We’ve all seen them on the magazine stand: Fitness Magazine has Seven Bikini-Body Exercises That Tighten and Tone – Fast! While Health offers to Tighten Your Core in 21 Days! And Shape wants you to know they have a 30-Day Summer Slim Down!
Do none of these seem manly enough for you? No problem. Just try this 15 Minute Workout: 3 Moves, 300 Muscles from Men’s Health. “That’s nice,” you say, “but I’m really more into the Sylvester Stallone kind of body. Got anything for me?”
You bet we do! Just take a look at this month’s issue of Men’s Fitness and you, too, can Get Forearms Like Rambo. Seriously. Rambo.
It’s enough to make your head spin. How could anyone possibly keep up with all the latest trends in health and fitness? A quick search reveals that there are 18 fitness magazines currently circulating our nation’s supermarkets, everything from Self to Flex to Powerlifting USA. 18 magazines, each with its own mission to provide unique covers month-to-month with eye-catching headlines next to some beefed up fitness model who you will never come close to looking like, even if you master The Only 3 Moves You Need to Have a Killer Total-Body Workout Today.
18 magazines times 12 months is 216 covers a year. How could there possibly be 216 different ab exercises designed to “trim that fat?” We’ve all heard of “magazine diets”; welcome to the world of “magazine workouts”.
It helps to see these workouts for what they are: marketing messages. These “breakthrough” workouts are nothing more than snappy words strung together to get you, the consumer, to buy their magazine. Will some of them work? Of course! Will all of them work? Of course not. So how do you decide which one of these 216 workouts is the one for you? Give yourself a break and don’t try to answer that.
Losing weight isn’t a fad. It doesn’t involve five easy minutes every day. It requires dedication, perseverance, and an extremely high level of patience. Don’t be scared by the men and women who grace the covers of these magazines. If you have a generally negative assessment of your self-worth based on your appearance, comparing yourself to the beautiful people in magazines can be very detrimental to your health, and can lead you into newer, more drastic ways of working out that may be inappropriate for your body type.
For example, consider the body composition of someone who is skinny fat. Skinny fat people typically have “normal” weights, but they don’t look anything like magazine models. This can cause some to feel that they need to go on a dramatic body transformation to “slim down” when that they should really be doing is toning up.
While losing fat might have positive health benefits for someone who looks like this, their body (and long-term health) would receive far greater benefits by emphasizing on improving muscle, not losing fat. Going on a crash diet or rapid weight loss program might cause this person to lose some of their already underdeveloped muscle mass. Not only will that person a) probably give up and b) cause negative changes to their metabolism, they still won’t look like a magazine model: the goal in the first place.
And not only can these magazine workouts be dangerous, they can also be misleading. Take this one from Flex: Build Mass, Lose Fat, and Get Crazy Strong. This kind of promise always pops up when you look into different ways to lose weight and get in shape. But the thing is, that’s not really how it works. Generally, your body needs a calorie deficiency to burn fat; it needs a calorie surplus to build muscle.
Unless you’ve discovered a way to simultaneously increase and decrease your caloric intake at the same time, or you have the time and resources to dedicate your life to perfecting your fitness, you should probably just stick with just one of these ideas.
No one can say what workout is going to work out best for you because everybody (and every body) is different.
Maybe you thought running would work for you. But after trying it for a while, you realized there’s something called “shin splints.” Swimming seemed like a good idea, but there’s no easy access to a pool, and the public pool smells kind of funny.
You could try out your local gym, but you may soon learn that you need to do a little more than just hop on an elliptical for 20 minutes and lift a few weights. There’s a reason gyms are crowded in January and oddly vacant in February: a lot of people set “weight loss” as a New Year’s resolution. They start out strong in January, hitting the gym hard, thinking they are well on their way to becoming a new person.
But then frustration starts to sink in. Why don’t I look like the people on the magazines yet? Why has my weight remained the same? Maybe it’s not as easy as they say. So then, you get a trainer. Personal trainers can be prohibitively expensive, though, so maybe you could try CrossFit or Boxing classes. These are tailor-made for people who need someone to tell them what to do, and push them to do it.
There are dozens of fitness methods out there. The hard part is finding what’s best for you.
You know how you know what’s best for you? It’s the one that keeps you coming back. You might not see the results you want to see at first, but that’s where the patience comes in.
Many of these magazine workouts will have you believing that the pounds will start to slide right off your body in only five easy days! Don’t get caught up in the hype. Stay strong. Stay dedicated. And please, please, don’t weigh yourself every day.
Better health is about feeling better as much as it is about looking better. If you find a fitness routine that works for you, and you stick with it, you’re guaranteed to see results. They may not come immediately, but they will come.
Which magazine workout is “right” for you? If the only place you look for fitness advice is in popular magazines, it might be that none of them are right for you. A magazine written for millions can’t possibly know your unique needs and your body composition.
Focus on what’s best for you - starting by getting your body composition assessed - and work to make small, meaningful changes that will last far beyond this year’s swimsuit season.
Randy Miller is a freelance writer who lives and works in Sacramento, CA. To get in touch with Randy about this article, you can find him on his website, www.randymiller.net.
Cover artwork: Flickr