The Language of Limitations: a response to “Fitness fails: Workouts you need to stop doing in 2014”

I came across an article on the workouts that we all “Need to stop doing.” (http://www.today.com/health/fitness-fails-workouts-you-need-stop-doing-2014-2D11792111) At first I took offense, then I realized that the article was not actually written in English, but in Excusese. Also known as the language of limitations, it is a dialect favored by those who desire a thousand excuses not to step up and try something rather than just one reason that it might be worth checking out.

I only speak the basics of this dialect, but here are segments of the article with my best go at a translation, and a few notes of interest:

Pole dancing. Yes, it takes skill, balance and coordination to spin around a pole upside down. And sure, it’s probably a heck of a workout. But aside from the fact that you’re expected to perform this “sport” in your underwear, pole dancing is risky (in some cases, devastatingly so). Pole dance forums regularly allude to bumps, bruises, cracked ribs and broken toes, says Dr. Ryan Stanton, a Lexington, Ky., emergency room doctors. That’s just the start, says Stanton, who’s also seen back, ankle and wrist injuries. “The majority of injuries are associated with falls,” he says. “And there’s also a risk of skin infections like strep and staph if the pole hasn’t been adequately sterilized.” Eww.

Translation: I don’t care that this is an epic core, grip and upper body workout. It is associated with strippers, and I don’t care enough to research its earlier history, so such things are beneath me. You have to do it in underwear because something that doesn’t sound demeaning (like a gymnastics leotard) is just silly. People who try things beyond their abilities can fall down. No workouts where you could possibly fall down are okay. Oh, and strippers are dirty, so I will think more about infections from this than I will about who used the bench press before me and didn’t wipe off his sweat.

Yoga mash-ups. “Yoga’s not good enough on its own any more,” says Stanton, a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians or ACEP. “Now you have to turn up the temperature or do it on a paddleboard.” Or do it naked while suspended from the ceiling in a white “anti-gravity” bundle. Aside from being just plain silly, some of these yoga mash-ups can be risky. Stanton says he’s treated people who’ve passed out in hot yoga classes and warns that the practice can be dangerous for people with heart disease. Stand-up paddleboard or SUP yoga also carries a risk — of ending up in a video like this.

Translation: If you are looking for another level of your yoga training, you’re just being silly. If someone with a heart condition can’t do it, why should you take the risk? Oh, and falling down and looking silly is the most dangerous thing EVER. You should never do it, even if this means that you never try anything new.

Monk’s note: I have seen many people do anti-gravity yoga, and some have had great success at rehabilitating injuries that make standard yoga impossible. I have not known anyone who does this naked.

Gas mask training. It’s not just for firefighters and members of the military anymore. Now, regular old gym rats are getting their Darth Vader on by donning specialized — or Army-Navy surplus — gas masks in order to train for high altitude runs/climbs or restrict their oxygen intake for a much tougher workout. While proponents rave about the results (they also readily admit to “seeing stars”), Stanton compares the practice to “being strangled while you’re exercising.” Are you sure you want to run on a treadmill with that thing on, people?

Translation: I do not understand why people would want to use techniques that are uncomfortable. Yes, it can improve your physical abilities, but who cares about that if its uncomfortable?

Monk’s note: I have used resistance mask training. It helped a lot strengthening my lungs (I had pneumonia when I was little and my lungs never fully recovered) and helping me get to where I am. I recommend it highly.

BackwardsrunningAlso known as reverse running, retro running or “gninnur” (Yes, that’s “running” spelled backwards), backwards running may have gotten its start as a rehab exercise for athletes with pulled hamstrings. Today, though, it’s a trend, with races, a world champion and even an attempt to make it an Olympic sport. “That one’s really crazy,” says Jason Karp, an exercise physiologist from San Diego. “Humans are not meant to walk backward. It’s not how we’re designed. My major concern is that you’d trip and fall.” Not to mention strain your neck from looking behind you every three seconds.

Translation: I think it is silly, so you should not do it. Oh, and I think everyone is too stupid to clear their path of obstacles that they might trip over. Remember where I said any workout where you might fall is bad?

Stiletto workouts. Fans of this “fitness” fad say working out in sky-high heels can strengthen your core, improve your balance and give you toned, taut legs. But Neal Pire, an exercise physiologist and fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, call this fitness craze  dubbed the “the world’s worst workout” by Prevention Magazine — unnatural. “When you wear high heels, you’re shortening your Achilles tendon, throwing off your center of gravity and putting stress on your lower back. And then there’s what happens in your feet.” ER doc Stanton is more blunt: “Anything in stilettos is an ankle injury waiting to happen,” he says.

Translation: I think it is silly, so you should not do it.

Monk’s note: While this one does strike me as odd, to each their own. The injuries listed would be results of over-using this style of workout.

MOB races. “Mud, obstacle and beer” endurance challenges like the Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash have inspired many a couch potato to get off their duff — at least for the weekend. But it doesn’t come without a cost. A study by the ACEP found that a single competition last June resulted in 38 ER visits for everything from chest pain to dislocated shoulders to head and face injuries to electrical burns to paralysis. Even worse, there have been a handful of deaths. “This is a really high risk activity,” says Stanton. “People train for marathons but Tough Mudders attract people who have no intention of training — they just want to get out and run in the mud. It’s risky enough for the person in good shape, much less someone who hasn’t run 3 miles in the last year.”

Translation: I know absolutely nothing about these events. I don’t know that under-trained people show up for marathons or that people do indeed train for obstacle races. I will make up a trendy-sounding acronym for these events, because I refuse to even do a Google search to find a term like “OCR”. Oh, and mention beer to make them look like drunken idiots. I will ignore the idea that this is an actual sport, and thus not compare the injury rates of other sports that result in many more injuries (football, perhaps?). Oh, and I will say this needs to go away and ignore that it is the fastest-growing sport in the world in terms of participation. Remember how I don’t understand why you would want to do anything uncomfortable?

Monk’s note: The author’s obvious lack of knowledge and attempt to discredit obstacle racing particularly irritated me, considering the number of people who have used these events, and training for them, to improve not only the health of their bodies, but the health of their minds and spirits as well.

Stability ball stands. Balance or stability balls have been a fixture at gyms for years. But lately, more and more people aren’t just using them for crunches or stretching, but for hot dog moves like standing atop a ball while doing bicep curls or shoulder presses. Can you say recipe for disaster? “I’ve seen contusions to the sacrum and lower back,” says Stanton. “I’ve seen people hit weight machines, hit benches, hit other people.” Stanton calls the tendency to push the fitness envelope “testosterone syndrome” or the “jock effect.” “People get to a gym and try to do more than they’re capable of,” he says. “But gravity always wins the day.”

Translation: Stupid people can do it wrong and fall down. Thus, no one should do it.

Monk’s note: Above anything else, don’t let articles like this limit your ambitions. Use common sense. Try new things, don’t do things that are way beyond your abilities, and above all have fun. If you love your step-aerobics class, do it. If you are intrigued by races up the side of a mountain, rock-solid holds off a pole, or yoga poses on a surfboard, check them out. Train hard, train smart, build your abilities over time, and go do it!

Don’t let limitations be the language of your life.

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