When it comes to doing exercise I’m sure the vast majority of people believe that yes it is. After all, you finish work for the day and the choices in front of you are (generally) either go home to drink alcohol, eat garbage & watch tv or go to the gym and burn up some of the calories from last night’s alcohol and junk you consumed while sat in front of the tv. You’re going to feel better if you choose the gym and you’re going to ‘improve’ your current state right?
The key word in the paragraph above has to be ‘improve’. I doubt there are many people that enter a gym with the intention of ‘slowly trying to delay the certain onset of weight gain and obesity’. If you are going to the gym then what you do in there is helping on the road to giving you a six pack – whatever it is it has to be doing some good and is better than sitting on your arse watching or reading junk.
I write this blog in response to a post I recently put on social media highlighting how wound up I get when visiting hotel gyms (or a lot of other gyms) because of the level of exercise intensity that usually goes on in there. Some work hard of course but there is a strong band of members that calorie count and pass the time until they reach a certain number. It doesn’t seem to matter what gets done, how you do it or how you feel at the end of it; so long as that calorie counter reaches 500 you can get off and go home. You’ve done your bit! You’ve forced yourself to go and you’ve gotten there. Well done!
It is this approach to health & fitness that I am writing about. Now if we take this approach then something definitely is better than nothing. But, let’s examine the consequences of ‘going through the motions’ on a piece of cardio kit and highlight why this choice of exercise may be doing you more harm than good. Based on the observations I made in the hotel gym this is what I found.
1. The indoor environment. It was a Spring day. Five treadmills were placed in front of a glass window and on the other side of the window was grassland full of trees blossoming at this time of year. Whether the weather was rain or shine is irrelevant. What I witnessed was five adults who (probably) had spent their day either in an office under artificial lighting or stuck behind the wheel of a car in traffic, now place themselves on an electric conveyor belt under artificial light watching TV inside a brick building.
My response to this is I find it heartbreaking. I’ll come onto the intensity of effort later but these people were simply notching up calories. I checked all of their screens and the data choice available to them was fixed on calories for all of them. Nature was available outside yet for an average of 30 minutes each they chose to plod on a machine when they could have experienced sunshine or rain. When we chose the venue for MPA Fitness we were sure to have somewhere with outdoor access. Training outside as part of your routine is a fun and beneficial addition to any session.
The level of intensity they were exerting was at what I call ‘recovery’ or ‘meditation’ levels but to recover, meditate or switch off from the stresses of your day inside a brick building watching television etc etc is about as peaceful as war! None of them will truly recover through this approach meaning that when they return home or go back to work in the morning recharging fully hasn’t happened. This continuous approach to exercise will leave us feeling worse off with stress levels gradually rising rather than reducing. One of the outcomes: increased weight gain.
2. Intensity of Effort: the calorie counting approach to exercise really is about as much use as a chocolate fire guard. Time and again I have watched people rack up calories on machines at a level of intensity that is beyond pathetic, all to simply burn calories. One of the women in question was at the treadmill’s opinion of 261 calories burned in 45 minutes when I looked over. Do you know how much food that is? There are 220 in a decent sized chocolate biscuit! By performing the walk you will perhaps burn off the one biscuit you had at lunch or last night and ZERO off your current fat stores. But do you want to know the kicker in this? All that waking on the treadmill you have just done is going to make you hungry as a hippo in a game of Hungry Hippos! You will go home and kick the fridge door off its hinges to replace the energy you have burned. The outcome here: you create no muscle burning tissue, you eat more afterwards than you have used in your session and yes – you gain more weight!
3. Focus to be fully engaged: life is about a series of sprints. Whenever we do something, anything, we should give it our full attention. As I’m writing this article now it is ALL I am doing. I’m not flitting between Facebook or washing the dishes or answering the phone or writing emails. I am giving my full attention to this article and when I finish it I will feel a sense of accomplishment. After I have penned my last word I will recover and recharge before moving onto the next effort whatever that may be.
By walking on a treadmill and watching tv you are giving your full commitment to nothing. You are not fully watching tv nor fully participating in a civil training session that is progressing you forward in terms of fitness and the result is you do not experience the highs of a productive session and you do not progress in the area you are choosing to improve. This is not only unfortunate for your gym programmes but it has a carry over effect in life. You never give your full attention to anything and simply coast through your journey missing out on the joys that hard effort can give you. The result: you are left unfulfilled and yep – weight gain again!
4. Do I ever do something rather than nothing? Yes I do. Probably once a week I have a gym session that is playtime and unstructured. Why do I do it? It is part of the bigger picture. It is fun time to try new moves and get a ‘burn’ from some different areas. It keeps me refreshed by breaking up a routine and leaves me feeling hungry for my next serious session the day after. It is part of my plan.
If you are somebody that does go through the motions at the gym, calorie counting and watching television on the treadmill then I urge you to look at what this approach has given you over the years. I’ll wager that you have gained weight and do not enjoy what you do. You should vary your routines. Try a class or ask for help from a good personal trainer if you can’t think of any ideas yourself. There’s so much fun to be had.