The Gym Paradox


Have you been an avid fitness member participant for years? Have you gotten results from the workouts? Many people have different reasons for going to a fitness club and engaging in various activities that range somewhere in the spectrum from aerobics (exercise which requires oxygen) and anaerobic (exercise that does not require oxygen) examples of these would be spinning classes and weight lifting respectively.

Some people go to the gym because they want to change their cholesterol profile, for example they want to increase their HDL, high density lipoprotein number, by engaging in aerobic activity that’s sustained at least for 20 minutes 3-5 days per week. Some people wish to build more muscle mass, so they lift weights to challenge the muscle fibers to breakdown and build at rest. Some people do it purely for aesthetic reasons and wish to change their appearance by redistributing their muscle to fat ratio and thus become slimmer. Others do it simply for social reasons. You might be able to identify these the easiest.

Albeit, the reasons listed above, I have always been intrigued with people I have observed to have exhibited no discernable outward changes in their appearance despite the fact they are in the gym/fitness center several times a week for years. This leads me to a personal theory that I will call “The Fitness Paradox.” I wish to explore this phenomenon further because one would think that the cumulative effects of exercise would bare the fruit of the effort and hours spent in the gym! Basically, why don’t people change? They often embark in a pledge of fitness January 1st, before or after major holidays, class reunions, or several summer months only to rebound to their original state.

Oh, there are many theories, to why, but I have a few observations that I have observed. I have witnessed some people doing the same routine for years. They use the same order, same weights, the same machines, guess what? They get the same results. If you find that you are not mixing up your routine with mixed repetitions, changing the different machines, pyramiding up the weight, increasing weight, or pyramiding down (decreasing the weight), using momentum (swinging the weight opposed to using the muscles in your body to move them) or practicing bad form, you won’t find a positive change. My advice to start reading literature on working out properly and then invest in a qualified fitness instructor to help you reinforce proper form and range of motion that is appropriate for your body and desired goals.

This itself will not be enough. It leads to the next paradox. Why is it that those with a trainer sometimes never show changes? Well, it could be for several reasons, one very obvious one is that some people simply cannot work out alone because of lack of self confidence or loneliness. Recognition of this should help to eliminate it, because having a trainer should be an expedient means to an end. Confidence should become greater in proportion to the positive changes felt and seen by the client. My advice is, make sure you are using your trainer as you should. They are not your confidante and are not there for social reasons! They should help you attain your fitness goals. They should be attentive to your workout, not your conversation. I have observed people workout for an hour session with a trainer who has not corrected poor form on machines, and has not varied a client’s workout in weeks. (Some of these instructors may realize this and justify to themselves that they are providing a service by helping the client). In actuality, they are performing a disservice to their client. If you are experiencing this with yourself, you may want to address this tactfully with your instructor and ask them to vary your workout and reiterate your goals. If they are unable to do this, find a new instructor! It’s your life!

The next paradox is seeing the overweight person really working up a sweat, exercising at maximum capacity to 45 to 60 minutes, they always look the same. I often wonder if they work out for the cardiovascular benefits or the social benefits and do not interrogate themselves as to why they are not thinner! Without discounting any positive factors in weight loss, remember when weight loss usually occurs when calories consumed is less then calories expended. So…no matter what the physiological barriers that may impair weight loss, the end result remains because they did not expend enough calories for their body to utilize their fat reserve as fuel, toward their becoming thinner.

If you have experienced this for yourself – realize that you are consuming too many net calories; probably this is not a conscience decision. I have heard many people who have “over exercised” to “over compensate” to lose fat. They cannot fudge the scale! They continue to exercise vehemently out of fear! Should they quit this new level of challenge, they fear they will tip the scale in the opposite direction! Sometimes I feel some of these individuals who are on this “never ending wheel” are actually increasing their appetite by over exercising! Then they find that they are consuming a net amount of calories that are greater than before they embarked any exercise they are engaged in! If this is the case, I would try to lessen the overall intensity and/or time interval and see if there is any decrease in the appetite. Or, another alternative is to become cognizant of your carbohydrate and choose those that are high in fiber and favorable sugars. Make sure you consume monounsaturated fats and low fat proteins concurrently with your meal to sustain your blood sugar levels from dropping and insulin steady.

The next paradox is that people will over exercise muscles on the weight machine. Remember that muscles build at rest, not when working out. Certain muscles, such as the largest muscle, the gluteus maximus, aka buttocks takes a longer recover period than a smaller one such as biceps ( or arm muscle). I see people work out and work out and work out the same muscle every workout without rest!

Along with rest is proper nutrition. If you do not fuel your body with proper nutrition, muscle growth will not occur. Taking this one step further, certain vitamins and minerals become essential to facilitate the biochemical changes in the body which will produce the external changes that will be noticed by yourself and others.

So… being present physically in the gym is not enough! Intensity and frequency is not always the answer. The cliché, “Exercise smart” is good advice. So is, “If you are doing what you’ve been doing, you are going to get what you’ve got.”

Source by Dr. Gary Gendron