Go Strong or Go Home

Myth:  You can get a good workout without ever breaking a sweat.

I was listening to a radio talk show one day, and some poor woman called the resident shrink to ask a question about losing weight. The caller broke into tears almost immediately, stating that she rides her exercise bike six to eight hours a day, and she still doesn’t lose any weight. “I’m even riding it while I’m talking to you now,” she cried.

Sadly, the therapist gave her the usual nonsense about how she should more accepting of her body, go to counseling to try to determine the roots of her overeating, and perhaps try to cut some fat from her diet.

What the therapist should have said is, “Turn up the damn resistence on your exercise bike!” The caller was delusional. She was deluding herself into thinking that she should be gaining some benefit from sitting on a bike for hours, moving her feet around. Obviously, if she could ride the bike that long, and even carry on a conversation on the radio while doing so, she was not working hard enough to gain any physical benefit.

I see this type of person at the gym all the time. They might be on a stationery bike, treadmill or stair machine. The machine is set to zero resistance or to such a slow pace, that their heart rates never go more than 20 beats above their resting heart rates.

Make Your Workouts CountWhen I rail against these pretend workouts, I often hear, “well, it’s better than nothing.” Wrong; it’s worse than nothing. A wimpy workout is worse than no workout at all. The reason for this is that it is providing false information to the putative exerciser. We all walk around with an ever changing and evolving health plan. Even when a person is not on an active diet, hopefully they are still monitoring their overall health situation. For instance, if you had an especially big dinner last night, you might elect to skip the Krispy Kreme donuts today. If you went to the lunch buffet on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday you might opt for a salad.

But, as the old computer expression goes, garbage in, garbage out. If you are leading yourself to think you are working out at the gym when all you are really doing is sitting on a bike moving your feet, that misconception will go into your internal health dialog. The result is that you have a third slice of pizza while watching the football game because, after all, you worked out. You may elect to super size your fries, because you worked out.

Further, this delusion is harmful to your attempts to incorporate a real exercise plan into your life. How do you think our woman on the radio would react to the suggestion that she just needs to exercise more? “I tried exercising eight hours a day, and it didn’t do me any good,” she would likely say. Exercise is no longer a part of her health plan, because in her mind she tried it with no results.

Don’t fake yourself out. Pick an exercise, and then do it right. Whichever aerobic exercise you choose, it should leave you sweating and slightly winded. Your body offers a great internal barometer for your workout. If you are really out of shape, then you will be sweating and winded in very short order. As you become more fit, it will take more and more effort to achieve the same level of fatigue.

When you decide to exercise, do it right. Don’t waste your time only pretending to exercise.  Invest in a heart rate monitor.  Most gyms have equipment that wirelessly monitors your heart rate and adjusts the resistance automatically to keep you in the exercise heart rate zone.  This is an easy way to keep yourself honest.

Most of us have the same mindset when it comes to going to the gym. We hate it at first, we start to like it when we see some results, and eventually we fall into a begrudging recognition that it is a necessary evil if we are going to stay in reasonable shape. Don’t get me wrong, I like working out and may even look forward to it, but of all the things I could possibly be doing at that very moment, it will never be number one.

So, if you are going to take the time to go to the gym, do it right and don’t just go through the motions. Go strong or go home.

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August 14, 2012Permalink 1 Comment
One Response to Go Strong or Go Home
  1. Thanks for bringing this to my attention – I’ve reviewed it myself now. A very enjoyable read

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