Every time I’m in a gym I see shoulders and low backs and knees being used in dangerous ways—often with the supervision of “trainers” who should (but don’t) know better. A certification obviously doesn’t assure proficiency. The groundwork is being laid for almost guaranteed injury in the future. Moving muscles and joints in an unsafe manner doesn’t necessarily create pain or discomfort immediately. People can smoke cigarettes for a long time before they develop lung cancer, and improper exercise movements can mortgage your future, too.
Also, there are franchises that very effectively create an atmosphere of encouraging team support and camaraderie that is motivational. Unfortunately, this atmosphere,
while maybe productive for conditioned athletes, is a risky way to train general populations. So, predictably, there are well documented astronomical injury rates.
I’m not trying to trash others.
I am trying to make sure my readers know there are safe and unsafe ways to work on self improvement. Just as there are safe ways to increase joint range-of-motion without trying to “stretch” muscle tissue and ligaments, there are safe ways to begin adding new lean muscle tissue at any age without setting yourself up for surgery in the future. Like the man said: “First, do no harm.”
Remember, we’re not training to go on stage in a bikini and be judged on our appearance. We are training to have a daily life with minimal discomfort and plenty of energy for many years. In real life we don’t need to be able to twist into pretzel-like positions, and we need our muscles to balance each other, not be overdeveloped. By balance each other, I mean symmetry of function, not of appearance.
A muscular imbalance will create
problems and those problems often lead to injury.
A couple of examples: Guys have a tendency to over-develop the muscles on the front of the body (I call ’em mirror muscles). This creates an obvious front-to-back imbalance some will try to address by training their latissimus dorsi, which only exacerbates their shoulder joint imbalance. (Please call me if you want clarification.) And then they wonder how their rotator cuff became a problem.
Another common imbalance is
created by that ubiquitous treadmill.
I know, I know, you love it and it’s great cardio work. But the fact is you lift your legs with the muscles on the front of them, place them on the treadmill and then what? The muscles on the back of your legs (primarily your hamstrings and one of the most important postural muscle groups of the
human body) don’t have to do anything! The treadmill takes it from there. Ever wonder why they’re tight? If you think I’m off base or exaggerating, just put in your 20 minutes or so with it turned off. You’ll know exactly which muscles have been neglected.
An initial professional evaluation will identify imbalances that need to be addressed, and a safe personally designed workout will prevent additional ones from developing. Our deadline is not an event but is the rest of our lives. These are process-oriented and not attainable goals. Like a good relationship, being fit and healthy is something to value, pay attention to and make a priority but not something with an achievable end. We just work on it.
If you’re reading this, you’re living in the easiest conditions the human species has known. Think about that a minute. Take advantage of that fact and do all you can to enjoy as many years here as safe and as free from pain and discomfort as you can.