I remember when I first learned about Microwave ovens, and the fact that they heat the food not the container. What a cool idea.,Why couldn’t a fitness program be like that–build the body without wearing it out?,Microwave ovens are so easy to use. You stick food in, then turn or press the timer. Or, what’s even cooler is that with one press of the popcorn button in a couple of minutes you’re munching on popcorn.,I’ve always wondered why, with all the marvels of our age, fitness isn’t as reliable. You can’t just start a fitness program and say, “Today I want to grow one inch on my arm. Tomorrow I’ll lose an inch of fat around my waist. And maybe this weekend I’ll build up some extra strength so I can help mom move the refrigerator next month.”,We all know it doesn’t work that way but, then again, before microwaves popcorn didn’t work that way either. So what’s the issue? Are we not demanding enough of our fitness programs, or do we just have a higher standard for kitchen appliances than for our own bodies?,This really hit me in a big way one day when I had to tie my shoes to go to a funeral. Until this funeral came up I had been wearing velcro shoes, the kind you don’t have to bend over and tie. I have to tell you, there is nothing like having trouble tying your shoes, in the context of going to someone’s funeral, to make you start thinking about fitness seriously.,That was almost 10 years ago. And you know what I’ve found out? People are far more demanding of their kitchen appliances than they are of their fitness programs. (Oh, not you, I mean other people.),So why doesn’t fitness work better? I figured out that it has a lot to do with the words people use. People talk about getting fit, but it doesn’t have a clear meaning–not something you can test. It’s not like popcorn, where you can tell if it has popped or not.,The same concept applies to losing weight. The way most people talk about losing weight they make no distinction between losing 10 pounds of water weight, 10 pounds of muscle or 10 pounds of fat. It’s not the same you know.,For the average person it’s pretty easy to lose 10 pounds of water weight for a few days, only to gain it right back. And, for the average person, losing 10 pounds of muscle is disastrous. It will slow you down, make you tired quicker, make it harder to get around, and it won’t look much better. On top of that, it makes it easier to gain fat afterwards.,Losing 10 pounds of fat is harder, and takes longer, than those other two. But it isn’t that hard, and doesn’t take that long, if you know exactly how to do it. I once lost 40 pounds of fat in 70 days, mostly watching TV while doing it, because I knew exactly where the fat loss button was. It’s not as convenient as the popcorn button, but it is far more rewarding than the weight-loss of any type button.,So, what is the fitness equivalent to the microwave approach of cooking the food quickly but leaving the container cool to the touch? There are three things to focus on.,First, you have to know what a fitness goal is. Losing weight isn’t clear enough. Losing weight can make you less fit and make the change you are striving for less permanent.,If you burn both fat and muscle to reach your goal, you have destroyed the pan to cook the meal. You don’t have to do that. You can lose the unsightly, uncomfortable fat and keep lean muscle.,Next, you need to know your buttons. You can’t cook a turkey with the popcorn button. And you can’t build muscle with the endurance button.,The third point is to know the limits of what can and can’t be done. You can heat a turkey sandwich in a microwave, no problem. But for a thanksgiving dinner it is probably not the best tool for the job.,Even more important than those three items, though, is this: start demanding that your fitness programs work. Demand that they actually do something and not only accomplish something specific but that it is what you wanted to accomplish.,When you push the popcorn button you aren’t trying to heat up the popcorn and you aren’t trying to burn it. You are trying to pop it. And if the microwave does anything that you don’t consider successful, you get a new microwave. You should be as demanding on the tools you use on your own body.