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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Silver Bullets

Silver bullet #1

Silver Bullet #2
I waded into the fitness blog-o-sphere last night after i got an email letting me know i had a new twitter follower, Pete Cerqua (thanks for following Pete!).  Pete is author of a book called 90-second fitness and i had to check him out.  During my surf session i also ran across another 'fitness program' called the 20 second fitness solution.

Talk about doing more with less.... but is this kind of stuff for real?

Well yes and no.  But if you look into it, you're likely to only find the 'yes' part - in other words, you'll get lots of claims affirming that it works, or pointing to the science behind it.  Both of the above mentioned programs are best sellers, have made their 'creators' wealthy, and have obviously helped lots of people.  But there are a few issues that always pop up in my mind surrounding stuff like this that bear mentioning, and that i don't think are voiced often enough.

1)  Statistics (part 1). ANY program that claims to help people accomplish something that enough of them want to accomplish and is 'affordable' will have lots of users (assuming people know about it).  The fact of human nature is that many people want the silver bullet and are willing to pay in the hope of finding it.
2) Statistics (part 2).  ANY program that has many people trying it is going to be able to trot out what seems like an endless stream of success stories.  Crash diets and ridiculous exercise programs included. It is hard, if not impossible, to distinguish between a good program and a bad one based on success stories alone.
3) Consistent exercise and a sensible diet lead to good health.  Period.  ANY and ALL 'programs' that are sound and really work will be based on these ideas - differences in programs amount to variations on the theme.  Some variances may actually be 'important' of course - particularly for certain individuals who have limitations in one way or another.  It seems like a favorite perceived limitation of people is time, hence the popularity of programs that are marketed on the idea that they only take seconds.

Ok, now i'm going to get a little bit ornery.

I do believe (obviously) that truncated programs an work.  BUT.... they are f'ing hard.  In many ways they are much harder than more traditional programs - particularly for the majority of people (out of shape trying to get in shape) who are attracted to them.  I read so many quotes from reviews of the above programs written by self described out of shape people who were apparently delighted to learn they could get in shape in such little time.  Yep, you can.  But it will hurt.  A lot.  And it will hurt the next day, and the next.  Sure, you may only be doing two tabata sets (the 20 second fitness program involves having participants do one to three tabata sets a day - really 4-12 minutes rather than 20 seconds.... the 20 seconds refers to the length of the work intervals in the tabata set) a day - but how many people can do that?  more to the point, how many people will?  

Real truth in advertising might include something like the following description:

In order to successfully follow this program, you will need to have the mental tenacity to subject yourself to an excruciating amount of pain on a regular basis!  During the last 30 seconds of your wall sit, for example, it will feel as if someone is slowly dragging a razor blade along the top of your quivering thigh, parting the skin and making you bleed.  Don't worry, any scarring (emotional or otherwise) is most likely temporary and a necessary part of the program!  And remember... due to the truncated nature of our revolutionary approach, you will only have to endure this EXTREME discomfort three times a day, three days a week!  What are you waiting for?!

But there really is science supporting the efficacy of Tabata and other HIIT (high intensity interval training) schemes as an alternative to more time intensive training. the science, however, is based on clinical studies in which subjects actually meet the high intensity requirement.  Most of your average couch-potatoes-cum-fitness-converts that form the bread and butter for these companies don't have an actual experience with what high intensity means. And even though the literature of these and similar programs will mention (although they certainly don't emphasize) that you're going to be working hard - people typically will have no idea what will actually be required of them as they are typing in those credit card digits.

Here, in my opinion, is the bottom line.

There are no silver bullets.  95% (or more) of people who think time is the reason they aren't able to stay in shape have just found it to be the latest hindrance, and will find a different obstacle in a truncated program.  Getting in shape for those not in shape - and then staying in shape - will continue to require something that no prescribed program gives you.  Something that if you do have, allows you to succeed with pretty much any program.  That something is WILL.  and as far as i know, its still not available in three easy payments of 39.99.....

1 comment:

  1. Not to mention the number of "out-of-shape" people trying these programs that get hurt - really injured - because they lack the foundation for this level of intensity. I can't imagine training at high intensity intervals if I haven't trained...ever.