Fitness is complicated these days. There are so many programs, exercises, and implements to choose from that it’s hard to know what you should really be doing to get in condition. I get a few emails a month from Albany Herald readers asking me for advice or my opinion of some program. Unfortunately, all routines tend to present different information, require different diets, and make an effort to present themselves as superior to all other training routines. Is there really such a thing as the “perfect workout”?
When asked about different workouts and diets, I’m slow to discourage someone who is having success, even if a particular program goes against what I know is proper protocol. If someone tells me they are on the Paleo or Atkins diet and have lost 20 pounds, I try not to tell them how science has shown that less than 5 percent of people will sustain results of most diets. If they are doing a rogue workout just because they saw a cool You Tube video and all their friends are doing it, I’m slow to criticize. There’s no need to explain how many credible strength coaches warn against many of these workouts because they’re not safe or they won’t best accomplish specific goals.
There truly is no perfect program for everyone other than the program one will actually do, and stick with. The truth is, any halfway decent plan will produce results, as long as you are consistent. If someone has success with any of these programs, it’s not because it’s the best plan in the world. It worked for them because they are doing it!
Here is a fool-proof way to find the perfect workout or diet. When evaluating a program, narrow it down to three criteria.
(1) Is it healthy?
(2) Is it effective?
(3) Is it fun?
If you get a yes to all three of these questions, the program is a good choice for you. There are almost an infinite number of ways to accomplish those three goals, and every single person will have a different definition of what each means.
No. 1, your program has to be safe. This means your present condition and fitness level have to be taken into consideration and the particular exercises that you do have to be chosen based on your needs and any limitations. If you’re unsure, don’t do it. It always amazes me when someone decides to start a fitness program and does something that is detrimental to their health. No matter what your fitness goal, your health should always be the first priority.
Your program should be result-producing or why waste your time? Your results should always be the main criteria to judge a program, but the program should be geared toward your particular goals. Will the program accomplish what you’re after? What is your goal? Do you want to lose weight, improve in a sport, or just increase your energy and well-being? How will you know if it’s working? Remember, “That which gets measured, gets improved.”
It has to be fun, although this is a relative term. Mostly, it has to be sustainable. Many times, behavior is the result of a combination of one wanting to gain pleasure and avoid pain. Human beings will do much more to avoid pain than they will ever do to gain pleasure. We can sacrifice and do anything for a short period of time, but eventually our plan will fall apart if it is too tough to stay compliant. Determine what you are most likely to stick with. Do you prefer to workout in a group or workout by yourself? Is your program convenient and fit in with your lifestyle? How much time do you have available? Some people like the efficiency of a 20 to 30 minute high intensity program whereas others find a more moderate intensity of 45 to 60 minutes to be better. For most, research has shown more than 60 minutes to be ineffective.
Do enough research to make you feel comfortable about starting your perfect plan. Try not to get your ideas from infomercials or try something just because a friend is doing it. Make sure your sources are credible and your information is scientifically validated and evidence based. If you are using a trainer, make sure they have a degree in exercise science and nutrition or are certified by a reputable organization, such as the American College of Sports Medicine or other accredited organization that uses ACSM protocols.
And then start. Find a routine that lines up with your goals, and as long as you are healthy, getting results and enjoying the process, keep doing what you are doing. You will have found the perfect workout!
Perry Buchanan, owner of PT Gym, is certified as Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He has been in the fitness industry for over 35 years.