Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Question

A few weeks ago I was at a party with some college friends and friends of friends. Being that most of us have stayed active and participate in the "physical culture" the topic of training came up. During the conversation the inevitable question came out.

"What do you think of P90X?"

My first reaction is to cringe. My second reaction is to laugh disapprovingly in the questioners face. My third reaction is to say, "Shit's stupid. You need to skwaat!"

But this is a tricky question with many different levels that I've been thinking about a lot lately. It really has nothing to do with what I think about P90X or Insanity or Barry's Boot Camp or Hip Hop Abz as a system. That's irrelevant. As a fitness professional it is not my job to automatically dismiss a prepackaged system and say it's a waste of time.

I know it's bad form to answer a question with another question but this is what I feel needs to be done. Here's a sample dialogue of how it would go.

Trainee: So Troy I've been doing Kim Kardashian's 90 Days to a Better Booty DVD. What are you thoughts on it?

Me: Well, I don't really know anything about it. Do you enjoy doing it?

Trainee: Yeah it's kind of fun and it's something that I enjoy doing on my off days.

Me: Are you getting the results that you wanted to get from it?

Trainee: Yeah, check this out. You could rest a coffee mug on my ass.

Me: Sounds like it's working great for you. Stick with it.

That was obviously the best case scenario. Here is how it could go differently.

Trainee: Hey Troy, I read this article in MuscleRag called, "Six Weeks to Amazing Arms" and decided to give it a try. What do you think of the routine?

Me: Don't know anything about it. Describe it to me.

Trainee: Well it has me do A, B, C, and D exercises for X number of sets and Z number of reps.

Me: Are you getting the results it promised?

Trainee: Not really. I did the full six weeks and my arms haven't grown at all.

Me: Hmm, well based on your own body and what I've seen work for you in the past let's try this and that exercise for XYZ sets and reps instead. Try that and tell me how it works.

Trainee: Ok, thanks. I'll get back to you.

You'll notice a few themes. In both cases I knew nothing of the training system yet didn't immediately shoot them down and say, "Do this and this. That other shit is pointless." In the first example the system was working great and getting the trainee the desired results. Why fix it if it ain't broke?

In the second example the trainee was not getting the desired results. This is both good and bad. It's bad that he spent six weeks and got nothing to show for it. It's good in that he found something that didn't work for him so he'll no longer waste six weeks, or any time for that matter, on something that won't work even though MuscleRag said it would.

Thomas Edison once said, "I didn't fail. I just found 10,000 ways that didn't work."

That right there is the heart of the matter. If something works, ride it until it doesn't. If something doesn't work change things up and give it another go. Consistent, well thought out change is essential to progress. Program jumping and trying to mash multiple different training styles into one is not.

One thing that I've tried hard to do is to not be the carpenter with only a hammer that sees everything as a nail. There are many many ways to achieve the results that you want to achieve regardless of what they are. There are, however, ways that work better than others. It all comes down to what your goals are, what your time frame is (within the realms of reality), and what you are willing to do to achieve said goals.

The same goes for nutrition. You could follow Atkins, South Beach, Macronutrient Cycling, Mediterranean, etc ad nasuem. For every person that wants to change their body composition, whether it be lose fat, gain muscle, or both, there are that many different ways to do it. Like the training aspect there are ways that will work better for each person. What works great for one person could cause another to go backwards. It's all about finding what works. And the only real way is through trial and error. I could go on but that would be opening a new can of worms and is probably best saved for its own post.

The take home is that there is nothing that is completely useless. If someone enjoys a particular way of training and likes the results they get who the hell am I to tell them differently? Likewise, if someone is dissatisfied with their training program and/or its results than I am all the happier to help remedy the situation through a well thought out change in the program.

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