It never ceases to make me cringe just a little bit when people engage in certain behaviors regarding their fitness that as a professional trainer and coach I would never recommend. Whether they get swept up by the romanticism of it, see it on TV, or expect people to be impressed, we all seem to do things that a logical person would just as soon ask "Why would you do that?" rather than say, "Man, that's really awesome!'
I would love to see you add to this list, but I've picked five of my own "least" favorites for your enjoyment:
1. Running On The Beach
Maybe it's the Chariots of Fire thing, maybe we watch too many Navy SEAL training specials on the History Channel, but running on the beach may possibly be one of the least intelligent things someone can do. For a highly trained runner who has developed joint and lower leg strength, it's one thing. I have actually had a client training for an Ironman Triathlon (that's a 140 mile race folks that takes about 10 months to train properly for) decide to just "take a short jog" on the beach one time about 6 weeks before the race. In the soft part of the sand. On an embankment. Result: ACL surgery.
Sand running is much like barefoot running (upcoming blog- I have a lot to say about that): Great in small doses, when the sand is flat (it rarely is in New Jersey), and you are a trained runner. Otherwise, the stress on your joints, soft tissue, feet and muscles is often too much shock and can cause some major issues. Not for everyone, but for the deconditioned, stick to flat, sure surfaces or keep the beach running to under 6 minutes the first few times. Walking is ok though.
2. Doing 1,000 (or 100) Crunches (or Sit Ups)
To prove that you can. Because it's a lot of crunches. To brag. Because it's damn near useless.
Crunches generally work the upper part of your core (the highest “two” muscles in what you would think of in a six pack of defined, rippling abs. And they are the two most visible and easiest to condition (a lot of your everyday movements require these muscles to work anyway, so in my core routines, crunches are just about last on the list to perform, and usually in lesser amounts than other exercises that focus on the obliques (sides), lower abs, lower back and multi muscle movements. And sit ups? They are so 1975. Unless you are trying to qualify for the FBI or become a Marine, there’s a lot of hip work in them that makes them a bit less effective and far harder to perform correctly. Usually, you can bank on the fact that achieving these high numbers normally means form is completely shot and the person is trying to set a speed record to finish. Not useful.
3. Men Over 40 Trying to Bench Press Over 200 Pounds
Gentlemen: Your best muscle building days are over. Your testosterone is lower. Your mass packing days have waved good bye. Now, you are just exposing yourself to shoulder injuries. If you are benching 200 plus pounds for at least 12 reps, it’s time to either rediscover sets of push ups and other exercises to preexhaust your chest, or work a lot more on your bodyfat percentage. If you are 20 pounds overweight but able to chest press lots of weight, you are still a fat guy. Rather than max out your bench, max out your 401(k) instead.
4. Wearing a “Fitness Shoe”
If you still think these actually work, I have some very cheap beachfront property to sell you. It is in Denver, Colorado.
Not only has independent study debunked these ridiculous looking things (causing a few class action suits against sneaker companies that the plaintiffs won), they can be dangerous. Another true story: Your balance is thrown off slightly because they encourage you to put weight on the forefoot. Doing exercises like step aerobics and plyometrics can result in falling off a step, putting your hand out to cushion your fall, and breaking your wrist.
And remember, they look stupid no matter how much they’ve tried to class them up.
5. Not Looking In The Mirror Before Going To The Gym
I spend 50 hours a week in some sort of training facility, all over the state. And I gotta tell you, for people who can afford a gym and several who pay pretty high taxes in most of the areas I’m at, we got some bad dressers out there. Men: If you work in financial services, banking, the legal field or medical profession and your gym shirt says “Rolling Stones 8th Comeback Tour 1994” or has at least one hole in it around the armpit or shoulder, head over to this great place called TJ Maxx, plunk down 11 dollars and get something with a little swoosh, or three stripes, or a little “UA” symbol. You will thank me. BMWs and socks pulled up to your knees don’t mix. If you come to the gym in khakis, but have your shorts on underneath, please leave the khakis at JCrew and just come in your shorts. And ladies, it’s far better to show some belly fat than to wear a men’s extra large anything. Training in a tent basically tells the world “I’m fat but I’m hiding it- See?” At the end of the day, going to the gym is not supposed to be a fashion show, but discount stores have made technically superior clothing that not only looks good, but feels great (because it fits better, wicks moisture from your body, compresses your muscles in the right places) and is very affordable. And young people, particularly you blue collar workers who are the backbone of America who come right from work to the gym: If you are lifting in blue jeans, work boots and a white tank top, and still somehow showing about 5 inches of underwear (you know who you are), please get a clue and use the part of the gym that is marked “locker room” to change. Kid Rock prison chic was never in.
Mike Czech is a fitness professional and owner of Fit/Fast Training & Conditioning. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org