Top Ten Grey Shades of Exercise

I have one thing to tell you, and it's this: Life is not black and white.

This week saw declaration upon declaration from good-intentioned individuals, and I am bloody from raising my sword to each.

I'm not supposed to lift heavy.
I shouldn't do exercises that use my neck.
Tart cherry juice makes you sleep better.
This machine isn't good for you.
This equipment will make me a better runner.
I'm supposed to work my core.
This is the best exercise for your core.

Yes. Maybe. But. Can I say something?

Grey is worth looking for. Not just with this exercise stuff, by the way. But we'll start there.

Your doctor is watching out for your neck, and you should listen; she's a doctor. I'm a personal trainer; I, too, have neck problems. My neck appears older than the rest of me, and no one can explain why. My doctor asked, "Did you, like, fall out of a window?" Not that I can recall.

I'm a personal trainer, and your doctor is a doctor, for crying out loud. (This bears repeating.) If something is off limits, it's off limits. But if I could sit down with your doctor, I'd ask about the grey. I'd ask, Hey, this person with the neck? He's got issues. We need to strengthen his neck to help him out, right? And most exercises use the neck, right? You've got him frightened. You've got me nervous. Is there some middle ground here?

I think she'd listen to me.

But back to you, and the stuff you read somewhere, maybe in the checkout line or in your facebook feed. Those top ten worst machines or best exercises. Thanks for telling me about them, but now let's talk grey.

I'm a personal trainer; I'm also a writer, a human being, and someone who knows a little about a lot of things. Many times I have been hired as a writer to say something about a topic. Did I make stuff up? No. But I came up with new ways of saying what perhaps was old news. That's what writers do, for the most part. So when I hear that an article has decried the hip abduction machine or praised the plank, I take this info with a grain of salt. Yes, there's truth there. Yes, tart cherry juice is said to suppress the bladder's urges and let you rest more. But hey, are you prediabetic? Better to get up and pee than send your blood sugar to the sky.

Writers make mountains out of molehills, sometimes, stretching the truth to be a little dramatic and catch your attention. Maybe I'm doing that here, but that's because I care about you, not because of any paycheck. (I should really monetize this blog someday.)

The truth is out there, but it's shaded in grey. What's your "wheat belly" telling you about the latest diet you tried? And that plank: does it bore you? Then you probably don't do it, which cuts a whole lot into its effectiveness.

You know what else?

Going gluten-free makes me bloat. Drinking red wine helps me lose weight (it helps with dietary fat absorption). Cookies also help me lose weight, if I haven't been taking in enough calories otherwise for muscle recovery. Dumbbells bother my elbows. Pushups are bad for me, because of my neck. The Turkish get up, touted as the most complete and overall beneficial exercise because it is, hurts my neck. High reps and low weight hurt my neck more than heavy weight and low reps, which were prescribed by my physical therapist, who actually knows quite a bit about exercise. But he's not me. He doesn't live in my body, and only I know the effects that these bad for you/good for you foods/moves have.

There's a study in Secrets From the Eating Lab, by Tracl Mann, tracking twins who are overfed by 1000 calories per day.  Some gained nine pounds, some 29. "The same number of calories led some people to gain three times as much weight as other people," even those from the same gene pool. Another study she mentions details how difficult it is to get people to gain fat and keep it.

So how, my friends, can a magazine article tell you what to eat?

It is natural to want answers and solutions. Not just the quick fixes, but solid explanations for what ails us. I want to know how to live with my neck. When I feel bad, I play detective: what happened this time? And what made it better? Sure, maybe I lifted too heavy, but didn't it start to hurt after a different exercise?

It is also natural to trust experts. We need them, because much as we all want to play doctor/dietitician/political theorist, we're not that, and there's not enough time in the day to specialize so highly. The world is made up of people who are interested in different things, and that's good and helpful.

But the expert knows his/her thing. The doctor knows what she knows, but she's not a physical therapist. The writer knows what she researched, but not the whole field of study. That's too much to delve into for a self-help article. And too much for a meme.

So question everything. Read, try, observe. Be your own lab rat. Welcome advice and throw it out if, after careful thought, you see it doesn't work for you. Find what does.

Watch for grey.

Every last shade.


  1. What if the expert is your wife?

    1. Very good point. In that case, definitely listen to the expert.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

COVID Diary 6

Closing the COVID Diary

COVID Diary 5