Fitness

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This video is low-hanging fruit, I'll admit it.  But it was such a perfect compilation of the flawed language used by the fitness industry at large that I couldn't resist the opportunity.

First of all, let's watch this thing, then go over it line by line.

Okay, so here we have a 5-minute piece with celebrity trainer David Kirsch.  He's here to tell us how to get legs like Heidi Klum or <insert model here>.  (So I guess this article should be renamed 'David's Tips for Killer Legs'!)  Let's get started:

Katie: "Seriously David!  Aren't you just born with A-list legs?"

David: "No.  Sexy, tone, long and lean."

I'm not sure what that line is supposed to mean.  It sort of seems that he just picked out every buzzword as his opening statement.

  1. "Sexy" is subjective, but I suppose we'll assume that it entails the next three adjectives.
  2. "Tone" could be added to your legs through exercise, true.  (Although I loathe that word for a myriad of reasons)
  3. "Long" - now here is something no exercise can do.  If you're 5'0 with a long torso, long legs just aren't in the cards for you.  You could perhaps make them look longer with certain cuts of shirts or heels, but there's only so much that can be done and there's no exercise routine that can elongate your femur.
  4. "Lean" is something that can be achieved through diet and exercise, true.

Katie: "When clients come to you, David, and they say, 'Really, I want my legs to look better', you don't ever say 'Honey, it's genetic'?"

David: "No...never...there's not a one size fits all.  You gotta visualize the legs you want to have.  Whether it's Heidi's or Kate's..."

This is another bizarre exchange to analyze.  After all, what does "look better" mean?  Again, we'll assume that it's to have longer, thinner legs with low body fat.  His response of "there's not a one size fits all" right next to the requirement of visualizing what individual's legs you want is rather odd.  If there is no one size fits all, then why are you striving for the exact legs of another woman?  That sort of sounds like one size fits all to me.

Katie: "Well don't I have to grow a foot or two to have Heidi Klum's legs?" (For reference, Katie is 5'1 and Heidi is 5'9)

David: "No, I've seen you wear crazy shoes.  Wear those high heels, you've got the length - and you have...the genetics, you have that shape there."

Here we have direct contradiction #1.  Above David said that genetics don't play a role in what kind of legs you have, and here he tells Katie she has the genetics to have Heidi Klum's legs.  A bit ridiculous since Heidi is a good 8 inches taller than Katie and also has a habit of wearing crazy high heels.

HeidiHeels

Katie: "Let me ask you about diet...I mean how important is that to having great legs?"

David: "It's huge.  I had a new woman come through today.  She's shorter and she's got hips and thicker thighs and she's not working out properly.  You know, she's doing a lot of squats and...just like...stop.  No squats...no traditional squats.  I said...visualize...I want a 'window'...here's your window, right up here, inner thighs.  When your legs get too bulky, this space gets lost.  So I want a window, I said I want to shave [the butt] and I want to lift it."

Well, first off she asked about diet and somehow this got turned into a conversation about exercise.  Anyway, this section sets up for a bit more hilarity a couple of minutes later, but let's go over a few of the things here.  First he is implying that squats make your legs too 'bulky' for a thigh gap.  Oh wait, did I say thigh gap?  Sorry, "window."  Other things that can get rid of your thigh gap include genetics.  It's been said a million times already, but even the skinniest of girls can manage to lack a thigh gap.  Just depends on your anatomy.

Also, for a good example of heavy squatting not making your legs big, see Jennifer Petrosino or Nia Shanks.

Sup guys, just deadlifting almost 3 times my bodyweight. No big deal or anything.

So just to sum up what he just said, Window=Thigh Gap and Squats = Bad, Bulky and never to be done.  Got it?  We'll be quizzing you on this later.

David: "So if you're eating cheese - I live in Italy, cheese, pasta, bread - I'm like, no.  No more dairy.  Zero dairy.  Because it's going right [to your butt and thighs]."

So...dairy by some magical property goes right to the hips and thighs as opposed to other kinds of foods?  Many women may nod their head in agreement because when he says that food goes right to their hips and thighs, well, he's relating to their struggles.  You've probably heard women in your life say that <insert 'bad' food here> goes straight to their thighs - maybe you've even said it yourself!  But here's all that's happening:

  • Women tend to gain weight on hips and thighs
  • Dairy can have a lot of calories in it and things like cheese can add up quickly to a caloric surplus.
  • Dairy is then associated with going straight to the hips and thighs, even if it doesn't do so more than any other food.

I have a hard time believing that David truly believes what he's saying, but it is possible he is hardcore into Paleo.  Who knows.

Katie: "But please don't be obsessed with this thigh gap thing, because a lot of girls are going crazy if they don't have thigh gaps, and they're starting to get eating disorders because of it."

David: "No, I'm not about eating disorders...look I have two twins, 4-year-old twins.  And so, it's not ever about...we don't use the word 'diet', we don't use the word 'fat'...it's moving your body.  It's doing correct moves.  So all these moves, whether it's a single leg deadlift or sumo lunge or reverse crossover, will shape and tone your legs.  And you'll get the inner...you'll tighten up...if you go like this and you tighten it up, you're gonna get the window."

I'm actually kinda proud of Katie on this one, I have to admit.  I'm sure she wasn't intentionally calling him out on his "window" bullshit, but she inadvertently seemed to put him on the defensive.  Just watch the video during this segment, it's really amusing.  You have to watch him during this to get the most out of it.  He is literally signifying a thigh gap with his hands and almost says "the inner thigh gap" but catches himself.  Apparently using the word "window" is better than "thigh gap," and he clearly states that's what he wants for his clients, while somehow at the same time coming across as being anti-thigh gap.

It's probably because he pulled the "I have children" card, though he didn't mention if either of the twins were girls.  So he doesn't use the word 'diet' and is anti-eating disorders but his clients aren't allowed to have dairy?  "Fat" isn't okay but "bulky" is?

We also have our first claim of exercises being able to spot-reduce areas, but expressed with the word "tighten" instead.

The rest of this video, nothing much of value is said.  David does say either the word "tighten" "shave" or "tone" 5 times in about 1 minute though!  David takes us through three bodyweight lower body movements.  Katie could use a little work on sitting back at the hips, but I suppose if I only had 90 seconds to show someone three exercises I wouldn't worry too much about it either.

David also says that if you want to avoid getting bulky, a big fear for many women, then the answer is to increase your repetitions and only use bodyweight exercises.

I don't see a thigh ga- I mean, window, on a single one of these girls.  This is bullshit!

I don't see a thigh ga- I mean, window, on a single one of these girls. This is bullshit!

omg so bulky

I have a theory to why so many women fear getting bulky from a training program.  It's because of people telling women they should be afraid of getting bulky on a training program.

Let's also point out how all three of the moves involved many of the same muscles as a 'traditional' squat.  If a squat made you bulky, then so would these moves.

Katie: "Now what's that good for?"

David: "...Cardio, right?  You're gonna get your heart rate up, you're gonna start metabolizing fat so it'll lean you out."

Sort of.  The kind of workout you'd get doing all these moves in a row seems like it would be on the higher intensity side of things, as opposed to an easy walk.  The higher the intensity, the less percentage of fat you'll use to power the movements, the lower the intensity, the more fat you'll use.  However, it's important to bear in mind that the macronutrient you're utilizing (for most regular non-athlete trainees) doesn't matter for overall fat loss.  It just comes down to how many calories you burn.  (I may have mentioned that a couple of times before...)

Conclusion

In summation we get a good synopsis of the main pieces of misinformation spread by the fitness industry.

  • "Spot Reduction" being a thing, though apparently now going by the name 'shaving' and 'tightening'.
  • Mysterious and nonsensical food elimination rules that must be obeyed to lose fat.  Dairy, in this case
  • Use high repetitions and light or no weight to avoid bulking during training.
  • Use of words like 'tone', 'shape', 'tighten' or 'firm' specifically in regards to women's fitness.
  • Automatic assumption that 'sexy' equals tall, thin with little muscle or fat.
  • Claims to be able to defy your own anatomy to obtain certain features such as 'long' legs or a thigh-gap, aka 'window'.

I'm honestly surprised to see something like that come on air so recently.  I thought we were beyond things like spot reduction and fear of getting bulky - apparently not.

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Chapter / Rule 6 - Do 45 minutes a day of low-intensity cardio, preferably before breakfast

Now, you may be shocked to know that I happen to think this is fantastic advice.  The first half of the sentence anyway.  And the second half works well for me too.

Can't say I recommend walking while doing bicep curls with 3lb weights though.

But not for fat loss.  Don't think of it in those terms.

Waking up and immediately getting moving in the morning is WONDERFUL for me because it's like adding momentum to my day.  If I start my day off by checking facebook and answering emails (which is what I do 9 times out of 10), I end up sitting at my desk until 11 or 12, and god knows by that point it's too late to do anything productive.  Like go grocery shopping, or make that doctor's appointment, or do laundry, or clean or any other number of mundane but critical tasks.

Plus, walking makes me feel AWESOME.  Especially if it's a nice crisp day.  Something about getting that blood moving I guess.  Probably also something to do with walking for 30 minutes a day being the #1 best thing you can do to improve your health in a wide variety of surprising ways.

So yes, walk.  Walk because it will make you feel good.  Whether you do it before breakfast or not is kind of up to you and when you'd like to do it.  Some people find their lunch break to be the perfect time.  Whatever floats your boat, really.

But let's see why Harper wants you to specifically do it before breakfast:

He starts out with some reasoning similar to what I mentioned above.  If you loathe exercise, getting it done earlier in the day may increase your chances of doing it.  But, again, that's all down to personal preference.  If you dread getting up an hour earlier to walk before work, there's a high chance you'll just say "screw it" and hit snooze.  So, again, whatever floats your boat.

Well except for some fancy science Harper wants to throw your way:

"...emerging science on exercise metabolics...suggests that exercise on an empty stomach has a direct link to weight loss in and of itself."

While it does seem that doing low to medium intensity exercise (say, walking) on an empty stomach will increase fat oxidation, it will not increase the number of calories you are burning anymore than if you had just eaten a stack of pancakes.

Just bear in mind, when it comes to losing body fat, the only thing that matters at the end of the day is if you burned more than you took in.

OVERLY SIMPLISTIC EXAMPLE BELOW: 

Let's say that you burned 75 calories of pure, glorious fat on your morning walk because you did it on an empty stomach.  Compare that to burning 75 calories of not-as-visible carbohydrate doing that same amount of walking at the same intensity.

If, at the end of the day, you took in the same calories as you expended, in situation #1, they would go back to refilling your fat stores.  In situation #2, some would be diverted to restoring any lost muscle glycogen.  At the end of the day, you're right back where you started, regardless.

Now, in some people, light exercise like this can dull hunger.  That would probably lead to some weight loss.  Or if you change nothing else and start going for walks 45 minutes a day, you'd probably lose a bit.  You can even find studies that say fasted cardio burns less calories than cardio after a small meal.  Even Harper admits to that:

"I admit that some science also suggests that eating before exercise might be better for daylong fat burning.  But...you clearly burn more fat during exercise when you do it in a fasted state."

Which misses the point that it doesn't matter for the average person reading this book whether you're burning fat or burning carbohydrates.  Again, that "fat burning zone" graph on your treadmill is meaningless.  Run if you like it.  Walk because it makes you feel awesome.

Harper also has some tips for if you feel woozy during your fasted cardio!

  1.  If you get dizzy, drop to your knees and put your head between your legs!  Hope that no one calls 911 when they see you doing this in the middle of the street!  Get up and KEEP GOING MAGGOT!  Unless it happens again, in which case uhh...try again later.
  2.  If you've been following his regimine correctly you should be looking good.  Totally.  If you look haggard or pale, you're clearly not drinking enough electrolytes or water.   You're just dehydrated.  Drink some more water.  That will help with the 800-calorie-a-day-barely-functioning-haze.  Totally.
  3.  Just keep drinking water and electrolytes.  Electrolyyyyyyytesssss.  You only feel like shit because you're dehydrated, promise.
  4.  If you always feel nauseous or dizzy when doing this fasted cardio then I GUESS you can eat beforehand.  But make sure that you still do your cardio "or be prepared to look chubby in three weeks"!  (fucking REALLY?)

Moral: By all means I think people should do some light exercise everyday.  Seriously, this more than what you're eating is going to have a huge impact on your health.  I cannot overstate the benefits of light walking everyday.  But you don't have to do it fasted, and you probably shouldn't count on it as your magic ticket to leanness.  Also if you constantly feel dizzy when walking, MAYBE THE PROBLEM IS YOU'RE ONLY EATING 800 CALORIES A DAY.

Have I mentioned that's a bad idea?

Chapter / Rule 7 - Five times a week, at any time of day, do 15 to 20 minutes of my Jumpstart Moves

Here's a chapter that I have a lot of grievances with, for a myriad of reasons.  Let's just get right into it:

"Met-con works the whole body quickly, efficiently.  Met-con movements use your own body weight to slim and trim yourself for the long, lean look you desire."

Ughhhhhhhhhhhh.  It's like a collection of my least favorite fitness buzz-words.  Oh yes, it's totally this workout that is the magical combination of the just right number of sets and reps and movements to get you totally slim and trim and long and lean and jacked and shredded and ripped and toned and tiny and huge ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!!  This is definitely NOT just some generic workout that anyone who took a bunch of darts and threw them at exercise names could come up with.  Nope.

In fact, I think I've just come to an epiphany of why I HATE magazine workouts so much.  It is literally like someone took a bunch of notecards with random exercises on them, closed their eyes, and picked them at random out of a hat.  Then they got a skinny model, put her in a designer sports bra and short shorts and made the title something along the lines of "Top 10 Total-Body Sculpting Moves For a Leaner, Meaner You!"  GOLDEN.  Who wants me on their corporate team??? (Yeah I stole that line from Daniel Tosh)

Anyway umm...I think I got a little off-topic there.

"Okay, quick and without overthinking:"

Yes, we wouldn't want to think about anything would we?

"What, exactly, is happening to your body while doing the burpee?  For one thing, by alternating and changing up exercise movements, you help delay a phenomenon in the science of movement known as adaptation - your muscles don't get a chance to "figure out" how to minimize caloric expenditure."

Here we see Harper trying to talk about what others will refer to as "muscle confusion" which is a really silly term that no one should use.

The gist is that you need to keep doing completely different movements so that your body will never become very 'efficient' at doing anything.  The idea being that efficient = less calories burned.  And you're only exercising to burn calories right?  Right.

Unfortunately, this misses out on the idea of progressing an exercise to keep things challenging.  Yes, if you do the same, say, burpee for the same amount of reps everyday, you'll stall out.  But you could progress it by:

  • Adding in a push-up at the bottom of the burpee
  • Doing more total reps
  • Doing the same number of reps in a shorter time period
  • Adding a weight vest

Burpees - The exercise everyone loves to hate! (They are pretty tough)

I am a MUCH bigger fan of practicing movements until you're proficient in them, and then progressing the movement from there - as opposed to just throwing a bunch of new movements at you everyday.  Here are few reasons why:

  1. You don't have to spend a bunch of time everyday figuring out how to do movements.
  2. You'll reduce your chance of injury while doing your workouts since you'll be very proficient in the exercise movements you do.
  3. You'll get a hell of a lot stronger.

Regardless, a burpee isn't some magic exercise that keeps your body guessing.  If you keep doing burpees, guess what, you'll get good at burpees.  Using one exercise for his argument against adaptation makes absolutely no sense.

"Second, in the burpee, you can feel your whole body stretching, flexing, and contracting while your heart pumps faster and harder.  You're working those big muscle groups that tend to burn more calories."

Oh, I can FEEL my body during this exercise?  Wow.  How profound.

My heart pumps faster and harder while exercising?  You don't say.  That's incredible.

I'll agree to that last statement though.  It's the reason why you'd want to do a squat over a calf raise if you were looking to get the most bang for your buck.

Anyway, if you're eating 800 calories a day and feeling woozy, as you probably will be, a burpee is not exactly the kind of exercise I'd recommend.  If someone were hell-bent on doing this 800 calorie a day thing, I'd probably suggest doing at most 2 days a week of weight training with each workout being:

  • Squat 2-3 x 5
  • Bench Press 2-3 x 5
  • Lat Pulldown, Cable Row or Pull-up 3 x 8
  • Go home

And that's about it.  If you're at such a steep deficit, your ONLY goal when working out should be to maintain muscle mass.  Doing a bunch of high-intensity crap is pointless and going to leave you passed out on the floor.  That's why I don't even have deadlifts up there.  Blacking out doesn't seem like a good time to me, personally.

And, go figure, Harper is a HUGE fan of CrossFit-style met-con.  Snatch AMRAPs anyone???

(On a side-note: I realize that not all CrossFit boxes are made alike and some are wonderful places to train with responsible coaching.  Snatch AMRAPs, however, do not fall under that category.)

Moral:  You do NOT need to mix up the movements you are doing constantly to burn calories or get an effect from your workouts.  You DO need to progress, but there are a lot of ways to do that with one single movement.

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Pinterest remains a constant source of fascination for me.

Sometimes I'm not sure if the pins I'm seeing are from companies or from the average user.  But regardless, every post on the Health & Fitness board is still about the same as when I posted about it a few months back.  The bad fitness ideas are still perpetuated.  It's still all about spot reduction, running for fat loss and toning with light weights.

However, I do think I've been seeing more posts about interest in lifting heavier, getting stronger and focusing on health.  (Even if the 'focus on health' motivation typically just happen to include fitness models.) I don't have any stats on that but, I suppose you could either call it wishful thinking, intuition or just spending waaaay too much of my time browsing the board in a kind of morbid curiosity.

But sometimes I still need to let off a little steam.  In particular, there is this one "beginner's routine" I see pushed around constantly.  I'm procrastinating on starting my next book review, so indulge me here.  Perhaps you've even seen this article here and there.

What's so bad about it?

Well, first of all it's hosted on PopSugar, one of several emerging websites that don't offer much in the way of quality, but mostly just exist to push out as much content as possible with as many ways to accidentally click on advertisement, sharing and affiliate links as can fit on your screen.

WebsiteMoney

I AM SO DISTRACTED BY ALL THESE SHINY POP UPS...what was I reading again?

I'm not sure if you caught onto it, but I'm not a fan.

But, let's focus on the routine.

This BEGINNER routine features 5 days a week of 90 minute workouts (more if you include the time to get there, change, warm-up, etc.) and 2 rest days.  They emphasize this is for people who are completely new to working out.

Do you remember the first time you tried a completely new activity?  Maybe you even remember the first time you tried to workout.  You were probably so sore the next day getting off the toilet took a few minutes of preparation.  This workout ensures your complete soreness by not only putting you through 80 minutes of working out your first day, but following it up with a 90-minute high-intensity one the very next day!

Not to mention, why are you telling a complete beginner to go to one of the more complex and intense yoga classes in the first place?

Why does the beginner need 4 days a week of cardio, especially if fat loss is the goal?

Why is a beginner being told only to do 10 minutes of either arms or legs followed by a quick 5 minutes of abs for strength training?

This routine ignores reality.

If you're a complete beginner, what are the chances you're counting your calories enough to even know what it would mean to 'cut out 200 calories'?

What are the chances you're going to be ready to just jump into an intense fitness class?

No really FitSugar, what do you mean by 'cut out 200 calories'?  Subtract 200 from what?

Does this routine sound enjoyable?  Does it sound like something a beginner would be able to stick to long-term?

Is this routine flexible?  What are you supposed to do when you are inevitably too sore to go to your intense spin class the day after your hot yoga class and abdominal routine?

Why am I phrasing all of my critiques in question form?  Because I want YOU to ask MORE QUESTIONS from EVERYTHING you see!

Here's what I'd like to see:

Sunday: Go for a 5 minute walk and think deeply about your fitness goals.  Why do you want to achieve them?  What is holding you back?  What are your priorities in life?

Monday: Try a total-body strength routine with just your bodyweight.  2 sets of 10 squats, incline push-ups, body rows and glute bridges would be enough.

Tuesday: Try another 5 minute walk.  Think about what kinds of activities you enjoy.  Did you totally hate that workout yesterday?  Why?  Did you love it, or feel just meh about it?  Why?

Wednesday: Take a couple of minutes in the middle of your workday and just focus on your breathing.  10 deep breaths.

Thursday: Let's go for another walk!  What about 10 minutes this time?  Think about how you feel while you're walking and how you feel after.

Friday: Even if you totally hated it last time, give that bodyweight routine another go.  Take your time and think about how you feel afterwards.

Saturday: Evaluate all you did this past week.  Take some time to think about those same questions from Sunday.  Did anything change?

That's about it.

Boring as hell to read probably.  I'd bet you wouldn't lose a pound.  It's not sexy.  It's not anything I can sell.

But it is realistic.  It is a great start.  Hell if you get out the door that first day, I'm ecstatic.  Obviously you'd progress week to week.  Progress would be slow.  But it would be a far more enjoyable and tenacious experience than 5 days a week for 90 minutes while cutting out an arbitrary amount of calories.

Sustainable weight loss is about sustainable changes.  If you make a change you can't stick with forever, it may not be worth making at all.

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A few things have changed from my last super-positive and optimistic post about my new 'counting calories' diet regime.

First, and most importantly, I gained weight.

Well, at first anyway.  I did in fact get down to 160 from 163, but then promptly went back up to 164.  I won't deny it, I was greatly upset.  I felt like a hack, and a failure.  Even worse, a hack and a failure who had to post about how she was a hack and a failure on the internet.  Oh the humanity.

The shame

The shame

Let's ignore how when I looked in the mirror I swore I looked leaner.  Or that when I tried to demonstrate how a pair of shorts didn't fit me anymore, magically they fit me.  Or that I knew I was in a caloric deficit and, seriously, you can't gain fat in a caloric deficit.

Let's also ignore that, aside from my neurosis over the scale, I was pretty happy.  I was enjoying food.  All kinds of food.  I was eating a substantial amount of carbohydrates and protein consistently for the first time in...I dunno.  I hit a couple PR's in the gym.  Forget all that.

THE SCALE WENT UP - REMEMBER WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT HERE.

(just so no one is confused, the above sentence is sarcastic) And, actually, I did go back down to 162ish after a few days.  But even typing out how much I weighed just sounds vapid to me now.

Anyway, thankfully I took some pictures.  For full disclosure, for 5 days prior to this I was testing out a program my gym will be offering.  The diet part included a super-duper low carb meal plan.  I was eating around 1800 calories per day, which was about the same as I was doing before.  However, I did lose about 4 pounds.  Don't worry I've gained all but one of those pounds back since.

8-24-13

Taken this past weekend

 

Before (After 'Clean Eating' Phase)

Before (After 'Clean Eating' Phase)

So, not a ton of progress, as we can see.  But, definitely got a little leaner around my stomach.  Progress?

Should I Trust the Process?

It's hard to say whether or not I've made any positive impact on my body composition when the pictures are so small in difference and the main metric I used last year - the scale - isn't changing like it did.  I always say that the scale is useless and yet when it comes to applying that knowledge to myself, I am struggling.  Partly because part of my goal was to compete in the sub-148's, but also partly because I don't want to fool myself.

It really is rather absurd, however, that a little number carries so many of our emotions with it.  How petty.

Cutting it Short

Unfortunately, whether I wanted to trust the process or not, I'm cutting this little experiment short, for a few reasons:

1) I have a Powerlifting competition coming up in November and potentially December and I don't want to suck.

2) I'm feeling a little burnt out of thinking about food and dieting so damn much.  Seriously, it's exhausting sometimes.

So, in all likelihood I won't be picking this back up again until January or so.  (DID SOMEONE SAY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION???)  (No, because I think that's silly)

In a way, this makes me feel like a failure.  A failure on the internet.  But I think it's best for me right now.  The little bit of shame I get from the proclamation is outweighed by the relief I feel.

I will be continuing to count calories, but not as stringently as I was, and I probably will keep it around 2,200 rather than 1,800 - 2,000 depending on if I get morbidly obese or not.  I'll still take pictures intermittently, but I probably won't be posting them.  Speaking of counting calories, here's my overall impression:

Pros

  • No 'rules' on what you can and can't eat
  • Can reasonably eat out at restaurants
  • Always knowing you're getting adequate protein

Cons

  • Counting calories can be really annoying sometimes
  • Counting calories is basically never 100% accurate
  • Many of the better local restaurants don't have nutrition information.

Well that's the end of my little post on insecurity.  On the plus side think of how much more intellectual focus I'll have now that I can divert to more useful projects, like MSPainting all over Pinterest posts and bashing critiquing Bob Harper!

I started this article as something to potentially put on my company's website, but ended up liking it so much I figured I'd just post it here.

I work at a facility whose name ends in "Strength & Conditioning." For some people that is a huge turn-off since those aren't words you often hear in reference to non-athletes. First of all, I challenge everyone who participates in an exercise program to start thinking of themselves as athletes. Stop spinning your wheels working out, start TRAINING.

You have the same vessel as all athletes. You have 2 arms, 2 legs, a heart and some other stuff in between. You're good to go!

Secondly, remember that your body is capable of amazing things. You've got all the tools, you might just need someone to help you figure out how to use them. So without further introduction, here is the article:

You belong here.  Among the barbells, the heavy weights you’d never dream of lifting, the pieces of equipment you can’t even imagine the function of, the people you’re confident started out knowing all this stuff – you belong here.

Because those other people you see pushing sleds, squatting rather large-looking plates and rolling their muscles on what could only be best described as a medieval torture device are just like you. They came in not knowing what to expect or what exactly they were getting into. They too weren’t sure what a kettlebell was, where exactly their quadriceps were located or that spot reduction was a myth.

Take heart in knowing the girl who just did 2 pull-ups has been working on that for the past 8 months. If you look at her thighs you’ll see the stretch mark scars from 25 pounds ago. That guy squatting some unfathomable weight over there? He came in a year and a half ago with hamstrings so tight he couldn’t reach past his knees. They weren’t in shape when they started. You don’t have to be either. You belong here too.

'No way', you think. 'These people are born athletes. I could never do that.' After all, you’ve hardly been active your whole life unless you count walking the dog*. Strength and Conditioning is what college and professional football players do; certainly not everyday office workers. 'What good would moving all that weight around do for me anyway? I’d just get hurt.'

Strength and Conditioning is for you. Have you ever picked something up off the floor and had that fear of hurting your back looming over you? Have you ever felt your shoulder and back aching from carrying your purse for half a mile? Have you faced helping your child move into their first dorm room with a conflicted ambivalence because you’re not sure how much help you’ll be? Strength and Conditioning is for you. You belong here.

Today your hips are so stiff you can’t even pick a weight up properly. In a month you could be deadlifting a kettlebell (those weird iron balls with handles that insist on being labeled in kilograms). In half a year you could be properly squatting 75 pounds for reps.

But who cares about that? Today you can’t play airplane with your toddler because he’s gotten a bit heavier (and squirmier) over the years. But in a month you could be tossing him around in the pool. In half a year you could be bringing up 8 full bags of groceries with no help. Strength and Conditioning is for you. You belong here.

*I do count walking the dog.

So what does "Strength & Conditioning" mean to you?  Do you feel like there are just some activities you'll never be able to do?  Let me know in the comments!

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This post was mainly inspired by an article I read in the latest issue of Health magazine - but it's also from the million of articles I've seen around the internet about how to burn calories in your daily activities.

Hiking - Cover

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), pg. 40

Want to buff up?  Slim down!  ...Wait what?

During your hike why not do some lunges up the mountain top to get that metabolism running?  While spending time with family and friends at the pool, why not get in a great calorie burn?  Take dancing lessons with your partner - you'll get fit together!  Getting some serious work or studying done?  Why focus on actually accomplishing something when you could be doing these sneaky ab exercises?

Maybe this sounds like great motivation for getting more activity and healthy movement into your life.  But tell me what you think about this proposition:

Alternatively, why not go for a hike because you want to enjoy the great fucking outdoors?  Why not actually enjoy time with family and friends at the pool instead of anxiously trying to get a calorie burn to assuage the guilt of that lemonade?  Why not take dance lessons with your partner so that you have something to relate about and bond over?  WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE ABOUT BURNING CALORIES?!

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), Pg. 43

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), Pg. 43

I'm trying to think of a caption to appropriately encapsulate how ridiculous this is, but I'm finding myself at a loss.

I'm going to take this a step further.  Why not sprint because running fast feels like you're fucking flying?  Why not pick up ultimate frisbee because it's amazingly fun?  Why not lift weights because you'd like to play airplane with your kid without throwing out your back?

If you've reduced the activities in your life into ways that you can justify eating food or try to cancel out something you feel guilty about, you're destroying the point.  Try to enjoy what you're doing for the sake of doing it - not because you feel like you need to look better in a bikini or you feel like you need to earn some birthday cake you're going to eat later that week.  Is that living?  Is that mentally healthy?

I'm a personal trainer and oftentimes I work to try and help people lose weight.  We also exercise together - so maybe it's a bit odd to hear from me that I would really like to get people to get away from associating exercise with burning calories and losing weight.  Exercise because you want your body to perform better, not just because you want to lose fat.  If the only reason you're working out is for the latter reason, you'll end up sorely disappointed - not to mention missing out on some INCREDIBLE benefits of working out that don't involve fitting into skinny jeans.

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Pinterest is the 3rd most popular social media site in the world.  In its own words, it is "a tool for collecting and organizing the things that inspire you."  In the US alone there are over 12 million users, the majority of which are women between the ages of 30-49, which also happens to be the demographic most likely to be on a diet and feel they need to lose weight.   

I figured it's been a little while since I've done a good post on what this blog was originally about - looking at how fitness is portrayed in various forms of media.  On that note, I thought I'd share a little glimpse into the world of fitness according to Pinterest users.  It's kind of like opening a pack of Starbursts and finding around 99% of them are the crappy pink ones:

Pinterest #1Pinterest #2Pinterest #3

These 3 pins give a pretty good sense of the fitness advice one would receive if you wandered into the "Health and Fitness" category on Pinterest.  Most of the posts can be boiled down to 3 categories:

1) Bloggers promoting themselves / others promoting bloggers (See pictures 1 & 3)

2) "Fitspo," aka pictures of lean girls with or without inspirational quotes

Pinterest #5Boxing while wearing lacey underwear - not exactly inevitable

3) Actually pretty decent recipes for the most part (I won't lie, I DO look at the recipes a lot.  Healthy General Tso's chicken has been my best find!)

Regarding pictures 1 & 3, it's not that these aren't exercises, there just isn't a rhyme or reason to any of them.  Why am I doing 525 jumping jacks in a week?  Why am I doing 5 kneeling push ups on Monday and then going straight to 5 regular push ups on Tuesday?  What am I even accomplishing here?  Burning calories?  Practicing movements?  Conditioning?  Anything?

Why am I doing bicep curls while in a plank?  Is my plank even any good if I'm holding it for like 5 minutes finishing that workout? (Probably not) Is it just for the challenge?  The novelty?  WHAT AM I EVEN DOING OH GOD MY LOWER BACK HURTS. Learn about detox at Harga detoxic di farmasi.

The thing is, this is basically every single post regarding workouts in the Health & Fitness category.  Here are some more choice quotes:

"The Butt Workout That Works - The Angels' trainer reveals the moves that help you feel confident in your undies. Victoria's Secret Workout: Butt Exercises With Trainer Justin Gelband"

"Detox by Twisting - Twisting poses feel great, relieve pain/tension in the spine, and promote detoxification in the body."

Pinterest #4I KNOW you know better than that. 

"Easy exercises to get rid of a muffin top... I do the standing ones whenever I am waiting in a changing room or am on break at work, at home, anywhere no one can see me lol They actually work :)"

"Tummy-Toning Yoga Poses: A strong core prevents back pain, improves your balance and posture, and hey — it looks pretty good in a bikini, too. Try out this yoga sequence to tone your midsection just in time for Summer."

"12 min?!?!? I'm all over this!!!! The Belly and Thighs Workout: Trim your waistline and shape beautiful legs and thighs in just 12 minutes."

I used to get angry when I read these pins.  "How can these women not know any better?"  I'd think to myself.   "How can that blogger pulling workouts out of their ass and giving them to thousands of women go to sleep at night?"  But once I calmed down and tried to remind myself to not be so fucking  judgmental, I saw the board as a valuable tool for reaching out to help.  Pinterest actually gives us a glimpse into the minds of the demographic that is most likely to spend their money on fitness and diet programs.  (Higher income, well-educated, middle-aged women)

Looking at the above pins, there is a lot to learn about what these women feel and desire:

1) Not to feel self-conscious while working out.  (" I do the standing ones... anywhere no one can see me")

2) Short, effective workouts to fit in their busy lives.

3) To feel comfortable and confident in their clothing - and their own skin.

How can I blame anyone for wanting workouts that fulfill these very basic, reasonable requests?  These 'pinners' aren't stupid, but they are perpetuating among themselves ideas that are not the most efficient ways to accomplish those goals.  Perhaps the bloggers promoting their workouts aren't promoting efficient ones, but they are ones that fulfill request #1 - able to be done alone in their own home without fear of judgement.

So what does this demographic believe is true in regards to exercise according to 99% of pins?

1) Running is the best way to lose weight / bodyfat

2) Strength training is done with light weights / many repetitions for toning and spot reduction.

What I personally conclude from this is that while I (and probably most of us who spend a lot of time in the fitness field) thought many of these myths had been disproved or at the very least challenged (ESPECIALLY the spot reduction myth), for the women who use Pinterest, they are still very real.

If you're a trainer you can see this everyday - explain that spot reduction is a myth, have your client nod in agreement.  Two weeks later they express concern at the lack of direct ab work - don't you remember they want to get rid of the pooch?

One of my first posts on my old blog was about the spot reduction myth - rest assured it's still as false as ever.  There are no specific 'thigh thinning' workouts just like you can't tone your tummy with core-focused yoga poses.  The only thing you can do to specifically reduce fat in an area is to reduce overall bodyfat through appropriate food intake and some sort of load-bearing exercise.

I know the above statement has been said a million times - maybe it still needs to be said MORE until it drowns out everything that promotes the contrary.

Which makes me wonder if I, and other like-minded fitness professionals / exercise enthusiasts, should have a heavier presence in this popular venue.  After all, it is one of the few pieces of BIG media that we can change directly RIGHT NOW.  There is no barrier to entry on what you pin and what category you can pin it to.

Could we change the thoughts of millions of women with more posts like this or this?  What about this one or this one?  Imagine a health and fitness board filled with informative, helpful, bullshit-dispelling posts like these.

I think it could be a powerful thing.

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After all that happy understanding mush, let's end this post with probably my least favorite pin that I've seen way too many times:

"1. Drink one glass of water every hour. It will make you feel full.
2. Drink ice cold water. Your body will burn calories just getting the water to a normal temperature to digest. Also it is great for your complexion. 
3. Drink 3 cups of green tea daily. It will help boost your metabolism, plus its anti-oxidants make your skin look great. 
4. Take vitamins daily. Do not take vitamins on an empty stomache, otherwise they have nothing to catalyze with. 
5. Eat ice when hungry. This will make your body think it had food without the calories. 
6. Eat spicy foods. They raise your metabolism. 
7. Take cold showers because your body will burn calories to heat you back up."

Sounds way too much like anorexia advice for my comfort levels.  I hope that if you read this you recognize it as OCD bullshit.