What Grinds My Gears

Our clients are not only hard workers and awesome people, many of them are quite creative. A few months ago a small box covered in decorative paper showed up on our front table. On the lid was a small, neatly typed label that read “Topics of Conversation”. Inside were a series of index-sized note cards, each with a single idea for conversations starters. One simply read “What grinds Dan’s gears.”

I believe every person has passions. Whether that is something as worthwhile as raising your children or something as specific as the early works of the band “The Talking Heads” or, in my case, strength and movement. And when that passion becomes nearly all-consuming you can vault over simply being “enthusiastic” and land squarely on “my entire sensibility is being questioned by people who are also involved in this passion yet are clearly not as informed and passionate as I am.” When you take a step back it is obviously a bit ludicrous to be upset by people who are, say, not as into Ludacris as you are. But in the moment not becoming crazed by someone’s clearly crappy thoughts on appropriate squat depth is maybe easier said than done.

Circling back the wagons here, I guess I have developed a reputation for ranting about what I commonly and eloquently refer to as “stupid shit”. And, somewhat surprisingly, previous blogs that I have written about fitness trends that are really bothering me are amongst our most read. Maybe my overdeveloped sense of passion and desire for fitness justice serves me better than I think.

So with that being said, here are a bunch of fitness-related issues that are currently, as our oh-so-creative clients have put it, grinding my gears.

Put Down The Donut

 One of the most popular nutrition trends of the past year is something that is most commonly referred to as “If It Fits Your Macros” or “Flexible Dieting”. The basis of this methodology is that the dieter (whether gaining or losing weight) needs to solely pay attention to total number of calories needed per day and the breakdown of how many of these calories are carbohydrates, protein and fats (the aforementioned “macros”). Left out is the quality of foods that these macronutrients come from. So 40 grams of carbohydrates from kale is given the same value as 40 grams of carbs from brownies.

Surprisingly, people have had good results with these types of diets as they allow for small treats in the broader context of good quality, highly monitored diets. Now, take a second and reread that last sentence. Particularly “small treats in the broader context of good quality, highly monitored diets” because to be successful, the majority of your food is going to have to come from nutrient-dense, good quality food. Otherwise, you’d have 2 Rice Krispy treats and four ounces of sirloin steak and be done for the day. But if you watch the social media outlets of flexible dieters (and, more irresponsibly, flexible dieting coaches) you might think all they eat is donuts and ice cream – because that’s all they post.

But, and you are going to have to trust me here, these are likely small indulgences in a diet that consists of a lot of chicken and plain rice and asparagus. So don’t send you $80 per month recurring fee via PayPal to these diet coaches and expect them to send you back a plan that includes unlimited access to Dunkin’ Donuts.

The Complaint Department

When you’ve been training for a long time, you have an understanding and expectation that your body is usually not going to feel great. Particularly if your training is meaningful, results-driven and hard. And I fully realize there is an irony to this as so many people get into exercising in order to feel better. So why does everything hurt so much? The simple answer is that you are challenging your body on the regular and there are no biological free rides. You push it, it pushes back. Plus you may have forgotten how crappy you actually felt before you started all this and walking the dog had you wheezing. You may still feel a bit crappy, but at least now you are capable.

Lack of complaints about physical issues (and we are taking about soreness and bumps and bruises, not injuries) and programming are the mark of true veterans. Or, as we say around here, the line at the complaint department is filled with amateurs.

I know that your body hurts, that things don’t feel perfect, that you don’t want to run on the treadmill. But, unless you are brand new, none of these feelings should be novel to you. So stop telling yourself that the workout is going to suck or that you feel too crappy to train. Because the more you say these things, the more you believe them and the more your training will suffer. Remember, if you’re psycho enough to get into all this in the first place, any day touching the barbell is a good day.

Social Media Bias

 I’ve ranted about social media before (like two paragraphs ago) but I think it’s worth revisiting as things are seemingly getting worse. On nearly all social platforms across all walks of life, posters most often just show you the highlights of their day. And this is doubly true on fitness accounts. All you see are PRs, one rep maxes, fastest 100 meter row times and incredible feats of acrobatics. And this makes sense as watching someone’s twenty minute mobility routine or five mile paced run does not make for interesting content. But rest assured that, even though none of this is getting shown, these high achievers are doing plenty of mundane, boring work that allows them to hit the highlights that they are showing you. So don’t get suckered into the trap of thinking that your training should consist mostly of epic efforts and maxes that are worthy of a SportsCenter clip package. Participating in the steady, non-glorious rigors of training is truly what ultimately leads to those somewhat rare magical moments. Fall in love with the process and you will ultimately end up with a solid result – which you can post on Instagram for all the world to see.

And another thing….

Someone sent out a very important memo and neglected to send it to me. I’m guessing the memo states that the new fangled way of getting engagement and followers on Facebook is to ask either a deep philosophical question (“what would you be doing with your life if you weren’t doing this?”) or some flippant, off-the-cuff question (“what is the best glove to buy if you’re a lefty golfer”?) or, of course, some inane fitness question (“if you were on a desert island and could only do one exercise what would it be?”). Admittedly, there is nothing specifically wrong with any of this. But it’s so ubiquitous that I’m suspicious of it. Like an old man who gets suspicious when a car he doesn’t recognize parks in front of his house. There’s no real cause for concern, but I still don’t like it.

Where did this come from? There had to be some article or course or guru who recommended going this route. But that’s not my favorite part. My fav is that all of these posts are finished with the phrase “And….go”.

And go where?

Remember the days when your Facebook feed was filled with angry cat memes, pictures of people’s dinner and actual training advice? I miss those days.

Don’t Knock Your Doc

Once upon a time if you had a health issue you went to your doctor, she performed an examination, made a recommendation for some type of intervention (whether that be medicinal or surgical or rehabilitative) and you hoped for the best. And, just like nearly everything else, sometimes it was life changing, sometimes it failed and sometimes it had wild and unfortunate side-effects. But mostly you trusted your doctors to give you good advice and implement a strategy to the best of their ability.

With the advent of the internet and the general ability to get more medical information from sources such as WebMD, health magazines and shows like Dr. Oz, people are taking their health into their own hands to a greater degree than ever. And, in a lot of ways, this makes sense. Given the limitations put on doctors by the healthcare system, the strength of lobbyists advocating for pharmaceutical interventions at all costs and the increase in availability of alternative medicines it’s a great time to take charge and steer the bus on your own health.

However, the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that many trainers are basically telling their clients that their doctors are charlatans and should by no means be trusted. This is crazy.

Yes, it’s true that most doctors have a very rudimentary understanding of exercise and nutrition – the things we are most knowledgeable and passionate about. So we then make the leap that the doctor is an idiot and knows nothing about anything. This is not only short-sighted, it’s actually irresponsible. Doctors don’t know much about nutrition and exercise because, quite frankly, they don’t study it. So having the expectation that they should have the same knowledge of plyometrics as a strength coach is unreasonable. Secondly, as much as we’d like our non-invasive positioning drill that we learned at last weekend’s seminar to fix our client’s problems, sometimes (oftentimes!) significant problems require substantial interventions in order to be fixed. Plus you don’t have to be Alanis Morrisette to see the irony of you getting on doctors for not knowing dick about nutrition and exercise because they don’t study it yet suddenly you think your knowledge of shoulder mechanics supersedes what an orthopedist has spent years studying in school and even more years applying in the field. Yeah, that makes a ton of sense.

Do you have fitness issues that are grinding your gears? Fantastic. In the spirit of what is clearly required of me as a fitness professional with content on the internet I’ll ask you to list your grievances in the comments below.