We’ve all seen it – the 30 day, 45 day, 60 day, etc. fitness challenges. Almost every major gym in America has them. Private fitness trainers put them on to create competition among their clients. Even corporations are holding them now to promote their “great” wellness programs. It’s a great marketing tactic for gyms and trainers, but what’s the drawback?

Fitness challenges are great for people who are already relatively fit and have little to no neuromuscular imbalance or mobility issues. The reality is that most adults over the age of 30 experience some type of mobility issue related to imbalance, for instance low back pain that limits activity.

So here we go, we’ve got Bradley Bro Trainer who pushes all of his clients to sign up for the 60 day fitness challenge. “Hey bro, sign up for the challenge. We’re going to get you lean and mean,” says Bradley. It is 1) unlikely that Bradley has screened his clients for neuromuscular imbalance and 2) haphazard if he has and proceeds with a program that causes the client to compete with other clients knowing that imbalance exists.

So what is imbalance? Stop looking at the body as a bunch of independent systems and look at it as a motor in a car. Pistons, valves, crankshafts, fuel injectors, timing chains – all of these parts are necessary to make power. If any one of these parts are failing, the engine isn’t functioning properly. The body is much of the same type of system. If your hamstrings are too tight, your glutes are impacted, which impacts the low back. If you sit at a desk all day, odds are you suffer from a condition called upper crossed syndrome in which the posterior muscles of the extreme upper body are elongated and the anterior muscles such as the pectoral muscles and the front deltoids are contracted for long periods of time to brace the body in the position most office workers place it in. Over time, this leads to a kyphotic arch, causing the worker to slouch and exhibit poor posture. This can even become extremely painful over time.

These are things that need to be fixed at the outset of any safe fitness training program. To neglect to do so will only train the client into further state of imbalance and compound pain.

When any client begins with me, I first assess for imbalance and then add elements into the program that progressively correct the issue. I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow my clients to continue to live in pain and odds are if I can’t fix it, orthopedic intervention is necessary. We can’t achieve weight loss if we can’t achieve proper recruitment of the various motor units we use in our workouts. We can’t achieve any of this if we can’t find out how to eliminate pain.