Lone Wolf vs. Power in Num­bers

WHICH STYLE OF TRAIN­ING IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

Recoil - - Contents - BY RYNE GIOVIANO

Over the last sev­eral years, group fit­ness gyms like Orange The­ory and CrossFit have ex­ploded, grow­ing 70 per­cent be­tween 2012 and 2015. Like many other group ex­er­cise fa­cil­i­ties, these gyms cre­ate work­outs in­tended to train large groups of peo­ple at the same time. But how might this type of train­ing com­pare to work­ing out on your own? There are pros and cons to each, so let’s look at this in some more de­tail.

WHAT’S THE DIF­FER­ENCE?

It’s a com­mon fit­ness in­dus­try say­ing that fol­low­ing a medi­ocre pro­gram 100 per­cent is still bet­ter than fol­low­ing a great pro­gram 50 per­cent. There’s a lot of truth to this. Fol­low­ing a pro­gram with some sort of in­tel­li­gent de­sign will yield progress, as­sum­ing it’s fol­lowed cor­rectly. This con­cept is dif­fer­ent from show­ing up to a group ex­er­cise class. Sure, you might not equate some­thing like CrossFit to a group ex­er­cise class like Zumba, but it’s still a class with a group of peo­ple ex­er­cis­ing.

On the plus side, large group train­ing can be fan­tas­tic for build­ing com­mu­nity and ca­ma­raderie among par­tic­i­pants. If you ask peo­ple who ex­er­cise at places like CrossFit, one of the first things they’ll men­tion is the com­mu­nity of peo­ple they’ve got­ten to know and the friends they’ve made. This is one of the pri­mary draws for large group train­ing fa­cil­i­ties. Many

HIS­TOR­I­CALLY, LIFT­ING WEIGHTS HAS BEEN LARGELY MALE-DOM­I­NATED,

BUT SINCE THE IN­CEP­TION OF THESE NEW BUSI­NESSES, MORE AND MORE WOMEN ARE START­ING

TO WEIGHT TRAIN.

of these types of fa­cil­i­ties have also been great for get­ting groups, such as women, to em­brace weight train­ing. His­tor­i­cally, lift­ing weights has been largely male-dom­i­nated, but since the in­cep­tion of these new busi­nesses, more and more women are start­ing to weight train.

One thing many of these fa­cil­i­ties have in com­mon is they’re typ­i­cally very work­out­based. You could look at a work­out as a ses­sion of phys­i­cal ex­er­cise or train­ing. Peo­ple com­plete work­outs that are in­tended to im­prove some as­pect of fit­ness across a broad ar­ray of peo­ple. The work­outs gen­er­ally don’t have much re­la­tion to each other, and they’re de­signed to give the par­tic­i­pants an in­tense work­out ev­ery time.

This dif­fers from fol­low­ing a work­out pro­gram that you’d com­plete on your own or per­haps at a per­sonal train­ing fa­cil­ity. This type of pro­gram is a se­ries of work­outs in­tended to fo­cus on a goal or sev­eral goals (such as strength and flex­i­bil­ity). There’s a very big dif­fer­ence be­tween the two. One is a se­ries of planned work­outs, and the other is just a work­out. The beauty of a well-made pro­gram is that you can plan for fluc­tu­a­tions in vol­ume or in­ten­sity in or­der to get a spec­i­fied train­ing ef­fect, while min­i­miz­ing in­jury and over­train­ing risk.

For in­stance, if your goal is strength, per­haps you can plan out a month’s worth of train­ing with four ses­sions per week. Within that month, you could make week three a lit­tle more in­tense and slightly higher vol­ume in or­der to over­reach and cre­ate a stimulus for im­prove­ment. In week four, you could lower the vol­ume and in­ten­sity be­low that of the pre­vi­ous three weeks to al­low for re­cov­ery.

That’s just one com­mon way of do­ing it, but the idea is that you’re plan­ning for the abil­ity to re­cover from ex­er­cise; it’s ac­tu­ally in­te­grated into the pro­gram. This is called pe­ri­odiza­tion, and it’s de­signed to continually make progress to­ward a goal while re­duc­ing the risk of over­train­ing and in­jury. When you make work­outs de­signed to give peo­ple a chal­lenge ev­ery sin­gle time with­out fluc­tu­a­tions in vol­ume or in­ten­sity, you face a higher risk of in­jury and over­train­ing

CON­SIDER COACH­ING

Coach­ing is an­other point to con­sider. If you’re train­ing on your own, it’s crit­i­cal you know how to per­form ex­er­cises safely. It goes with­out say­ing that the po­ten­tial for in­jury is very high if you lift weights with sub­par form. These days, it’s dif­fi­cult to know what in­for­ma­tion to trust, as any­one can be

a YouTube or In­sta­gram trainer with lit­tle more than an iPhone. In cir­cum­stances like these, it’s a great idea to hire some­one to help you, even if it’s just for a short time, to learn what proper form looks like.

Group ex­er­cise fa­cil­i­ties in­volve coach­ing and gen­er­ally less tech­ni­cal ex­er­cises (some­times), re­duc­ing the in­jury risk as­sum­ing the coaches are good and the ra­tios of coaches to clients is man­age­able. This can be a great op­tion for peo­ple who are newer to ex­er­cise and look­ing to learn the ba­sics.

TRAIN­ING FOR A GOAL

The other as­pect of gen­eral group ex­er­cise pro­gram­ming is that it doesn’t take goals into ac­count. If you want to run a marathon, for in­stance, you should fol­low a run­ning (and hope­fully strength train­ing) pro­gram de­signed to en­able you to do well in that par­tic­u­lar ac­tiv­ity. In other words, you should fol­low a pro­gram in­tended to bet­ter pre­pare you for your spe­cific goal.

When you join a group ex­er­cise fa­cil­ity where there’s no individualization, it’s likely you won’t progress ef­fi­ciently to­ward your own par­tic­u­lar goals. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t group ex­er­cise classes and fa­cil­i­ties de­signed for spe­cific goals. If your goal is to com­pete in the CrossFit Games, for in­stance, it’s prob­a­bly best that you do CrossFit or some­thing sim­i­lar. Out­side of that, you might mainly just burn calo­ries, and hey, if that’s your goal, go for it.

When train­ing on your own, you’re only lim­ited by your re­sources. If your knowl­edge is lack­ing, de­sign­ing a pro­gram for your­self may be chal­leng­ing, and you’ll prob­a­bly end up with sub­op­ti­mal re­sults. This is when it’d be a great idea to work with some­one to cre­ate a pro­gram for you or train you. Out­side of that, there are plenty of re­sources. From books to on­line or lo­cal coaches and train­ers who of­fer some kind of coach­ing or pro­gram de­sign ser­vices for your spe­cific goals, all are po­ten­tial op­tions.

WHEN YOU JOIN A GROUP EX­ER­CISE FA­CIL­ITY WHERE THERE’S NO INDIVIDUALIZATION, IT’S LIKELY YOU’RE NOT DO­ING A GREAT JOB AT ACHIEV­ING YOUR GOAL.

WHAT ABOUT NU­TRI­TION?

Be­sides train­ing, nu­tri­tion is key in mak­ing or break­ing your goals. Nu­tri­tion is para­mount to your suc­cess, and it re­ally should be just as im­por­tant a con­sid­er­a­tion as ex­er­cise. Proper nu­tri­tion for your goals will not only pro­vide you with the fuel and nu­tri­ents to per­form well in and out of the gym, but it’ll also be re­spon­si­ble for the body com­po­si­tion changes you’ll see as you progress.

For ex­am­ple, good luck try­ing to lose weight with­out some kind of calo­rie re­duc­tion. Yes, there are cer­tain foods that are bet­ter than oth­ers for weight loss, but un­less you ex­pend more calo­ries than you take in you won’t lose weight.

Nu­tri­tion isn’t typ­i­cally ad­dressed in many of the group-style train­ing pro­grams. With the ex­cep­tion of CrossFit, which has more or less en­dorsed The Pa­leo Diet or

The Zone, you typ­i­cally won’t find much in the way of spe­cific nu­tri­tion pro­grams to fol­low. So, in this case, it’s im­por­tant to be your own ad­vo­cate and find the right in­for­ma­tion to eat in or­der to sup­port your goals.

MAKE A DE­CI­SION

You have many op­tions on how to ex­er­cise, where to go, and what to do. At the end of the day, it all de­pends on what you want to ac­com­plish. Start with your goals, and it’ll be much eas­ier to make a de­ci­sion as to which op­tions will get you where you need to be.

svetikd/istockphoto.com Ce­cilie_Ar­curs/istockphoto.com

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