The Chase

One of my favorite but often-forgotten movies of the mid-90s is The Chase. In which an impossibly good looking Charlie Sheen is wrongly convicted for a crime and seizes a chance to escape by kidnapping an impossibly good looking Kristy Swanson, an entitled, wealthy heiress who happens to find herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As the name implies, a lengthy car chase ensues and – spoiler alert – Sheen and Swanson fall in love in the process.

This certainly isn’t breakthrough cinema like Pulp Fiction. Or hopeful sentimental storytelling like The Shawshank Redemption. Or a time-traveling feel-good like Forrest Gump. All of which were also released in the same year. But I really enjoy it just the same. I recommend it if you find yourself with nothing else to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Unfortunately, this blog has little to do with the movie The Chase but an entirely different and far more damaging type of chase.

Chasing fatigue.

When I look around at most, particularly larger, group fitness classes, chasing fatigue tends to be priority number one and that’s a massive mistake if you are actually looking to get in shape.

Chasing fatigue is pretty much what it sounds like. Performing exercises in training parameters that are solely designed to get you tired.

From a business perspective, the upside of chasing fatigue is massive. First off, it allows the utilization of movements and tools that don’t necessarily require a ton of coaching to be able to perform. Hell, I can get you very tired without using any tools at all. If I ask you to go from laying on your back on the floor to standing for as many reps as possible for 10 minutes you’ll be wrecked. As long as you are going as fast as possible it doesn’t even matter what technique you use.

Go ahead. Give it a try. I’ll wait.

The other upside of this type of training is that it makes you feel like you’ve trained hard. You’ll be out of breath. You’ll be sweaty. Your quads will shake as you walk down the subway stairs on your way to your office job where you spend the first 30 minutes of every Monday, Wednesday and Friday telling disinterested co-workers all the details of your killer workout. {SPOILER ALERT: They are being polite. They don’t actually care about that shit.}

Let’s get this out of the way: training has to be, for lack of a better term, hard to be effective. So, yes, you should expect to feel muscular or cardiovascular fatigue if you are getting a training effect from your exercise program.

However – and this is a pretty big “however” – fatigue can not be the only variable that is accounted for if you want to actually improve your fitness and get in shape.

I’ll give you an example without naming names.

Let’s say you go to a fictional group fitness establishment. Just for fun, let’s call it Larry’s Footcamp.

OK, you go to Larry’s and the workout alternates random hard sprints on a treadmill with light dumbbell or bodyweight exercises and utilizes little to no rest intervals.

Will this workout make you exhausted? Hell, yeah. Sprinting is hard and with no time to recover your heart rate will go through the roof.

But that workout – particularly after you perform it a few times – will not make you any stronger or much better of a sprinter.

I’ll spare you the overly nerdy exercise science lecture. But for a workout to be effective it actually needs structure, logic and progression. Feeling like you worked hard cannot be the only measure of efficacy.

Lucky for you, there are training establishments – even though perhaps few and far between – that actually do put effort into programming and progression. Where you can not only accumulate fatigue but also make progress, improve in the strength qualities and energy systems that are important and truly get in shape.

Maybe one of those places is called The Fort.

But, as I said, I’m not naming names.

When Kyle is feeling feisty he will engage with the Larry’s disciples and defenders. They’ll talk about the lighting or the energy or how so-and-so is there favorite instructor and how the class is soooo hard.

And he’ll always respond with the same question: “So what is it that you can do?”

Besides “go to Larry’s” there is no answer. They have no defense. There is no beautiful Kristy Swanson to save them.