How I Approach Fitness

From time to time I will get emails asking me about my current thoughts related to fitness. Nothing has really changed, but I have developed a framework for how I think about fitness. To me there are 3 blocks:

  1. Safety
  2. Effectiveness
  3. Novelty

Notice how I ordered them. This is not how most people approach fitness. Most will start with novelty. What looks cool or seems inspiring to them. Then they will figure out how to make those exercises effective. And then they will do their best to make that exercise plan safe.

This to me is the big flaw with fitness. I start with safe movements. Then I figure out to make them effective. Finally, when I do seek novelty, I do it without making the exercise less safe or less effective.

I don’t know if this approach would have been inspiring to me when I was younger. Like most young men, I was inspired by outliers. I wanted to know how Evander Holyfield exercised, not how to minimize my risk of injury.

Evander Holyfield

I’m forever grateful that I had a few injuries under my belt before I became aware of CrossFit. I went with Body by Science and have been forever grateful. Not as glamorous and less novel, but it works for me.

I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating: You will make the most gains in your exercise program by vastly reducing or eliminating injury risk. Maybe not in the first few years, but in the long run. So instead of trying to figure out how to knock out 20 perfect kipping pull-ups, I’ll be the guy doing controlled slow pulldowns.


Add yours

  1. At 53 I’m with you 100%! Nothing worse than being sidelined for weeks. I know what I’m talking. I know much younger people who gave up exercise all together because of injuries. For many old folks it’s often the beginning of the end. Stay injury-free – my first rule in the gym!

  2. @MAS
    Great post. I also think many of us have to come to terms with maintenance mode. For those of us who are a bit older, and who don’t want to push to the extreme (e.g., I won’tt do super slow to failure), we have to develop a mindset that just maintaining is OK. Otherwise, we get discouraged when progress slows. Some people like Clarence Bass seem to (knowingly) fool themselves by changing up exercises with periodization, but I think in the end, we have to be OK with maintenance. This philosophy appears to be ignored by the fitness industry, however, which pushes constant inprovement. What do you think?

  3. I don’t think visible improvement happens after 2 years of solid HIT. It happened for me only because I went from dumbbells to bodyweight which made me go to true failure instead of wrists failing, stopping because of heavy weights etc.

  4. @Jim – For me changing things up now means something different than it did when I was younger. Then I was changing exercises and exercise protocols. Now under the framework of safe movement, I’m changing set numbers, rep speed, static holds, etc. Sometimes I do more volume. Sometimes more intensity. But I always pick exercises that allow for safety throughout the entire movement of the exercise.

    @Ondrej – Interesting. For me I learned how temperature sensitive I was in the gym and dialed intensity accordingly. My gym keeps the temp at 69-70F, which is way too hot for me to go to failure. I’ll get an exertion headache instantly. So I accept my fate, reduce intensity and increase volume, but still use the same exercises outlined in Body By Science.

  5. Why the gym? I workout in the garden or at home after I open the windows for a while. We had some very low -15 Celsius days (5F) in winter, now the spring is knocking on the door with 14 C (57F).
    That said, a new gym opened 5 minutes walking distance. It’s led by a pair who still competes in bodybuilding in European Championships. Otherwise here isn’t much going on in terms of shops etc. so it’s quite surprising the opened quite a big gym here.

  6. @Ondrej – I guess I prefer the bright lights to constant rain outside here in Seattle 🙂

  7. Hey Michael,

    How does movement advocates such as Ido Portal fit in your views?

  8. @Paul – I have not looked into Ido Portal. All I can do is judge it from the few minutes I saw on their website. It appears to be a system for developing skills to build strength. Maybe I’m wrong.

    My personal approach is to develop strength using very low skill movements. Then if I want I can take those strength gains out of the gym and over to a skill based movement. The skill movement would certainly have a greater time commitment, so it would need to be something I really enjoyed.

    So if Ido appealed to me, I’d still use HIT to get a solid strength foundation before I showed up to my first class.

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