Weekly (actually almost daily) on my Facebook feed I see debate and discussion about various fitness modalities and “the best way” to exercise. Wow, that was an awesome leg workout! I almost puked! I can’t walk today thanks to @awesomeharcoretrainer! #feelbeatenup. Inevitably these are posted by folks in their 20’s and 30’s who are getting into workouts that are pretty advanced, and likely in no way appropriate – but they do get the desired results. For a brief time people can have bulging muscles, lower body fat (or nicely flexed pictures) and post pictures of themselves doing things like obstacle races or really heavy lifts, even if they have terrible form.
Then there is the other side of the equation. The majority of my practice deals with injuries, and a lot of these are things like tears of various things, joint replacements, spinal herniation and overuse issues. Most of these people are in their 40’s and older, but this is not a hard rule. My youngest client who had a hip replaced was 46. Knee replacements are fairly common once people who are active get into their 50’s and 60’s. Disc hernation when younger tends to lead to chronic back pain for many people until they decide to either get surgery or figure out a way to manage their lives in order to live without pain. I see this as a really sad thing.
My aunt (who was obese at the time) announced one year at Christmas that she was getting a knee replacement because it was the only solution to her knee pain. When I suggested that possibly losing 50 pounds might help her more there was a bit of an awkward silence in the room. As you all know, holding my tongue isn’t exactly something I do well.
One thing I often say to people is that “I wish I had seen you ten years ago.” My belief is that if people were properly educated on what exercise can do to their body long term they might think twice before getting into hardcore heavy lifting, fast ballistic movements and things like hardcore competition without properly progressing themselves.
The point of this article is very simple: people don’t think about the long term damage they are doing to their bodies and what it is going to be dealing with years down the road. This could also apply to the general population, but especially applies to people in the fitness industry who are supposed to know a bit more about their physical well-being and how to improve others than the average person. Just recently there was a gentleman who during a CrossFit competition actually severed his spine during a heavy lift and will never walk again. Another recent article had a high level runner fracturing her femur – 500 meters from the finish line of a race – but she dragged her self across the finish line anyway, risking her life in the process. She likely will never walk properly again either and she has small children at home. Professional athletes, while achieving incredible things in their careers often have their physical health or even their lives cut short dramatically due to the abuse their body has to adapt to through training. These are obviously outliers, but for every one of these examples, there are thousands of regular people who suffer daily with things that likely could have been either prevented or eliminated entirely given the right amount of care.
There are also people who commit to fitness (for a short time) and do a cycle of working out for a few weeks, then come up with every excuse under the sun why they can’t continue – until the next time. In January these are called “resolutionists”. For a lot of people they will be inspired by something and maybe follow through for a few months, and then go back to the same cycle they had in the past. Then, in five years they are heavier, sicker or get injured and wonder why. Here’s a thought – make a commitment for a long period of time and stick with it. You should be exercising regularly (in whatever capacity you want to) for the rest of your life. Time after time I meet with people, they stick with a program for a few weeks or months, and then something happens in their life so that they won’t continue (notice I said won’t, not can’t) and then a year later it’s “oh, yeah – I should start working out again.” Then I meet with them a few more times, with them fully committed and then inevitably it happens again.
So my simple words to you: look forward. See yourself in 10 years and ask yourself what type of body you want to have. What do you want to be able to do? What do you want to have accomplished? We do this all of the time for our careers, but neglect the one thing that is going to carry us forward for the rest of our lives. And get started. Now. Just do it the smart, responsible way and don’t let your body hate you. It really doesn’t want to, after all.