Ask the Expert text
How Not to Train in Vain
Illustration of Jerry Shreck
Illustration: Joel Kimmel
" " For 17 years, Jerry Shreck has been Bucknell’s strength and conditioning coach. With three full-time assistants he oversees all 27 varsity teams, and he directly trains seven: baseball, men’s lacrosse, men’s soccer, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s basketball and wrestling. He shares his tips for the average person interested in staying fit.
Question 1: What exercise pays off the most?
The biggest bang-for-your-buck exercise has always been some type of squatting movement with weights. It involves the total body. The back squat — with the barbell across the upper back, then squatting down and coming back up — might be a little aggressive to start with. You may want to start with a goblet squat — squatting while holding a kettlebell to your chest.
Question 2: How do you begin?
Find someone who has a certification and can teach you the proper form and technique with weights, so you’re not putting undue stresses on certain parts of the body. You need to tell your trainer what your goals are. What kind of life do you want to live? Are you active? Or do you sit behind a desk all day? Do you have aspirations to do something like hike the Appalachian Trail? You’ve gotta be pretty fit to do that, so that will dictate the kind of training you do.
Question 3: How much should you train?
As long as people are getting some type of training three to five days a week, that’s usually adequate for general health benefits. But if you’ve got other goals, just mimicking what you see other people do at the gym isn’t the best approach.
Question 4: Can you overtrain?
If you’re a runner and overtraining, sometimes you’re at risk for things like tendonitis or a stress fracture. You’ve got to build up your body slowly to be able to handle the volume of work that you’re trying to accomplish, whether it’s with weights, cardio, conditioning or anything else.
Question 5: How do you stay motivated?
Find a reason why you want to stay fit. Maybe you want to stay fit so that you can watch those grandkids grow up and play with them instead of sitting on a park bench not doing anything. That can be motivating. What’s your internal drive?