If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this, read this, had it implied, or involuntarily had the thought pop in my head… Well, I could afford a personal trainer, a home gym, and maybe some plastic surgery just to take up a little of the extra dangle in my bangle, ya know.
It’s been a while since I talked about my Physical Fit. It’s been a somewhat arduous road with some potholes, detours, and unaccountable delays, but I’ve trudged on, making adjustments where I needed and getting feedback, support, and advice from a very wide variety of sources. I admit that I’ve occasionally felt discouraged about results (or lack thereof). I’ve been depressed on plateaus and concerned by feeling regressed. However, one of the things I have managed to figure out is that so long as I never actually quit, it was all just fine. That being said, I’m possibly one of the most stubborn individuals on the planet (I totally see you nodding). The one part of my own personality that have had to fight hard has been the tendency to “stub up” as my grandmother would say when someone gives me unsolicited instruction or direction.
It’s not that I am a completely ungrateful wretch, but apparently there is a stubborn passive-aggressive teenager lurking in my soul. Same thing used to happen to me when I would have a thought to do something nice like… oh, I don’t know, send a thank you card, or remember a birthday… then, my mother, before I had the chance to initiate that activity myself would say “Remember to send a thank you note.” And that was it. I was done. I wouldn’t have sent a thank you note if it kept me from dying by fire. I’ve never really known what that particularly unpleasant part of my personality serves, where it comes from, or why it is there, but it is true. My thunder has been stolen. The idea and impulse was no longer my own. I could take no pride in my own altruism because I was directed to the action by my mother!
So, as usual, I’ve strayed from the original point, but the whole unsolicited advice prompts a similar but not quite identical response. It’s completely involuntary and unconscious. Occasionally, the advice or instruction is actually good, and I have to forcefully shove that angry, bad-tempered 13 year old in my head back into her closet.
However… not all the advice or directions are good. To be completely honest, some of it is downright dangerous. Mostly, it is just insulting, though, especially considering some sources. For instance, it has been a somewhat regular occurrence for myself as well as other friends who also have their physical fits to be molested by self-appointed, untrained, and certainly not certified trainers. You know the sort I’m talking about. These are the fitness experts of the local gym striding about looking for hapless victims upon whom to pounce with their sage body-conscious wisdom. They walk over and ask if you need a spot. “Nah, man. It’s like 10 pounds, I’m good.” Or they might critique your stance, suggest a different type of exercise, or tell you that you will never get “swolled” doing it like that (assuming they actually know why you are working out and that your actual goal must be the same as theirs… to be “shredded, swolled, cut…” You get the idea). Without fail… you hear the “You’re doing it wrong” proclaimed as a blandishment for your obviously neophyte training regimen. Generally speaking, my greatest risk of injury usually comes at that point… spraining my ocular muscles with an inadvertent eye roll worthy of the aforementioned inner 13 year old.
For some of my friends, these overtures are less about form and results and more about how hot they look in their spandex. However, there are people who legitimately believe that the rest of the world truly requires their input. On that same train are riding the several thousands of various people, adverts, or click baits that are dying to tell you why your favorite food is making you fat. At this point, I’m not sure why anyone can actually keep track. For every theoretical diet or workout, there is some other guru who will absolutely tell you that it is soooooo wrong and will have the opposite results to what you are hoping to achieve.
I think my favorites are still the things that you click on that tell you that the reason you are not getting the slender sexy body that you want is because you are starving yourself and working out too hard. According to these miracle workers, you need to work out for 45 seconds and eat donuts… ok, might have exaggerated slightly. When the unsuspecting, desperate individual who sees a beach trip looming on the horizon clicks for help, there is literally half an hour of ridiculous snake oil poured out that ends with “And the secret can be yours for $199.99… PLUS, you get my own very special, delish, and fool proof recipes guaranteed to shoe horn your fat ass into that bikini in 10 days… or your money back!” Sheesh.
You know why there are so many plans out there and gimmicks and diets and workouts? Because people are looking for something that works that isn’t… wait for it… TIME and ENERGY and SELF-CONTROL. I understand. I really do. It is the appeal of wanting something that is as easy to make that healthy change as it was to slap on the extra pounds from over indulging and not moving enough. People don’t like being told that they may have to eliminate or at least cut back on their favorite sugary, fat-packet snacks. They don’t want to change their lifestyle and behaviors. They just want to change their life.
Our world has become very sedentary. Most of the jobs today involve a lot of sitting. Food comes fast and with a lot of calories to give it that “comfort” appeal. Deciding to make changes for better health actually requires some effort. Frequently that makes it unattractive in the beginning. That is why people look for easier ways. Eventually, those healthier changes start feeling good, but in the beginning, there is the strangeness and the resistance to change the status quo that provides the inertia going against the new motivation.
That is the other part of this whole “you’re doing it wrong” thing that frustrates and angers me. For many people (myself included), there is some embarrassment in starting down a new path. There is some inhibition of showing ignorance and self-consciousness for letting ourselves go from the physical and health perspective. While some unsolicited advisers are genuinely attempting to help, for many, that criticism is just enough to make those of us fighting the uphill battle of self-discipline run away and hide from the people who point out how “wrong” we’re doing it.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret… if you are making the effort to move and change, you are doing something right. Unless you are doing something terribly outrageous and trying to imitate a double-jointed contortionist from the sideshow which could actually damage your body (incorrect posture, failure to keep your knees over your toes on squats, or putting too much torque on your joints when doing weight training), it isn’t wrong. There is nothing wrong with asking how to do certain types of exercises safely to avoid hurting yourself. There is nothing wrong with asking how to use equipment to make sure that you are getting the benefit for which it was designed. Not every plan or diet or supplement or nutrition program works for every person on the planet.
Everyone is different, and each few years someone else comes out with a new theory to revolutionize fitness, weight loss, fat-burning, muscle-building world. Low carb, no carb, all carb, low fat, healthy fat… weight training, aerobics, cardio, cross fit, high intensity interval, low impact… you name it, the list goes on and on, and every new messiah of fitness will tell you that their predecessors had it all wrong and that their plan is what you need to follow to be come the Adonis or Venus of your dreams. They will provide testimonials and “evidence” to prove that their way is what works. I’m not saying they are wrong or have fabricated anything (I’m sure some have, but we’ll assume for the moment we are not actually talking about those). I’m suggesting that on the whole, they are providing a very small subject size. With few exceptions, the results and outcomes for these programs are usually not given with long term results (meaning they show “Lost 53 pounds in 8 weeks!” rather than “Kept off 53 pounds after 5 years!”). Again, small subject sizes. They are giving you results with a handful of people. They don’t tell you about the 40 people who followed this compared to 40 similarly profiled people with similar demographics that did not follow the same plan or possibly followed a different plan. They only tell you about the success stories.
Now, what you can do is check out reviews. With the advent of the internet came the ability to check out what people say about different programs, products, etc. While positive reviews are nice and show the best results, I personally always look for the negative reviews. I look to see 1) how many there are, and 2) what they say about the program that made them give the negative review. Physical trainers and fitness professionals are all well and good, but they are ultimately trying to sell their services, their programs, their products, and their books. Some produce results, and that is great, but again, it is small subject size and with very controlled circumstances. I truly believe that if you are under the guidance and coaching of one of these folks, you will show some results. It may not be precisely the same as they display with their own bodies or even their other clientele, but if you meet with a trainer that knows what they are doing, you are going to have some results, and they will likely be positive results. How positive generally depends on how much effort that YOU put into it. Long term lasting results depend on making changes in lifestyle that continue past the goal achievement.
For me, I tend to stick with medical journals and other academic or scholarly publications. Why? Because I’m a nerd. That’s probably the first thing you thought. I also have access to said journals because of my academic credentials. Most of them are available out there via subscriptions and such, but not everyone wants to pay for that or plow through a bunch of sciency-speak academia to see what types of programs seem to give the best results and for how long. Most of the true scholarly journal articles are to be found in libraries where they can be accessed for dissertation and thesis research. This is where I generally get hold of mine. Unless you belong to a professional organization, you are not likely to have subscriptions to these laying around on the coffee table. However, to drag my train of thought back to the track from its wanderings, the reason I like these is because they are less biased than your average self-help piece. They have larger subject sizes, examine a lot of different approaches, and give all the results, not just the positive ones.
Here is what I have managed to gather from all of it:
I’m not doing it wrong.
I’m doing what works for me to feel good, and occasionally it actually produces outcomes that are what I was after in the first place. Being healthy isn’t about looking a particular way. It is about feeling better. To be in better physical shape, you need both strength/resistance and cardio. You also need fuel. Starving yourself or following extreme diets of any kind generally does more harm than good, and very few of the diets that decrease caloric intake severely have long term success in keeping off the weight. And here’s a hint… if you find a program that avoids all the things that you hate about working out and getting fit, it is probably too good to be true and won’t actually have the impact you are wanting. If a program does not have a prescribed time limit with a sustainable maintenance cycle that you can actually live with for the long haul, it probably ain’t gonna cut it. Just because something works for your friend at the office doesn’t mean that the same exact thing will work in the exact same way for you.
I’ve found out when all is said and done, we aren’t doing it wrong when we are trying to find the pattern that works for us. So, keep at it. Ask questions (from actually knowledgeable people). Do research. Read reviews. The only wrong is when we stop trying.