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As more people want fitness to be fun and challenging, there's been a backlash against the treadmill and the elliptical. Trouble is, the new orthodoxy isn't that great either. Every session doesn't need to leave you exhausted.

Over the last few years, there's been a backlash against "steady state" cardio and the elliptical crosstrainer's tyrannous reign over American fitness. Trouble is, that's often been ego-driven, with hard sessions becoming a way for trainees to feel that they're above the common herd, while for trainers, they're a gift: people don't even look at results any more. As long as you're stumbling out of the gym sweat-soaked, light-headed and catabolic, you're happy, right? Trouble is, anyone can smoke you  not everyone can get you closer to your goals. For that, you need a sensible program that includes high-intensity training, dull, difficult postural and structural drills, pounding away at the basics and maybe even the occasional spell on the elliptical. 

Go Hard Or Go Home Needs To Go Home

What's happened is simply that one unquestionable orthodoxy has been replaced by another. Where once, gyms pushed cardio in the "fat-burning zone" and everybody speed walked about eating whole grains right off the stalk, now even mentioning carbs will get you a patronising run-down of whichever eccentric diet the speaker has adopted in order to fuel hour-long sessions of kipping pull-ups and weighted-vest box jumps. 

Something great really has happened. People have stepped away from the machines and gone outside. They're looking at fitness in a more holistic way  a fit person should be able to do things. That's grasped more now than it was ten or twenty years ago, and the contribution that Crossfit and various primal and caveman gyms and exercise systems have made to that shouldn't be underrated. People who aren't XXXXXL-wearing gym rats aren't ashamed to want to gain a bit of muscle.

Big guys who can tell their lats from their delta in the mirror, not just the anatomy textbook, are showing up at yoga classes, chasing better fitness outcomes wherever they can find them.

That's Good

But there's more going on here than some kind of fitness revolution, where everyone deserts the soulless corporate gym and head out to the pull-up bar, singing "We Built This City". What kept people in those gyms in the first place was the ideas they had. And now we're all supposed to have different ideas  but they're just as dogmatic. That's kind of the problem.

Now, gym classes and boot camps in local parks offer sessions that focus on a mix of cardio and load-bearing exercises, often for an hour or so at a time. That can mean calisthenics and kettle bells, shuttle runs and sprints, partner drills, boxing drills and more, sometimes in the same session.

The problem with that is the same problem as with the treadmill. Everyone acts like there's no alternative. 

There's an extra issue with hard effort, boot-camp style sessions though. 

If you spend an hour on the treadmill, the problems it will cause you are chronic. Watch a class full of people who haven't had a single second of individual instruction do kettle bell clean and presses and it's easy to see how this new fitness trend is well set up to cause acute injury. You're not going to get gradually fatter. You're going to tear something.

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