Saturday, August 16, 2014

Newsflash: Not Everyone Needs to be a Badass

A friend of mine posted a video of a Kangoo aerobics class on Facebook today.  What is a Kangoo aerobics class, you might ask?  Well, it looks a lot like this:

And, of course, the strength community was raring to make fun of this (as with many aerobics-type classes).  Of course they were.  It's not badass.  And one person even ventured to say that it's "not exercise."

I'm going to share something with you:

I own a pair of Kangoos.

An ex of mine gave them to me for Christmas many moons ago.

And you know what?


No joke.  The main reason they've been sitting in my closet ever since that Christmas is that it's not nearly as much fun Kangooing alone, and I don't know anyone else who owns a pair.  And they freak my dogs out.

That having been said, I wanted to share with you my comments about this, because I really think this is an important subject to broach.  So, at the risk of the strength community shaking their collective head at me in shame, here's what I wrote:

In response to "I wouldn't call it exercise..."

It depends on your definition of "exercise." Does it get your heart rate up? Yes. Does it encourage good movement patterns? Not really.

And my further comments:

It certainly won't make anyone stronger. But it will burn calories. A lot of people just need to move. If it's fun, even better. The average person doesn't find lifting heavy weights inherently fun (well, maybe till they try it, anyway  ). Most people do find bouncing around fun. Hell, I find bouncing around fun. I'm like Tigger. The Western culture desperately needs ways to get people off the couch. I think this is one of many ways that *could* make that happen. Like the SkyZone chain of indoor trampoline parks. Like Zumba. Like going out dancing at night. Like romping with your kids or your dog or your cute neighbor. Whatever. If it gets people moving (and doesn't get them hurt), I'm all for it. Not everyone needs to be a powerlifter. I mean, I do. But not everyone does.

I think a common problem we make as fitness professionals is thinking that in order for something to be "legit" it needs to be badass. It doesn't. It just needs to get people moving more than they sit. We have a horrible culture of sitting. It's killing people. Some of this stuff looks ridiculous. Some of it is ridiculous. But it works in that it makes people move, makes people want to do more of it, makes people smile and laugh and get the hell off the couch. I am a big believer in the "does it make you better?" mantra. In this case, does it make these people better at not sitting? Yes it does. More power to them.

Bottom line:  Have fun.  Look silly.  Freak out your neighbors.  But move.  Please.  Just move.  As far as I'm concerned, Sloth is a much bigger sin than happily bouncing around like Tigger on crack.

I will leave you with this picture of me from 2010, after receiving my Christmas gift.  And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to organize a Kangoo race.  There's gotta be someone else out there with a pair.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Yay, Meat?

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted this article with the comment, "Yay, meat!"

Now, I know my friend was poking fun at me, since I'm vegan, but I did skim and comment about this article.  I wanted to share my comments with you, because I honestly think this is an extremely important subject.  Articles like the one above abound right now, and I think they are doing the general public a great disservice.

How's that working for you, Paula?

Anyhoo, here's what I wrote:

Now that I've had time to skim this article (forgive me if I misunderstood anything; it's late and I only skimmed the article-- I'll read it in more depth later):

Yep. Of course his health sucked. His health sucked for the reason a lot of vegans' he
alth sucks-- they have a horrible diet full of processed foods, lots of starch/sugar, and extremely imbalanced nutrition. Meat or no meat, if your diet looks like that, you're going to be sick. Meat is neither necessarily the problem nor the solution. A bad diet is a bad diet, whatever camp it's in.

What bothers me about articles like this is that they are HIGHLY unscientific (quoting the Weston A. Price society is pretty much a dead giveaway of an uninformed individual) and that they basically come to a conclusion that has nothing to do with the problem with what they were doing before. Eating meat did not make him better. Getting more nutrition did. Fried food and lard is not a secret to good health, as it appears he's implying. I believe this sort of article is very misleading to the general public, and is how really dumb ideas about nutrition get started.

Bottom line: Just because you're vegan, or not vegan, or low-fat, or high-fat, or however it is you eat, does not mean you're healthy. Your diet needs to have the right balance of nutrition and energy. It should come as much from nature as possible. It should have a LOT of vegetables. Beyond that, it's up to you how you approach it. If your system works for you, it works for you. 

OK, that's all. Getting off my soapbox now. G'night.

I hope this clarifies some things for you guys about this subject.  People are so eager to jump on a bandwagon-- ANY bandwagon-- thinking it's the solution to all that ails them.  Downing "lots of lard, beef dripping, butter, cream and full-fat milk" is not going to save anyone.  

On a side note, I am a moral vegan, which means that the reason I don't eat meat has nothing to do with nutrition.  This lifestyle is extremely important to me, but I do realize that it can be difficult to balance if you don't understand nutrition.  I have made it work extremely well for me, as have many others.  Does that mean it's for everyone?  No, not necessarily.  But it did make me a little sad to see that these people turned vegan for moral reasons and then went against their morality to "fix" their diet-- and, of course, to sell a £12.99 book about it.  Coincidence?  I think not.

You can try using an online nutrition calculator to get an idea about your nutritional intake (like this one: ).  Blood tests can be helpful, too.  If your diet is making you sick, clearly something needs to change.  But it doesn't necessarily mean you need to start munching on sticks of butter.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Is This A Good Workout?

First of all, I have to apologize for being so lax in posting here lately.  I started my master's degree in April, and it's been kicking my butt, so time has been at a premium.  However, I managed to finish this week's work early, so I have a little time to do some blogging.

I get a fair amount of email that basically looks like this:

"Here's the workout I did today.  Is it good?"

Here's what my answer just about always is:

"Well, is it making you better at what you're trying to get better at?"

Chances are, if the answer is yes, then yes, it's good.

If it's not, or if it hurts when you do it, or if it's done with poor form, then no, no it's not.

Sooo, this is a good workout, amirite?
It's also important to note that what had been working for you for a while may not be working for you now.  Case in point:  My goals, as a powerlifter, are to get stronger in the Big Three Lifts (deadlift, squat, bench press).  Today, I realized that my deadlift and squat numbers had been at a plateau for a while.  So it's probably time to re-evaluate my routine and change something-- I'll probably consult with a powerlifting coach to get some fresh ideas.

Another thing you may want to think about:  Is your lifestyle is supporting your goals?  For instance, if you want to get stronger and you're not sleeping and eating properly (I will be the first to admit that I do not sleep well or enough, and I'm sure this affects my numbers), your ability to reach your goals.  If you're trying to lose weight, so you've jumped on a training plan but have not taken sleep, stress, and diet into account, you're probably not going to be satisfied with your results.

I know this was a relatively vague answer, and it should be.  Things that seem to work for everyone else never really seem to work for me.  I used a sure-fire deadlift plan from a champion deadlifter for a while, and I actually lost a lot of strength in the deadlift as a result.  It wasn't a bad plan.  Obviously not-- it helped make this guy a champion.  But for me, it didn't work.  That's not to say you should never try other people's plans.  They clearly work for at least some of the population, and may well work for you.  Scientific knowledge of strength training is constantly evolving, and there is no universal "right answer." The bottom line is (and this applies to nutrition, as well), if it makes you better, do it.  If it doesn't, then move on.  Find someone smart to help you fine-tune things if you can.

Hopefully this is helpful, and hopefully I'll get another post in soon.  In the meantime, go get better at stuff.  Let me know how it goes.