Fitness Like Fondu (Fitness Catalog Hater)

I love the idea of minimalist strength training and conditioning. I have avoided the commercial gym scene for fifteen years, the primary reason being convenience. Throw in a handful of supportive, like-minded people, and the home gym is simply all around awesome.

Except for the part where you vacuum every three days and there are holes in your drywall.

Anyway, there’s another huge reason why I love the idea of working and working out in my basement. In some regards, this seems like one way of Sticking It To The Man.

Exactly who The Man is I’m not so sure. But I feel that in this day and age, there needs to be a big fat official, insurance or government approved toodoo about every. little. iota. And I have enough of that in my day job. At home, we use the equipment and space that I would use for myself anyway. We make do with gear that serves the purpose just fine.

If you don’t want to jump up to the picnic table, you can go over to the rock, which is 4″ shorter. If you need a 40lb dumbbell, you’re currently out of luck. You may adjust the adjustable dumbbells, which involves twisting on and off some weight plates and metal collars. But this is not recommended. Just do the 35lb dumbbells for more reps or move up to the 50lb dumbbells for fewer.

You would be startled at how people out-do themselves and make better progress when options are limited. Being forced to narrow your options and simplify actually HELPS you reach the desired outcome.

And that’s why I laugh when thumbing through fitness catalogues, the Williams Sonoma of the rehab and fitness world. These offer nearly limitless overpriced and/or plainly unnecessary items, and specialize in fads and misguided alternatives to What Matters.

Take, for example, a 6″ hurdle. Why would you ever buy these ($18 each) when there are plenty of foam rollers, cones, baseball hats, and other small objects like old pillows and used books sitting around? Sure, the catalogues offer  some great gear as well; equipment that’s critical for accomplishing What Matters. There’s nothing wrong with buying a set of plyometric boxes for $500. But you can also find a used picnic table, a rock or bench, and a few yoga matts.


From the outside, these catalogues look legitimate enough.


The Perform Better Catalogue has a number of items that are like the Williams Sonoma $180 Fondu Pot of the training world. Here is a sample of the ridiculousness within.



For $85 plus shipping you can have this mat with 5 non-fading dots on it. You wouldn’t want to put a few pieces of tape on the floor, or have to retrace a dot.



If you need this Elite Stride Trainer to run faster, you should REALLY consider taking up chess. Or hiring a new strength/speed coach.



Here’s a weight sled that’s not a sled. Wheels necessitate stacking up more weight plates, and makes this a $400 wagon.  Looks a lot like a “car push.” Transmissions and stuff are heavy!



This guy in the catalogue is performing a nice set of squats…in running shoes. In my world, this is a fairly major issue in terms of What Matters. ; )



This padded squat and jump box can be yours for $300. At my house we use a floral pattern ottoman that once sat alongside our driveway awaiting the garbage truck.

And many more…

– – – – –

At my home gym, we have plenty of equipment to do What Matters (know-how and context). Things like showing up to train in community, refining movement technique, establishing a rhythm of stress and recovery, and objectively tracking progress in a few key variables that are tailored for individual body type and fitness goals. Truly, it’s not about the gear. So much of the gear at typical commercial gyms is fluff that doesn’t really make a difference.  People get stronger, faster, healthier, and more awesome when they know and consistently do What Matters.

And I get it. Most people WANT a gym where they can simply show up and use the gear. Normal gym managers need to make a living and will not carry a decent reputation by putting tape on the floor and using ottomans for squat boxes. There are major challenges and problems with the current status quo in the fitness/gym industry, but that’s another essay.

The fact remains that many people have trouble finding the time, the finances, and sustainable methods of achieving their health and performance goals. The majority of them feel that the latest shiny and crisp, use-as-intended training gear is really important to them.

But that’s not me. And those are not my people.

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