Variety in Health and Exercise is Unnecessary


In the active, athletic, fitness, and wellness world it seems every week we are presented with new exercises and ways to workout. From slight variations to a pushup to complex training programs for niche activities [think stand up paddle boarding], it seems there is no end in sight for “new” ways to train. Programs are designed to be gender and age specific, emphasizing the unique needs of each group, and defending why the approach needs to be different. My opinion on this matter is that this is completely unnecessary in the area of physical training and sport. Remember, we are not talking about physical therapy or injury rehab, thus a specific isolation should not be needed.

  1. Hacking or Shortcutting: the idea of finding ways to get more out of less is not unique to the fitness world. We (humans) are very strongly drawn to new products, theories, and “revolutionary” ideas of improvement. In training we are working on mastery of movement or sport specific skills. Essentially we are seeking change or lasting imprint on our being. You could even say building and defining a new “self”. When a person attempts to invest time and resources into “hacking” an area of their life that is a complete mess (health and fitness), the best that can be accomplished is an arrival at a slightly better representation of bad. Skip the hype.
  2. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): the idea of focusing on interval training to achieve a better workout, or metabolic effect, in a much shorter period of time. In true representation, as a part of a broad training program HIIT is an excellent addition. When properly executed along with strength and power endurance as well as pure endurance activities the immense benefits can be seen. On its own, as the backbone of your training, this is a very poor investment of your energy. Too many times I see people lose focus, patience, and sight of what a well-rounded training program is designed to do. Your training is grounded by the endurance work you do each work. Increasing the size and capacity of your engine (think burn more calories, go faster, recover quicker) should never be shelved in favor of the less is more faction.
  3. Gender Specific Training Programs: lame. Both men and women will benefit from the same exercises. Sure, many very fit women will never be able to do a pull-up or knock out a set of push-ups on the rings. That being said men don’t need some specific testosterone enhancing bench press program, which I’m sure exists somewhere. Likewise, women don’t need “sculpting” programs using special balls and bands. Men and women, benefit equally from training movement in a full range of motion. Bodyweight is often a factor in making high rep sets or stabilization exercises easier for women, just as upper-body dominant exercises done in isolation are easier for men to perform. Standards may differ, but execution should be the same.
  4. Nutrition/Diet: if it has a “name” its bad. Our society has too many eating and food related disorders already why start more? All things in moderation are OK. Just like your exercise/training program, balance is key. The desire to look like a Paleolithic being is bizarre to me when considering their short life spans and severely restricted access to any sort of nutritional variety. Be a smart person. Avoid the extremes.
  5. Complex training: this idea that spreadsheets and confusing rep/set/time formats will provide greater results than the simple. Not true. As someone that loves to exercise, and write training programs, my greatest enjoyment is in seeing mastery and progression. For this to happen the trainee cannot be bogged down in confusion and complexity. Your desired physique comes not from popping in and out of complex training, but from weeks and months of consistency. Skip the new finagled programs, Olympic lifts, and excessive plyometric routines. You won’t regret it!

Find your constant and be true to that activity. For many, this was a sport or leisure activity. Now, I see many people with strong ties to “fitness” classes or programs. My constant is running, preferably on a trail. Most of the time I do this to calm my mind, but for a period every summer I focus intently on honing my training to complete to the best of my ability in a key competition. The emotions elicited from this process help me grow and see possible new realities. Being constant in my focus allows me to grow. I may never “arrive” at some final endpoint of potential, but I’m OK with that.

Respect the amount of energy it takes to change, and avoid the tendency to jump on the newest fad in training. Remember, muscles don’t get confused, and there are no shortcuts.

Grounding Exercises: Squats, Deadlifts, Pull-Up/Body Pulls, Pushups, Dips, Planks, Lunges, Step-Ups, and Kettle Bell Swings and Cleans. Common sense variations of these are applicable and worthwhile.

Never stray from the basics.