Thursday, November 15, 2012

Needs vs. Wants and Things I Hate to Hear

Having had over ten years in the health and fitness industry, and having watched a lot of trends come and go, there are certain phrases which tragically seem to withstand any and all advances in our understanding of biomechanics and physiology.  Sometimes, the people making these statements are honestly misled or poorly educated on the topic - but sometimes it's simply that they don't like the truth, so they continue to try and convince themselves they're right while continuing to look for people to offer them validation.

What follows are a small list of the phrases that make my ears bleed, along with what they're actually saying:
  • "My cardio's pretty good."  (I can't climb a flight of stairs without gasping, and I hate being uncomfortable - so can you please not make me do things that are too hard?)
  • "My legs are pretty strong - I'd like to focus on my upper body."  (Doing legs is really hard.  Let's just avoid them, please.)
  • "Can we do more core?"  (I think doing 1000 sit-ups will give me a six pack despite the fact that there are still layers of body fat in the way.)
  • "I'd like to focus on core and cardio."  (Despite all of the evidence - anecdotal, historical, clinical, and so on - I still think that touching a weight or doing reps of less than 15 are going to turn me into a massive, steriod-induced bodybuilder).
  • "I eat pretty well."  (I eat terribly, but I'm not willing to change and don't even want to open the door of possibility that I will have to.)
  • "I prefer more of a bodybuilding-type program."  (I just want to do sit-ups, bench press and curls - and I don't want to do legs.  Because my legs are pretty strong, and my cardio's pretty good *Note the circular reference, here.*)

What I'm actually doing when people are saying one of the above and they think I'm listening sympathetically.

So here's the thing.  Your training program is determined primarily by two things: needs and wants.  Of the these, I'll give you one guess which is most important (if you said "wants" you also probably say one of the above with alarming frequency).  Your needs can be determined through a quality assessment that progresses from general to specific - and your wants include goals, likes and dislikes.

Now, once you've laid these two things out - speak with your trainer or coach (by now, I'm assuming you've found a quality, educated and certified individual).  Find out what you have to do to address your needs, that will allow you to work towards your goals - but keep in mind (this is the most important part) that your "likes" and "dislikes" may or may not jive with your needs.  For example - if you want to run a 10km, you may need to lose 30lbs first, which may necessitate (a roundabout way of turning "need" into a verb) changing your diet before anything else even if you don't like the idea of eating differently.

So keep this in mind the next time you try and put parameters on your training - while what serves you best is to find a system you enjoy, there may come a time (and I say this knowing that there WILL come a time) where you'll have to decide if the goal is worth the change.

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