Monday, December 6, 2010

Is Your Training a Grueling Chore or an Invigorating Passion?

The other day I had a great conversation with a female client of mine about training.  She is an avid runner and is regularly in the gym five to six days per week.  She admits that her frequent training is for managing the stress of her busy life, but also fear.  She fears that if she doesn't keep her training frequency up, she will surely lose strength and gain body fat.  However, I had to explain to her, that she also was hurting her body.  Physically she was suffering chronic injuries, and psychologically she was suffering fear, anxiety, and a lack of self confidence.  I tried to explain to her that there was an optimal training stimulus to improve her strength and fitness, and she was beyond that.  After all, exercise training is a stress and your body has to be able to recover from that stress.  If not, you are not improving your fitness or health (but your weight on the scale may stay down). 

She is beginning to understand what I have explained to her and has seen significant improvement with her exercise technique and strength over the last few months.  She is catching on to the message that I am preaching to her.  It is very encouraging and I am proud of her.  She is enjoying the process and gets so much more out of each session with her new mindset. 

This story, though, is not very common in America.  Women are constantly encouraged to work out just to lose weight and look better.  Check out any one of the many women's fitness or health magazine (like the Women's Health magazine in the picture: Last Minute, 2-Week Plan Summer Shape-Up) and you will see that the majority of the articles are about losing weight, burning fat, and looking better.  Skinnier is better (even if you have to lose muscle and bone in the process).  That is the message that is constantly broadcast to women.  Unfortunately, this guilt for not looking like a magazine cover-model is the driving force for women to walk into a gym. 

This obsession with weighing as little as possible and essentially striving to become anorexic affects millions of women.  Exercise training is viewed solely for its metabolic effects on the body.  Horrible shows like NBC's The Biggest Loser perpetuate this nonsense.  Never do you see an article such as "How to Improve Your SquatTtechnique" or "Pull-Up Progression and Variations."  Women are rarely encouraged to learn solid training techniques, get stronger, and build better conditioning (all of which burn lots of Calories). 

I  never have weight loss challenges for my clients.  It is the wrong incentive and the wrong motivator.  In fact, currently, most of my female clients are training to compete (mainly to improve their personal best) in the pull-ups, weighted push-ups, deadlift, and kettlebell clean and jerk (as part of my annual HTS Festivus Feats of Strength on Dec 23).  They have developed good technique and have been getting stronger with those exercises.  Getting stronger has been their focus and motivator.  Not burning Calories and losing weight.  Interestingly, the women who buy into my philosophy do lose significant body fat without that being their primary motivator.  More impressive, though, are the compliments from other gym members about how strong, fit, and lean these female clients have become.  And most gratifying for me is to hear from my clients about how great they feel and how much they love the training itself.  I regularly have clients asking me if they can add more weight to the bar!

If you have been frustrated by following the conventional fitness advice pedelled to women from many popular media sources and feel like a slave to the number on the scale, you have alternatives.  You can ditch the scale and train to get stronger and improve your fitness.  You can get off the elliptical trainer, pick up an Olympic barbell or kettlebell.  Your training session can be about improving your strength, power, endurance, and performance.  Not about how many Calories you can burn in 30 minutes.  Fitness is for life, not just until you drop those 10 pounds.  Training should be a positive and long-term endeavor.  Training should be about bettering yourself, enjoying the thrill of setting a new personal record, and looking forward to your next training session!

No comments: