For about three decades, from 1970-1990, the fitness industry was stagnate and held us to the Arnold Schwarzenegger knock-off bodybuilding workouts for men or the Jane Fonda-esque group fitness aerobic and step class workouts for women. Around the year 2000, training started an upward trend toward more functional training and calisthenic oriented programming. Since then, the fitness industry has been changing and constantly evolving – not always in a good way. I’ve been working out since the age of 13 and I’ve seen or been a part of just about everything the industry has had to offer over the past 35 years. I can honestly say that there has never been a better time to start a fitness program than today; if you can find the right program.
The key is making the right choice among seemingly endless choices and opportunities. What will motivate you? What is safe and effective training, and will it help you reach your fitness goals? Do you enjoy the solitude of long runs or does working out with a group really sound fun?
The fitness industry can often be its own worst enemy, getting caught up in the “latest and greatest” fitness trends and putting the onus on the consumer to make a smart choice. It seems like there is a new program or training tool coming out every day. Quick-fix and predominantly false promises like the Ab Coaster or Buns of Steel are popular DVD’s that never live up to the hype. Why? The models on the infomercials look great and speak volumes about how great the program is, but these programs won’t work because they don’t provide actual lifestyle changes that you the consumer can implement on a daily basis!. New training tools like TRX, Kettle bells, and extreme core trainers are great as a tool in your fitness program, but are they really making changes in your life or just keeping you from fitness boredom?
Lately, popular training systems like Zumba, Tabata Bootcamps, Insanity, P90X, Training for Warriors, and Crossfit, have burst on the scene and changed the fitness landscape by way of media hype and great marketing, but are they right for you?
There is no “one-size-fits-all” fitness program. It would be simple for me to say that what Next Level offers is the best for everyone and recommend you come in for an evaluation, but not every fitness program suits every lifestyle, schedule, commitment level or motivation. In this article I would like to discuss a few fitness possibilities, philosophies and training environments and how to find the best environment for you.
Home Gym: It takes a special person to motivate themselves on a daily basis to go to the basement and train on their own. A friend of mine is a new mom and she has done an awesome job transforming her body using DVD’s in her basement at 5:00 am in the morning. I give her credit for her commitment. But, just take a look at Craigs List and you will literally see hundreds of “barely used, like new” pieces of exercise equipment for sale by very well-intentioned people. In concept, it sounds like a great idea: workouts anytime, cheap, never have to leave the house or the kids. It’s a very solemn proposition and I applaud the folks that can actually accomplish their fitness goals on their own, especially when they are truly alone in the effort.
Traditional Main Stream Health Club: Big box health clubs are what we call in the industry, “the do everything gym.” You pay a monthly fee and get access to all of the amenities the gym has to offer. Good examples of this type of gym include LA Fitness or One Life. On the plus side you’ll get access to a lot of different programs and it’s good for variety. It’s generally a good value if you like managing your own fitness, charting your own progress, and rarely seek advice on your fitness program. On the downside; most big box gyms are very crowded at peak times, rarely do they know who you are, customer service is minimal and if you don’t really have a plan for exercising, it can be tough figuring out what to do. Most of the larger gyms tend to be heavily focused on selling memberships and not as concerned with serving customers or getting results.
Outdoor Boot Camps: Boot camps have become popular and a lot of people really enjoy being physical outside in the elements. The training is usually very motivating and camaraderie pretty high. The downside can be that the limited equipment leads to limited exercise variety and unpredictable weather can sideline your routine in short order. I have a lot of respect for the boot campers. If you’re thinking of going in this direction, be sure that your fitness level is fairly high and you have a good supply of gloves, hats and ear muffs for the cold months.
Group Training: If you like the camaraderie of working out with others and really enjoy being pushed a little by your peers, then group training might be what you are looking for. Groups can be fun and motivating, but the key to success is having top notch coaches that not only are willing to constantly correct exercise form in order for you to get the most out of your sessions, but should be in tune with any physical limitations you have as well. Training in groups can help keep cost down when you need instruction and interaction, but don’t want to splurge for individual attention.
One-on-One Personal Training: Whether it’s with a trainer at a big box gym or in a studio or training facility, the 1-on-1 training scenario can be a great choice for you, particularly if you have not worked out in a long time or have physical limitations that might preclude you from participating in a more general exercise program. The trainer can build a program to suit your individual needs and create some accountability, which can really help when trying to achieve your goals. It can get pricey paying for this type of training and at times these workouts can turn into counseling sessions so be sure that you are getting what you pay for and stay focused on your goals.
Yoga Studios: Yoga is a good exercise choice for just about anyone. The flexibility and relaxation that you get from a good session of yoga, can really help to relieve stress and increase your mobility, but if your intention is to really change your body and lose some fat, you will probably have to augment yoga with other more rigorous exercise.
Cross-Fit: These types of facilities have been popping up everywhere and for good reason. People that train at most Cross-fit gyms make tremendous improvements in their fitness and strength and really see dramatic differences in their bodies. But, beware that all Cross-fit facilities are not created equal. If you are new to exercise, these workouts can be very challenging and you must absolutely discuss your plans with your physician before starting it. Most Crossfit workouts involve intense Olympic lifting and a lot of muscle endurance activities that can become very competitive. Beware, especially if you’re over 40 and just getting back into exercise.
Kettlebell Gyms:If you are not familiar, Kettlebells are steel balls of varying weight, with a handle on them. They are a great tool for helping you get fit, but Kettlebells are just “a tool” and should be used as such. I’m not a big fan of creating a training program around one tool in particular. They definitely have their merits, but should be used in conjunction with other tools at the gym.
As the end of the year approaches and we begin to feel that pressure to make a resolution to get back in shape, it’s a good idea to utilize the following criteria when plotting your course:
- Rule #1: “Do No Harm” Beginner’s tend to get hurt a lot when starting new programs, be sure that you select a program that comes with good coaching and support.
- Rule #2: Train hard, but train smart. Listen to your body. Push it when it feels good and throttle back on the tough days.
- Rule #3: Don’t set goals that are out of reach. Start off just 3 days per week and increase as your fitness gets better.
- Rule #5: Try before you buy! See if the facility that you are considering has a trial membership. That way you can see if you will be comfortable in the environment, if it will truly meet your needs, or if it fits in your schedule.
- Rule #6: Does the program deliver results? Ask about their clients’ success stories. Ask your friends. Do you get the sense that they care about you and your progress? Ask how they will help hold you accountable.
- Rule #7: Do they offer nutritional support? You can’t out train a poor diet. If you work out one hour per day and stuff your face with donuts and diet cokes the other 23, you’ll never reach your goals.
- Rule #8: Understand your role. There has to be some internal motivation. Trainers can’t come to your house and get you out of bed for your workout. Are you up for the challenge? Are you interested in getting fit or are you desperate enough to do something about it?
At Next Level, it’s actually very simple; we utilize the most effective training systems and “bang for your buck” tools we know of today and incorporate them into our private and group training programs. Before implementing any new programs or tools, we evaluate their effectiveness to ensure that it is safe and the right fit for our clients and their needs.
As you make plans for how to make your new year the best ever, make sure that whatever it is, it’s the right choice for you. If in 4-weeks’ time, it’s not working for you, make a change. But set a course and get started!