Category Archives: Rants and Raves

Fitness Classes–Pros and Cons

Spin ClassGroup exercise classes are one of the most popular ways to work out. (C’mon, you’ve watched them through the glass.) They may be jumping, spinning, or standing on their heads, but whatever they’re doing, they are in it together. But is group exercise right for you?

Like everything in life, group fitness has its pros and cons.

The pros are pretty obvious, working out in a group gives people a feeling of camaraderie, and having the instructor around assures that you will be doing a safe, effective work out, right? Not always.

I can tell you from first hand experience that it is very hard to lead a class that will be ideal for all the participants. There are always a few people who will need extra attention and instruction. However, if the class is crowded, the instructor might not be able to give the proper attention to newcomers without alienating class regulars.

Another pro is that the structure of having a class format can help you stay consistent and motivated with your training. Just don’t get too dependent on that one class, or your motivation might change along with the new fall schedule at your gym.

Trainer Tip:

Group classes are great, but it’s also important to be able to get a workout in on your own. Don’t forget to mix it up and keep your workouts challenging.

Do Shape Up Shoes Really Work?

Do Shape-ups really work?You’ve probably seen the ads for the sneaker that (supposedly) gives you a workout while you walk.

The manufacturers claim that their sneakers will tone and firm your legs just by walking. Finally–a way to get in shape without having to really work out!

Sounds too good to be true?

Of course that’s because it is!

In all fairness to Shape-up shoes, they do actually require that the wearer utilize more muscles than when walking in standard footwear–which over time could lead to increased fitness.

However, walking in Shape-ups is also harder and less pleasant than walking in other sneakers. So you still have to do some work to get any results.

I’ve also heard reports of people falling down and getting hurt while wearing these. That’s definitely not going to make you more fit.

The bottom line is this: a sneaker can’t work out for you! Some people need to find ways to trick themselves into exercising (or trick themselves into thinking they’re exercising) and that’s who this sneaker is intended for.

For the rest of us, just go for a run or do some pull-ups. It’s really not so bad.

There will always be someone trying to take advantage of people looking for a quick fix or a shortcut.

Don’t be a sucker. Just go work out!

Is Walking Really the Best Exercise?

This guy is not really working out.

This guy is not really working out.

Most doctors agree that walking is one of the best forms of exercise. But I think that’s bullshit!

Unless you are elderly or morbidly obese, walking falls into the category of what I like to call “physical activity”–it’s not a workout.

It’s certainly better for your body than lying on the couch (or slumping over at a desk–sit up straight!), but it doesn’t meet my standards of true exercise.

As far as I am concerned, in order for something to count as a workout there are three basic requirements: elevated heart rate, muscle fatigue, and sweat. Power-walking might fulfill these requirements, but for the average person, just taking a stroll ain’t gonna do it.

Don’t get me wrong, walking is great physical activity and most Americans probably ought to be doing a lot more of it. As a New York City resident, I walk just about everywhere. (I just don’t kid myself into thinking that it’s a workout!)

Walking can definitely add up over the course of the day, leading to weight loss, which is probably part of the reason why New Yorkers tend to be slimmer than most Americans–so I encourage you to walk as much as possible. Everybody should be getting at least an hour or two of daily physical activity. It’s just that you should also do some real workouts.

Are You Really Running on That Treadmill?

Get out and go for a run!

Get out and go for a run!

I have often been heard to remark that indoor cardio (with machines like treadmills or stationary bikes) is, at best, a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, it is nice to be able to know exactly how fast of a pace you are keeping. And it’s nice to be able to adjust your intensity with the push of a button. Treadmills can also be beneficial when doing interval running and/or sprints.

But my big gripe is with people who consider themselves “runners” but have never actually run outdoors.

Anyone who has a considerable amount of mileage under their belt on both treadmills and actual terrain already knows that they are quite different experiences.

When you’re on a treadmill, the conveyor belt moves towards you and you stay in the same place. All you do is lift your foot. You don’t actually propel yourself forward. All this probably sounds obvious, but bear in mind that this phenomenon makes it considerably less work, and it can give you a false sense of how fast you are.

You might be setting yourself up for a rude awakening when you actually start running for real. It is so much more challenging–and of course, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to sound like an elitist here. Treadmills are great for all the reasons I mentioned above. But it’s easy to rely on them too much. They are designed to supplement actual running–not replace it. The majority of your training should be done on real terrain. If you only run on the treadmill, you are missing out on one of the greatest joys that I’ve known in life.

The recent boom in popularity of outdoor running is undeniable. This past November, over 42 thousand people completed the NYC marathon (including me)–the most finishers ever!

So think about it, are you really running on that treadmill?