When you buy a car, you know that it will slowly deteriorate the more you use it. Park it in a garage and it will remain pristine, but drive it and the tires will wear out, its oil will need changing, its paint will grow dull, and its working parts will break down. Put more miles on a compact and it does not become a Mercedes or a Ferrari.
Your body, however, is different. It does become a Ferrari the more you use it. How? We have arrived at three requirements, or secrets, to making that happen. These basic tenets, are guaranteed to usher you to greater fitness. If you follow these general rules, you will get better.
- Follow the right program. Choose a program that is scientifically based and can be tailored to your needs. Then stick with that program for at least twelve weeks.
- Set a goal. The right main objective along with certain incremental goals provides the perfect mix of mile markers and motivation.
- No patience, no gain. Gauge your expectations for achieving your goals not by the clock, as you would a salon treatment, but by the calendar, as you would a vegetable garden
Follow the Right Program
We live in the most fitness-conscious civilization ever known. The proliferation of gyms, popular exercise regimens, videos, and yoga studios has made fitness a multimillion-dollar business and has sustained a variety of fitness philosophies, many in conflict with one another. Millions of people spend too much time, money, and sweat to get fit, and often they fail. Why? They suffer from the same debilitating fitness problem: oversimplified approaches and techniques, often explained by people with limited medical or scientific background.
Too many of these fitness ideas are based on one piece of scientific understanding and not the whole picture. They address only one facet of fitness, or they address all of us as if we were so many identical widgets marching out of a factory with the same strengths and weaknesses, the same starting point, and the same schedule. “Experts” of the moment oblige everyone’s desire for fitness information. They dish out advice that is loosely based on a technique that worked for a few celebrities or one high- profile athlete; thus a “hot new training tip” starts circulating. Would-be athletes instantly feel that they have been given some secret to achieving higher performance . . . until they start applying it. Then they realize they have nothing. And they fail again.
The sheer number of magic fitness tricks out there tells you there’s no magic trick. Magic? No. But there is an entire field of training science and medicine relatively unknown to the average fitness- seeker. So we will give you an exercise plan, yes, but also the proven science that is the basis of the plan. We will give you “what to do” but also “why to do it,” backed by a huge body of evidence, which is the root of our guarantee: You can definitely get more fit. Once you understand the how and why, you will be armed for fitness for the rest of your life.
Why a Program?
So why do you need a program? Why not just do a lot of everything?
If you moved to a part of the world where there were no cars, no escalators, no UPS—say, to the steppes of Mongolia—maybe you wouldn’t need an exercise program. Or if you lived in a society where your lifestyle required a great range of daily physical activity, again, maybe you wouldn’t need a program. Certainly preceding generations did not. But because the amount of activity required of most people today is so minimal, and the time available to exercise is so tightly circumscribed by work, family, civic, and other obligations, most people need to be precise with the precious time they do commit to fitness.
Fitness is a term that encompasses a fistful of physical qualities: cardiovascular health, muscular strength, flexibility, balance and coordination, and ideal weight. A person who is fit, in our mind, embodies all of these qualities. To help you get there while making the best use of your exercise time, money, and energy, our fitness program proposes the best activities at the correct duration and intensity, a week at a time.
Each week of this program is a cocktail of varying activities, thirty to sixty minutes in length. A typical week looks something like this:
We prescribe to patients the exact duration and intensity of activity they need each day, but those specifications would be hieroglyphics to you now if we listed them here. There we will shepherd you through assembling the ideal twelve-week program for you, based on your current level of fitness.
SET A GOAL
Reasonable long-term and incremental goals, we have found, aren’t necessarily for the good days, but for the bad days. Any one of a number of goals may be the trigger that gets you out the door. But a goal is only effective if it’s the right goal—not too easily attainable and not too lofty. People come into our clinic who have never exercised but want to buy a bike. This is good. Then they will say, “My goal is to do the Death Ride,” a popular California event that includes 16,000 feet of climbing over 130 miles. And they want to do it in, say, three months. We give our athletes every tool we’ve got to help them achieve their goals, but such relatively high aspirations require that the body be given time to build the systems necessary to do it. This type of short-term goal is a setup for failure, though it might be appropriate as a long-term goal.
NO PATIENCE, NO GAIN
Many people we see also have weight loss as a goal. The dual ambitions of losing weight and gaining fitness require more careful attention to the plan, because you need to consume enough calories to fuel vigorous exercise and healthy recovery while simultaneously keeping a precise negative caloric balance in order to lose weight. The good news is that you can lose weight while getting fit, but these two things don’t happen in three months, or in six months. They require precise steps along a carefully laid path.
We advocate the minimum number of hours at the lowest (easiest) intensity possible to see gain, yes, but the considerable physical metamorphosis caused by exercise takes time. People want to lose ten pounds in ten minutes; they think of a workout at the gym like a visit to a hair salon: They walk in, do their time, and expect to walk out transformed. They go for a bike ride and weigh themselves when they get home to see if they’ve lost weight. People think fitness should be satisfying in the same manner as buying new clothes or a new gadget; they anticipate instant gratification. There are gratifying facets of fitness that do come quickly—some, such as the pure pleasure you feel for the rest of the day, are immediate—but the seeds of immense long-term change must first be sown, then grown. Fitness is cultivated on the same scale as a garden—over a season, not overnight.