Friday, August 26, 2011

At least exert yourself

Ed. note: There is a slim chance that a couple of people I know will recognize the situation I describe and the people I'm talking about. I mean no offense, but this profoundly affected me and needs to be said. It's not hurtful, it's just blunt, and it is heart-felt and honest.

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I did some jerk and some long cycle with a pair of 20kg (44lb) kettlebells today, my current standard, and a pair of modest jerks at the end of the 90min session with a pair of 24kg (53lb) bells. Now the 2 24kg bells were a personal record, and 48kg (106lb) overhead for the first time was every bit heavy. Not three months ago, I nearly put 2 20kg bells on my head with that same lift, but now I train with them regularly. It was a big deal to me that I didn't eat those green 24s.

I saw some new folks training this week. One was pressing a pair of 35lb weights without pausing at the shoulder or at the top and deadlifting 53lb in a circuit.  Realize that they were deadlifting, from the floor with both hands, less weight than they were lifting overhead. Now realize that again. When I was 16 years old, I deadlifted a spinet piano once when it tipped over on a moving truck ramp, and I had never lifted weights in high school. They were deadlifting 53 pounds, in a gym, for which they paid money.

These folks were turning their heads to make eye contact and chat. They were talking freely instead of bracing themselves with a deep breath to protect the spine. These are not just my pet peeves; these are details that you cover subconsciously every day to lift things out of your car because the reach feels awkward.

I'm glad they were trying, but let's face facts. This was not exercise. This was not focused; this was not even safe. Going to a gym to get less old/fat/feeble does not automatically make you less old/fat/feeble. Hard work does. I accept I'm good at this because it's my hobby, but I am not the strongest person my size that I know. I know a 120lb woman who can deadlift over 200lb, which I cannot. If some guy bigger than me doesn't want to launch 40kg (88lb) overhead like I do, that's fine, but I know he can lift it off the floor. The point is that he was not even exerting himself, so he was wasting his time and not getting any healthier.

Clinical studies have shown as little as 15min of strenuous exercise on 3 days a week can reduce your body fat and blood lipids.  90min a week was shown to add as much as 3 years to your life expectancy in a long-term study in Taiwan. This isn't about kettlebells or about fat shredding or cardio vs HIIT vs strength training. What I do and call "cardio" is carry 40kg up and down stairs after my regular workout, but I couldn't survive a modern aerobics class. I don't care. I'm stronger than 3 months ago. My cholesterol is down. I eat like a puppy in a bacon store, and I can see my abs in the mirror. None of this would be true if I were too lazy to actually exert myself or too bored by the experience to keep it up.

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