Friday, December 13, 2013

The Age of the Mullet Has Passed

Visual recreation - not actually me.
When I was in high school, I had a sweet, sweet mullet.  Actually, by current standards, it is an absolute abomination of hair – but in 1988, everyone had one.  Fortunately, like acid-wash jeans and stirrup pants – and with the exception of a few people who refuse to let them die – the mullet has been relegated to punchlines and period movies.

This is the type of thing I frequently see in fitness today (metaphorically speaking – not literally).  Some new research comes out suggesting cause and effect, or a new product/system that has a very cool and marketable spin, and suddenly everyone – professionals and participants alike – decide that it is not only a good way to train, but actually the BEST, and ONLY way to train.  Running in the 70s, aerobics in the 80s, Tae Bo in the 90s, p90x in the 00s... everything from yoga to kettlebells to Crossfit, you get devotees who swear that if you are doing anything else you’re wasting your time and might as well just give up.

The problem is, people are always looking for the “magic bullet” – and it makes it easy for marketing geniuses to wrap it up in an easy-to-sell package. 

So to help you choose what direction to go with your own training, here is my list of questions you should ask (and answer) for yourself before jumping on the bandwagon:

Is it easy to implement?  Guess what – it’s probably not going to work.  Results take persistence, patience, practice, and time.  Nothing worth having is “easy”.

Does the risk equal the reward?  Okay, there are obvious targets for this criticism, but I’ll take a less controversial example – sit-ups and crunches.  Personally, I doubt that doing crunches and sit-ups, even 100 a day, are going to make your back explode and leave you in a wheelchair.  However:  if you have a bad back, they’re not going to help.  And if you spend your days sitting at a desk or in a car, then all this will do is put you into a chronically hunched-over position – which may not be causing any pain, but stooped posture sure never helped.  And they will do nothing – I repeat NOTHING – to help develop a six-pack.  So, I would ask – the risk might be minimal, but there seems to be very little reward... and if that’s the case, why are you doing them?  (I will add – that “because they burn” is never a good answer).

Finally – are you getting the best value for your dollar?  If you are working one-on-one with somebody, they’d better be teaching you the whole time.  If all they’re worried about is how many calories you’ve burned, how tired/sweaty you are, or how many reps you’ve done... then you’re wasting your money.  A real coach has a reason for every single exercise choice, will not let you “work through” bad repetitions, and couldn’t care less about how many calories you’re burning – because they are there to help you develop a skill.  If all you care about is burning calories, sweating and “hurting” from your workout then save your money – find a building with a lot of floors, run up the stairs to the top and back down again for 3omins, and for the last 10 stairs don’t run down, just throw yourself down.  You’ll burn a lot of calories, you’ll be sweating, and you’ll hurt – and all of this without spending any money.

Really, this is hardly a comprehensive list but rather the questions to consider as “gatekeepers” – the first step to evaluating the quality of your potential choices.  In the end, just make sure that the ends justify the means – in safety, value and results.  And remember - the basics of health and fitness (strength, cardiovascular health and balanced nutritional plan) never change, and never go out of style.


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