Getting and staying physically fit is simple, but not easy — a bit like dieting or giving up smoking.
Before lockdowns hit, I used to cycle to work, which made up most of my weekly fitness routine. During lockdowns, however, I quickly realized that this strategy won’t suffice any longer.
So, I naively started to search the internet for fitness plans. After sifting through the noise that the top 15 search results offered (complicated plans presented on ad-ridden websites), I realized that I need to approach this differently.
Taking a step back, I asked myself which entity would have the strongest incentives to provide a fitness plan that’s:
- effective for functional fitness
- easy to follow along and easy to remember
- requires minimal or no equipment
- suitable for beginners, but offering a path for progression
- pragmatic enough to be woven into a habit (quick workouts, no special location needed)
- accessible, so available online and free to share with others
This already gave me a good framework to exclude the following options from further consideration:
- Plans issued by fitness centers? No, they need to draw you into a location (theirs).
- Personal trainers? No, per business model it’s a personal training, so sharing with friends isn’t possible. Besides, it’d usually involve me driving to a location for the training. And third, a fitness instructor has a baked-in incentive of you not being too independent when it comes to your fitness routine, lest they’d be losing a client.
- Online fitness classes? Apple Fitness or Peloton are predominantly made to attract and keep you on their respective devices and in their ecosystems. Fair enough, and not a bad thing per se. But what ultimately detracted me was the realization that this incentive might skew workouts in a direction that favors the incorporation of their devices into the fitness routine — potentially to the detriment of overall effectiveness. Additionally, you’d be bound to a location where you can use their devices.
- Fitness plans sold via courses or books? While more flexible than the former options, there’s a natural incentive by book publishers and course instructors to make a simple and hard thing appear easy — if you just follow along with their advice. And as such, the baked-in incentive is to make something simple appear complex. Because after all, why would you spend 20 USD or more on a 10-page book?
With the options now considerably reduced, my mind got set on an organization that has a baked-in incentive for providing no-nonsense fitness plans and -advice at scale: the military.
So, instead of searching for fitness plans broadly, I narrowed my research down to workout plans employed by drill instructors around the globe.
One example is the Navy Fitness & Nutrition guide issued by the U.S. Navy — short and to the point, great to gauge where your current fitness stands. The Navy also publishes a 5-week training program here.
I bet you to find similar value in any paid guide when it comes to achieving functional fitness sustainably and efficiently.