Humans are blessed with creativity and oftentimes that is as much a hindrance than a virtue. The pursuit of being unique and different can be great when it comes to consumer products. Certainly, I would much rather drive a car than ride a horse and text messaging is far easier than the Pony Express but there are a few things in this world that should be done the old fashioned way. When it comes to getting in better shape, there is always a new craze to grab our shrinking attention spans .
Your fitness should be something you think long and hard about before settling on an activity. First, what is your ultimate goal? Secondly, you work backwards and find the best and safest methods to get you to your goal. Thirdly, find a qualified instructor who offers the philosophy that fits your path. Other factors that should be considered are price and schedule but those things are less important if your first three criteria are satisfied.
Before my Three Treasures days, I was a financial services agent and one area of focus was cleaning and sorting out everyone's financial "miscellaneous dresser drawer". In every kitchen across America, there's that one drawer where we stash everything into and nothing fits together or matches up . We tend to have one of these dresser drawers for our workouts as well. We try a bunch of things but they're not coordinated or fit together.
In fitness, our awareness is not directed towards long term stability and benefit. Everything has to be fast and results have to be blatantly obvious or else we look elsewhere. Imagine if our houses were built without proper attention paid to the foundation. Where do you ultimately want to go with your training? How healthy and pain free do you want the last 20 years of your life to be?
3 simple things to look for when evaluating your workouts:
1. When does the Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns kick in? This is the point where your workouts are actually harmful to you but you may not realize or accept it. Say you set a goal of being a marathon runner. You will see great results right away. Improved visible fitness (look better in the mirror); the thrill of sharing a common goal with others and accomplishing something very difficult to do. You must consider the internal damage and pounding to your body. Similar to water damage or termites, the damage to the interior of your home cannot be visible to the naked eye.
If you are lucky enough to be paid for putting your body on the line (NFL, UFC/MMA...) then the damage to your body may be justified because you are being paid extreme amounts of money that is not available in the regular work place. But for the rest of us who just want to get in shape and have fun, we need to weigh the long term benefits versus the long term or permanent damage to our bodies.
Ultimately, how long your body lasts is how long your exercise of choice lasts.
2. Are you balancing the Yang with some Yin? Most activities are very Yang. What that means is, in order to see results or improve performance, your muscles need to be broken down and built back up. Over-training does not give us enough time to recover before we embark on the next workout. Wearing out your joints is like wearing out the tread in your tires. They just don't come back. I was a licensed Personal Trainer and very little attention was paid to the health of ligaments and tendons. It was all about cardio and muscles. There was virtually no mention of stretching or preventative care.
Balance your Yang activities (martial arts; boot camps; football...) with Qi Gong (Chinese Yoga), Massage Therapy or Tai Chi. Standing and sitting meditation are great options. Yin activities improve the most important things that keep you alive, like improved breathing (oxygen); nourishing the organs and relaxing the muscles. In Chinese medicine and Kung Fu, your body is like a candle where it will eventually burn out (expire) and the Yin activities will help slow down the burning of the candle (slow down the aging process.) There's a myriad of great reasons to start Yin activities but probably the best one is just having that mental balance where you have clarity of thought.
3. Who's going to be teaching you? The length of time for fitness certifications has shortened. Experience counts when it comes to trusting your health to someone else and since we can't un-shorten the licensing process, we can do a bit more research on the amount of experience of the instructor. Take a gander at their top students and see if the apple fell far from the proverbial tree. Learning the ABC's of fitness does not take a lot of time but it does take time to internalize that info. In traditional Kung Fu (before Communist China), you are still a beginner if you have trained less than 10 years. Think about the difference in thinking there.
Hope this article is helpful in your research when it comes to working out. Our advice is always be balanced and do things in the right ratio and you will be fine.