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Week 4: Not All Exercise is Created Equal

They make big promises of amazing body transformations in 90, 45, or even 30 days…but do these “high octane, high intensity” infomercial DVDs, “extreme” 30-day Challenges, or chain-gym boot camps have the potential to do more harm than good?

Let’s say it’s been a while (a few months, or years) since you’ve exercised on a regular basis, and you decide now is the time to get back into shape. Or, maybe you have a big event (wedding, class reunion, or even beach season) and you’d like to look your best. Should you order the “high intensity” infomercial DVD that promises a muscular, ripped body after 30 days of intense daily training? Or does it make sense to join a gym and commit to the 75-minute, high output daily group cycling classes or boot camp? Or how about the extreme group training that involves numerous repetitions of rope climbing, Olympic lifts, high jumps, sprinting, and more? The answer to these questions in most cases is “No!”

So many of these short-term, kick-it-into high-gear workout strategies, while marketed to everyone at any age, are actually geared toward the bodies (and abilities) of teens or twenty-somethings (and even these younger populations will eventually have to pay the price for excessive amounts of high intensity activity).

Intense Exercise – the Typical Story

Yes, with many of these intense workout plans, most of us experience the initial feeling of euphoria and sense of accomplishment. It feels great to sweat, the adrenaline rush is addictive, and our new lives with our new bodies are close ahead. But suddenly, all too often we run into a little set back: a muscle pull here, a strain there, tendonitis, bursitis, or a ligament injury, or a stress fracture…or worse.

How could this be? We’ve been exercising religiously; we were just starting to feel better and WHAM… we’re hit with an injury that puts the breaks on our progress.

This is unfortunately all too common in today’s society and the orthopedic and physical therapy clinics are filling up as a result.

We are exercising ourselves into an injury and making this intense level of exercise actually counterproductive.

This pattern often starts with the fact that we generally feel like we deserve “the right to exercise.” This may be so, but do we deserve the right to pick back up where we were when our development was at its peak naturally? Is it a good idea to try and do the things that came naturally for us while we were maturing through our teenage years and into our twenties, when our anatomy and physiology are at a heightened state?

We need to consider the possibility that years of a sedentary lifestyle has likely affected our body’s posture, our ability to move efficiently, and our functionality. Furthermore, we need to remind ourselves we are not teenagers anymore. Many of us are juggling responsibilities between raising families and careers. We need to recognize that even the careers of the professional athletes come to an end often in their early thirties. Very few make it into their forties, as even the bodies of these top athletes lose the ability to heal and to handle physical stress as they age.

Think about it this way: like automobiles, our bodies have only so many revolutions before they breakdown. You run a vehicle hard for so many miles and eventually parts begin to wear down, and in many cases these parts need to be repaired or even replaced…yikes!!!

These revelations should not be reason to give up on the idea of regular exercise. Nor do we need to look at life beyond our twenties as doom and gloom. But rather than trying to defy nature with intense, short-term exercise, we need to accept and adjust to what nature (and our bodies) are telling us.

So How Do I Exercise Without Getting Injured?

Our bodies are essentially meant to push, pull, squat, lunge, flex, extend, twist as well as counter external forces. And ideally, we want to be able to do these things in a pain-free, supple manner. We need to approach training with a well thought out progressive plan. And we also need to accept the fact that excessive amounts of intense exercise and even excessive amounts of low-mid intensity aerobic exercise can quickly become counterproductive to the point of injury.

So always remember to warm up and cool down!!! Simply put, apply a proper warm up routine: myofascial release techniques when needed, heart rate elevation, dynamic mobility movements, muscle activation as well as necessary corrective movements before you begin the “meat and potatoes” of your workout…and don’t forget your restorative stretching to finish up things. If you don’t get to the “meat and potatoes,” at least you’ve accomplished a very beneficial, calisthenics based daily routine.

Pep Talk

Be smart about how you exercise so that your primary responsibilities (i.e., real life) can be performed with a leaner body in a healthier, higher-performing, pain-free manner.


1) Professional athletes' careers often come to an end in their early thirties and very few make it into their forties, because:

a) these top athletes lose their skill b) these top athletes lose their knowledge of the game c) these top athletes lose the ability to heal and to handle physical stress as they age d) these top athletes lose their interest in the game

2) Years of a sedentary lifestyle can affect: a) our body’s posture b) our ability to move efficiently c) our functionality d) all of the above

3) A proper warm up routine consists of:

a) going for a long run b) myofascial release techniques, heart rate elevation, dynamic mobility movements, muscle activation c) doing some curls, bench presses, leg presses and some sprints d) all of the above

4) Our bodies are essentially meant to push, pull, squat, lunge, flex, extend and twist. a) True

b) False

Once you've taken the quiz, click here to see how you did.


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