Ahem… So here’s one of the topics that sometimes raise controversy. And I’m all about nuance. Bear with me.
Everywhere for the past few years, I have seen exercise being related to health. And people going ballistics on treadmills, smashing their spine on dance floors or compromising joints by poor squat techniques without giving it any second thought.
While I appreciate the shift of mindset, how really people must understand this paradigm should rather be “get moving, you lazy fuck, being seated 8 hours a day just to crash on a sofa at the end of it is not what your beautiful body has been designed to do“. Then, it’s all about the details and the Devil in it.
See, the definition of healthy is far, far from being black or white. Let’s take three examples:
- Two months ago, John wanted to lose weight. So John started running. He even bought expensive Nike shoes with a big sole on them to absorb the shocks (damn it, John). Now he is running 4k twice a week in the mornings. He sweats a lot, breathes better, and thinks he might even have dropped a few kgs.
- Sarah loves yoga. She goes to her classes three times a week after work. She feels so relaxed after it, and the truth is, it’s a serious workout for her core! So says her boyfriend. She has never been a big fan of Globo gyms, and believes yoga is amazingly healthy because hey, it’s been around for so long. I mean, you’re talking about a millennial practice, not a new age form of bootcamp or spinning. So it must be good for you. Right?
- Vincent likes dancing. Rolling on the floor, jumping, indulging in a few acrobatics here and there. Nothing as stressful as tumbling or gymnastics he believes. And sure, isn’t the spine supposed to be mobilized anyway?
Well, my take on this is: yes and no. It may and may not be healthy at the same time. That’s why we have to forget about this outdated notion of overall healthiness and start to think for ourselves.
See, John definitely feels better, must have improved his cardiovascular functions and indeed might have dropped a bit of weight. Sarah is definitely stronger than if she had a more sedentary lifestyle. And Vincent has a point saying that bending his spine by rolling, twisting and extending it might actually be beneficial, because if you don’t use it, you lose it. But maybe John forgot about how heel striking with these big shoes of his as he jogs may be the reason why he has a slight pain in the knees. Maybe Sarah forgot that a few thousands years of existence actually does not prove anything, that ancestral does not always rhyme with sound or sustainable, that her body might be very different from her teacher’s. Maybe Vincent forgot that you have ligaments around the spine to hold it, that poor technique and lack of awareness could result in micro damages in the intervertebral disks, which he won’t be able to “feel” until it’s a bit too late.
Truth is: it is very hard to see the big picture as far as longevity in physical practice is related. We just lack the data. And 90% of the teachers I know don’t even bother getting educated about this. We need more studies that look at one specific practice and correctly assess its longevity in the long run. For both professional athletes (who have a team of physios to prehab and rehab and massage them), and amateurs (who don’t have such a team and still have to pay the bills at the end of the month).
Meanwhile, what everyone should do, in my humble opinion, is:
- Question what you learn. If your teacher says that you don’t get the results “because you are not pushing hard enough”, and tends to consider that his teaching should work for everyone, then maybe you need someone else to train you.
- Question what you feel. At the end of the day, you want to reconnect more and more with what you feel. Only you know what you feel as you move. Explore your body, its possibilities, its limitations, try to adapt what you learn with what you can do to streamline your learning process.
- Don’t compare yourself too much. Inspiration is always good. There is such a thing as gifted people. There is such a thing as the survivor bias. Again, we were not made equals in the gene pool. And we may not have the same background either. See, it’s not about the others, and what they can do, it’s about you, and where your starting point is.
So no, I have no definite answer to provide you with. I just want you to be more “grey”. And to be more aware of what’s happening for you, inside you.
A special thanks to the guys from the class yesterday, whose thoughts inspired this post.