It was Christmas morning.
Dressed in our pajamas, my wife, mother-in-law and I sipped coffee while we opened presents. As the fireplace crackled in the background, my mother-in-law picked up a present from her son. She opened it, and her face expressed a look of disappointment. She lifted her head and said, "It's P90X." My wife and I both turned to each other, trying to decipher what a P90X could possibly be. Luckily, my mother-in-law explained: "It's a workout routine. Chris (her son) has been really into it, and it's helped him get in shape." My mother-in-law then put the gift aside and grabbed a piece of candy from the coffee table.
P90X (Power 90 Extreme) is a home exercise program. It is sold via infomercials and promises to deliver results in 90 days through an intense combination of various workouts. My brother-in-law got into it, saw results and thought his mother would enjoy the program just as much as he did. His intentions were good; he had seen his body improve, liked the routine and wanted his mother to feel the same way. She obviously did not.
Unfortunately, not all workouts work out for everyone.
People like what they like and oftentimes cannot really describe why. It is sort of like the Supreme Court's description of pornography: "I know it when I see it."
Angela Leigh, a group fitness manager at the luxury gym Equinox, believes that "the 'best' workout depends on the person."
According to Leigh, "in general terms, anything that gets you sweating and moving in a challenging and safe way is good for you." Essentially, the best workout is the one that you actually do, provided you are not in danger of injuring yourself and provided that it is actually a workout.
Leigh explains more specifically, "Doing something that combines the three modalities of strength or resistance training, cardiovascular exercise and some sort of flexibility or stretching will give you a total body workout."
Leigh says the time spent working out could be a big inhibitor for some people. As a result, one needs to maximize that time. According to Leigh, "if you can only do one workout a day, try to do all three modalities together."
After speaking with Leigh, it was clear to me that one modality in particular often is ignored: resistance training. Leigh thinks it should be a critical component of anyone's routine. "Resistance training will benefit you, if done correctly, long term. Your metabolism feeds off of muscles."
Why doesn't cardio have the same impact? Leigh explains: "Muscles are in charge of revving up your metabolism, (whereas) cardio (just) maintains it. People will spend an hour straight on a cardio machine and think that they've burned 600 calories, but that is simply not true. Everyone should be mixing in resistance training. Three or four times a week is safe and beneficial."
Leigh also talks about common urban legends that lifting could negatively impact specific groups, such as women and runners. "There is a myth that lifting heavy weights gets you bulky, but it is just that, a myth. Eating bad food gets you bulky. One of my good friends is a marathon runner who does resistance training four or five times per week, and his running is better for it." She clarifies by explaining that "you want a strong and heated engine. The more you feed it with sprints and challenges and constantly keep it guessing the more your body changes."
Despite her passion for the benefits of resistance training, Leigh underscores that any workout that is safe and challenging is a good one. "I am a firm believer that anything that gets you moving and sweating and (that makes you) feel successful (is) good." Her only additional advice is to "spice it up. If you're intimidated about something, it is probably because your body really needs it."
P90X works for some people; yoga works for others. Ideally, you're doing some combination of resistance training that raises your heart rate with a flexibility component. However, what is most important is that you do something. As long as you are working out safely and actually working out, keep doing whatever workout you enjoy doing.
You could share your love of a routine with others, but they might not share your passion. At the same time, don't be afraid to try new workouts, because your body loves new challenges. When it comes to working out, Christmas presents or pornography, you never know what you might like unless you try it.