No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

Balance

Posted by Ben on Friday, July 25, 2008

(No, this is not a re-hash of an older blog post of the same title :P)

I don’t want to suggest that I called everyone out with that last post, but the past couple days have seen an uptick in exercise-related writing (my next post will therefore focus entirely on Taylor Swift and her sudden, inexplicable, uncontrollable urge to visit Charlotte—hey, she’s on my “gimme” list). I mean, c’mon, even Mark left his customary diet-focused writings to re-highlight the Prison Workout, though it does mesh nicely with the Primal Blueprint push he’s been on for awhile. While I haven’t done the Prison Workout myself (not that there’s a formal PW anyway), I’ve recently adopted this minimalist, functional approach to training via Ross Enamait‘s Infinite Intensity. You largely train alone, often with only bodyweight for resistance, with plenty of room for creating your own workouts under a basic framework and only yourself to hold accountable. After months and years of either rigid or wide-open programming, this has turned out to be a great balance for me (you’ll never convince me that burpees are fun, though). Regardless of what you do, please do so with some sense.

Part of this shift has included more balance in running. I should say upfront that I’m built to wrestle or play football, not run, if for no other reason than I have a substantial Q-angle, which I learned the hard way through overuse injuries. However, way way WAY too many people still equate fitness with running (and nothing else). I’ll be on a Saturday morning run (for coffee and *gasp* bagels), and in the three miles between my house and the shop, I’ll see no fewer than two dozen people in various levels of body types, fitness, and dress (ugh) attempting to “run” their way to a better body. Let’s get something straight here, once and for all: you cannot run to get fit. You cannot do it. Cannot, at least not healthily or without incurring some other residual damage that could’ve easily been avoided while still getting similar training benefits through different activity. On the contrary, you need to be fit to run. Think about it: how are the best runners built? Like sticks, relatively speaking. You never see someone with child-bearin’ hips win a marathon (or even a 10K, for that matter). In other words, they have minimal Q-angles and are biomechanically more predisposed to success in running. People with larger Q-angles would be better served using other means of training to achieve fitness, and in fact, those other means are usually (a) lower impact, (b) higher intensity, and (c) shorter in duration, meaning they’re (d) more efficient. For example, my cow-plodding ass never ran a 5K in under 27:13 or a 10K in under an hour. That’s just the way it is. Could I get my times lower? Probably, and I even tried a few times, but the damage I did to my body (not the least of which was learning how to run correctly—more here, here, here, and here) wasn’t worth getting marginally better in a merely recreational pursuit. Plus, all that running sapped my strength, so I went elsewhere and have instead been training for life, not for the next road race. I’m not saying you shouldn’t run if you really do want to, but I am saying to be smart and not treat running as the be-all end-all of fitness.

(This concludes my mini-rant, but here are some other observations from Keith—here and here.)

All the training hoo-hah aside, something I took away from this year’s JP Fitness Summit was the need to focus as much on regenerative practices as on training. After all, training stresses and damages your body (usually in a good way), but there still needs to be an emphasis on restoration and relaxation considering the tension our bodies experience every day, not just during training (I’ll let you cruise over to Steve Cotter’s site/forum for leads on relaxation during training, which is essentially controlled use of the stretch-shortening cycle, the primary component of plyometrics but also inherent in all manner of training) but after training as well, namely stuff like qigong (also a Cotter-inspired addition that I’m really starting to enjoy). Also post-training, SMR (self-myofascial release) is the way to go if you don’t have the time or money for regular massage therapy. I have a roller, a Stick, and some tennis balls. Mike Boyle has some videos on YouTube to give you some ideas on technique, but as he says (via item #6 in this post from Eric), “Soft tissue work, whether for chronic muscle strains or for tendon issues, is like weight training. Treatment is actually a stimulus.”

When it comes to our bodies, just as with anything else, balance is optimal. Throw something out of balance, and less-than-optimal things happen (see: obesity). Even when we exercise, no matter how we do it, we are damaging our bodies. That’s not to say we shouldn’t exercise—how else would we introduce controlled discomfort and stresses that cause our bodies to adapt and improve? However, there has to be balance, and so to balance that damage, we have to put some effort into repair (in moderation, not through “cleansings” and such—enemas for everyone!). The hard part is that our idea of balance has been skewed out of balance (nice to see John Berardi coming up for air), often unwittingly so (high-fructose corn syrup, anyone?)—how else would an article coin the phrase “couch potato commerce”? Our bodies are phenomenal units capable of regulation to the nth (and 1/nth) degree, but we can’t just keep hammering away at them and expect them not to eventually wear down (see again: obesity).

Of course, it’s not ALL about exercise—as I’ve mentioned and linked several times before, eating is fun, but in the context of balance, “fun” used to mean “treat,” which has ostensibly become the norm (I say this as I sit here eating three very rare pieces of Fuel pizza). I mentioned this past weekend a comparison of my shopping cart’s contents versus those of others. Tony recently had a similar experience, and Kevin shared the innards of his own fridge. However, it’s not just about exercise and food, either. Our society thrives on tension, both physical and mental, and not a day goes by where we don’t see some consequence of that, ranging from headaches and neck pain to murders and suicides. I won’t lie: it takes some work to relax. Why do you think chiropractors and other therapists do such booming business, and repeatedly at that? I’ll give you a hint: imploding synovial fluid (read: all the bone popping) only temporarily treats the symptoms of pain and stress without addressing the fundamental cause of the pain, muscle quality (or lack thereof) and tension. We just don’t relax as part of our livelihoods—is it any wonder that Starbucks continues to rake in revenues hand over fist despite recently closing some 600 stores? Just look at the monstrosity they’re putting in more and more of their stores. I like a good cup of coffee myself, and I do have some discriminating taste in that realm, but that’s seriously reaching levels of snobbery in the wine and “fine art” circles. Bah.

Arear
—More crap to add on the pile of medicating childhood obesity, though I have to say it does raise some good points against medication. I’m just annoyed that this is an issue at all. At least one blast-from-the-past is making an effort to help kids more naturally.
—More government protecting you from yourself, even if hypocritically. If only Congress would listen to science (assuming they understood all those numbers and symbols and big words and such).
—Your age-is-no-excuse installment.

Amidships
—Ah-HA! (and again)
—Happy trails to “last lecture” professor Randy Pausch.
—This would normally go in the geek-out, but the take-home message is a little more widely applicable than the story: “Stop assuming that systems are secure unless demonstrated insecure; start assuming that systems are insecure unless designed securely.” Man, I can think of a dozen areas of life where this mindset would be beneficial.
—There is no secret, just like there’s no magic pill, but someone is going to make a mint anyway *rolls eyes*.
—The Internet may make a dodo out of the bike messenger, but it might also make you famous.
—If video games may kill you, why would you buy them in the first place? Oh yeah, air conditioning. My bad.
—If you drink, don’t drive, do the watermelon crawl (okay, that has nothing to do with the story other than watermelon, but how often do I get to slide country music lyrics in here—yeah yeah, once is too much, I know…).
—I may start another installment called Mark’s Meat, considering how much stuff I link from there on a regular basis. In this experimental session, Mark gives us thoughts on: DIY salad dressings and sweet peppers.
—Geek-out: Wasp Injector Knife (I’d love to see this at a fancy dinner sometime), Stephen Hawking for kids, NASA’s best photos, FBI myths, the Northern Lights further demystified, Scrabble scrambles, Vista may not be so different from XP, destroy an SUV.

Ahead
—TED.com: collecting stories and digging for humanity.
—Remember how I’ve said to surely listen to others but to not necessarily take their words—even (especially?) mine—as gospel? Ross says it better. Monty Python says it best (always look on the bright side of life) :)

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