Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Unhealthy Extreme Fitness Mentality

Over the years I've noticed a fitness trend that can be intimidating, unhealthy, and even dangerous. It is the message that you need to go 100% beast mode when it comes to exercise and fitness. I believe there is a time and a place to work on max lifts, beating personal records, and giving it all you've got, but that should not be every time you work out.

One of the places I see many of these unhealthy messages is on Pinterest with brash memes about how you need to push yourself to exhaustion. I created a page of examples of these types of pins you can see if you click on the link. These extreme memes and sayings are geared towards fitness, but they can also spill over into other areas of your life.

There is a time and a place to test your limits, but adopting the extreme mentality is not a healthy choice. I love seeing videos of people bench pressing 600 pounds, deadlifting over 1,000 pounds, setting world records in track and field, and recently seeing the Iron Cowboy complete 50 triathlons in 50 days. I can appreciate pushing the body and mind to their limits, but doing so on a regular basis can be unhealthy and dangerous.

I'd like to briefly address some of the more popular memes I've seen that probably have good intentions to motivate us, but can be dangerous if we don't use common sense:

"Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going"- I agree we should not give up too early or quit when things get uncomfortable but saying we need to push ourselves until we vomit, pass out, or die is not a good idea because eventually you will do one of those 3 things.

"I regret that workout... said no one ever"-  I appreciate the message since many people skip exercise and end up on the couch watching TV instead, but if you have a shoulder injury yet persist in going to the gym and work on your max bench press you will regret that workout. Exercising when injured without modifying your workout is a recipe for compounding your injury. I have regretted many workouts when I didn't use common sense or listen to the feedback my body was giving me. Over training is a real problem for some people.


"Pain is weakness leaving the body"- Or it could be a heart attack, broken bone, nerve damage, a torn muscle, etc. I believe in the principle of the harvest  and that consistent efforts and sacrifice will pay off with results but we need to remember there are different kinds of pain. The good pain is the soreness you feel the day after working out, or the burning in your legs as you finish a set of air squats. Bad pain can be a sharp painful feeling or a nagging injury and if you keep exercising under those conditions it is not weakness leaving the body, but stupidity entering.

"You can sleep when you are dead"- Or you can die 15 years earlier from never allowing your body time to rest and recuperate. I can appreciate that we need to "seize the day" and get things done but not getting quality sleep will increase stress, cause weight gain, hinder recovery, and eventually lead to exhaustion.

"Second place is the first loser"- I am all for competition but I believe that competition should usually be with yourself. If you constantly compare yourself to others with more experience, better genetics, or those using performance enhancing drugs, then you will always be disappointed with your results and find yourself in the loser camp.

As I have aged I have learned the hard way that my body takes longer to recover after intense bouts of exercise and longer to heal when I get injured or sick. If I were to ignore the feedback from my body because I wanted to adopt the beast mode mentality of a meme I would have a very bad experience when it comes to exercise and my health.

I hope this post has not come across as a sour grapes kind of message. I have great respect for those who have difficult and disciplined workouts. I acknowledge the importance of incorporating intensity into your exercise regimen, but that is done by building up over time as your conditioning improves. There is a time and a place to go all out and work towards a personal best record but that is not every time you exercise. Exercise is a very personal activity and you shouldn't feel like you are being labeled a failure or loser just because you actually have a rest day and are not as extreme as others.

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