Thursday, April 17, 2014

Common Fitness Mistakes And Training Misconceptions Encountered In Singapore

Recently, in one of my more contemplative moments, I decided to take a trip back in time, and tried to objectively compare the fitness scene now in Singapore with that maybe just 6-8 years ago.

And what truly amazed me is this: how interest and participation in Fitness & Health have truly skyrocketed in Singapore in just these few mere years! The ever-increasing statistics of residents engaging in sports and physical activities, a mushrooming and vibrant fitness scene where practically  EVERY imaginable kind, type and shape of fitness class, exercise course, event, race, competition and even training facility and venue - catering to every whim and fancy - have emerged in the country.

All in all, the evidence point to the fact that Singapore is indeed fast becoming a major Fitness Hub in the world - like it or not!

Fitness Classes Are Highly-Popular In Singapore!

However - and this is just my personal opinion - these outward physical, infrastructural and statistical upswing in the fitness scene in Singapore, do NOT seem matched to a corresponding increase in scientific fitness know-how, sound fitness philosophy, or even proper application among its residents.

Lest I may sound overly harsh in my opinion, let's consider the following observations that I have noted and made through my years serving as a Fitness Professional & Consultant in Singapore:

A) Tendency To Increase Training Resistance At The Expense Of Form And Technique

This problem has been around for as far as I could remember: simply too many gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts are still overly-obsessed with poundages, weight or resistance when it comes to strength training.

Just observe any individual performing a typical resistance workout, and you'll apt to find the form-book being thrown out of the window - sooner rather than later - in an attempt to satisfy one's EGO of handling ever-increasing loads of resistance.

As important as resistance is in any weight-training program, it should NEVER EVER precede Form and Technique - without which, serious implications such as overtraining, injuries and even death may occur.

Lifting Heavy Weights At The Expense Of Good Form Is Dangerous!

B) Preference For Training Only The Anterior Muscle Groups

The lure of VANITY has also resulted in many fitness enthusiasts today developing tunnel vision in their training - often focusing only on the muscle groups that are the most visible along the FRONT of the body (what fitness experts term the "anterior chain muscles"), while neglecting the vital posterior chain group of muscles running down the BACK of the body.

In a typical scenario, an individual would devote over 90% of his/her time and efforts on the Chest, Arms and Abdominal muscles, while conveniently 'forgetting' and neglecting the all-important middle-lower back combination group of muscles, gluteal muscles, hamstrings and calves.

Engaging in such a skewed program would ironically NEGATE whatever physical aesthetics and proportion one is pursuing in the long run (think: drooping chest, hunched back, flat butt, thin calves etc) and serve only to create further imbalances in the body and increase one's risk of attaining serious injuries in the long haul.

Only by including what experts term: Posterior Chain Training in our fitness workouts - would it help to correct many of the above faults and imbalances, and help the body to return to its proper equilibrium.


Working Only The Anterior Chain Muscles Will Result In Imbalances

C) Equating Effort (Sweat) With Progress

Frankly, I think the over-use and misunderstanding of certain popular terms in the fitness industry, such as - "Sweat It Out", "No Pain, No Gain", "Just Do It", "Go All Out" etc - are all to be blamed for this phenomenon - where one develops the FALSE notion or MYTH that the amount of sweat or effort generated during a workout would translate to an equal and direct gain in fitness progress or results!

Honestly, I've lost count of the number of times where I've come across individuals whose notion of a "Great Workout" is one where they claimed to have lost "buckets of sweat" or felt "wrung-out" or "shattered" or even "totally sore"!!

Sorry, folks. But let's get ONE thing straight - once and for all.

The amount of perspiration that you have lost and your sense of overall general fatigue and even your degree of muscle soreness are NOT accurate indicators of your workout performance or your progress!

These are merely temporal side effects influenced by a variety of factors, including: the temperature and humidity of your immediate environment, your hydration levels, your recovery abilities, your mental focus on that day, or even the amount of sleep/rest you got the previous night before etc etc .

Exercising To Fatigue Is Not Necessarily A Sign Of Progress!

D) Neglecting The Vital Components Of Stabilization, Mobility, Recovery And More

In my opinion, too many fitness enthusiasts still train in a VACUUM today - whether they know it or not.

Meaning, some train purely for aesthetic changes - with absolutely NO notions or regards to functionality or skill transferability; while others train solely for very specific fitness components (e.g. training for either Strength OR Flexibility OR Endurance) to the exclusion of other fitness components.

Whichever of the above scenarios you look at, both, I feel, are equally off the mark, erroneous and dangerous.

Think about it: Fitness encompasses MUCH MORE than just those few components listed above; it includes many others such as Mobility, Stabilization, Recovery, Balance, Coordination etc etc.

Every single one of them is a VITAL component of an all-rounded, balanced fitness lifestyle, and should be given EQUAL weightage when it comes to training.

Yet, sadly, so many of us simply do NOT bother to engage them in our workouts, preferring to do only what appeals to us, or what is deemed popular or acceptable, instead of what is NEEDED!

In fact, neglecting any of them will only seriously jeopardize our overall fitness progress over the long run, and negate whatever fitness gains we may have achieved over time.

The solution to the above is to partake in what fitness authorities would call Holistic or Integrated Training - where ALL components of fitness are equally emphasized and worked upon. This will ensure equity and all-roundedness in any fitness regime.

Stability Training Is Important For All-Round Fitness

E) Relying On Popular Media For Fitness Guidance

With the advent of the Internet Age, more and more people are now turning to YouTube, Facebook and other popular social networking sites to get information on fitness.

Unfortunately, as we all know, the World Wide Web has always been - and still is (and perhaps even more so) - a deep PIT of unseen, lurking dangers .... so much so that most fitness (mis)information found on it, are at best: mediocre, questionable, unfounded or biased; and at worst: downright unreliable, inaccurate and even DANGEROUS!

The last thing you, me and anybody else would want is to bank our entire fitness success and progress on some face-less, online, pseudo-expert's idea of fitness training!

The advice to counter the mass of fitness (mis)information on the Internet is this: always seek to EDUCATE yourself first, by:

1) accessing and reading scientific exercise journals and serious health publications as a start - by the way, we are NOT referring to those off-the-rack, ad-laden, bare-bodied "fitness/health magazines" we find all over newsstands nowadays - many are just as BAD, if not WORSE - than the stuff you find on the Internet,

2) enrol yourself in short academic courses on holistic health, fitness, nutrition etc, - and no, you don't have to consider changing jobs to be a personal trainer or fitness coach in order to do that too,

- BEFORE actually accessing all the Internet videos, audios, images and what-nots - so that you are equipped with sufficient knowledge to separate the chaff from the wheat.

Alternatively, do seek out any reputable and qualified fitness sources here in Singapore in order to verify or clarify any doubts you may have regarding what you read/see/hear on the Internet.


Internet Mis-Information Can Jeopardize Your Fitness Progress

F) Relying On Fellow Gym-Goers For Fitness Advice

Many times, we have the WRONG notion that just because someone who is in a Better Shape than us, or who is Stronger than us, or who simply Seems To Be More Knowledgeable than us when it comes to exercise and training, is necessarily someone worthy to seek advice from.

How wrong we are! In fact, this is often a classic case of where Appearances Flatter To Deceive!

In this scenario, the person concerned - usually a fellow gym-goer or exerciser - while seemingly knowledgeable when it comes to training his/her OWN body; in reality, may have absolutely NO CLUE whatsoever - when it comes to the health, fitness and bodies of OTHER people!

More crucially, he/she may NOT even possess the basic credentials nor formal education to be able to guide and to coach us safely and correctly in our fitness pursuits!

As such, don't ever make the fundamental mistake of treating your gym buddy, your workout partner or your fellow gym-goer as a TRAINER, COACH or MENTOR.

Keep the relationship simple, straightforward and the way it is meant to be: he/she is just someone to accompany you in your training regime, to buddy-up for certain exercises, and at most, to shout words of encouragement to you or spot you with a heavy weight as and when the need arises.

Other than that, ONLY you - and perhaps, your personal doctor, fitness trainer or health coach - should be the ONLY other persons you should ever trust and seek - when you need professional advice on your health and fitness matters.

A WRONG Training Partner Would Do More Harm Than Good!

In conclusion, most, if not all, of the above fitness mistakes and training misconceptions can be AVOIDED if we bother to put in some effort and time into educating ourselves, into searching out the right sources of information, and in seeking out reliable and reputable professional fitness guidance when we need them.