In the fitness industry we tend to obsess (and argue) about how to achieve your goals. Each practitioner, myself included, promotes the service that they provide for obvious reasons. Some do this simply because they are running a business, and some because they genuinely believe they know the best way to attain physical perfection, whatever that may be. The problem with this is threefold. One, it's based on the assumption that we all know what your exercise, two, that you know what you want from your exercise, and three, that their particular training method is actually as effective as they say it is.
The focus of this blog is trying to figure out a solution to the second problem, which is helping you to decide why are you exercising in a bid to then help better inform your choices as to how you are going to exercise.
Why Am I Here?
This is a deep and philosophical question to be sure, but at some point most people will have raised this question internally during a spin class, triathlon (I've asked myself that question a few times) or whilst waiting to get to the squat rack at peak times in a busy commercial gym. If you can't find the answer to this question, I would suggest that you are on borrowed time before you drop out of your current plan.
This question should be the first thing that you answer, certainly before you go trawling through various options for your fitness. Why should this be? Isn't it simply a matter of finding something you enjoy and then just turning up and the results will follow? Well, yes and no. The problem we have stems from one of the foundational principles of training which is the principle of specificity. This principle simply means that you get specific adaptations to the imposed demands of the exercise, so your body will respond differently to yoga than weight training, which will both be different training responses to long distance running. There may well be crossovers. For example, contrary to popular belief, weight training increases mobility, and will also improve speed and agility
So ask yourself, what do I want from my exercise and why? Now most peoples' answer to this question is "tone up and lose weight", or "get fit", but now you have to think "what for?". This is particularly important for those who talk in general terms about getting fit. Fit for what? Fitness is ruthlessly specific, getting fit for running makes you better at running, cycling improves cycling and so forth. Do you really want to be fit for a specific purpose, or in reality, do you want to look fit, which is not necessarily the same thing as being fit. If you are primarily interested in improving your physique, you be be interested to know that running and spinning may not be the best way to go, they'll improve your cardiovascular fitness and performance in those two modes of exercise, but are unlikely to bring about significant changes beyond that.
If you are training with aesthetics in mind, I must urge a word of caution. Don't be misled by the physique of the people at the top of that particular food chain (instructors or fitness models on the advertising material etc). What I mean is that you can switch on TV on a Saturday night and watch strictly come dancing, have a quick look at the admittedly pretty hot professional dancers and think "aha, so ballroom dancing is good for your physique". What you have to realise is that these people will be dedicating 15 to hours a week every week, and probably have done since they were quite young, to their craft. It is absolutely not the same as going to a dance class three times a week. That doesn't mean that you can not get a good physique doing things you enjoy, but it might mean that you have to do more of it to get there than if you did activities that are dedicated purely to the pursuit of a better physique, such as body building. It's kind of like having two routes to get to a particular destination. One is the motorway which will get you there quickly, but is boring as hell, unless you like driving on motorways of course, and the other is a much more enjoyable drive, but will take a lot more time to get there.
There is absolutely no right or wrong with deciding what it is you want do do, or which route to take. If you are engaging in any meaningful physical activity on a regular and frequent basis you are already going to be in a better physical state than someone who does nothing, regardless of what it is, but just know that not all exercise methods are created equal, and starting off with a clear idea of what you want from your chosen activity is key to making sure you get the results you want.