I bought the book Slow Burn by Fred Hahn because it was recommended in the book Itâ€™s Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome I reviewed this August. The latter book tells about a hairdresser whose treatment for RSI wasn’t helping (yes: keyboards aren’t the only things bad for your hands). When she consulted with Fred, he told her she didn’t have the muscular strength required for her job, and simply doing her job wouldn’t give her that strength. Ballgame athletes also train in the gym in addition to training for their sports. After training with Fred for some time, the hairdresser was eventually able to carry on with her business.
The Slow Burn book consists of two parts. The first eight chapters explain the benefits of strength training and weight training. The effects of various training methods and dietary habits are explained in clear language that is easy to understand, even for geeks who are more familiar with a computer’s innards than with their own.
The second part has only two chapters. The first gives step by step methods to apply the slow burn method at home using dumb weights. The second does the same using the contraptions you find at the gym. While the cover and part one of the book talks about “30 minutes” a week, that’s actually a minimum. Part two of the book recommends every five days or even twice a week. I’ve also found that my actual sessions are closer to 40 or 45 minutes. I don’t rush myself going from one exercise to the next.
The key point of the slow burn method is that instead of doing however many sets of however many repetitions, you choose a weight that you can comfortably yet barely lift. Moving the weight slowly, at a deliberate pace, you work your muscles to exhaustion in only half a dozen or so repetitions. This is why you can actually get results even if you only train 30 minutes a week. The disadvantage is that it’s no fun at all. To me it seems this method is perfect for people who have (far) more determination than time to train their bodies.
I did the at home method for a couple of months. Though I did the routine twice a week, I didn’t make any significant progress. I didn’t really feel any different, even though the records I kept with repetitions and weights showed an increase. The exercises were uncomfortable. I felt I was spending more effort trying to keep my balance than actually training the muscle that was supposed to do the work for each exercise.
Then in June a brand new gym opened close to our house. At only 5 to 10 minutes driving, depending on traffic, it could hardly be any closer. For the past five months I’ve been burning slowly three days a week. Since the membership cost is a fixed monthly fee, it seemed like a waste to go only once a week. Going every other day and one day off has been working just fine for me. The weight machines at the gym keep my balance for me. I just sit down. All the effort is taken by the muscles that each machine isolates.
And I’ve been making real progress. No, I don’t look like Schwarzenegger, and I never will. Unless I’m wearing a body-hugging shirt, you likely won’t see any difference. I was never overweight, and I didn’t try to lose any. But I do feel much stronger and fitter. Somebody should have told me this ten years ago. Somebody probably did, but I didn’t listen. At least I didn’t wait until I couldn’t get up the stairs any more. (“Slow Burn” explains why that happens.) Three hours a week seems like such a small investment now. Though it cuts into my working schedule, I’m not less productive. My energy levels are higher and getting up early seems easier now.
I’m not a personal trainer, so I can’t say if the slow burn method is good for you. There are other ways to train your body. Just don’t let your tombstone say “he was a real couch potato”.