No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

Never gymless (part 6)

Posted by Ben on Thursday, March 12, 2009

Part one: quitting the gym.
Part two: sympathy and confusion.
Part three: why I left.
Part four: newbies.
Part five: searchers.

* * * * *

I don’t want the last couple posts to suggest that it takes a special kind of person to simply exercise. Most of us certainly don’t have the natural genetics or talent to be professional athletes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the most out of your time and effort. However, it does take a certain mindset to be successful in your training, and I use that word liberally—“training” could mean anything from buying and cooking particular foods in pursuit of a healthy home lifestyle to repeatedly getting your butt kicked, often at your own hands, and asking for more. You don’t necessarily need a pre-made, cookie-cutter program resting in your hands to achieve physical success, but the vast majority of people get started this way or use it to focus otherwise haphazard, directionless time wasted in the gym and elsewhere. Therefore, I want to address these programs before getting into what you can be doing on your own.

I’ve read my share of fitness and lifestyle books—I’ll suggest my favorites later on—but there just aren’t that many good ones. A common feature among these is the explanation of philosophy before getting to the workouts, and this explanation more often than not (in the better books, at least) leads off with “before you skip this section” or “don’t just turn to the workouts” or something similar, and for good reason. I’ll bet that 99% of people who buy a workout book off the shelf without any forethought about what they want to do end up flipping ahead to just get started without seeing if that particular program is something they want or are willing to do in the first place. They don’t care about the “why,” just the “what” and/or “how,” whichever you want to ascribe to the nuts and bolts. However (I use that word a lot, no?), if you’ve bought a program this way (most likely a searcher), I’d like to challenge your way of thinking about this.

When presented with a book containing a workout and nutrition program, you just want to get started. After all, if it’s been published and marketed, it HAS to be worth something, right? I mean, just look at the cover models! There may also be some before-and-after picture comparisons, and those are always trustworthy, right? Dispensing with the sarcasm (for now), the workouts are fluff, the recipes are definitely fluff, and if the book says you can skip the awesomeness and jump right into the madness, well, you know. The real value, if any, of the program in your hands is in all that boring introductory stuff, whether it’s a couple chapters at the start or shorter sections preceding various sections of the book. That’s where the authors explain their training and/or nutrition and/or lifestyle philosophies, hopefully supported with some valid scientific references or at least some pretty darned good anecdotal evidence from years of training others (or both). If it’s written in a pretty straightforward manner, maybe with some wry humor (see: Lou Schuler), and reads with fairly little nonsense, then the program might be worth something. If the pre-workout stuff is only about four pages of big print and big margins (and lots of exclamation points, most likely) and reads like a Tony Gentilcore blog post, you might want to skip it (his blog is great, though, really a specimen of fine modern American literature). Take advantage of those big, comfy chairs in the bookstores so you can sit and read through a couple books before buying.

Now, I’m going to suggest a few books and trust that you’re NOT just going to raid Barnes & Noble for them, skip the homework, and flip to the test questions—you’d actually be eating the meal backward, passing over the entree to fill up on salad and breadsticks. Don’t be that guy—actually, no, I think I’m just going to wait on those suggestions *duck* :D

* * * * *

Next time, we’ll look at the mindset needed to begin and continue on your fitness journey.

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