Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Incurring Debt

Doing a strength workout tonight, making myself even more gorgeous, if such a thing is possible, and a fellow I'd shown some stuff a while back was doing his thing. Sort of slow, deliberate, not actually what I would prescribe. I asked him what his goal was, and he said strength. And endurance. Oh. Both. With that workout. Hmm. Well, I suppose it's possible, the way pyramids on Mars are possible, or lead into gold, or Evolution. You know, where things happen in a progression that has no relationship to cause and effect -- just one thing that happens after another thing that went before, for some reason other than what logic and experience would support.

But it got me to thinking, what actually is the outcome of such slowish movements, like pushups from dumbbells and then you lift one of them and twist it into the air while supporting yourself on the other one. Like something you see on an infomercial about DVDs that will get you INSANELY RIPPED! There's no actual intensity -- a slightly elevated heartrate, he said, and some perspiration -- we shan't call it sweat -- and some breathing ... but no intensity. But there's muscular activity, so it is exercise.

The benefit? I think there are two goals. Evoking a hormonal response, which builds muscle by adding contractile protein and therefore strength, and evoking CNS efficiency, so that existing motor units fire more efficiently, resulting in agility, strength, athleticism and so on. Which of these would result from the ponderous workout the fellow was doing? There was no meaningful intensity, so there was no effective (in terms of cost-benefit, effort to outcome) hormonal response. The brain responds to the stress of intensity by causing the release of anaerobic hormones, testosterone and HGH. And there was no meaningful CNS training, since the motions were so slow, so deliberate, that they were entirely under the conscious direction of the forebrain.

If there is such a thing as passive exercise, that was it. Like passive learning, sitting in front of the TV and letting it soak in. Maybe. But if so, the last several generations should be supergeniuses, like me. Having someone else manipulate your limbs into the semblance of an activity that requires actual motor skills may have some therapeutic benefit, like, say, if you have spinal damage. But it's exercise the way a ventriloquist act is conversation. Take charge, is the point. Participate in your pursuit of excellence. There's a cost. But there's a benefit.

The benefit of slow, not very intense exercise? Of course there is one. Of course. Long walks, brisk hikes, bowling or golf -- good pastimes that give a health benefit. Not something however that a gym, of any meaningful description, is about. Not what weights are about -- you know, added strength. Not what athleticism is about -- the mild, moderate leisure-time display I saw tonight sucks up time, and promotes short-term self-esteem, and raises heartrate and gives a pump, but in terms of reaching actual training goals, not so much.

I don't nag, of course, and this is not really a criticism. People can spend their time and energy as they please. Be happy. And we have to make our own mistakes, hopefully free from harsh judgments or tragic consequences. And we can receive advice only when our experience has brought us to such a place where it may be heard. So I was non-committal, non-judgmental, supportive in his greater goals, encouraging in his quest to find what works for him. I said, "Do what you enjoy doing. It's not as good as the more effective thing that you don't enjoy, but maybe you'll actually do the thing you enjoy." And we laughed, because I'm so funny and wise.

Now send me one hundred dollars. Dude. You were warned up front. You can read. This post is called "incurring debt". You don't know what that means? This is a legally binding contract. This is my new career, giving unsolicited but debt-incurring fitness advice on the internet. You read it, you owe me. Send me your Social Security Number, so I can sue you for non-payment or at least ruin your credit. Cuz I know how you are.

Next time, "Sexual Satisfaction." Be sure to read it.


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