As a personal trainer I am amazed at how many fitness programs there are out there. Every January all the fitness programs seem to make an appearance and every other week you hear about what the latest fitness trend is on the market. It may change from season to season, but these programs all have one thing in common – Extreme with a capital ‘E’! But are they safe?
Think about who you see on the infomercials telling their success stories. You might see an overweight individual that lost 50+ pounds using “XYZ program” or a new mom that wanted to “lose the baby weight”. They explain to you that they did the exercises at their own pace (and you may even see that written as a disclaimer in the videos). But again, are they safe?
Carrying an Extra Load
If you are extremely overweight and want to start an extreme fitness program you should consult with your doctor first. Chances are (not always) you will possess some or most of the problems an overweight person normally has, such as high blood pressure and joint pain, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Combine those problems with high intensity exercise drills and the results can be an exacerbation of those conditions. Learn how to take your resting heart rate and how to calculate your target heart rate. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has an excellent heart rate calculator tool to help you understand how it all works so you don’t push too hard.
Too Much Too Quick
Some people who turn to extreme fitness programs are looking for something different to add to their exercise repertoire, like me. I’ve personally done Insanity for just that reason. Others have never exercised or have exercised very little and see the extreme fitness program as an answer to their long-time-battled weight and health problems. Going from sedentary or barely active to the fitness workout of your life is not the best idea. Have you ever walked up an excessive amount of stairs unexpectedly because the elevator is out of service? What happens? You’re extremely out of breath and your legs are sore, especially for those not used to doing that type of activity. Well, now think about your whole body after doing massive jumps, push ups, and whatever else an extreme program could entail. Not sounding so good, huh?
If you are absolutely dead set on trying an extreme fitness program just be sure to not set yourself up for disappointment. Don’t start out with the expectation that you will look like all of the other people that have had success with that program because it may not happen. This could also backfire on you. Say, for example, you have tried the program for the full 4, 6 or 8 weeks that it requires. You may not be pleased with how you look afterwards and this could push you to overexert yourself even more trying to produce “better” results. Just set small goals in the beginning for yourself just as you would any exercise program.
Go Slow, Then Gradually Increase Intensity
It’s not that extreme fitness is bad, it’s just not necessarily the best thing for you to do. Start out slow. Depending on your current fitness levels it might take you some time to get to the level of extreme. But that’s okay. The most important thing is you’re moving and you’re interested in some type of activity. Keep up the good attitude and listen to your body – ALWAYS! Know when to take it down a notch or stop altogether.
Have you tried an extreme form of fitness? How did it turn out for you?