The other night someone stopped by my gym to ask about what kind of training I do. After explaining that I focus primarily on personal training with a strength focus, the person asked if I do training sessions specifically focused on “abs.”
This made me think about the gap between what people want and what they actually need. I can tell a lot about whether a person is committed to goals and process or their comfortable routines based on what types of exercise they do.
Generally, I’ve found that devotees to classes and cardio machines are addicted to their routine. They like their 7 PM Zumba class, their elliptical session while watching Morning Joe, or their abs sculpting class at noon. These things make them sweat and generally make them feel good. These aren’t bad things.
The problem is that they’re not going to be particularly effective either. Hopefully, you know me well enough to understand that I’m not here to shame or belittle anyone’s choice of exercise. I’m not. And hopefully, you also know me well enough now at this point to realize that I’m not dogmatic about exercise. My non-negotiable is that everyone ought to be doing some sort of progressively overloaded weight-bearing exercise, but that can look like a lot of different things for different people based on goals, interests, and experience.
Zumba is only going to work for so long before it stops changing your body. It’s not that it’s not challenging, but that it’s difficult to progressively overload and it’s not weight-bearing in the sense that you’re targeting your central nervous system, bones, muscles, and joints for adaptation. One can lack mobility in significant areas but still complete a Zumba class. This is what makes it a great option for someone who’s never exercised–but not as their ONLY form of exercise. Because if one lacks mobility, one ought to work to gain mobility. That’s not going to happen in a class like Zumba.
Abs classes might make your belly burn, but chances are you’re not going to flatten out anything if you’re not also doing squats, lunges, presses, and pulls along with a healthy dose of well-balanced eating that includes a lot of vegetables. You might view your stomach as your “problem area,” but that pathway to a flatter midsection is paved in the kitchen and in the strength training facility or yoga studio–not the abs class.
That morning elliptical ritual you have is great if you’re using it to clear your head and get a good start on the day. But don’t think that you’re going to elliptical your way to the body you want without also a good bit of strength training or yoga. The more you use the elliptical, the more efficient your body gets at handling it–which is the death knell for forcing an adaptive response.
My sense of why people opt for routine instead of actual change is they’re afraid that they’re somehow the people for whom fitness doesn’t actually work. Why commit to an actual goal only to be disappointed? This is fear talking to you. Don’t listen to it. I’m here to tell you that if you lift progressively heavier weights or practice yoga with a good teacher; if you sleep seven to eight hours a night; and if you eat vegetables and protein at every meal (and your protein can come from the right veggies) you can change your body.
Don’t resign yourself to routine when you can accomplish. Don’t settle when you can achieve. Don’t give up when you can succeed.
So before you sign up for that next abs class, ask yourself this: Do you want to do what you like? Or do you want to do what works?