Act I Scene I:

Fade in on a woman exercising in a gym.  She is working vigorously on an elliptical machine.  Her breathing is heavy and slightly audible.  Droplets of sweat have formed on her face, neck, and shoulders.  Some of them have given way to drips rolling down her face.  Cut to a close up of the elliptical’s console, where we see a drop of sweat falling in slow motion with a slight splash on impact.  The woman’s breath is still audible.

Cut to the weight room.  We see the woman sitting at a chest press machine completing a set.  We can hear a “clank” as she allows the weight stack to rest after the final repetition of her workout.  She exits the machine leaving a vague sweat imprint.

Cut to the locker room.  The woman is seen exiting the shower area wrapped in a towel, with another concealing her hair.  She stands in front of the sink area looking in the mirror as she dries and brushes her hair.  Then she turns around.  The camera perspective changes to her point of view.  A doctor-style scale comes into focus.  The camera angle narrows and rapidly zooms out, giving the effect that the scale is now several yards away.  The scene is silent, except for the sound of a strong heart beat.  Still in first-person perspective, the woman approaches the scale, the sound of the heart beat becoming more intense.  Change to a close up of the woman’s ankles.  We see the towel drop to the floor.  Her feet go out of frame as she steps on the scale.  The heart beat stops leaving silence.

Woman: (Screams in horror).

The scene goes black.

The poor woman in the scene has fallen prey to a monster known as Frankenprogram!

Frankenprogram Syndrome is characterized by a fitness or weight loss program that is pieced together.  You heard on television that long, slow cardio is the most effective method to burn fat, so you incorporate it.  After a conversation with a woman at work who has recently lost weight, you include a strength training class because it worked for her.  Then you read an article about cutting carbs from your diet, so that gets thrown in as well.  Before you know it, you have created this program that is assembled from fragments of other programs.  You have created a Frankenprogram.

This vicious monster has been on a killing spree for decades, leaving dead hopes and mutilated dreams in his wake.  The really scary part is that he has been spotted in gyms in your area!

Okay, so Frankenprogram isn’t really a monster.  Actually I completely made up the word.  I created the term to describe a syndrome (for lack of a better word) that many times leads to fitness and weight loss failure.  Frankenprogram Syndrome is characterized by a fitness or weight loss program that is pieced together.  You heard on television that long, slow cardio is the most effective method to burn fat, so you incorporate it.  After a conversation with a woman at work who has recently lost weight, you include a strength training class because it worked for her.  Then you read an article about cutting carbs from your diet, so that gets thrown in as well.  Before you know it, you have created this program that is assembled from fragments of other programs.  You have created a Frankenprogram.

These programs may work for some people, at least in the short term.  But in order to really get lasting results, you need to become more strategic in your approach.  A true fitness strategy will bring all of its parts together harmoniously and synergistically. 

The best way to build a successful strategy is to consult with a qualified personal trainer, but here are some guidelines to hold you over in the mean time:

  1. You have to consider your entire life.  The way you do your grocery shopping, your visits to restaurants, your time at the gym, your work schedule … all of these elements are vital to your fitness and weight loss success and must be addressed in your strategy.
  2. You must include a sound nutritional program into your strategy.  You can’t just plan on eating less food.  You have to make sure you’re getting in your essential nutrients and eating in a way that will allow muscles to recover from workouts.
  3. You must maintain a balance between aerobic and anaerobic exercise.  If you do just aerobic exercise, or if it is out of balance with muscle strengthening exercise, it can actually slow down your metabolism.  You must have both for your program to succeed.  Without this balance, your results will be uninspiring at best.
  4. You need to consider relapse prevention.  We’re not robots.  We are many times controlled by our emotions, circumstances, and hormones.  There are times when even the most diligent healthy eater has the urge to cheat.  Personally, I allow for a cheat meal every week.  Whether that will work for you depends on your own psychology.  Barring the occasional cheat meal, we must also plan for times when we will be too busy to do what we must.  There will be times when we are sick and must deviate from our plan.  Maybe motivation will temporarily diminish.  We might like to ignore these possibilities, thinking that self-discipline will carry us through, but the truth is that they happen.  When they do, you must have a plan to get back on track.  We might even create a plan in case we catch some symptoms before the full-blown relapse happens.

One of the most valuable benefits of having a strategy is the confidence it brings.  When you have a degree of certainty that your program will succeed, your approach will change.  Now you eat intentionally, and you hit the gym with a purpose. 

When you have a strategy, you are no longer “working out.”  You are training.