Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tommy's Exercise Equipment Review

Before I go into the highs and lows
of exercise equipment circa 2012,
I want to start with the yoga mat.
A recent New York Times article
points out "How Yoga Can Wreck
Your Body." The subject of the
article, Glenn Black, almost certainly
knows more about yoga that you do,
and he says, 'the vast majority of
people-- students and teachers-- should
simply give up yoga altogether.'
In a related Huffington Post article,
Black says the Times article got some
people so made that he's received death
threats. Thumbs down on yoga. Yikes!

Speaking of "fit to be tied," what's up
with all the straps, ropes and cords for
sale in the exercise equipment market ?
Are these really for exercise, or do
folks just keep them in the back seat
of the old Honda Fit so they have
something to help pull them out of
the ditch ? Thumbs down on straps.
Why ? Because calisthenics rule.

I suppose kettle bells sound better
than dumb bells; but they're not a lot
smarter. People think the body should
be exercised in linear, hinged motions.
But the body twists and rotates, so
thumbs down on dumbells too.

An emerging trend is to purchase a
"Rack" or sled-type piece of apparatus.
These again work the muscles in
linear, isolating movements. By
isolating the muscles, you shorten
the tendons, and reduce your natural
ability to mobilize the joints across
three planes, or rotationally. Think
about the range of motion of your
shoulder and your hip. How are you
ever going to use a Rack to make
circles with either ? Thumbs down.

Shake Weight ? Come on. This is
the dumbest thing I've seen. Well,
okay, it might TIE for the dumbest
thing with the BodyBlade. What
will people think of next ? I'm just
guessing someone will create a
device that turns masturbation into
a full workout.

Most people don't know that "core
strength" exercise typically overworks
the upper abs and neglects the lower abs.
So many of these kinds of exercises
are damaging to the lower back and
will eventually have to be abandoned.
Ab roller units: thumbs down.

Another really dumb piece of junk
is the breathing exerciser, like
UltraBreathe or BreathBooster.
If you really want to learn how to
breathe, practice Tai Chi. If you
really want to strain your breathe
with a plastic piece of junk, try
to inhale with a grocery bag in
your mouth. That's a joke, son.
Don't do it.

A Swiss Ball or fitness ball does
get high marks in my book. First,
you can sit on it and practice your
posture. Second, it can be used
like a medicine ball to assimilate
whole-body movements. Third,
it is probably one of the top two
balance trainers. When you can
stand on one, you'll have the
balance of a cat.

The other balance trainer I like
is the bongo board. These are not
easy to stand on; so if you practice,
it can really improve your balance,
especially for sports that require
balancing on a moving platform.

I do see some merit in the foam
rollers hitting the market. If you
insist on exercising in traditional
ways like jogging, weight lifting,
or using crap mentioned in this blog,
you will no doubt have super-tight
IT Bands like everyone else. These
foam rollers allow you to stretch.
Once again, Tai Chi stretches the
IT Bands without the paraphernalia.

When they hit the market, a lot of
people went out and bought shoes
like Sketchers ShapeUps. I thought
they were stupid, and asked my
friendly pedorthist what he thought.
To my surprise, he liked the idea.
Now, many moons have passed,
and the lawsuits are piling up sky
high against all the manufacturers
of stupid, round, rocker-bottom shoes.
Thumbs way down.

If you were thinking about buying
P90X, don't. Sure, you might
survive one 90-day torture--
just enough to take pictures of your
body and get them on P90X's next
informercial. But this is too hard,
and you'll quit soon; certainly you
won't stick with it, and your body
will trend back to a healthy level
of fat. Remember people, six-pack
abs are a clear indicator of unhealth
because the body needs more body
fat for energy reserves, immune
function and warmth. If you want
to understand this better, read my
Race Horse Fitness blog.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Chat With Sarah Burke

I think it was 2008. I logged onto the
old Facebook (before they started
changing it). I wasn't big on chats,
but saw that Sarah Burke was
"available to chat." She wasn't
someone I knew, but I had requested
the FB friendship and she accepted.

What do you say to Sarah Burke ?
It had only been one year since she won
the gold medal at the X Games in
Aspen and was voted Best Female
Action Sports Athlete at the ESPY
Awards. She was a rockstar of the
freestyle skiing world. A supermodel
on the red carpet. And loved by all.

I pulled up her page and saw that
she had exactly 2000 friends. So
that's where I started. I typed,
"How can you have 2000 friends?"
and hit enter. I waited with
anticipation; there was a pretty
good chance she wouldn't even

"I don't know," she responded;
"they're all my real friends."
The elephant in the room was me.

I chopped back, "Seems like it
would be hard to have actual
friendships with that many

"Not for me," she said. I looked
at her FB photo. She was beautiful.
"They are really all my friends."

I changed the subject. "I want to
ask you about your health. I know
your sport well, and I know lots
of the competitors get hurt quite
often. Is that the case with you ?"

Sarah Burke went on to tell me that
she had broken bones many times,
and that her 25-year old body was
like a 60-year old's. She said everything
hurt all the time, and that some days
it was really hard to get out of bed.
She was not coy in her descriptions
of trauma, injuries, or ongoing pain.

I told Sarah that I teach Tai Chi, and
that many athletes have found great
relief with the practice. I told her that
there are a lot of great teachers in
British Colombia, including my
teacher Victor Fu.

Sarah Burke said she was very interested
in learning, and that it made sense to
her to start trying to repair some of the
damage she had done to herself.
She then said she traveled a lot, and
hoped that if and when things settled
down for her that she would try to start.

I offered to send her a DVD. She said
we could hold off for now, but that she
wanted to get back to me on it. Suddenly
she was whisked away to chat with one
of her real friends, and I was left with
the feeling that Sarah Burke was one
genuinely nice person.

But now I'm mad.

Even on the day of her death, people
were talking about how her successful
lobbying to add the Superpipe to the
2014 Sochi Winter Olympics would be
a tribute to her life. Few would stand up
and cry, "this sport is too risky, and the
death of this girl is the clearest indicator !"

Sarah Burke, with a battered and broken
body, was out pounding the pipe, pushing
the limits, and every day stretching for
more amplitude. She could strive to meet
the mind-bending tricks of Shawn White--
table-top 1080's or roast beef on rye or
whatever-the-hell they call those things--
but she took those risks with a body
that was far from "sound." And yes
folks, she was wearing a helmet which
didn't do a damn thing to save her.

Kevin Pearce suffered a traumatic
brain injury in the same superpipe
at Park City Mountain Resort. His
career is over and he's lucky to be

In an interview after the 2011 X Games,
Scotty Lago rattled off this gem:
"I just really wasn't sure if I was able to
compete or not. A couple doctors told me
I shouldn't; and a couple doctors told me
I couldn't injure myself any worse because
the bone's actually not healing, (points to
his cheek) it's just free-floating in there."

When you watch the Superpipe in the
2014 Sochi Olympics, and see these
athletes fly flipping and spinning into
the sky, remember that your entertainment
is fueled by young people who get
severely injured all the time and even die.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It's Not Called Gymnicetics

On Yahoo! Answers, a woman with the handle "maigen_obx" posted this answer regarding a gymnastics question:

"I was a gymnast for over 10 years, not olympic caliber. I'm 37 years old and am in pain every single day, I never get relief. All my doctors agree that the cause is the abuse I heaped on my body during my gymnastics training. Sometimes I see a chiropractor 3 times a week. I take muscle relaxors and prescription anti-inflammatories on a regular basis, because sometimes that's the only way I can sleep. I trained for about 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. That's not enough training for a olympic gymnast. You seriously want to think about this; there are only a dozen olympic gymnast at a time. That's a pretty small chance for a lifetime of pain. No one tells you this when you're 15 and think you could never get hurt. You will get hurt as a gymnast; it's a just a question of how bad."