No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

Warming up, etc.

Posted by Ben on Sunday, August 17, 2008

Right now, before doing anything else, go check out Rob’s liftSTRONG challenge. If you were thinking of donating to mine, divert that instead to his. I’ll push mine more as the summit approaches.


Hey, look! I didn’t post a Friday night blog! Actually, I’m on day three of writing this. I just haven’t been able to sit down and knock it all out at once. Maybe I should’ve titled this post “Heating up” because of the weather and because I’m in a mood to gripe, but that would have less relevance to the ultimate point of this post. Perhaps my last post combined with a recent severe downturn in the atmosphere and clientele at my regular gym are adding to my mood (I’m looking at possibly rejoining my old boxing gym soon), or maybe it’s because I’m finally reading Omnivore’s Dilemma and am seeing shades of Ishmael in microcosm, or maybe I’ve been reading Michelle’s blog too much.

I read a lot of blogs and news sites and what not. For the most part, they’re written fairly well with some modicum of intelligence and forethought, but there are a couple that irritate me to no end with their egregious spelling and grammar. If there were mistakes here and there, that’s one thing, especially with informal blogs (like this one *ahem*), but when mistakes are the rule rather than the exception, I don’t care how good the material is—it does no one any good if the content can’t be conveyed well or understood by the reader in the first place—and I seriously have to consider remaining subscribed to these sites (let’s just say my resolve for that particular information is waning).

People who can’t write really shouldn’t, at least not until they can. That’s not to say you shouldn’t develop the skill—and preferably the art as well—but if you have no intention of improving your communication skills, keep them to yourself, please. In a former life, I taught English to high school sophomores and juniors. In addition to weekly vocabulary assignments—yes, spelling and vocabulary in tenth and eleventh grades—my students would come in to class every day, sit down, and start a “warm-up” of grammar exercises—yes, basic grammar, in tenth and eleventh grades—as both a skills review and a mood/mindframe setter (getting thirty hormone-soaked soon-to-be co-eds settled in for a ninety-minute sitting session requires getting control early, often, and sometimes forcefully). In North Carolina school curricula guidelines, spelling begins in kindergarten—and presumably continues ad infinitum—and grammar, though informally incorporated throughout grade school, is officially tested in seventh grade. So, why did I insist on such seemingly elementary “busy work” in a high school setting? Because the skills had either been forgotten or never learned in the first place, and in my classroom, presentation counted as much as content. The torrent of complaints and *shudder* whining was endless, but from day one, my condition was this: if everyone in the class earned a perfect score on the weekly quiz, then that section of the course content would go away. This held for spelling and grammar separately since they were separate quizzes. You know what? It never happened. One class came close—one person missed one item while everyone else scored perfectly on one particular test—but at no time did everyone get everything right, so the spelling and grammar kept on going.

You might say that was a bit harsh on my part, but as I explained to my students, these exercises weren’t only about getting the “right” answers. They were about linguistic fundamentals as well as following directions since I required a specific format on both homework and quizzes (it also made grading much easier for me), not to mention that the real world couldn’t care less about feelings—it just wants results, regardless of whatever excuse you use to explain why your TPS report is missing its new cover sheet. Presentation counts, and if I can’t even begin to understand what you’re trying to say, no matter how important or groundbreaking it may be, I’m just going to stop bothering with it after awhile. 1334 (“leet“) speak is fine for text messages, instant messages, and casual e-mails be”tween” friends (rocka-rocka), but homework, formal e-mails, typewritten or *gasp* handwritten letters, business proposals, resumes, informative blogs, and on and on and on and on and on require effective communication skills.

So, what do the boring intricacies of life in the classroom have to do with health? As I mentioned before, the purpose of these class-opening exercises (mindframe warm-up) and week-ending quizzes (fundamentals reinforcement) in vocabulary and grammar was two-tiered. Sound like a similar rationale for mobility and flexibility training? It should. I’ll be the first to admit that warming up (before working out) and stretching (after working out) are sometimes (often?) monotonous, boring, and seemingly unnecessary. While I can’t fully disagree with the first two traits and their inherent subjectivity, the last one is simply wrong. Mobility and flexibility are supremely important in overall physical health, sometimes more so than the actual workouts that many people do (apologies to Andrew), but they are too often half-assed or skipped altogether. For most of my early training career—from August 2000 to April 2007—a warm-up only happened if I wanted to kill some time, maybe wake up if it was early, and even then only consisted of isometric stretching. I had no inkling of dynamic movement prep work, mobility drills, or active release (massage) and self-myofascial release therapy (foam rolling and such). I lifted a lot, often without much of a plan other than just lifting heavy weights or tinkering with plyometrics (I was only slightly more aware of proper nutrition). Then, as I’ve mentioned before, I blew a hamstring, which required me to look at (p)rehab work and imbalance correction. Too bad I didn’t practice in the gym what I preached in the classroom. Following supervised rehab, I fell into more of a full-body program of (p)rehab that, for once, tricked me into doing mobility and flexibility work as a design element, neatly laid out, rather than just saying to warm up before exercise because it’s good for you. That’s like telling me to stop biting my nails—I know it’s not the prettiest or healthiest thing in the world and probably contributes to some issue I have yet to discover, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to stop (seriously, I’ve been trying for twenty years with obviously no success; it’s totally mental, I know, but that’s a reason, not a remedy—HALP!).

I’ve previously linked to a series of articles over at T-Nation titled “Neanderthal No More” (pardon the occasional semi-NSFW image on that site). There’s another one I’ve probably mentioned called “Feel Better for Ten Bucks.” If you already workout semi-regularly, are thinking about working out, or just happen to get out of bed every morning, read that second link and think about taking a few minutes each day to get in some regeneration work like that, then move on to the first link. If you’re so inclined, consider looking into qigong or any other system of restorative movement as well. After all, life is full of stressors, and rather than taking time to restore ourselves, we’re more inclined to pile on additional stressors (like less sleep and more caffeine) to get by, which ultimately results in problems down the road. In the words of renowned strongman George Hackenschmidt, “If you do not find time to become and remain healthy, you will be obliged to find time to be ill.” In the words of Larry the Cable Guy, “Git ‘r dun!”

I am so far behind on my link updates…

Olympics: Michael Phelps is gold (by a fingernail), Dara Torres is silver only in her medals, next-gen doping possibilities, and too bad that few teens bothered watching any of this (not that NBC is worried).
—Dr. Eades touches on the fallacy of equating correlation and causation.
—Just kidding, says the FDA (because they’re ALWAYS right). I’m still not taking chances, not to mention that reducing plastic usage makes more sense environmentally and, ultimately, financially.

—Back to Phelps for a second, he eats 12,000 calories a day (which includes *gasp* fat!). Now that’s competitive eating. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can or should do the same. Olympians are real-life action figures and train hard to get that way (and not by using some obscure or downright silly fad routine, either—when did fitness and Halloween become excuses to act and/or look like strippers?). Chances are that you’re not. He probably also gets more and better sleep than you (thanks to Paul for that link).
—In light of the Olympics, gestures of pride or shame may be universal. Also, doctors are being compelled to perform culturally-sensitive practices, though they may be reserved in their demeanor.
—The key to running faster is to spend time running faster.
—Craig adds his take on “cardio” via Keith.
—Lyle gets geeky (okay, that’s redundant) talking about the role of leptin in obesity (one and two). I should mention that, based on his suggestion in an earlier post, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers is on-deck in my reading queue, so after I get good and pissed off reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, that should be a nice change of pace.
—Having a kid? Have it at home.
—Obesity is not funny and shouldn’t be taken, um, lightly or dismissed as irrelevant, but lower income earners may be stuck there. Being skinny carries its own health risks, too.
—Tony calls out the overrated, like Cheesecake Factory and walking instead of running (I agree with both).
—Mark’s Mystery* Meat: the Zone Diet, eggs, hot fat (not a fetish site link), exercises to avoid at all costs, prescription drugs, some potpourri, reasons to get out of the gym, and how stress makes you fat (* denotes some guest bloggers on Mark’s site).
—Geek-out: cars (Volt teaser, texting, hotwiring, fuel efficiency and hypermiling, Lotus Omnivore, engineers needed, tire gauge politics), stop getting (some) pre-approvals, human versus virus, all your iPhones are belong to Jobs, indigenous cultures, let’s just “see what happens,” Gmail hiccups, peek-a-boo, weird vending machines.

—Lyle furthers discussion on the human body’s set(tling) point.
—We actually can be happy if we don’t get what we want IN SPITE OF having more options—and it may not involve sex—so stop whining and get to it.
—Sometimes, you just can’t avoid the bonk.
—Guilt by association.
—Scott teaches a lesson on learning new things using FedEx as an example.
—Ross comments on the Richard Jansen story linked here before.
—When victory is your duty


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