Personal training clients stretching in the gym in Apollo Beach, FL.

Group stretching classes, on the other hand, do equal punishment.
I feel bad for people who don’t know how to train. I see them every day, and many are not in the gym. Many people think being “in shape” requires doing cardio in 100+ degree weather, or wearing a sweat suit to lose weight,  or running every day (ugh…), or doing anything that is unpleasant. It almost seems that in our modern-day world, fitness equals punishment. The old saying “If it tastes good, it’s not good for you” seems to have spread into the fitness world, so now people think “If it makes me miserable, it must be good for me.” Thankfully, this is not so.

You see, I don’t think fitness, or being in shape, needs to be a miserable lifestyle. In fact, I’m passionate about my training and, because of that, enjoy it immensely, and I believe everyone should be passionate about their chosen form of exercise, as this will give you the best chance at success. If you enjoy it, you will do it, and do it well. If you don’t enjoy it, do something else, but do something. Some people are yoga people, others love walking (hopefully with their dog), while others are passionate about swimming. Do what you enjoy and do it as much as your schedule and energy levels allow.

That being said, I’m not just going to wax philosophical on you. I’m here to give you my recommendations on how to be fit. I believe that the best way to be healthy, strong, flexible and agile, and look your best is to lift weights. More specifically, you should train for performance, and not for looks. Training for looks is a dead-end street, you’re results will never come quickly enough and eventually you’ll start thinking that more is better, so you’ll exercise longer, or go to the gym more often, and eventually you’re going to the gym every day and can’t figure out why your physique looks the same. I’ll explain my point using the example of athletes.

Athletes are the largest population of people on this planet who have fantastic physiques, more so than Hollywood, more so than the modeling industry. Athletes look great, and yet, they don’t train for looks, instead, they train to improve their performance at their chosen sport. They don’t concern themselves with calories or following the South Beach Diet, they eat in a way that gives them energy to do the training they need to do to improve, and, in the process, develop amazing physiques. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating; when training for performance, you only need to lift weights 3 times a week, as this allows for optimal recovery between workouts. Lifting every day will only increase you’re potential for injury and leave you burned out and you’ll eventually quit and then believe that weight-training is a farce, and that only people who take steroids can build muscle.

Proper weight-training, with the goal being improved performance, involves doing a sensible amount of work each workout, roughly 3-5 exercises per workout , training 2-3 times a week, and then doing a back-off week every 4-6 weeks to let your mind and body recuperate from intense training. A back-off week is just what it implies, you still go to the gym that week but you lift lighter weights and don’t push yourself as hard. These simple guidelines will ensure that you are at your best each and every time you go to train, and your training will have purpose as you’re goal will always be to improve your performance. This doesn’t mean each workout needs to be better than the last, since it is impossible to determine how your energy levels will be day-to-day, but rather, that each workout builds upon the next workout. So, for example, if you’re feeling run-down on your squat day, you still squat that day, maybe with lighter weight or with less reps since you’re tired, but you still practiced the movement and even less than maximum effort improves performance. That’s one of the great things about weight-lifting, you literally do what you feel like doing on any given day, so if your training on Friday involves 5 exercises but after 2 exercises you feel worn out, then go home, you still did something more effective and productive for yourself than that dude whose been on the elliptical for 45 minutes at a heart-bursting pace. Your 15 minutes of weight-lifting was better for your physique goals than that lady who just did an hour-long aerobics routine. Want to know why? Because what you did advanced your journey towards improved performance.