50 Shades of [Athletic] Grey

Before I even begin, I must confess I have not read this book. I have no idea if there is any reference to the actual greyscale. Now, with that in mind, hold on to your panties – because I’m about to get down and dirty – about fitness that is! 😉

The fitness industry often bounces back and forth between two extremes – black or white. Like we’ve seen in politics, fitness is often either extreme right or extreme left. People preach fitness is very easy or ridiculously hard. I think we need more grey!

Black & White

Back in the 80s, fitness gadgets and programs were always marketed as fun, easy workouts – rarely showing someone even breaking a sweat. It’s like they thought they could fool people into getting fit. But no matter how easy the fitness model made it look on TV, sooner or later the person was going to figure out it took work.

Then came Biggest Loser and P90x where extreme measures were exploited, making people believe they weren’t working out unless they were jumping 4 feet in the air one hour straight. Drill sergeant trainers, yelling in your face, stole the show – and people wanted the Jillian Michaels experience, so they too could be “forced” to workout and get results. The major difference between the two extremes was the message. One tried to attract the fat and lazy crowd, and the other tried to attract the fat and desperate I’ll-try-anything crowd. But what about everyone else?

The Danger of Pale Grey 

I personally think everyone fell into the pale grey aera. Even with extreme fitness being more more accepted, most mainstream magazines and brands continue to lean toward the gentle nudge “pale grey” approach, in an attempt to make people feel better about making very little effort. Many writers mislead readers by promoting basically anything, but sitting, as a fitness routine – and people believe it. I guess headlines like “get off your fat butt” doesn’t sell. Maybe we need a clearer message because, in a recent diabetes study, data showed only 3.5 percent of Americans between 18 and 59 did the minimum amount of physical activity recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services. Mediocre message might just make a mediocre impact.  I think we need more honest headlines, honest advertising and real hard facts, but the truth hurts.

People want to believe they are doing everything right. People don’t like hearing that they need to workout harder or that they need to improve. Most people think that doing anything is good enough – and while it’s better than nothing, that doesn’t mean it’s the answer.

50 Shades of White

When it comes to painting a room, most people will gravitate to neutral colors. White, off white, antique white, linen white, smokey white are for people afraid of commitment. When you choose an actual color, you have to stick to decorating around that color. It takes a lot of thought and requires some level of commitment. The same goes with fitness. Like bold colors, bold fitness makes the biggest impact. The problem is, people are often too afraid of failure to commit. So they play it safe, choosing a “white” workout that’s not too difficult, not too scary, not too risky, and that doesn’t require too much of a commitment. As a result, they don’t get the impact they hoped.

The New York Times recently did an article on Updating the Message to Get Americans Moving. In the article, the director of the psychology laboratory at the University of Georgia, Rod Dishman, said he was annoyed when students enrolled in walking classes, boldly saying “It is a sin for a healthy, capable young adult to enroll in a walking class. It is obscene. What they are getting credit for is avoiding making any effort.”

I’m sure none of the students felt that way. However, I totally understand the director’s point of view. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking walking and I realize his words are harsh. Walking may be someone’s only option. I’m trying to encourage people to realize that even an out-of-shape body is typically capable of so much more – and I’m sure the majority of his students could have done more too.

A New Start

Instead of choosing a program based on what someone is willing to do, maybe they should look at fitness from the finishline instead of the starting place. What do I mean? I mean, a person should base their activity on their goals. For most people, fitness is about being physically fit and at a healthy weight. When it comes to weight loss and making drastic changes, it’s not enough just to move – you must move purposefully.

So, what shade of grey are you? Now THAT’s a good question. You may not only pick only one “shade” or training style. Of matter of fact, I’m a firm believer in variety. Whatever you choose, you should have an idea of where that exercise falls on the fitness greyscale.

Here’s a simple chart I created of various popular activity, and the approximate calories burned. In order to get a real understanding of calorie burned, note that sitting on a computer burns approximately 100 calories per hour, so you can subtract 100 from the calories burned during exercise to reflect INCREASED activity. Also, please realize these are generalities only.

The Fitness Greyscale

White: (130lbs: 100-200 calories/hour. 200lbs: 200-300 calories/hour.)
Walking 2mph
Stationary Bike, no resistance

Mild Stretching

Light Grey:
(130lbs 200-300 calories/hour. 200lbs: 300-400 calories/hour.)

Walking 3mph
Elliptical, light pace/resistance
Stationary Bike, light resistance/pace
Swimming
Tai Chi
Weight Training, light weight with moderate rest
Seated Exercise Class
Bicycle, less than 10mph
Light Calisthenics 
Golf

Grey:
(130lbs: 300-400 calories/hour. 200LB: 400-500 calories/hour)

Power Walking 4mph
Elliptical, moderate pace/resistance
Jogging (12-min mile)
Low Impact Aerobics
Body Toning Class
Weight Training, light weight with little rest
Weight Training, moderate weight with moderate rest
Weight Training, heavy weight with ample rest
Beginner Yoga or Pilates
Water Aerobics
Zumba
Stationary Bike with Moderate Resistance/Pace
Swimming Laps
Moderate Bodyweight Exercises
Cycling 10-15mph
Moderate Calisthenics 
Stepper
Rowing, moderate
Tennis

Dark Grey:
(400-500 calories/hour. 200LB: 500-600 calories/hour.)

High Impact Aerobics
Kickboxing
Spinning
Running
Advanced Zumba 
Power Yoga
Circuit Training
Weight Training, moderate weight, with little to no rest
Weight Training, heavy weight with little rest
Vigorous Calisthenics 
Jump Rope
Cycling 20mph
Gauntlet Stair Machine
HIIT
Boxing
Rowing, vigorous

Black:
(130lbs: 500-600 calories/hour. 200LB: 600-700 calories/hour)

Sprinting
BCx Boot Camp
P90x
CrossFit
Insanity
Sports Conditioning
Olympic Lifting
Plyometrics
Tabata 

Get Ready for the Holidays & Help Someone Get Fit: 

Read my fitness gift guide: Top 25 Fitness Gifts for Your Fit Friends

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About Bonnie Pfiester

Fitness Columnist and Lifestyle Coach, Resident Trainer for Designer Whey, Fitness Advisor for FitStudio, powered by Sears, FitFluential Ambassador and Owner of Max Fitness Club, home of BCx Boot Camp in Vero Beach, Florida.

Posted on November 29, 2012, in Exercise & Training, PFED UP, PFIT TIPS and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. thanks Bonnie!! 🙂 go girls, tell it like it is!! 🙂

  2. Great article. Should make the shades of grey into a fitness poster 🙂

  3. You’re so right. I’ve seen this exact thing happen, and I took part in it myself, at one time! I love how you illustrated the levels. Great read!

  4. Enjoyed this article – the public is treated with kid gloves WAY too often.

  5. That’s one thing I LOVE about instructing classes…..watching/encouraging people to do things they did not think themselves capable of doing and then sharing in their joy and pride in accomplishing those things. I always encourage people they can do more than they think that they can and they’ll never know unless they try. Our thinking is what limits – the body is able; we just have to tell ourselves that. Great article!!!

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