Please Abuse Your Body

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?

7 Replies to “Please Abuse Your Body”

  1. Hey Harold!

    I thought I’d chime in on this post. I think you’re right in the regard that most people don’t move enough or push themselves hard enough to really challenge their bodies. At the same token, I think it is veryVERY easy to get sucked into the metcon mindset. Even outside of CFers, etc. “Metabolic” is a fancy word and fast paced workouts that leave you in a sweaty pile are sexy.

    The problem is not doing them once in a while but when people do them 3,4,5 times a week. And then couple heavy lifting on top of it. And maybe a jog. And maybe something else. Which is super easy to get sucked into…I think. Thems just be my thoughts though – great post!

    1. Juliet, I totally agree with you. The idea of “metabolic conditioning” has evolved from strategically planned HIIT sessions twice or thrice a week, to every day, all out events. It’s a victim of the quantity over quality mentality, but we miss that because of the marketed ‘sexiness’ of programs like CrossFit, P90X, Insanity, etc. It looks cool, it looks effective, it looks like more is always going to be better.

      The frequency usually becomes an issue when someone feels the need to split everything up, instead of incorporating multiple training modalities on different days. Instead of lifting heavy or fitting in a MetCon every other day, it would behoove more people to incorporate conditioning into the ends of their lifting days, and then provide for a lower intensity recovery/activity day. You squatted and sprinted on day A? Go for a walk and so some yoga on day B. I promise you’ll feel better on day C.

      Obviously I’m preaching to the choir with you. For others though, I should phrase it ‘strategically implemented abuse’, instead of ‘abuse for the sake of feeling like crap and digging yourself a hole’. I’ll definitely clarify this in a future post; Thank you!

  2. If we’re talking about abuse, check out kids in drum corps! That, I would venture to say, is harder than your body should be pushed. Everyone in the corps all over the country gets less sleep, less food, and less recovery time than they need. I’m sure you’ve seen this video…
    where they compare marching quads to a runner in the midst of a marathon. It’s possible to train before the Summer begins, but rarely train appropriately and injuries are quite common in the activity. One way or another most of the kids make it through the hot summers and beatings for one hell of a product.

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