Dec 8, 2008

Fads Drive Me Nuts

written for
By Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS

No Carb Diets
The 300 Workout
Juice Diets
The “Lose 12 pounds in 5 Days” Diet
Low rise jeans, baggy jeans, skinny jeans

The next infomercial…?

Those that know me could have probably guessed it and are happy I’m admitting to it. I don’t know that there is anything I possess that would qualify as “trendy.” I just can’t do it. It kills me to buy stuff that I know will go out of style or be worthless in a year or less. My shorts aren’t too long, too short, too baggy, too tight… Call me cheap. Call me getting old. Whatever. It’s probably all true. I’ll accept all of the accusations.

I’ve been in the fitness and Strength & Conditioning industry long enough to see that fads and trends just keep making their way into mainstream thought. What’s more frustrating than that is the fact that many of them are just re-packaged trends of what came through about 10-20 years ago.

Here’s a little prophetic statement for you:
High Carbohydrate diets will once again become popularized as the key to health and wellness within the next 10 years.

I have no idea exactly how or why it will happen, but that’s my prediction. It’ll be quite humorous to see us go from a Carb-hating to Carb-loving society within 10 years. But I figure we’re already half way there, so…?

Doesn’t matter what we’re talking about in the industry, we just keep seeing the patterns repeat. The two most frustrating parts of these fads or trends are:
1. They usually claim to be the answer for everyone (no matter what the age, gender, goals, or history).
2. They are often based on a little bit of research that is blown out of proportion.

Now I know that often blogs are a place where people can safely (but inappropriately) bash others or other’s thoughts. So before any CrossFit counterparts get up in arms about where I’m going, let me say that it is not my intention to do so. I would simply like to offer some thoughts that will help bring some perspective and balance to the forefront.

Fads and trends (especially in the fitness realms) are truly a frustration to me primarily for the 2 reasons I mentioned above, but also because they only last for a few months (to a couple years) and then they’re gone. After that we often never hear of them again or perhaps figure out a way to reinvent them when we get bored of everything we’ve been doing in about a decade. I

It begs the question…”Then how could they have been ‘the best’?”

The vicious cycle I see that ensues is:

1. Excitement about the “best new thing.”
2. Buy or engage in “the best new thing” until it stops working or we get bored to death.
3. Look for the “best NEW new thing.”

Of the research I read and colleagues who I respect and follow, there is a significant theme that continues to arise which has no relevance in the world of fads and trends…GOAL ANALYSIS and PROGRESSION.

Improving oneself takes time, effort, focus, consistency, and some planning. None of these are pretty or flashy…which is why they don’t sell. But here’s a surprise: they work. And that’s why I often have (and hear about others) clients come to me telling me nightmare stories about pain and injuries that happened when they tried a product or program that wasn’t right for them—but was the “best new thing”—(or best case scenario…stories about program or trainers that didn’t work)

On’s popular right now so I often have to deal with the questions. Here’s where I’m at right now. I think there are some really intelligent people following some great research and applied science who are involved in CrossFit. And—just like many other personal trainers in clubs out there—there are also many people who are simply jumping in with both feet who are not well educated trying to get on the bandwagon of excitement. The scary part is that CrossFit is a high intensity type of program with highly complex lifts and very little program design progression (from what I can tell).

To me…
High Intensity + Highly Complex Lifts + Little Program Design Progression = Recipe for Disaster

I don’t dislike everything about it. Like I said, some great people in there doing some good things. However, if the trainers aren’t well educated it can be seriously problematic. Second, it simply is not the best program for everyone. It can’t be. No one program is (nor is the lack of any program). If any program or product that says they are “the best” for everyone, I’d be highly skeptical if I was you. I just don’t think they exist.

Moving further, the Perfect Push Up—for example—isn’t perfect either. Quite frankly, if something encourages you to move and it does so in an appropriately progressive manner, fine…it might be worth the money. But let’s be clear about something:

No program or exercise is the “best program” or “best exercise” forever. It can’t be. Bodies adapt and bodies need change. Why?
To avoid plateaus
To avoid injury
To avoid boredom

But…not having a program (and doing things haphazardly) is not an intelligent approach for the long haul either.

Be smart about your training. Be intelligent about your purchases.

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