Thursday, February 5, 2009

OHS, and a Rant on Fatuous Fitness Advice

Weightlifting today: Overhead Squats


(Got 2/3 on set 4 and 1/3 on set 5.) I'm really happy, had no idea I'd be able to go so heavy on a difficult lift. It just felt good, except at the end when I got a little freaked out and kept dropping the weight. So good to have a day where I exceeded my expectations.

So...I should be writing a proposal, but to get my writing muscles warmed up, I think I'll write about something else first. Yesterday Tim linked to this article as an example of total BS. I have to say, I am getting really sick of coming across these kinds of articles everywhere I look.

To summarize for you: they essentially set up this "debate" about whether you should do "cardio" or "weight training", and then smugly claim to have solved the problem by saying that you need to do both. The rest of the article is filled with silly advice and blanket statements with no attempt at providing evidence or explanation.

Some specific examples from the article:

"You are probably burning more calories when you are actually moving a heavy weight than when you are doing aerobic exercise. But you are taking breaks, so over 30 minutes the actual number of calories burned doing strength training will be less."

What exactly are the tradeoffs? I'd bet that at the intensity levels that CrossFitters do, it's WAY more calories burned for moving heavy weights than for, say, jogging, more than enough to make up for the "rests" or shorter duration. (Who's resting???) And what about the calories burned when you're not exercising? All that muscle repair and construction burns calories too.

"You are limited in the amount of strength training you can do," says Nelson, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. The ACSM advises you weight-train no more than two to three times per week, to give the body time to repair microscopic muscle tears produced by training that are key to gaining strength. "But you can do cardiovascular exercise every day," Nelson says.

Huh? I move heavy weights 6 days a week. My muscle repair is going just fine. Where is the evidence for this 2-3 times a week limitation, other than that saying some authority recommends it? Where did this advice originate?

"if vigorous aerobic exercise and vigorous weight training went head-to-head for calories burned, vigorous aerobic exercise would win."

I'd REALLY like to see some evidence for this. Look at the horsepower we crank out in the WODs. You're not getting that from running unless a mountain lion is chasing you. (Note: you can't outrun a mountain lion.)

The discussion of METs is confusing and illogical. There is no evidence for the numbers they provide and no explanation of why the MET is a useful metric.

And NOWHERE does the article acknowledge the possibility that the same workout can integrate high intensity weight training and cardio. CrossFit workouts combine these very effectively. The closest they come in the article is a "circuit-style strength training", where you might do "a set of pull-downs followed by a lap around the track or three minutes on a bike". This does not integrate intense weight training and intense cardio - it interleaves light/moderate weight training with light/moderate cardio. And I bet it won't make you lose weight either!

The first thing that bugs me about articles like this is that they fatuously make grandiose statements and dispense advice without providing any actual information to the reader. The second thing that bugs me is that people take this advice without questioning it, and repeat it ad nauseum as if it were the word of --insert favorite diety here--.

Honestly, it does remind me of when I used to go to church (a long time ago). There were two priests, Father D. and Father S., that could not be more different from one another. Father D. was a doctrinist. Every Sunday, he'd tell us all the ways that people were watering down Catholicism and how WRONG they were because HERE's what you should do and HERE's how you should live, and that's just the way it is. Never any reason for anything, you were just supposed to accept his advice because it was Right. Father S., by contrast, always explored the why. He focused on the practical questions: who does this help, who does it hurt? What are the personal, the societal implications? Father S. was the priest visiting dying AIDS patients in the hospital, while Father D. was researching new kinds of incense burners and new technicalities of sinning.

Now my churchgoing days are behind me and I am not religious at all, but I do try to be introspective and to live a good life. And I often think back to advice Father S. gave because he gave me reasons. I think the lesson here is: don't pay attention to advice without reason, no matter what authority it claims.

Ah, there, now I feel warmed up. Time to write about brain stuff and Terminators for the Army.


Bluescaptain Joe said...

I always wonder whether I am being judged for not being fitness-centric at all.

It doesn't make me lose sleep, though, because I feel generally pretty happy.

Margaret said...

Great work this morning!
Great rant too!

Philip said...

Sounds like Joe served you.