Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I came under fire recently from a couple of scientists who seemed very much invested in the aerobics philosophy. They were angry about my anti-aerobics views and wished to discredit me for my beliefs. I am not a scientist, nor do I claim to be one. I am a well-educated and well-read layman. More importantly, I've done my own experiments over the years, first upon myself, then with hundreds of clients in my personal training business and I concluded long ago that many things the exercise police and scientists tell us simply don't work. Over and over again, things change and theories once taken as gospel are later overturned. You can't trust solely in the scientists, you need to be your own researcher and discover for yourself what it is that works best for you.
With that knowledge, unfortunately, comes the possibility of getting stuck in a rut and refusing to try new things! There is a saying, that you can be "ruined by your success". Sometimes a trainer will have good results with one exercise system, then stubbornly adhere to that system forever! Thus there are good results...and there are optimal results. Honestly, some people are successful in spite of their workout systems. Training is still more art than science.
My experience with aerobics began as a freshman in college. I'd used running as a conditioning tool for wrestling and football throughout high school and never questioned it. Then Cooper came out with the aerobics points system and declared you couldn't do enough aerobic exercise. He downplayed the value of strength training which, at the time, I found very disappointing. After the running boom of the 70's and 80's, people began to notice the aerobic excesses were producing a number of problems. Well-known runners dropped dead mid-training though they were allegedly immune from heart problems. Musculo-skeletal injuries became the norm and you'd see a lot of twisted, tight, pain-ridden bodies out there. I, personally, was one of the lucky ones with a hearty constitution and I enjoyed my running and never suffered significant orthopedic issues. Of course, I was avidly strength-training and doing mobility and flexibility work! Cooper later recanted and his new stance was that anything (aerobics training-wise) over 20 minutes, three times per week, was not for optimal health. He then embraced the importance of strength training. Once I became immersed in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I realized that steady-state running (that is, training in "the zone") was utterly worthless as a conditioning tool for my new sport.
Once I stopped running, I was amazed at how much better I felt. I became leaner, more muscular, and more flexible. My strength peaked at a much higher level. I began to do more anaerobic work in the form of short, intense, interval training with the kettlebell, jump rope and Schwinn Airdyne. I also employed interval calisthenic-type movements like bear crawls, squat-thrusts, and sprinter lunges. I encouraged my students and clients to get off the aerobics treadmill wagon and every single one of them obtained better results. I may not be able to argue science-speak but I offer you this, my own experience. Steve Maxwell