How People Waste Their Time in The Gym

Example of not stressful environment

The best evidence based literature suggests that if we spend most of our time working on the maximum and at our maximum, we can then spend the rest of our time splurging on steaks and imported bottled water.

Pushing your limit will show you how amazing your body is. It will show you that you have something inherent in your biology that will respond to higher demands during training. Sub maximal low intensity training will only serve to put you on a merry-go-round of equating training with calorie burning.

I ask all my clients to consider diet alone as something that attenuates fat. Training is thus viewed as the domain of providing enough stimulus to get your body to change, addressing movement dysfunctions and limitations, and addressing technique through cultivating an athlete type mentality. To reiterate, I encourage people not to look at training as something that will burn your fat. Your diet will do that for you.

Considering the gym as a place to burn calories is inherently dangerous. What if you eat a little too much? Well, it’s back to the gym with yourself. What if after you workout you get really hungry and eat? Back to the gym to burn it off then. Before you know it, you are chasing your tail and never making any progress.

Exercise as a fat loss strategy is a poor one when compared with addressing diet. Walking at an above average speed on the treadmill burns 219 calories per hour. There are 352 calories in one piece of chocolate cake, without frosting unfortunately. It’s a doomed strategy. Now consider homeostasis ( recall that homeostasis is the body’s tendency to promote normality in response to stimulus). What trainers either don’t know (most likely) or don’t tell you is that you may in fact burn 219 calories that first time you hit the treadmill for an hour. Or 500 calories in spin class. Subsequent treadmill sessions for the same length of time and intensity will yield far poorer calorie burning results because your body has responded to the training, and become more efficient at dealing with the treadmill set at that speed for that length of time. Oh yes. So your sessions do less and less every time you do them. Yet you get hungrier and hungrier. If that was an investment, you would be a fool to throw money in. Yet almost every one does it all the time with their training.

When you lift the heaviest weights possible, you can reasonably expect your body to gain a certain amount of muscle. When you squat with just your body weight, unless you have been previously bedridden for months, you can’t reasonably expect your body to gain any muscle at all. Feeling “the burn” doesn’t mean anything other than you are accumulating lactic acid and other metabolites.

Potential negative side effects of weight training are the people who constantly telling you to “be careful.” These same people are the ones that told me to watch out when I visited Naples a few years ago. I had one of the most splendid times in my life. When I asked these advice givers what their own experience of Naples was, they told me they had never been.

The term fitness itself is quite imprecise and ambiguous, which is why I constantly preach about training rather than fitness. Training is something exceeding mere fitness and possessing an athletes mindset can elucidate the confusion.

What does fitness mean? Being able to continue to perform the same movements and lift the same weights as you always have? Or extrapolating (changing) to an environment with stressors of an increasingly higher intensity? Many seem to point to the first kind of adaptation, missing the notion of incremental improvement and progressive overload. But if one were to write down mathematically a standard model of selection in the Darwinian sense, one would get overcompensation, rather than mere fitness. Which is to say that every system we have in our biology is able to respond favourably to progressively increasing external stressors. This is what training is fundamentally— the gradual improvement of your physiological capacties in response to gradually increasing stimulus.

If you aren’t measuring your progress with training and your nutrition, you really can’t expect to get your body to change in the way you would like. Having an instagram body requires measurement of your training and nutrition, and the according adjustments and overloads made to the data that is captured. Using the scientific method (hypothesis-data capture-conclusion) to guide your decisions with training and diet is what the best people in the world do.

Good training is the combination of aggressiveness plus paranoia. Having a paranoid-like focus on technique, then aggressively persuing performance related goals.

For any help with your own training, drop me a line at