Why You May be Under-Training

A common problem in group exercise (especially “functional” group exercise) is the flow through or turnover of clients. There are a few key reasons for this but one I have been thinking about lately is the concept of “Under-Training”: not training frequently enough and/or training inconsistently. While it’s hardly the primary problem, it does present additional challenges for people that could otherwise be avoided.

If your primary form of exercise is in solitude, self directed and of a cyclical nature IE jogging, walking, biking, some apparatus at 24 hour etc. infrequent training is essentially a non-issue, at least for the purpose of this post. This is the case for most people, that’s the kind of exercise they are doing.

BUT, if you add load, complexity, skill, intensity etc. like in a functional fitness group class, everything changes. And this is to say nothing of the training effects of the group social dynamic.

Here’s the crux of the issue:

Real strength and conditioning requires a significant amount of education, training, focus and intelligent application and modification over time to produce a sustainable practice.

Unfortunately it’s being marketed and applied, both on the giving and receiving end, as if it’s a spin class. It’s NOT A SPIN CLASS! Not even close. And if you try and treat it as such, you will not do well.

You can’t go whenever and do whatever. In this circumstance it will eventually fail you and you will quit. Which is a real shame considering the myriad benefits of keeping that kind of training as a staple in your health and fitness tool kit.

In support of the many who have already been through the wash cycle of group functional fitness and spit out the other end, there are inherent issues within the industry in terms of what’s being sold and how clients are being trained. And those issues are creating a lot of problems. People that start off with a sincere desire to succeed are not getting what they need. I would like to formally apologize for all the times over the years when we have failed clients for said reasons and for the rest of the industry at large. In all honesty it is truly rife with a shitty, antiquated delivery/product. But that’s another post.

That being said it’s important that if you find a good facility, coach, program etc., you apply yourself at a level that’s appropriate for the kind of activity you have undertaken. This is the part that you have a little more control over…

Lots of folks start at our facility with a 2x week membership. I think that’s fine and it allows them to “test the waters”. However, we encourage clients to move to 3x week once they have enjoyed consistent training for 2-3 months. It’s been our experience that that’s really the maximum return on investment for most people. 4x week can work well too depending on the person. Of course whatever your level of attendance, you MUST be consistent. You cannot do this kind of training sporadically, occasionally, inconsistently, 1x week etc. for any extended length of time. It just doesn’t work.

One thing that you are allowing by training 3x week, consistently each week, is for resiliency to develop (hopefully you are getting a very progressive dose of the right things from your coach/class that is appropriate for you as an individual). You’re allowing yourself to build strength in all senses of the word as it applies to your mind, body and training. This is crucial for your success. This is what will give you a chance to experience the kind of changes you were hoping for when you signed up.

Often when clients are inconsistent and sporadic the training can take such a toll physically and psychologically (even with informed and well applied guidance) that it essentially produces a “negative” effect and makes it a little less likely that they will return. So then they wait a little longer to return. And then they “give it one more try” only to have the same experience or worse. It’s actually the exact opposite effect that all parties are hoping for. People are actually getting broken down doing this rather than built up. It’s totally bass ackwards.

SO many individuals have been failed by this recurring cycle.

Here’s my advice:

1. Don’t treat or think that functional strength and conditioning is anything like other group exercise. IT IS NOT. If you can’t dedicate the time, energy and brain power – skip it until you are ready!

2. Set your training days and times like clockwork IE “I train Tuesday and Thursday at 6PM every week”. Make it a hard appt. in your calendar that is not flexible. You know, like a work meeting. After all, your mind/body is THE vehicle by which you are granted another day of existence.

3. If you start with 2x/week for 2-3 months that’s great. Then if you are enjoying the training and attending consistently move to 3x week and keep at it.

It takes a long time and serious effort to understand how to apply this kind of training and create a sustainable practice. And that is the real value in the undertaking! Unfortunately most people never get that far.

If you have questions or would like to discuss further how to keep your training on track and create a sustainable program let me know, I’m more than happy to point you in the right direction.

Good training to you!

Ian