Karl Henry: Don't pick up a weight just because it's in vogue
Resistance training is the most beneficial exercise you can do, but don't lose sight of your long-term goal, says our fitness expert
How strong do you actually want to be? Lifting. Resistance. Strength and conditioning. Weights. Call it whatever you want, but one thing's for sure, strength training has never been more in fashion.
Anyone with a profile is getting on board too, releasing books, articles, videos, tweets, opinions and basically jumping on the bandwagon. It's great to see health so in vogue - we know that we need to become healthier as a nation and anything that makes that happen can only be a good thing.
But one thing that does strike me. 'Strength' is the new buzzword; the new 'aerobics' or 'spinning', everywhere you go it's about what you can lift, how many chin-ups can you do, what can you squat?
These are great questions, but are they helping to create an even bigger gap in our society, scaring those who actually need to move more? I'm not sure that those questions are the most important thing.
You see, lifting any weight at all is strength training, no matter what the weight is. You will gain strength and form, improving your tone and shape. I'm not so sure that adding lots more weight is the way to go, purely because it does scare the average person, creating even bigger barriers to health than we already have.
There are many other ways to challenge someone's fitness or strength that can be far more involving and inviting that will help to get more people moving. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-weights. All my clients lift - I lift. Resistance training is the most beneficial type of training you can do, the one that will deliver the most benefits for your body. You need to do more of it as you age.
But for many people nowadays, lifting weights means being put on a programme initially designed for an athlete, not the average person starting out. They may gain strength, but they can lose their shape, tone and sometimes even posture.
I suppose it all depends on your goals on day one and who you go to. Training, like anything, is totally different everywhere you go, you need to make sure that your goals align with the goals of the gym/box/trainer that you are going to. Before you sign up, why not take some time to look at why you are going? What is it you want to achieve? Does that align with where you are going?
For example, someone who is trying to lose weight in the long term, for life, in my opinion should not go on meal replacement sachets or very low-calorie diets, as that's a short-term unhealthy solution that seems to lead to more weight gained back in the long term.
Strength and health should be for your life, why waste your hard-earned money unless it's going to last?
Then take a look at the experience/fee relationship that exists. When I started personal training 16 years ago, I charged ¤25 euro a session, as I was fresh out of college, just starting out, had no real experience, and was still learning my trade, one client at a time.
Over the course of 16 years and more than 10,000 sessions later, my price increased as my experience grew, as I felt I was charging a fair price that reflected my experience.
With training being so popular now, many trainers are coming out of college expecting to charge top rates from the start, which in my opinion doesn't make any sense. So wherever it is you are thinking of training, you should ask the team what experience they have. The fee should reflect the experience that the trainers have, and if it doesn't, then maybe keep on looking.
Let's make it simple. The older you get, the weaker you get - unless you begin to challenge your body, which is what strength is really about. Find what you feel comfortable doing, in a place you feel comfortable in, surrounded by people you trust. Follow those on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram who have experience, not just because they have a filtered photo of themselves training and eating, because most of the time you are not getting the full story of their training or their eating either, you are getting what they want you to see.
Above all, try to do things that will help you live longer, live healthier and live stronger.