Punishing Your Body, Part 1: Running

Ah running… the most widely practiced physical activity in the world with nearly two billion people jiggling their way to a body only a mother could love. From those staggering numbers it’s confirmed that we, as an industry, are not even close to where we need to be in terms of strength training frequency.

Let’s be honest, in 2015, it’s pretty damn hard to make CrossFit look like the less shitty alternative to an unsafe and ineffective form of training. Running wins this battle due to the punishment it delivers to your body with each successive step. Each leg pounds into the ground with the force of 4 times your body weight!

I don’t know about your country, but the American infrastructure wasn’t designed to withstand this kind of punishment. The streets deserve better.

Now, I read “Born to Run,” and still to this day it is one of my favorite books of all time. Loved it! It makes perfect sense. Our bodies were made to MOVE. Here is the problem: I don’t know one person that runs with form as good as the Tarahumara tribe, and when Americans aren’t running…they SIT. That’s the reality. That’s our working world, today.

I’ll be the first to admit I love hybrid endurance events and the challenge that they provide for myself. A sense of accomplishment engulfs me after every event. However, I’m not talking about marathons and half-marathons, here. I’m talking these new-found hybrid events such as Tough Mudders, combining strength, endurance, and pure grit. These events bring out the best in people, and it’s awesome to watch. I would never want people to stop participating in those because of injury. The problem lies within the training days leading up to the event.

It is not uncommon for me to have a new client come in and tell me that they are completely at a loss as to why their physical health is so horrible, and their body is just so weak. “Well, ‘Judy,’ what are you doing right now for activities?” — “I run almost every day, that’s why I don’t understand!” Hmmm….

Spinal stenosis, constant SI joint pain, hip pain, limited ankle mobility, stress fractures of the tibia…these are just a few of the issues that are common with “lifelong runners.” The biggest problems we run into with these people are with their spine. The amount of time people spend running with their subpar form causes problems in the SI joint and lower back. Pain in the sciatic nerve will erupt with vengeance if you run for many years with bad form.

In an attempt to save our roadways and orthopedic health, let’s take a deeper look into how running has continued to do absolutely nothing to eradicate the American obesity epidemic while adding to the ever-rising orthopedic dysfunction and injury rates plaguing our questionable medical system.

Running has single-handedly made the presence of pain the norm in an American society that’s struggling to be active. Up to 80% of runners are in pain on any given run, no matter the distance, intensity, or course. If you accept this statistic as “part of the game,” you’re just as much to blame as Phil Knight and the injury rainmakers over at Nike. Time to question your own beliefs and help evolve our poorly educated society, one runner at a time.

An ideal running stride is as rare as the thousand-pound squat. Just because you can run doesn’t mean you should. Without the ability to achieve proper biomechanics, your running is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Would you squat if you couldn’t keep from drawing attention from you atrocious form? I think not.

If you’re truly passionate about running, and it’s the only thing that provides an emotional release for you, that’s your prerogative! Just like anything else, try and use moderation. And for goodness sake, STRENGTH TRAIN! It’s just as good for your cardiovascular system and actually provides a benefit for the rest of your body, instead of deteriorating it! Need to lose weight? Running isn’t the only answer. Hit the elliptical and put on some lean mass by moving weights! The elliptical won’t beat down your body like the treadmill, and resistance training will add lean mass that is essential for raising your metabolic rates and sustaining any weight loss that you achieve.

There are a few fitness “trends” that punish our body, but running takes the cake.

Stay tuned for Punishing Your Body, Part 2.

Jared

Move to the beat of your own drum. 

Crossfit: A new generation of fitness

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Crossfit was founded in 2000, but has taken the world by storm in the last few years. When I say storm, I mean everyone and their mother has at least caught wind of it by now. At first, everyone thought: “Awesome! Look at these super fit men and women on the Reebok Crossfit Games getting absolutely shredded because of this style of working out.” Then the haters came along and have recently questioned Crossfit. Some hate just to hate. Others hate because they are fitness professionals and have problems with the way they do things. Don’t be someone who hates just to hate! Have a reason at the very least.  I will give you the facts.  This post is not opinion.  Personally, I see it on both sides of the fence.  And yes, I have done Crossfit. I never belonged to a Crossfit gym but made a visit to one up in Chicago.

Crossfit is an incredibly popular training system at the moment for a variety of reasons one of which being that the workouts are extremely challenging and demanding. A study recently published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research set out to evaluate the fitness adaptations that take place during a 10 week Crossfit training program. 

The study began with 54 healthy participants of varying fitness levels; however, only 43 completed the study (23 males/20 females) and were able to return for the post training re-test (more on that later). 

The subjects who completed the entire 10 weeks (43 of them) all experienced significant improvements in both VO2max and body composition changes (decreases in body fat percentage) leading the researchers to conclude, “Our data shows that high intensity power training (which is what they refer to CrossFit as in this study) significantly improves Vo2max and body composition in subjects of both genders across all levels of fitness.”

First I’ll begin by making some obvious statements which, may not be so obvious given that marketing and hoopla tend to cloud rational thinking:

1. CrossFit is not that novel. Circuit training and calisthenics have been around for hundreds of years.  Training over a broad range of mixed time and modal domains is certainly not a new thing.

2. What CrossFit did do is create an environment and a culture that made that stuff cool and exciting for people, “Hey, it really sucks to suffer when I work out hard but if I suffer with a group of my friends it really isn’t that bad!”  In that regard, I think CrossFit has done a great job motivating a lot of people to get off their butts and exercise. This is a good thing.

3. High intensity interval training or really hard aerobic power type activities, which make up the brunt of the energy system demands during a CrossFit workout, have been shown to improve things like VO2max and Body Composition so do these results really come as a surprise? This stuff has been looked at in hundreds of studies by now.

Now, remember those 11 subjects that dropped out? Only 2 of these subjects cited time restrictions as their reason for not completing the study. The other 9 cited overuse or injury from the training as their reason. A 20% dropout rate when you are a trainer/strength coach is absolutely unacceptable. So, why should it be acceptable in Crossfit? The goal of physical fitness training is not to push people so far, that they cross breaking points. Accidents happen in the training world and that can be understood, but something is wrong when 20% drop out. I believe that these injuries and overuse incidents occur this often because of the type of activities chosen from CrossFit workouts, the intensity with which those activities are performed, and the frequency of high intensity workouts within the training week. 

With typical high intensity interval training, this type of dropout rate is not heard of. To me and many others, the risk seems to outweigh the reward. 

Conclusion:

1.  Hard workouts, pushing yourself, and a positive workout environment are all AWESOME! But…you have to choose the right type of exercises, sets, and repetitions. Doing 50 overhead snatches for time is not safe and will ultimately lead to injury in anyone who isn’t superhuman. Which leads to number 2…

2.  Olympic lifts should not be performed for “as many reps as possible.” These type of lifts are only for those who are very athletic and very experienced. Highly technical exercises need to be performed with lower reps and adequate resting periods (2-5min). Other lifts, such as the deadlift, that put the spine in a compromised position should also not be performed for “as many reps as possible.” Unless you’re looking for a law suit, that is. 

3.  Phases need to be implemented into the Crossfit world. To go high intensity interval training multiple times a week, all year round, is insane and will also lead to overuse and injury (still not talking to you superhumans). Lower intensity weeks need to be dispersed throughout the year in order to allow the body to recover, to allow for development of the aerobic system and to increase lactate threshold in the body.  There is a reason all professional sports have an offseason! The body can’t handle it!

This may seem as if it were a complete bashing of Crossfit. Not true! Clearly, their training methods increase maximal oxygen uptake and decrease body fat composition. But, unlike they advertise, Crossfit is NOT for anyone.  And I firmly believe that if you join, you have to be willing to accept that severe arthritis may be in your future as a senior citizen. For certain people, Crossfit can be great! I love the cult aspect they add to it that makes it fun for people to get off their tail and workout!

Closing food for thought: Did the Reebok Crossfit Games participants get to be the “fittest in the world” from Crossfit? Or did some of the “fittest people in the world” find Crossfit and love the competition aspect of it?

 

Jared

 

Move to the beat of your own drum.