The mainstream fitness icons that many trainers emulate are utterly useless and damaging to most potential clients. Especially in vogue are boot camps and want-to-be athlete training programs and trainers, each containing more “Insanity” , “X’s, “Bells”, or “Pump” than the next.
Hasty, haphazard, and high intensity exercise without regard to form or purpose becomes simply a test of pain tolerance. Exercise does involve muscular breakdown, recovery, and adaptation. Yet, you must ask yourself, what should you break down and why? Will you break down the right muscles to reach your goals or are you injuring joints? Can you recover positively without undo side effect? Do your muscles adapt to the stresses in the manner you intend? Or do you create imbalances that make you look unattractive?
In an effort to simply lose a few pounds you may lift way too many weights with poor form and beat yourself into the ground. Ending up tight, bulky, lumpy, and shortened is probably not the “result” you were looking for. If you want to be “tough” then train with America’s toughest trainer. If you want a beautiful body then seek out a body artist.
Alas, even the more “gentle” forms of exercise can create injury when the trainee gets wrapped up in “doing” the exercise rather than adapting it to the needs of their body. This issue was recently addressed in the New York Times Magazine | January 08, 2012 How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body ,By WILLIAM J. BROAD The author proposes, “Popped ribs, brain injuries, blinding pain. Are the healing rewards worth the risks?”
However, it is not Yoga, Pilates, weightlifting, or athletic conditioning that is “bad”. Exercise only becomes “bad” when it is poorly applied to one’s body alignment. An ego that strives for prideful short-term achievement while sacrificing the integrity of the body’s tissue creates “bad” exercise.
Without knowledge of one’s unique shape and how it should look when enhanced by exercise, people blindly plod forward into number goals and mimicry. Too often people imitate the workouts of others and think they will get the same result. Then when it doesn’t work they just do more! What is missed entirely in most programs is the ART of applying exercise to any given shape or form.
Simply stated, your body alignment creates your shape. If you try to force your hourglass shape through a square shape exercise program you may wind up looking and feeling very unhappy. You may also get injured in the process. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what shape they are, what shape they could be, and what exercises will get them there. Most trainers don’t either. Most only see the surface. They can see the paint but not the painting.
The ability to undo compensations and create a specific shape through exercise is a process that involves study, experience, talent, and honed intuition. Your trainer should possess these qualities. They should also be able to motivate you by involving you in the vision. Both of you must believe that your body is a work of art in process!
The world’s gyms are filled with under experienced part-time trainers who will be doing something else in few years. Most of them have achieved a novice level, knowing mainly how to train themselves with fair to even great result. But they may be light years away from knowing how to analyze the postural shape of a new client and develop a vision for them.
To find out if your trainer has moved beyond the novice/ apprentice level of training and is perhaps a a true body artist ask a few questions.
1.) How will you help me lose weight? If they plan on trying to “beat” the weight off you using resistance exercise and pounding cardio this is a red flag. Weight lifting is to become stronger or sculpt your muscles. Cardio is to train your cardiovascular system. Any fat loss benefit is strictly secondary to these purposes. Your trainer may bankrupt your body trying to cash the checks your mouth can write. Address fat loss at the point of intake! Discover your daily metabolism and make the dietary changes necessary. Check out bodymedia.com
2.) When I train my legs with too many squats and lunges my pants fit tighter in the front, how can I avoid that but still create tone? They may suggest that you just don’t do them and do other exercises. The best answer is to modify them so that you work the weaker muscles (hamstrings and glutes) and not the stronger ones (quads and hip flexors).
3.) I sit at a desk all day do you think that affects my upper body tone? The obvious answer is yes because you are not exercising. But more importantly, fixing your posture is the key to getting muscle control and the tone. They should speak about opening your chest, lowering your shoulders, raising your head and rib cage, and stabilizing your scapula.
4.) Even though I have some fat to lose I feel like I am losing my waistline over the years. How does that happen? Can you fix it? If they say you should do side bending exercises with weights, run! The correct answer is you may have a loss of postural support that is causing your rib cage to move closer to your pelvis. Create core strength that supports a long upright posture and you may gain it back.
After just a few questions you will have enough information to proceed with caution. Don’t be afraid to back out, the cost of moving in the wrong direction can be high. You may decide to continue your search for a potential body artist right away.
Until the INLINE Art of Exercise has reached more trainers I only have a few recommendations. There are few that I trust beyond Pilates instructors. So let’s start with them: Lisa Johnson in Boston, Brooke Siler and crew at Re:AB Pilates in NY, Katy Striebinger and Gloria Tremonti in Chicago, Vanessa Pinkham in Johannesburg. Trainers in the D.C. area: Aaron Sterling, Shane Harris, and Chris Radousakis at Sterling in Adams Morgan. And of course if you are ever in Maryland come see me and my team at INLINE Private Training! I hope to add to this list soon. Meanwhile, I will just have to teach you to help yourself!