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Are You Working Out For Today Or Tomorrow?

Are You Working Out For Today Or Tomorrow?
Muscular caucasian blond woman in a gym doing squats with a barbell on her shoulders while looking at mirror. Young woman working with weights at health club.
Jacob Ammentorp Lund via Getty Images
Muscular caucasian blond woman in a gym doing squats with a barbell on her shoulders while looking at mirror. Young woman working with weights at health club.

It's a sad truth: We live in a society that's heavily influenced by the things popular people say, think or do. Mass media creates a platform for voices of each industry to tickle the ears of the uninformed, in order to profit from it. That's the world we live in, and it takes a conscientious mind to see past the fluff.

And let's face it. When the wrong information is being thrown in your face by way of prime time TV or the like, it's easy to think that their info is just cutting-edge enough to make it into the most reputable places in popular culture -- and easier to dismiss the fact that ratings, trends, connections, and general commercial appeal doesn't factor into the equation.

But in its superficiality, basically everything in mass media (especially the stuff intended to sell you something) pushes the idea that you need that very something now. "Living for today" can feel liberating in some regards, but in many regards, it doesn't have your best interests in first mind. This rings especially true in the world of exercise.

Actually, it's good that I used the term "exercise," and not something else -- because it just lends to the point I'm trying to make. When a trainee hits the gym for an hour to crack out a workout, nine times out of 10, it probably qualifies as exercise. This seemingly good word should be viewed as a bit more of a Trojan horse than most people are willing to admit. Truthfully, at its core, exercise implies very little purpose outside of the hour or so that you spend at the gym to do that particular workout. It doesn't set you up for anything long term, and it does very little to teach or ingrain new usable skills. It's an empty facilitator for short-term health.

Training for long-term health takes a different mindset, a plan, and sustained efforts.

A well-intentioned trainee may make a habit of going to the gym a couple of times per week to do something they're already good at, or to put together a string of exercises with little thought behind them. But it's important to realize that a trainee's efforts in the gym are like an investment into a savings account -- and thinking about training before thinking about exercise makes all the difference in the world as to what you'll get out of it in the long run.

What You Need vs. What You Want: The Hard Facts

Everyone works out because they want to look good.

That sounds like an incendiary statement, but I'm willing to bet my bottom dollar that if working out caused one to look physically less appealing to himself and others (even if the health benefits remained the same!), most people would quit early.

Before/After photos of clients who dropped ridiculous amounts of weight and inches off their bodies in only six weeks does a lot to feed the idea that fitness is some kind of "quick fix" for long-term bad habits. Like the 10 years someone spent getting out of shape can easily be reversed with a mere month's hard work. The aggressive, unsustainable diets and workout systems that led up to such before/after shots usually end up causing a rebound effect after goals are reached.

There's a reason people don't walk around ripped to shreds, dry, and vascular, the way you see on the covers of fitness magazines, or the stages of physique contests -- and it's because that look can't be held on to for too long without a crash. The world often exalts people who intensely work out to display a brief version of themselves to the public, without acknowledging that it's both physically and mentally unhealthy in its beauty.

Moreover, being preoccupied with short-term goals probably won't prevent you from not being able to walk without pain when you're 75. Training for long-term health takes a different mindset, a plan, and sustained efforts. It's boring, it's not sexy, and it defies pretty much everything that's "trending" in recent times.

And it starts with strength.

Many people think that any form of exercise -- whether it's running, weight training, aerobics, bootcamp style training, yoga -- contributes to getting you stronger. Though many of these forms of exercise can improve aspects of fitness, your strength will remain virtually unaffected without a properly planned resistance-training routine. And building a foundation of strength will improve bone density, and muscle contraction which only means improved function in older age.

It takes lifting heavy things, and doing so often.

I mean it: lifting five pound dumbbells at the gym won't cut it. Going through the motion of "lifting weights" doesn't automatically mean you're going to get stronger. It takes more than that, and the results depend on what you put into it. Properly challenging your thresholds shouldn't be something to fear, nor should it be something reserved for the hardcore -- more fittingly, it should be reserved for people who want a purpose in being at the gym in the first place.

A good friend of mine recently made a great statement that I'll steal here. Activities like Pilates, spinning, yoga, and running are all cool -- but think of them as side dishes, with strength training as the entrée. If you don't have the foundation and never take the time to develop it, you'll be selling yourself short on the sustainability of your results. And you'll make it a whole lot harder to hold on to the physical results that regularly training with weights can deliver -- namely fat loss, a lean physique, and complete freedom of movement.

Don't exercise to look good. Instead, train for long-term results. That way you'll look good because you train, and you'll be two steps ahead of your aging process while you're at it. Sounds like a win-win to me.

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