Unstructured . . .

I was seated with my wife and daughters in an unfamiliar restaurant. At the conclusion of brunch, my eldest daughter began telling me what exercises she had performed in the gym. The routine consisted of what I would characterize as a two-day split. One day she did upper body, and the next day her lower. 

I listened intently as she spoke, restraining myself from interrupting or passing judgement. As a Certified Personal Trainer, I have found that individuals become defensive and cling to their belief, when you try to counsel them on their training regimen. 

This was not some individual but my own daughter. It occurred to me that this was a teachable moment, and it was a golden opportunity to showcase a teachable point of view.  

Before I could begin my youngest decided to tell me, although I knew from working out with her, what her lower body workout consisted of. What each of my daughters were expressing, although I am quite sure that neither thought of it that way . . . after all the hard work, sweating in the gym, how come no significant change could be visibly seen. 

I had to answer adroitly. I did not want to alienate either. If the teachable point of view was not handled adeptly, neither would tell me what they were doing in the gym, for fear of being unduly criticized for not doing it right. 

In order to see a modicum of change one must be discipline in his or her approach is how I started. I explain that the body is adaptable to any stress it is put under. The way to combat this is to have a structured routine for six weeks but change exercise for each particular muscle every two weeks. By doing this, I continued, your body does not get the chance to adapt, and you don’t plateau. 

I waited a moment for either to resist or challenge my assertions. Since both remained quiet, I gave an example to prove my point. I asked my youngest daughter if she recalled the gentleman we had seen in the gym. 

“Yes,” she answered excitedly. “He looks exactly the same! It’s been seven years since I last saw him, but he looks the same. His arms are big, but his muscles do not move. He has no cuts, no definition.” 

“Perhaps, he plateaued. From what I remember; it looks as if he’s been doing the same exercises. I’ve cautioned you both that plateauing is the anthesis to growth.” 

To solidify the teachable point of view in hopes of creating a virtuous teaching cycle, (where the teacher is also a student), I stated the following explanation. 

When one goes to the gym and performs a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, the lack of structure leads nowhere. Although, you would say I am being contradictory since I stated that the body quickly adapts, and the unstructured regimen does not give it sufficient time to. 

While that may be true, the fact that the unstructured workout is arbitrarily done does not bode well to elicit the mechanical tension, and trauma that the muscles need to grow. Dispirited, disillusioned, and disenchanted with the lack of growth, the individual loses motivation and ends up quitting his or her fitness journey. 

On the other side of the spectrum is the individual who is content to see no changes in muscularity or weight loss and goes to the gym for pure enjoyment. Year after year he or she goes, without a care in the world, until they run into someone that frequents the same gym and has transformed their physique. 

“The difference between you and me is simply this,” I told my daughters, “I chose to use a structured routine and refused to give up until I had accomplish my fitness goals.” 

“They were doing it wrong,” my wife blurted out. “Why didn’t you stop them!”


B.M.Booth (NASM-CPT)