fighting and clawing to earn your business and sell you the next big mythical shortcut to the fat-free you!
The reality is that your body learns to function at your current weight. Body temperature, water balance, hormonal balance, and major body functions all settle into a baseline of your current weight. Rapid changes are viewed as hostile adaptation, and your body will actually resist that change. When pairing rapid results with a goal of weight loss, many are disappointed to learn that while they may be losing fat, they may also be gaining muscle, which throws off the weight on the scale. Or, their body may not be changing much from a composition standpoint at all, and there may just be neuro-muscular adaptations and changes at the cellular level as your body prepares to be more active. Lastly, there are diets and fitness programs that truly can get the ball rolling in the right direction, but they are not practical or healthy as part of a year-round nutrition and fitness plan.
We want and need to lose weight, we want to see rapid change, and by the way, we would like to be able to do it in only 25 minutes a day, or maybe just once or twice a week. We want to be able to spend 8 hours at work behind a desk, another 2 hours commuting, and 4 hours relaxing, and just do the bare minimum physical activity to change our bodies. We don’t want to have to spend $80/hr on a personal trainer, we don’t want to have to commit to a yearly gym membership, and we don’t want to lock in a date for a race or other fitness-related activity.
This is the challenging area that the fitness industry is trying desperately to please. Programs are shrink-wrapped into a 2-month, 25-minute per day package that can be done from the comfort of your own home. No equipment, no memberships, only 25 minutes a day… Results will be instant, and after a short push, you will have your dream body… Many will take on the challenge, and perhaps meet some short term goals. But what happens after those 2 months? Do we keep doing the same thing? Do I need to join a gym? What do I do on vacation? Do I need to push myself 365 days a year? What if I slip up, is all my hard work a wash? My knees, feet, and shoulders hurt, should I keep pushing?
WHAT AMERICA NEEDS OUT OF A FITNESS PROGRAM
When Henry Ford was dreaming up the Model T, if he would have asked the customers what they wanted, they would have asked for bigger horses or better carriages. If Steve Jobs would have relied on market analysis, would we have ever seen the iPod, the iPad, or the industry changing iPhone? The automotive and computer-tech industries are powerhouse industries that have seen the benefit of innovators that did not listen to what the people wanted. Sure, they listen after they invent, and use that feedback to refine the invention, but innovation is born outside of market research and focus groups. While I realize no one currently wants this, I think that once we have it, we will never look at fitness the same way again.
Weight on a scale is easily quantifiable, but horribly inadequate at providing us with qualitative health information. The human body is capable of so much more than aiming to be a certain weight. Our bodies are designed with enormous potential for strength, speed, endurance, power, and flexibility. Our bones are intended to bear heavy loads, our lungs are capable of exchanging high volumes of oxygen, and our heart is capable of pushing itself to new levels of human activity and performance. Our muscles can be custom-tailored through training to be either endurance-driven, power-driven, or a freakish combination of the two (Type I, Type IIX, and Type IIA respectively), and this can be shifted within a calendar year depending on what you want to accomplish. To make weight on a scale your reason for training is the equivalent of getting your car’s oil changed at Jiffy Lube… BORING! The human body is capable of so much more, so why not let NASCAR-mechanics take a look under the hood? The little number between your feet every morning does not define you, and it’s a pretty boring measurement if you think about it. What if you let yourself care more about your human performance than about that number?
The human body is capable of doing a wide variety of very different physical feats. It is capable of running a marathon one year and deadlifting 500 lbs the next. It can be trained to hold a variety of static poses in yoga, and turn around and run a 40 yard dash in less than 5 seconds. Everyone’s body is slightly better at one extreme than another, with genetics playing a huge factor in your default and ultimately in how much adaptation potential you have. We are not all genetically positioned to break world records for endurance, power, or feats of strength. But we are all capable of improving, and then measuring that improvement, in those areas. The most interesting thing is that when you have a dynamic program, you may not be the best in the world at any one thing, but you can be a solid performer in everything. You can take the good things of each training style, but cross-train to prevent any of the negatives from creeping in. When you allow yourself to become dynamic in what you are capable of doing, fitness becomes more interesting. When something is interesting, we tend to stick with it, especially when we allow for tons of variety. When we let rapid weight loss guide our training program, we set ourselves up for a very monotonous and boring experience that will likely leave us disappointed and looking for a miracle. What if you allowed yourself to care more about how well your heart could perform, or how strong you could make your back muscles, or how much work your lungs could accommodate?
When you combine a program that is more concerned with overall human performance with a dynamic combination that gets you training your body to be good at a wider variety of physical tasks, you allow yourself to participate in a program that is truly comprehensive. Comprehensive means more than just hitting all the major muscle groups in a strength program, or throwing in some stretches for flexibility, or alternating between the elliptical and recumbent bike for variety.
If all you do is run, you will eventually wear down your knees, shins, and make your body phenomenal at storing calories for endurance activity performance. If all you do is lift weights, you will eventually wear down your shoulders, low back, and hips, and leave your heart and lungs relatively unconditioned. If you do a little bit of everything, you will never be the best at anything. While our anatomy and physiology allows for us to do many types of activity well, there are only a few genetic freaks out there that can do everything well at the same time. For the rest of us, a fitness program that trains our heart, our lungs, our bones, and our muscles is exactly what we need. Fitness jack-of-all-trades.
In addition to being comprehensive in the types of activities we are doing, the human body is designed to benefit from a comprehensiveness that spans throughout the year. While a 2-month “INSANE” push might help you lose that weight fast, it is unrealistic to do that year round, so you don’t. If you stop training for long periods of time, your body will gradually ease back into your genetic default, and if your diet is not monitored, we have the potential of becoming very out of shape. A truly comprehensive program keeps you active year round.
You will eat more during the holidays, you will miss workouts during the summer, you will get frustrated at times because your body may not be cooperating the way you expect. This is not an all or nothing business, contrary to what the industry has been preaching. Missing a workout will not destroy your results. By the way, fried chicken is delicious, a cold beer on a hot day is hard to explain, and Thanksgiving is not the time to worry about portion sizes. When you make your program a concentrated 2 month push, if you miss a workout, you are screwed. If your program is a comprehensive, year-round and dynamic program, missing workouts, eating some fried chicken, and throwing down a few cold ones along the way will not ruin everything.
Some may argue that asking people to train for a race, measure their strength gains, do speed and agility drills with cones, ladders, and hurdles, and asking them to keep at it year-round is unrealistic. Some will argue that no one will do that, because they don’t have time and they won’t see results fast enough to stay interested. I will not argue that most people do not want this kind of program. In fact, I am confident that people do not want this kind of a program. That being said, I disagree that a comprehensive program that is dynamic, year-round, and budgets for over-eating and beer-drinking at times is unrealistic. I believe that not only are Americans capable of such a program, but they are ready for such a program. I think that we are tired of quick fixes that don’t fix anything. I think we would all be content to get healthy and never step on a scale again because we are more concerned with how fast we are, how far we can run, and how much weight we can move.
You will never get stronger by lifting weight that feels light, you will never get faster by running slow, and you will never be capable of running more miles by sitting on a couch. You have to put in the work. There is no pill, there is no magic machine, there is no miracle that will do this work for you. The only way to make your body better is to ask it to do more than it currently can. You must put in the work, and it won’t be easy. The harder you work, the more your program will work. There is no way around it.
When you ask your body to perform, if it sucks at that performance, it will evolve. Physiological adaptation occurs when the body recognizes that it is currently physiologically incapable of doing what is being asked of it. The key to having a program that actually works is giving your best effort during the workout. Best effort includes your mindset, your physical ability, and your tolerance for what we call good pain. If you can stay calm, keep your mind focused, and give your best effort during any exercise, the next time you do it you will be able to do more. This progress will go on until you either mentally get bored or you overuse the joints around the area (the mind and the joints are the weakest link in the human body).
DYNAMIC, COMPREHENSIVE, REALISTIC PROGRAMS THAT WORK
When your fitness program is centered on goals related to human performance rather than a number on a scale, your program must become multidimensional which leads to a comprehensiveness that you can’t get from a program that is tunnel-visioned on fat loss. When we accept that our bodies are intended to be functional, not merely cosmetic; when we embrace the fact that there are no quick fixes and that we must earn our fitness with effort; when we change our mindset to realize that our fitness is a year-round commitment not a short-term push; then and only then, our human-performance potential can be tapped into.
There is a movement starting in the fitness industry, and many of us are truly looking to make a difference in the fitness culture. We realize that while our customers want quick fixes and are obsessed with scales, what they really need to care about is how well their heart, lungs, bones, and muscles function. Fat loss is a side effect. Those of us fitness professionals that are fighting upstream in a culture of instant gratification, miracle pills, and magic machines have a lot of work ahead of us. Be warned, there are many in the industry that just want your money and they’ll happily take it with gimmicky programs and supplements.
Assess your current fitness based on human performance:
(1 = “I really, really, really suck at this,”) to (10 = “I’m olympic-gold-medalist-good at this.”)
- Muscular Strength
- Cardiovascular Endurance
- Power / Explosiveness
- Linear Speed
- Multi-Directional Agility
- Long Distance Activities
I challenge you change the way you view fitness. I challenge you to view it as a lifelong, year-round commitment to better health. I challenge you to train in ways you have never trained before, to step out of your comfort zone and improve in areas you have never even trained in. I challenge you to put away the scale, and start tracking strength gains, mile times, and maybe dabble with some combine scores. I challenge you to drink a beer and eat some fried chicken, miss a few workouts, and then pick up where you left off without beating yourself up about it. Challenges are best done with a friend, so share this article with one or two. If you want, dump some ice water on your head while you’re at it.