Flash in the Pan Fitness
Brett Klika C.S.C.S.
We are a “right now” society in nearly every avenue of our lives. We want it all, we want it now. No time, energy, or interest in waiting. Fast food, fast fitness and fast relationships (you accepted my friend request, now I’ll tell you and thousands of others my daily drama). How is this penchant for short-term gratification working out for us?
The answer to the above question is “not well”. In our need for speed, we’ve lost quality in nearly every aspect of what constitutes the continuum of health and wellness. We think, “fast, hard, and short” with no regard for the long term. This has aided in creating the drastic polarity we see in our nation when it comes to our health.
In my travels around the world, I’ve come to the conclusion that if we were to have a global 10K race, America would probably have more people than any other country in the top 5% of finishers. We would have fewer than any other country in the middle 90%, then lead the world once again in the lower 5%.
When I walk the streets and patronize the gyms of Europe and South America, I don’t see the shredded, statuesque Adonis that define our fitness culture in America. I also don’t see the corpulence of the voluntarily infirmed that define an unfortunate majority of American society. Our “right now” version of health has created extremes with little focus on sustainability.
The fad diet and exercise plans that govern our fitness landscape are a prime example of the “right now”. We attempt to live in an oscillation of “toxify/attempt to de-toxify”. We put nightmare substances into our body, then starve ourselves to “cleanse”. We don’t move at all, then work out at intensities that defy logic (and physiology). It’s INSANITY!
Merit and validity are often given to these programs based on “A study out of Southern Bismarck Tech found…” Don’t get me wrong. Research is the foundation of the truth. However, due to practicality, it often only offers a temporary glimpse at a short-term phenomenon with a limited population. This type of research merits more research, not a new DVD, clothing, and gym franchise.
It is essential to assess what “research” constitutes when applied in most exercise contexts. Most research on this subject matter is rather under-funded, so it is not monumental in its implications in a case-by-case basis. Much of what we hear about as “current research” comes from college laboratories examining short -term (usually about 6-10 weeks) results from a program with a handful of subjects. These subjects are predominantly hung-over college students incentivized with extra credit or local retirees missing Matlock re-runs.
This weakened study design doesn’t necessarily void the findings. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t innovate, try new things, and expand on what others have found. It’s just that these short glimpses of scientific findings become fitness ethos for many. They cling to one study and create an unwavering religion around it. It’s as if the limited evidence merits “everyone must do this all the time”. That’s actually the opposite of innovation.
Metabolic resistance training (circuit training) is a great example of this. It’s great stuff. So great, I wrote a book about it! Research suggests that it may be superior to traditional resistance or aerobic training protocols in the efficiency by which it burns fat. This has created an industry in competition to provide the fastest, hardest workout on the planet.
The problem is that the research for metabolic resistance training generally doesn’t go outside of a 3-month period. Most studies are from 1 exercise session to 6 weeks. To make it an exercise approach for the rest of your life is hardly merited. As Dan John puts in his book, Never Let Go, “Everything works for about 4-6 weeks”.
The only long-term programs found to be effective are those that regularly manipulate variables such as load, rest time, volume, and intensity. A uniphasic (I go 100% every day!) program leads to injury and decreases in performance. Despite my book highlighting metabolic resistance training, I go on to explain how it is merely a phase in a long-term training program. There should also be phases where you lift like a power lifter, a bodybuilder, and sometimes, a physical therapist. Your aerobic efforts could range from a 10k jogger to a 40-yard sprinter.
The “right now” logic is also often used to modify nutrition paradigms as well. Some studies show that saturated fat may not be as bad as originally thought, so “EVERYBODY EAT AS MUCH BACON AS YOU CAN AND GET IN IV OF COCONUT OIL.” The absurd excess makes a few hearts explode so “TOUCHING BACON GIVES YOU HEART DISEASE”. Forget logic. What did yesterday’s study say?
Many of our short-term notions of diet and exercise deserve a place at the table, not to be the table itself. If you are someone who councils people on his or her health, this is essential information to understand. Right now is not just right now. It is a component of tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. How does your “right now” fit into that?
A valid model of modern health should be a realistic, logical process of assessing how an effective concept fits into a longer-term, sustainable program. By stopping the knee jerk responses to often loosely arrived-upon notions, we can keep our top 5% race finishers while filling up the middle 90% better. This is where we will make an impact on the health of our nation.
For more information and video on exercises, programs, and any other information on losing fat and creating the body you have always wanted, check out The Underground Workout Manual – Exercise and Fat Loss in the Real World at www.undergroundworkoutmanual.com.
Brett Klika C.S.C.S., Director of Athletics at Fitness Quest 10, is a world renowned human performance specialist, motivational speaker, author, and educator. In his 14 year career, Brett has accrued more than 20,000 hours of training with youth, athletes, executives, and every day people. He uses this knowledge and experience to motivate individuals and audiences around the world through his writing, speaking, DVD’s, and personal correspondence.