By: Mark Warkentin from the Crossfit Journal
Outside a CrossFit gym, how often do you witness exertion?
I’d suggest it’s very rare.
Imagine Buddy the office worker, who takes an elevator from apartment to car, then another from car to cubicle. After about nine hours of sitting broken up only by a few steps between desk, coffee machine, printer and bathroom, Buddy returns to his apartment, in which he watches “Game of Thrones” for the evening. Even if you add in substantially more walking—say for lunch or to take a kid to a basketball practice—it isn’t a lot of activity. And it certainly isn’t exertion.
I’d guess Buddy’s situation isn’t all that uncommon in a modern society in which labor is becoming far rarer than typing and staring at a computer screen.
On construction sites and farms, a lot of machinery has made life easier, though it would be foolish to suggest builders, farmers, firefighters and others do not have physical jobs. But I think we can all agree that these jobs were much more physical before power tools, auto-steer tractors and front-end loaders.
Even in traditional gyms, exertion isn’t overly common. You will certainly see some people pushing themselves, but you’ll also see a lot of people going through the motions without a lot of effort. For example, consider the person who reads the paper on the exercise bike. Riding the bike is a step in the right direction and deserves no shaming, but I think the sports section is evidence that a lack of intensity will limit results.
Think of exertion—the kind of thing that used to be more common. Think about a carriage showing up to a general store with a shipment of goods in 1820. Think of rowing a boat, hauling in a fishing net, logging, shoveling coal into a boiler, tilling a field, carrying water, washing clothes by hand, killing something to eat, traveling any distance. Think of the activities that would cause a person’s handshake to be strong and callused.
I’d guess most people see exertion only on TV, whether they’re watching a show or a sporting event. But that doesn’t even seem real because we know Iron Man is going to catch his breath in time to utter his next witty quip. A running back leaning into a lineman 1 inch from the end zone? We might know he’s exerting himself, but the 60-inch flat screen and recliner do a lot to remove us from the sweat and burning muscles.
This complete disassociation from physical exertion is so prevalent that I’d suggest it makes people think effort is abnormal and unsafe, and I’m certain the mentality causes people to view CrossFit and strenuous exercise in general as dangerous. Throw in years of government-provided bare-minimum “fitness” recommendations, and it’s no wonder sweat is only seen in the sauna.
It’s really a terrible situation when the exact thing that might help someone prevent a heart attack is viewed as a potential cause of a heart attack. In an ocean of chronic disease, CrossFit is a life preserver, yet some still view the pained expressions of athletes as signs they are in distress rather than simply ensuring they stay out of the doctor’s office.
Consider this: I know a northern affiliate owner who says rhabdomyolysis is most often seen in his city after sedentary people exert themselves shoveling during a heavy snowfall. Had those same people exerted themselves at the gym in the previous months, they’d be fine when the blizzard drops a foot of snow.
I’m sure many trainers have had the same experience I’ve had when a new client looks panicked during an intro workout because he or she thinks something is very wrong. The burning sensation, the fatigue, the elevated heart rate and the shortness of breath are unfamiliar and understandably shocking feelings to a new athlete. It’s up to the trainer to keep these introductory sensations to appropriate levels and assure the apparently healthy client that the effort is indeed safe and necessary for improvement.
A trainer must explain the medicine will burn just a little but is going to preserve health and improve quality of life.
On a larger scale, it’s up to CrossFit affiliates to educate the general population that appropriate exertion is a very good thing. It’s safe, it’s unbelievably effective, and it can even be fun. Deadlifting isn’t dangerous; not learning to deadlift is dangerous.
As a movement, we need to reach out and gently nudge the sedentary in the right direction with kindness. We need to ease them off the couch and into the gym. We need to educate them and slowly build up the intensity while we assure them perspiration, burning lungs and the occasional blister are the price of fitness. We need to help them learn to value effort rather than fear it.
Read the full article HERE.