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Keeping it simple

Famed aeronautical engineer Kelly Johnson coined the acronym K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple, stupid! Since I try not to insult others, we can keep the principle, but perhaps abbreviate the acronym to K.I.S.

People often fail when trying to effect positive changes in their lives, such as embarking on a new diet or exercise regimen, because they complicate things too much. For example, many of us, when deciding to start working out, proceed to join a gym. Instead of following a simple, straight-forward program, on advice of self styled experts or weight training magazines we adopt something along the lines of:

Day 1: 20 minutes on stationary bicycle. 20 minutes on elliptical machine. 3 sets of bench press. 3 sets of incline bench press. 3 sets of decline bench press. 3 sets of dumbbell flys. 3 sets of dips. 3 sets of standing triceps extensions. 3 sets of lying triceps extensions. 3 sets of close grip bench presses. 3 sets of dumbbell bench presses. 3 sets of crunches. 3 sets of reverse crunches. 3 sets of hanging leg raises.

Day 2: 20 minutes on treadmill. 20 minutes on stepper. 3 sets of lat pull downs. 3 sets of underhand lat pull downs. 3 sets of dumbbell rows. 3 sets of close grips machine rows. 3 sets of T-bar rows. 3 sets of dumbbell pullovers. 3 sets of back extensions. 3 sets of stiff-legged deadlifts.3 sets of barbell curls. 3 sets of alternate dumbbell curls. 3 sets of concentration curls. 3 sets of easy bar curls.

Day 3: 30 minute swim. 3 sets of leg extensions. 3 sets of leg curls. 3 sets of squats. 3 sets of leg presses. 3 sets of machine squats. 3 sets of dumbbell lunges. 3 sets of overhead barbell presses. 3 sets of dumbbell presses. 3 sets of front raises. 3 sets of lateral raises. 3 sets of cable raises.

Etc. etc.

Complicated vintage exercise machine

What I’ve described isn’t an uncommon type of routine you may encounter at the gym. And you know what? If you’re a bodybuilder with many years of experience, it may not be a half bad routine. However if you’re just starting out, and have many other commitments such as job or family obligations, then working out for 2 hours a day on a regular basis is probably not going to remain a long term reality. In addition, this routine may lead to overtraining, making you so sore as to ensure that a second masochistic trip to the gym is probably not worth it.

A similar scenario often occurs with diets. No carbs. No fat. 800 calories a day. Eat only one meal a day, drink gross tasting shakes the rest of the time. How many of us can stick to such spartan eating plans? Perhaps in the short term it’s doable (although in some cases not so healthy). However, within a few weeks, those endless plates of nonfat cheese, egg white omelets and alfalfa become a monotonous if not nauseating experience.

Green smoothie

A better approach for most beginners is to start with a simplified exercise regimen and diet.

For example, the exercise regimen could consist of:

1. 1 mile fast walk
2. 2 sets of 10 push-ups
3. 2 sets of 10 sit-ups
4. 2 sets of 10 squat thrusts
4. 3 minutes of jumping rope
5. 3 minutes of stretching

Your diet:

1. Avoid sugary foods.
2. Avoid fried foods.
3. Eat 3 more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily than you currently do
4. Allow yourself one off day a week.

A regimen such as the one above takes much less time to complete and is overall simpler, increasing the chances of long term adherence.

Am I saying that you can’t increase the complexity of your health & fitness routine? Absolutely not. Go wild! But do it slowly, adding small steps that you can stick with.

Another scenario that I encounter is one in which someone has a few months to get into shape – say a college student off for summer vacation. You’re done with school and are gung-ho about embarking on that lengthy and complicated diet and exercise routine you read about in the May copy of whatever fitness magazine you subscribe to (see above). You go all out during the summer and shed the excess fat. Now school is starting again. The school work piles on. You have a part time job. . . and there goes the entire routine. You don’t have 2 hours daily to spend at the gym, so you stop going. And who has time for a complicated, super restrictive diet? So a donut (or 2) with coffee is breakfast, a burger and fries or pizza on the go is lunch, and a repeat of lunch is dinner. Of course let’s not forget about the snacks! Gotta give that brain an endless supply of sugar to help it function at optimal speed so that you can ace that math midterm.

Within a few months, all that weight that was so hard to lose is piled back on (and then some). Had you followed a simple maintenance routine (again, see above), you could have kept the weight off (and your cholesterol down).

– Tamir


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