fitness guys have issues

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Adult fitness dude, trying to buck the trend of sick, soft, and slow:

You probably grew up in a good home, playing the days away. There were no hardships or rash demands. You had it a lot better than you could know. You were an active little guy. Probably excelled in sports at that level. Rocketed a hand overhead to lead gym class. Cared who banged out the fastest 10 push-ups in the whole entire classroom.

You probably ran, "worked," biked, and played into the night. Baths and restaurants were a chore. Until about the age of 12, when you slowed down from hummingbird to sparrow pace. You were expected to sit and not fidget once in a while. Sports practices left you slightly tired and sore, in the mood for a nice video game "sesh."

Google search: ~1992 stacked athlete. Yep.
Then one day you heard you are what you eat. A realization hit you, about the gallons of Hi-C and tubs of Planter's cheese balls, dinners of entirely chicken nugget, and post-game feasts of pudding and ham cubes at the Rax buffet.

By 15 or so you managed to get slightly soft. Or if that wasn't reality, you started noticing that your coltish body didn't exactly look like a pro athlete or the guys on TV and magazines. It was still mostly all fun and games and sprinkles maxed out on ice cream cones.

At school you were repeatedly barraged with the idea of discipline and dedication, strive, effort, and work ethic. So. Much. Work ethic. You needed to hear those things, yes. But with little counter perspective, it's no wonder that during the most arduous period of gaining independence and finding identity, the accelerator started to stick.

I’m guessing that you suddenly started keeping an orderly (or more orderly) bedroom and your grade point average jumped. You decided that the National Honor Society and being huge and ripped for sports and for the ladies was...well there just wasn't anything else. And all that wasn't going to happen from living like any sort of a human being. Certainly not from eating grandmas stew and those damned pumpkin cookies.

The discipline schtick worked pretty well in some ways, for 6 months or so. You saw progress in the classroom and gym. You enjoyed the consistency, the illusion of control, the clear results of living out your philosophical modernism. There were good points, for sure. There were certainly worse ways for knucklehead teenagers to error.

But error you did. Your imbalanced, self-absorbed life caught up with you. Knotted you like the hair of a mopey Seattle grunge band. You had almost no fun and were less fun company. Ladies learned not to care about your cut bi's because you were a 160-pound zero.

Clever marketing misinformation. 
I mean, he's lifting supplements out of
the ocean with a fish net??
Nine months of nearly perfect discipline started to show. Your family knew nothing about anything, and you taught them lessons about control. People worried, seeing what happens when a young man makes good on two workouts/practices every day coupled with the dietary advice good for mostly sedentary, middle-aged bodybuilders.

All this, of course, meant that you weren't training enough or eating right, according to the gospels of Joe (Weider) and Bill (Phillips). Is it any wonder that you now have a chip on your shoulder about stupid supplements and worse than useless over-training practices?

Dialing UP the discipline and grit pretty much ruined your chances of being a friend, much less a collegiate athlete. You wanted to blame it on illness, honestly not knowing how being frankly messed up in the head creates dysfunction somewhere in the body.

You didn't learn fast, but you did learn. At the bottom you said "This isn’t working very well, and it sucks.” Even more determined, you devoured books and journals, learned plenty, transformed your love of knowledge. But of course knowledge alone didn't immediately advance you toward a strong mind and body, much less joy.

A tight grip through college had its benefits. Like no "Bs" in class or STDs or trouble with the law. Somewhere you heard that over 2 BILLION people have no toilets much less one pound of protein per pound of bodyweight. Put old Joe and Bill right in their place.

The grip gradually loosened as you became stronger, with graduate school, a marriage, a regular job, and children. You had way...more fun...with all that responsibility pressing on you.


One day you woke up to see that you were actually getting somewhere. Training was important and the results were kind of a side effect. Not that you were the epitome of awesomeness and wisdom. But you realized the ebb and flow of a balanced life, of work and recovery. You knew the MIRACLE of flexibility within a framework of disciplined consistency.

first tree flip

Now you notice when other young men seem to be spinning their wheels. You try not to project your issues onto them, but you see it a mile away. You want them to learn from your mistakes. You pull your net of training and living wisdom from the ocean of possibilities, display it lightly. You hope some aren't so knuckleheaded, having humility to forge ahead of you instead of digging a rut of their own.

Were you lucky to have found your way? I don’t believe in luck, not at all. And who has arrived? I certainly haven’t. But I believe in a God of freedom who seems to help at least two at a time, who weaves paths together through seasons and situations.

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don't train like it's 1985 [please]

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a question

Since ranting against long drawn out cardiovascular exercise (L-doc) may not be the best way to inspire change, my serious question is this: can you afford to spend that much of your valuable time and energy doing L-doc?

The repetitive, mind-numbing exercises like jogging or that elliptical thing at 60 to 80% of your maximal heart rate for at least 40 minutes costs you something. There are many factors, but you must consider the possibility that random cardio is easily and often over done.

But first the disclaimer.

Who am I to tell someone not to engage in physical activity that they enjoy? When well below 40% of adults exercise at all? Whatever the age, if you're up and moving away from the work desk, TV, and computer, great for you.  I'll admit that L-doc does have some value as a component of many athletic and fitness goals, though less than you would think. If cardio workouts are compatible toward your sport- or activity-specific training goals, then certainly, have at it.

split squats - always worthwhile

But with your hectic work week, your limited days of summer break, your finite physiological ability to adapt, can you afford to devote the majority of your training time to random cardio? Are you stuck in the 1980s cardio overkill mindset where if a little is good, then a whole lot must me better for all things?

what say you?

You, 160-pound forward who wants dunk by next basketball season? You, middle aged mom, hoping to avoid achilles tears and rotator cuff impingement while playing softball, tennis, or freeze tag with the kids? You, old timer, wielding exercise in the fight against the many tired heads of frailty?

And you...YOU coach or parent of a female athlete? My next exhibit in the case for less L-doc is a lunge for the jugular. I must drag out the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament because women suffer about 8 times more ACL tears than men, and about 1 in 100 high school and 1 in 10 collegiate female athletes tear an ACL.

that moment

Imagine that it's the fourth quarter of an intense soccer match-up. Every player on the field is suffering some degree of neuromuscular fatigue (certainly not for lack of cardiovascular conditioning). Our female athlete lunges off her left leg to avoid a defender, recovers with the right leg, redirects her body, accelerating to the ball.

What happens internally at the knee in that moment ? Do the quadriceps have enough power to decelerate the forward glide of the femur on the tibia? Do the hip and trunk muscles sufficiently hold the femur from buckling and twisting into the knock-kneed position? Has the athlete ingrained correct movement patterns beyond consciousness; summer time training memories of how the hips, knees, and feet should feel and react during leaps and cuts?

An off season 7-mile jog does virtually nothing to address the neuromuscular and biomechanical patterns of an at-risk female athlete caught in that moment. (I also suspect that various balance exercises on unstable surfaces do little to prevent ACL tears, though the literature is mixed, and that can of worms is hereby reserved for another writing.)

how now shall we train?

ACL and weekend warrior sprain/strain prevention is simply just    plain   smart   training.

The details depend upon the individual, but the weekly routine should include a day or two of plyos and/or form sprints. A day or two of full body resistance training with emphasis on the legs and "core." Maybe a day or two of L-doc for some, but certainly not all athletes.

And of course, intervals for a relatively healthy grandma look a lot different than our teenage soccer player. 

Intelligent training is structured with a few individualized goals in mind; goals beyond "stay toned" or "maintain an 8-minute pace over 5 miles." Even if distance running is your main end, rather than thousands upon thousands of linear, mid-range ploddings, why not mix it up with just a little whole body, multidirectional movements that address aspects of both strength and coordination?

Swap a day or two of the same old thing for something different now and again. Emphasize power over efficiency as the brain is tuned into a progression of pre-stretch/counter-movements. Do it now, before I'm tempted to bust out some Jane Fonda lyrics.

sprinters aren't happy about all that L-doc

Evidence that a little less L-doc does help endurance athletes, especially from an injury-prevention perspective:

Improvement in Running Economy After 6 Weeks of Plyometric Training

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 17(1):60-67, February 2003.

Maximal Strength Training Improves Cycling Economy in Competitive Cyclists

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 24(8):2157-2165, August 2010.

Hewett GD, Myer TD, Ford KR, et al. Biomechanical measures of neuromuscular control predict anterior cruciate injury risk in female athletes: a prospective study. Am J Sports Med. 2005;33:492-501.

Meeuwisse WH, Tyreman H, Hagel BD, Emery C. A dynamic model of etiology in sports injury: the recursive nature of risk and causation. Clin J Sport Med. 2007;17:215-219.

Ekegran CL, Miller CM, Celebrini RG, Eng JJ. Reliability and validity of observational risk screening in evaluating dynamic knee valgus. J Ortho Sports Phys Ther. 2009;39:665-674.

Myer GD, Brent JL, Ford KR, Real-time assessment and neuromuscular training feedback techniques to prevent anterior cruciate ligament injury in female athletes. J Strength Cond Res 2011;33:21-35.

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