Exercise – Routines Are For Cars

Working in gyms these past 8 years, I couldn’t help but notice the pure dedication, hard work and tenacity of those who rise out of bed in the darkness for movement to exercise.

You know who I’m talking about right? These are the life long gym members who show up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with that all too familiar Van-Halen t-shirt, cherry flavored Power-bar, foam headset and Vanity Fair magazine in hand.

These brave souls are who I like to deem the “regulars,” and every gym has it’s crew. There’s Cardio Annie, who arrives at 5:55am only to wail for 90 minutes straight on the StairMaster listening to her am radio about why the world is going to end. There are the 70’s Big Crew- 4 guys who all come in with their vanilla Myoplex, gym bags and matching Nikes to do 7 sets of 10 shrugs and flat bench. There’s the 53 year old CEO who gears up at 6:30am for his steady state sweat sesh by literally unfolding trail camp at the recumbent bike, placing down his 48oz Gatorade, beach towel, newspaper and backpack all in the exact same way he’s been doing since 2007.

Cheers to all of these noble souls for their efforts and the great care to do what many others do not; especially to the older CEO who got up early and took control of his health! The only trouble is that the CEO still looks exactly the same way he did in 2007.

Why do these amazing (I say amazing because the dedication to rise early on a regular basis for exercise automatically puts you in that category) people continue to grind day after day in the gym? The reasons are many, but the bottom line is that they just want to feel good. I’d even bet that most of them wanted to feel better. Isn’t that why everyone goes to a gym? Exercise in most forms releases serotonin and dopamine. Yummy to our limbic brain. But what about the exercise that will bring the real change they seek?

Somewhere in the lines of providing science based fitness advice to genuinely interested members and the lure of financial gain from selling products and services that hook wallets, the health club industry lost it’s soul.  In an injected, molded, cupped and ascetically biased society here in southern California, the local media has created a monster. It’s called routine. In the same regard that everyone isn’t and wasn’t ever supposed to look like Barbie, we need to recognize the value in authentic exercise again.

As I wrote earlier this year, the “work hard play hard mentality” has got to stop. We live in an age of over information and over-sympathetic nervous system activation. The solution to this routine façade and the answer to improved health are for gym-goers to work hard only when they truly have to and work smart to feel better for life.

The real solution is the educated periodization or “training blocks” for success. A properly planned and executed fitness program should take into account ALL of a clients needs- emotional, spiritual and physical. For the sake of this post, let’s crunch down on the top 5 today- Here are my top 5 recommendations to avoid ever achieving a routine and establishing a periodized training block-

  1.  Invest in an exercise professional- A fitness pro will be able to write you a program that should last anywhere from 2-6 weeks after assessment depending on your results. Then re-test!
  2. Bring as little as possible to the gym- Magazines, bags, extra food and clutter will all weigh you down. Take with you only what you need to succeed- nothing more.
  3. STOP seated based training- Over 85% of gym members lead sedentary jobs. Get out of the chair and stretch the tight spinal flexors while opening the extensors again.
  4. Eat real food after your session- Real food fuels you beyond processed units that have no BV. Just do it. Learn more here.
  5. Accept that no day will ever feel the same- Comfort kills and variety is the spice of life. You shouldn’t feel like you’re doing the same movements if all you want is the same results.

When a modern wellness gym of the future opens up, they’ll have a mandatory class for clients to learn how to periodize, eat whole foods and get out of their own way. Students wouldn’t be able to exercise before they pass with at least a B+. They’d go over how steady state aerobic exercise is mainly a fat saving, glycogen dominant pathway- How catabolic and weakening it is for you while it leaves you hungry without deep cycled inputs for growth. Of course they would teach how muscular density and BMR go hand in hand for optimum thyroid production. There would be a week long course on H.I.I.T training with all modalities discussed. There would be a bonus class where students would get to take turns chopping up the recumbent bikes, seated chest press and seated pec fly machines after postural deviations of 99% of the population were identified. There would be a gym with members never stuck in a rut, never drinking shakes filled with excitotoxins, gluten and HFCS. When you walk in you’d feel a sense of energy, challenge and above all else the awareness that you’re far from routine. Your fitness goals would follow soon after.

Unfortunately, a chain gym will go bankrupt if all it’s members get healthy, educated and fit. Based on my experience years ago in management, it’s in the 24 hour fitness business plan that over 75% of it’s paying members NEVER get fit or even use the gym more than once a week. So how do we achieve health, vitality and avoid ever being in a routine? Never ask to be in one by taking it upon yourself to stop working so damn hard and start educating yourself through research,  application and trial to become your own wellness expert.

Confession- I used to work on luxury automobiles over 10 years ago and the best sale you would ever get was called “routine maintenance.” All fluids, plugs, filters, pads and shoes would be changed whether they needed to be or not and the car usually ran exactly the same before and after the service. Ever wonder how many calories you've just burned or if what you just did brought you closer to your goal? Just because your shirt drips sweat doesn't mean you're on the right track. Odds are you've been on that same track for much too long. A paradigm shift is needed! In a rut or routine and confused about where to begin? See #1 and start letting science and your biology do the talking.

Questions? Start here