Which Workout is Best?

Many of my clients want to know what is the best exercise program for them. So they will often ask me what I think about the relative merits of some particular system of exercise: pilates, or yoga, or kettlebells, or Feldenkrais, or barefoot running, or CrossFit, or free weights, etc. I certainly have opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of these different systems to achieve different goals, and their appropriateness for different individuals.

But for many clients I don’t go through all that analysis, but instead just ask them what type of exercise they are most likely to show up for on a regular basis, day in and day out, over the long term, based on what fits into their schedule, what they can afford, what won’t get them hurt, and most importantly, what they enjoy doing. And then I might say that whichever workout you show up for on the most consistent basis is probably the healthiest one for you.

Those of us in the movement health industry can get very caught up in analyzing all of the differences between the different systems. Of course there are legitimate differences that need to be discussed and analyzed, and it is very fun to do so on Facebook and elsewhere. But as these debates filter down to the general population, they can overly complicate things, create paralysis by analysis, or unfairly demonize some form of exercise that is relatively healthy (and certainly healthier than sitting on the couch.) One way or the other, people need to establish a regular and sustainable pattern of physical activity. If someone can show up for a certain exercise program at some appropriate level of volume, intensity and regularity, then that program is probably better for them than some other program where attendance is compromised due to scheduling, injury, lack of interest or motivation, etc.

There is a great quote by Woody Allen to the effect that “80% of life is just showing up.” I think that often holds true for movement and exercise.

So which workout is best? The one you show up for.