I have been looking back on some of my recent strength training sessions as well as the interval training I have been doing on the cardio side. We have a tendency, with exercise, to judge if it’s working by what the bathroom scale currently reads. But that should not be the case; weight loss does not always depict the full story. With each bout of exercise, we are improving various physiological and psychological aspects of our body that are not visible to the naked eye. For example:
Building muscle mass can increase metabolism by 15% – so if you’re looking to rev up that slow metabolism and become or stay functional as you age – you need to be strength training at least a few times each week.
Prevents Sarcopenia – which is the loss of muscle mass as you age – you can lose up to 10% or more of your muscle per decade after age 50.
Plays a role in disease prevention – like type 2 diabetes for example.
Improves the way your body moves resulting in better balance and less falls as you age (you can reduce your risk for falling by 40%).
Preserves the loss of muscle during weight loss (Donnelly et al., 2003)
Will offset bone loss as you age – women can expect to lose 1% of their bone mass after age 35 (and this increases following menopause) – see Strong Women, Strong Bones
There are few industries hotter than the fitness machinery that is grinding away at the very pillars of our self-esteem. A new diet, a new workout program, a new technique, a new, improved, tested and the only one you’ll ever need supplement invades the market every day, probably even every hour. Information (of a highly questionable nature) has never been so widely available. Fitness gurus and polished medical experts have made it to your prime-time TV screen, and are hypnotizing you with their white veneers and silver tongues.
And it’s never been easier for the sly foot soldiers of marketing to invade your dreams – because all you want is to be beautiful, fit, shredded, ripped, don’t you? You hide away that ounce of fat on your belly like the most unsightly scar, and you munch away at your favorite chocolate in total secrecy, like a man committing mortal sin.
While this mass-hypnosis is underway, few are those who have noticed the ultimately appalling fact about this moneymaker we are all a part of – while claiming to have your best interest and longevity at heart, the bulk of the pretty people trying to stick you their product and program does not see you as an individual looking for a better life, only as a small, round, pink animal, filled with jiggling coins. (Pardon my language, but the truth is the truth is a difficult thing to swallow, and this was my best attempt to direct your attention my way.)
Eat nothing to gain nothing
Over the course of a few years, we have successfully been taught that our daily calorie intake is the most important number in our life, and that carbs are the devil. There are countless crash diets out there, just waiting for you to take the bait, which promise to lose you those however many pounds in however many days. (I’m pretty sure it will turn into hours quite soon)
I have to admit, they can deliver – these diet don’t care about the weight you will gain back,or the misery you will feel. They will get you your money’s worth – and will try to kill you in the process.
You are told to eat meat, dairy and eggs in insane amounts – never questioning the harm these products might be causing your overall health. Alternately, you are told to eat the craziest fruits and veggies on the market – slamming a pretty penny out of your pocket each time.
No one is trying to sell you what you already know about the way you should be eating. One word – moderation.
Shortcuts and Swindles to Success
Just like your choice of trendy diet, your choice of workout is also blurred with a heap of celebs trying to sell you their tried and tested routines. There are people out there who do their best to make you believe you need to have this that and the other to look your best, while at the same time doing their best to hide the fact that there is only one, and there will ever be only one thing you need to get, stay or whatever in shape. Your mind is the most powerful supplement you could ever get your hands on.
Marketing is now the cornerstone of wellness – if you can sell it, it works. And the first objective in selling anything is convincing people they need it, can’t live without it. Which is why you are told you need to look a certain way.
The point of getting fit has been lost somewhere along the dark path we are treading – being shredded does not make you better at any particular sport on endeavor. There are plenty of gold medalists who do not have abs you can see through their shirts. Being “fat” does not mean you are weak, and being ripped does also in no way imply you can run faster than the “fat” guy. On the contrary, being too ripped can cause quite a bit of harm.
Dark clouds and silver linings
While I stand by every single bitter word you have just read, the reality of things is not all bad. There are still trainers out there who will put your health first, and who will not promise to have you chiseled and red carpet ready in six weeks. I know the stars can do it, but looking like that is their nine-to-five. While you may be stuck at a desk, with nothing to eat but greasy takeout, an A-lister has a dozen assistants at their beck and call, whose job is, in turn, to keep the star shining, and ultimately, profitable. The way you look is not a multi-million dollar effort.
However, if you are lucky enough, you will find a trainer who will set you up with a realistic plan. Who will coach you for free if need be, just because he feels you can go that one more extra step. Who will be your coach, your safety net, your drill sergeant and the angel on your left shoulder, if need be.
Among all the other rubbish, you will also find a bunch of products that will enhance your performance, and not in the overly advertised way. There are still gyms out there which are not designer commercials. Which smell of chalk and iron in the morning, and where sparring partners and spotters are not a myth. There are tracks which will welcome your honest to God running shoes every night, and will not comment on the state of your hair or the bowl of ice-cream you snuck in at lunch. Which will only be glad to keep you company.
The truth is a lot is wrong with the fitness industry – as is with the world. And however pathetic it may sound, another truth is that change begins with a choice and a deliberate step, and our line of business is no exception.
Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for better life. Follow him on Twitter.
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