How Your Friends Are Holding You Back

At the gym recently I've noticed a phenomenon that I've seen a number of times over the years. Call it what you want, "Social Abs", "Core With Friends", "Ab Circle", "Club Core", .... whatever.  I call it a "Fairy Ring".

This is an actual photo from the gym.  Seriously.

Maybe that's unfair.  Then again, maybe not.  Fact is, almost nobody in that situation gets any benefit at all from what they're doing.  Unless, of course, the goal is to impress the girl leading the Fairy Ring with your after workout circus tricks.  That might work.

Ok, I'm not JUST ripping on the silliness I see in the gym.  There actually is a point to this.  Most of the people I see in the gym who are "training" are simply piggy-backing off of someone else's often misguided training program.  People always want to know what my workout is that night so that they can do it, too.  It just won't work.

Let me explain it like this:

Let's say there are 5 guys and 5 girls in any given Fairy Ring.  Everyone is at least reasonably fit.  3 of the guys are ripped, but they are the 3 worst male climbers.  The girls are all hot (this doesn't matter; I'm just pointing it out).  A couple of the girls are mostly social climbers, and make no secret about it.  Their climbing abilities range from about 5.10 to 12-, and from maybe V2 to V5.  They spend 2 or 3 hours climbing, then 30 or 40 minutes doing Fairy Ring exercises, followed by 4 or 5 participants doing an hour or so of circus tricks, campusing, and chatting.  They all do each exercise for the same amount of time, reps, or intensity levels.

This girl - with the smile?  Wasting her time.  

Sounds fun.  Particularly if it's a rest day.  As a workout, it's mostly worthless for all but a few of the people involved.  I mean, 10 individuals all doing the same workout in unison?  It looks cute, but otherwise, pointless.  Here's why:

The 3 guys who are ripped can easily handle a far more intense workout than the less fit people.  They could have gotten much more out of working on their sorry technique and learning a little more about climbing.  Same goes for the stronger climbers.  Their core is plenty strong enough to do the sort of workout they are doing, and they'd get more out of a sport specific core workout that imitates climbing movements - or just from climbing.  The people who are, by far, getting the most benefit from the Fairy Ring are the social climbers (the ones who care the least about getting better) and the physically weaker climbers.  Not to mention, if you have the energy for post-workout campusing and yoga-style core circus tricks, then your workout might be lacking.  If you're in the Fairy Ring, and it's difficult for you, then good job.

If I tried to smile like this during core work, I'd explode.

My point extends beyond just the Fairy Ring and core workouts.  If you do the same problems in your 4x4 as your partner, then the two of you had better be uncommonly evenly matched.  The same strengths and weaknesses.  The same goals.  Doing the exact same number of laps on the same routes as your belay partner means that most likely, one of you is trying much harder than the other.

Here's another example:  Two guys, Biff and Bam, always climb together and always work on the same problems.  Biff sends after 3 or 4 tries then gets to sit and chat with the girls.  Bam has to refine his technique, dig deep for the power, and completes the problem after an hour of learning a few new tricks.  Unless Biff got a date out of it, Bam wins.  He may not be the better climber tonight, but he will be.  Mark my words.

There is NO single workout that any group of people can follow to get the optimum results for each of them.  Doing your partners workout just isn't what's best for you.  You all have different ability levels, goals, drives, strengths, and weaknesses.  If your goal is to get stronger, then your workouts MUST reflect your own individual needs.  Not mine.  Not your partner's.  Not the other Fairies.

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