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You Make Me So Sad

You make me so sad.

Yes you.  On the elliptical machine.

I see you reading.  You’re reading People.  Your kindle.  Or the Brothers Karamazov.  Or Nora Roberts.  But you’re gliding by, moving, thinking you’re getting a workout.

But you make me sad.

You could be going full speed.  Just for 20 seconds.  Pushing yourself to the limit.  That’s the only reason for an elliptical: to raise the heart rate without litigation.

And yet, right in front of you is a rowing machine.   Rowing is a real producer of strength and endurance.  Rowing uses the entire body, harnessing that natural chain of events that produces force.

But you on the rowing machine.  I want to come up to you and gently let your back lean back as you pull that chain.  Why are you pulling so hard with your arms?  Do you not have legs and hips?  Why is your back at a 90 degree angle?  Let the chain go; Lean forward; push with your magnificent legs; open with your hips, let your back go back, and the arms follow.  It’s a full body workout, if you let your body work out.

And you on the abductor machines.  Do you imagine that will make you more sexy and appealing?  It does not.  I was once one of those who didn’t know how kettlebells, lunges and split jerks would empower the hips so much more effectively.   Instead, I am sad because you know so little.  I am sad because it reminds me of how little I knew.  And who I am I to tell you?  Like you, I probably would have thought some dude approaching me was an arrogant musclehead who’s sense of literature was Muscle and Development magazine.

The Smith machines.  In my small YMCA I am only happy you know little because you do not take the single squat station which I monopolize for my hour.   You do presses perfectly without training your muscles to do so.  There is no weight resting on your chest or your back.   It is held by the machine.  You see yourself lifting mad weights, I am still sad.  You see me looking at you.  You probably think I’m a stalker.  But no, I am just contemplating my sadness.

Why not the barbells?  Why not the dumbells?  Why not simply any weight, lifting above your head?   There is one excellent use for the Smith Machine:  bodyweight rows or assisted pullups.

I am not a purist.  I do not begrudge the occasional leg curl or extension. I don’t dismiss the leg press to complement deep barbell squats.  Some machines help the entire body to lift.   In those cases, the use is not to replace full body exercises, but to assist in building up strength, especially for those who are beginning or injured.  Otherwise, they are merely a short liturgy of unimportant things that may be done, that allow the body a little more to lift when it should be resting, but mainly to provide psychological satisfaction.

But you make me sad.

You make me sad at the ab curl “machine.”  Why don’t you tighten your abs when you do the squat?  Or do some knee to elbows?  Lift your toes to the bar and you’ll get a great stretch, using your entire body.  Do five and you’ll feel it.   Three sets of ten good mornings. Planks as long as you can take it.

And last, you make me sad because you have no fun.  There are a wide variety of effective and demanding functional games you can play.   My warm ups are simple and enjoyable:  500 meter Row; 20 double unders; 20 kb swings.  I may include 20 lateral jumps over some hurdle, overhead squats and ten plyo pushups.  That’s my warmup.  It’s fun.

Then it’s strength and power.  My goals are clear.  I seek to improve and fine tune them, recalibrating when necessary.   Once I started, the feedback loop made them enjoyable to continue.  There’s exercise, which is preventative and useful.  We should all do that.   But then there’s training – training to reach goals that you set before yourself.   That’s where results visibly happen.  The rate is different for everyone, but you may then enter a world of joy.

Still, until then you make me sad.   But there is another world.  One where you may get real results.  Then, I will be happy.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. November 8, 2011 at 6:58 am


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