The risk analysis curve

The percentage of Americans who regularly engage in vigorous exercise for more than six months (meaning people who exercise regularly for an extended period of time) is shockingly low. Depending upon which source you’re reading it’s about 3%. I’m including weight lifting in this figure, it’s higher if you include people who only do some form of cardio, but not by much.

Why don’t people last longer than that? The reality is that my timeline is almost certainly artificially long, as that is just based upon a figure of how long the average person maintains their gym membership before they quit.

Below are a few reasons why people quit exercising and then we’ll get into my focus here.

  1. Time. We let ourselves get overwhelmed by our schedule and the first thing to go (though it really should be the last) is often exercise. This is why the National Weight Control Registry established the ability to work out at home as one of the essential habit building requirements for weight loss.
  2. Motivation. Particularly if the results aren’t coming as fast as we might like, this is a common one. Much of the blame for this can be lain upon the doorstep of the “30 Day Challenge” culture we have built and now all live in. Based upon current research it takes about 60 days to a build an actual habit, with some variation. So yes you may lose some weight in 30 days, but you will not have changed your behaviors. If your behaviors are not changed, the weight loss will not stick.
  3. Social Support. If you are in a social circle of people with unhealthy behaviors, you will find it hard to go against that grain and may eventually backslide because of it.

Now on to one more: They are in too much pain to continue.

Look around your average gym. You see a lot of people with knee braces, elbow sleeves, wrist braces etc. You also see dozens of people with little or no guidance trying to perform what are high skilled movements. You wouldn’t think of trying to walk across a wire suspended between two buildings two hundred feet up in the air with no training or supervision, would you? So why would you load a bar up with weight and put it on your back without any training?

This is where the “Risk Analysis Curve” comes in to play. The higher skill the exercise, the sharper the curve, and the more likely it is that you’re going to fly off the road and into a canyon. A Barbell Back Squat (though you may not know it) is a very high skill exercise. A bodyweight squat by comparison, though still requiring some skill to perform is lower on the curve simply because of the lack of an external load, and by default less shearing forces on the spine and joints if performed improperly. The average untrained individual is also most likely “over-reaching” by jumping straight into any loaded variation of a squat before having demonstrated mastery of their own body-weight.

Part of our process at Average To Elite Performance is predicting where you fall on this risk analysis curve according to your current skill level, mobility and needs. This is important not only to ensure that you reach your stated goals, but also to avoid taking unnecessary risks along the way.

Often this can be challenging for a new client. We start training perhaps with images in our head of throwing barbells around, jumping on boxes or climbing ropes. What is essential to understand is that you have to earn the right to perform those exercises. Your entry fee may be paid with hundreds of bodyweight squats, elevated push ups, corrective exercises and hours of mobility work. However, once that price has been paid you will have a bright future of executing high skill movements with precision, and most importantly without pain.

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