Saturday, February 5, 2011

You Call That a Workout? -- The 'Fluff Factor'


In watching Amanda's '400 Challenge' video I was struck by two things: 1) Of course the fact that it was a great workout that would seriously tire you out in a short amount of time and 2) She uses the term, 'fluff' which is the perfect way to describe way too many classes, videos, etc. out there.

This may sound harsh, but when I'm at the gym (or watching those late night/early morning TV workout time-slots) I am on one hand laughing and rolling my eyes and on the other hand feeling slightly bad for the people following along and even the instructors themselves. I want to laugh because lots of what I see is ridiculous but also far too much time is spent lackadaisically talking, resting, sipping on water, standing around, or stretching. I then feel bad for the people doing the class because they aren't going to be getting the results they want or expect. Finally I feel slightly embarrassed for the instructors because either they are fooling themselves into believing they are delivering solid workouts or are misinformed...either way they are doing these people a disservice.

Lots of these sort of 'standard' classes follow a similar routine: get in, chat about new events, set-up (if it's a step class or you need some weights), move to stretching and then a warm-up. The class gets officially 'going' and then is ended with another round of stretches and the cool-down. There are then sometimes group meditations or reflections. Now, there is nothing wrong with meditation but does it necessarily belong in your workout? There are also a time and place for a warm-up, cool down, and stretching; however if you look at that standard class, say it lasts an hour, the amount of time actually spent sweating and working hard is maybe, what, 20 minutes?

I think a part of the reason that most classes follow a format like this and aren't nearly as intense as they have to be is that for the masses this is what they want. Most people don't like to hurt or be in 'pain', so really intense classes may not necessarily get the following...and gyms are a business after all. Now, I'm NOT saying that there aren't kick-your-butt classes and programs out there, that is not true because I know that there are, and I'm also NOT saying there aren't plenty of highly motivated people out there who do workout really intensely and kick their own butts on a weekly/daily basis. I'm just saying that there are still too many people falling into the 'fluff' trap. How do you know you're getting sucked into the fluff zone?
  • Your workout time is for working out: Many people are crunched for time so when it's 'go' time get in that mentality. Get started right away and don't get sidetracked by talking about your day or the weather; sure you can exchange some words but you should be focused on the task at hand. Finally, come prepared; have all your gym clothes and equipment laid out beforehand so you aren't wasting precious time looking for things.
  • Stretching is for after: Actually it is bad to stretch cold muscles and you shouldn't stretch first thing. Go right into your warm-up and then full routine. Stretching is good when you're done and warm.
  • Embrace the pain: The kind of muscle pain that comes from fatigue isn't a 'bad' thing; it's your body's way of telling you it's working and that is going to get you the results. The biggest limiting factor is the mind; it will tell you that you are spent, tired, unable to go on FAR earlier than is actually's all a mind game people and telling yourself that you CAN do it is the best way to combat that and keep plugging away.
 So go out there and hit it. Intensity and a consistent work ethic are the tools you need to achieve the fitness goals you set and also the body you envision for yourself...a stronger you. :)

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  1. ABSOLUTELY AGREE!!! I really have a hard time getting with the classes. I have been doing your 20 minute sweat workout and doing the 400 challenge and I am seeing much better results and I am much more out of breath than I would be at these classes.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Melanie, and so happy to hear that the 400 challenge is whipping you into shape! :) Keep it up, girl!