I was inspired to write this post during my workout today after two weeks of belonging to my new gym here in southeast Georgia. After working for Equinox in Manhattan for a year and a half, I have seen some pretty poor form and even dangerous training by members, but the things I have witnessed at my new gym have been some combination of random and treacherous.
I will be the first to give credit to anyone who visits the gym, whether it's to workout on your own, attend group fitness classes, etc. However, I challenge each person who spends the time, energy, and money to go to a gym to answer the following questions: Why? What are your goals? What is your plan to achieve those goals? What happens once you achieve your original goal or goals? I believe that not having a plan or answer to these questions is what often forces people into a lifelong vicious cycle of success and failure when it comes to fitness.
One of the best things you can do for yourself before pursuing any program is to set S.M.A.R.T. fitness goals for yourself (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely). Often when I ask a new client what their health and fitness goals are they say "lose weight." This vague "goal" is virtually useless. I can appreciate a weight loss goal for the health benefits that come along with it, but without specifics, it's meaningless and unattainable. How much weight do you want to lose? What time frame do you hope to accomplish this goal within? Why do you want to lose the weight? What would the weight loss mean to you? Have you ever tried to achieve this goal before, and if so, what obstacles did you encounter? You simply cannot achieve a goal without a PLAN to get yourself there.
Today I watched two young guys doing dumbbell deadlifts with their legs so far apart that they could have fallen into a split, rounded backs, and knees collapsing inward. To be honest, I could have pulled the same amount of weight as these guys, so the weight was not the problem. It was simply bad, horrific form. Then, I saw one of them leaving with his knees in braces. I'm under the impression that his goal is to "get bigger," but how much bigger will he get when he's no longer lifting due to injury? Why did he choose to do that exercise in that specific way? We simply do not question why we do the things we do in the gym often enough.
Here is another example. Today I also overheard the discussion between a mother and daughter who had just joined the gym yesterday in hopes of losing weight. They clearly didn't know how to use any of the equipment and stated that they had never exercised before, so they were just doing random exercises with bad form. Are they ever going to reach their weight loss goals? I cannot answer with certainty since I don't know exactly what their goals are, but I will guess probably not. Whether the bad form leads to injury or the lack of results lead to frustration and burnout, the chances that they will not succeed this time around are extremely high.
Next time you exercise, ask yourself why you are doing each exercise you are doing, what your goals are, and how that exercise will help you reach your goals. You may even need to step back and set S.M.A.R.T. goals rather than visiting the gym and randomly exercising or jumping into a class. Keep a fitness journal to track your workouts, plan future workouts, write down your goals, and keep track of your progress. This will help keep you from flat lining once an initial goal is met.
Questions? Feel free to leave them as comments!