Thursday, October 25, 2012

Striking the balance, and questioning (your own) authority

I got into an interesting conversation recently about exercise. It had begun with a friend complaining that her heart and lungs felt great after a long run, but that her body was taking a beating. I suggested maybe shortening those runs, and picking up the pace. You know....The bang for the buck without the ouch. Then the subject of weight training came up and I said that it seems indisputable at this point that everyone should be doing *some* kind of resistance/weight-based training along with whatever else you're doing to get your heartrate up. No one really disagreed, but I remember the following line, uttered by someone else, really standing out:

"Everyone's different. In the end, the best form of exercise for you is the one that you enjoy doing the most."

And it got me to thinking. (Uh oh).

I just can't sign onto that theory.

I mean, OK, if what we are talking about is moving versus not moving -- exercising *somehow* versus not exercising at all -- I suppose that the statement is true. But, when life is (appropriately, I think) viewed as a neverending work in progress in which one is constantly trying to tweak and improve the good stuff and shed the bad and/or counterproductive, that sort of thinking strikes me as a sort of copout once you have already embarked upon the path of exercise.

Before you accuse me of being Captain Bringdown on this subject, please.... Exercise any way you want. Hell, for that matter, eat any way you want. I don't care. However, don't conflate what you enjoy doing or eating with what's "best" for you. You could very well be fooling yourself.

And I think that all is pretty easy to see when it comes to food. That double-chocolate-bomb milk shake? Delicious. Eminently enjoyable. Live it up. But no one thinks that is the "best" choice for you. Even if you take a less preposterous example, you can envision maybe something like 60/40 paleo (or primal) being a balance that you like and enjoy and which reaps a few benefits for you, but let's not confuse it with what is "best." If you dialed down the 40 part, you would likely be doing a lot better for your health.

Somehow, though, that thinking seems more unclear when it comes to exercise. People are doing all sorts of things that they enjoy, and which are often hard to do, but is it really the "best" for them? Maybe not, but somehow that gets lost at some point where enjoyment and pain/effort intersect, and people end up thinking that if they are working hard, sweating a lot and mostly enjoying it, it *must* be a very good thing. And it just isn't always. There are a lot of folks grinding themselves to bits, thinking that they are doing themselves an enormous favor, when, in fact, only their orthopedist is reaping maximum benefits from their exercise-related pursuits.

So I don't seem like I am picking on long-distance runners or other endurance athletes, I should mention that I would feel the same way about heavy powerlifting every single day, or CrossFit seven days a week. You may love it -- and, undoubtedly, there is extreme Zen value in doing fun things that you love -- but you also would be doing yourself a huge favor if you honestly evaluate whether what whatever pounding you are inflicting on yourself is really "best" for you, or whether you need to tweak that programming a bit (or dial it back).

Or maybe you say, "Eff it," and plow full speed ahead because you love whatever it is you are doing -- in exactly the volume and intensity that you are doing it -- so much that the cost/benefit analysis pays off for you in the end despite increased injury, wear and tear. I understand that approach, as long as it's done with a full awareness that you have elected "fun" over "smart." Hell, I do it myself to some degree with drumming -- an activity which brings me so much enjoyment that I try to ignore the damage it inflicts on me, but I also try to do it with some measure of restraint that I once didn't have. Maybe playing only a couple times a week, and not always at the speed of sound any longer. It's a big balancing act, but I would never think that drumming is, physiologically speaking, some sort of net positive for me at this point. I just love to do it and I have made a cost/benefit analysis that I am sure to revisit often.

So.... Just don't fool yourself. *That's* the point of today's little spiel. Honest reevaluation of, well, *everything* is healthy, and often that gets lost in the grind of the gym, the road, the trail, and, yeah, the drum kit.

Figure it out, and then never stop figuring.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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