Last Sunday, the good folks at EliteFTS celebrated Mother’s Day with a post called “This Lift’s For You Mom…”, which included 35 mom-inspired workouts from readers. I perused the list on Sunday morning as I got ready to go train, debating on which idea I could use in my own training. I was inspired by Pete Price’s “The twenty-rep trap bar deadlift set that I’m doing tomorrow to replicate the difficulty of labor.” I thought this was rather funny, and while I had squatted and pulled heavy singles on Saturday, I decided that some light high(er) rep deadlifts on Sunday wouldn’t hurt. After my usual upper body strength work, I moved on to a finisher than consisted of 8 chin-ups, 10 trap bar deadlifts with 225lbs, 30 seconds of battling ropes, and 15 push-ups. It felt like this:
In the middle of round 2, I decided that I’d rather get kicked down a well than bear a child. I also decided that this finisher was a terrible idea. Once it was over, I peeled myself off the floor, and began that awkward gasping-for-air walk, where you make fish faces as if they make oxygen enter your body faster. No, they just make you look stupid. The awkward fish-gasps led to a wry smile; I felt great.
Later in the day, I was discussing my joy with the fish faces and inadequate supply of oxygen with a friend. I was obviously excited, but her response was “You abuse your body.” It took a while for the words to come to me, but I replied with a poorly contrived philosophical attempt of “No, not doing this is abuse.” This lead to think of the following question:
What is more abusive, training hard or not training at all?
Sure, there are populations that train their body beyond its ability to recover, and develop short and long term injuries. Cue discussion of powerlifters, endurance athletes, and CrossFitters. Before we get Lucifer’s Legal Liasons up in here, let me downplay these competitors. Why? Because it’s unlikely that you’re one of them, and it’s unlikely that you’re ever going to be one of them. No need for the Devil’s Advocate response.
Considering most exercise programs, I have to say that I don’t think we’re intentionally abusive enough. I say intentionally because most folks that seem to get hurt do so as a result of well-intentioned but ill-fated programming. Eventually, they’ll join the truly abusive: The sedentary.
If we were to weigh the effects of a “typical” Westernized lifestyle against that of someone eats whole foods and exercise regularly, you have a strong case for abuse. The hypercaloric, hypokinetic life style is one of the worst things that we subject ourselves to, but it’s seldom seen as abusive. Why?
Socially, we define abuse as something offensive or aggressive, but we really ought to consider the lack of effort exhibited by most who are casually active. I’m not a big fan of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, as I find them to be too lax; we’re more than capable of doing more. Unfortunately, most people don’t even reach the minimum numbers; how effective are these guidelines at producing active Americans? The “every little bit counts” approach isn’t very effective.
Perhaps we need a “Please abuse your body” approach. We need more people making awkward fish-faces while they’re working out, more people scared of stairs the day after they squat, and more people who think about ‘fitness’ as heart rate recovery and not mile time.
I ask you; Please abuse your body. Not to feel worn down, tired, and hurt. I mean to feel energized, accomplished, and healthy. Let your muscles feel soreness. Let your heart pound in your chest. Let your lungs burn. Eat well, sleep well, and do it again the next day. Move better, perform better, get stronger. Demand more from yourself. As you do, ask yourself: Is training hard more abusive than settling for what you already have?