Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: fitness

The human body is a tool for experts

Lately I’ve been thinking about exercise, mainly because I’ve been experimenting with Crossfit. Too much has been written about the good and bad of Crossfit, this isn’t one of those posts. What I’m interested in is some of the exercises people do at Crossfit, and how they make me think about how we use our bodies to do work.

Crossfit emphasizes Olympic weight lifts — the clean and jerk and the snatch. They’re both techniques for getting weight from the ground to over your head. With the clean and jerk you do it in two movements, the snatch involves one continuous movement. Both require a large amount of skill, and even people who have been doing them for awhile tend to be pretty terrible at it.

All but the most skilled can lift more weight using simpler approaches. What’s interesting, though, is that if you can perform these lifts well, you’ll be able to lift more weight than an equally strong person could using other techniques. Mastery enables you to make the most of your own physical potential.

Olympic weightlifting teaches you to be an expert in using a particular tool (your body) for a specific task (getting some weight from the ground to over your head). It’s is a pure example of a case where doing things the hard way takes a person further than easier paths can provide.

I find this really motivating. Currently I am at the point where I feel my weakest when I’m trying to do the proper Olympic lifts. The simpler the approach, the more effective I am. I am intrigued, though, by the idea of learning how to use my own body like an expert.

The only exercise advice you really need

The New York Times ran an article this week about how beginning runners are not well served by the massive amounts of advice being offered on running form and running shoes. What do the doctors say?

When it comes to running form, Dr. Bredeweg said, “we don’t know what is the right thing to do.” For example, he noted, forefoot strikers place less stress on their knees but more on their calves and Achilles tendons.

“We tell people we don’t know a thing about the best technique,” he said. He tells runners to use the form they naturally adopt.

The problem of excessive advice is pervasive in the world of fitness. Everyone is trying to sell an exercise routine that they claim is the best. Whether it’s weight training, Crossfit, yoga, pilates, or running, people are evangelists of what they do, and professionals are even worse.

For people who aren’t exercising regularly, the most important thing is to start doing something. It doesn’t even matter what it is. If you don’t like what you’re doing, try something else, but keep exercising. The idea that there’s one master program is completely false. If some exercise doesn’t feel good, find something else.

Eventually, once you’ve been exercising for awhile, you may set goals that your exercise routine isn’t helping you meet, and you’ll need to find a coach, do more research, or just up your intensity, but it’s not worth worrying about before you reach that point.

The truth is that Nike has always provided the best advice when it comes to working out — just do it. If you can consistently challenge yourself over a long period of time, almost everything else will take care of itself.

© 2023 rc3.org

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑