Opinion: Why Training Like the Pros Will Make You Unhealthy

January 25, 2013 | Lee Boyce

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I know, I know. The title sounds like a contradiction. We should all look to the exemplars of strength, power, speed and athleticism as role models on whom to base our own training, right?

Time for a reality check.

The problem with the field of exercise and fitness is that the media puts out propaganda to which consumers and diehards fall victim.

We have to remember a few things about exercise. First, most of it is unnatural. I don't believe our bodies were made to go into a fixed environment and start pumping out repeats of a movement with additional weight in the quest for strength, size or athleticism. We make the decision to do these things to our bodies to achieve certain results.

Second, people are contra-indicated, meaning that each person has different needs and demands, so a mass of people should not all be doing the same thing to reach the same goal.

Third, exercise is supposed to improve health. But does it really? This is where my title comes from. (Learn how to prevent injuries.)

The media teaches non-athletes that training like an athlete is “hard core” and will produce best results. (If you've ever logged on to my website, you know I'm no stranger to challenging this view.)

The conventional wisdom about exercise makes it a conquest or a challenge that you need to meet to emerge victorious. The sad thing is that this attitude is held by people who admire athletes and believe they must train just as hard to match their performance.

No one asks whether a sport and its training are "healthy.” Yet I’ve yet to find a popular sport that actually promotes long-term health and wellness among its players. The frequent heavy lifting in football, high impact landings in gymnastics and single-side dominance in baseball indicate that these sports cause tightness, risk stress injuries and promote muscle imbalance. (Learn how to prevent muscle imbalances.) This is why the best strength coaches are those who keep their athletes injury-free.

After athletes retire, most begin to see the effects of the stresses they have put on their bodies. Bad knees and other chronic joint issues plague many retired athletes, caused by overuse and trauma they sustained to meet the demands of their sport. That's the truth.

For the Average Joe, training like a high-performance athlete won’t transfer to the field. Recreational people who engage in intense training have good intentions, but there’s an inherent flaw in their approach. Most want to set a personal record, often at the cost of form, mobility and other health-related fitness goals.

There's nothing wrong with tracking progress, improving lift numbers and getting stronger. But it would be your saving grace to think about yourself and your needs and not drink the copy-the-athlete Kool-Aid. If you're not a sports athlete, it’s time to reconsider what your actual needs are to live a long and healthy life.

Lee Boyce
- Lee Boyce is a strength coach based in Toronto who works with strength, sports performance and conditioning clients. He contributes to many major magazines, including...
Lee Boyce
- Lee Boyce is a strength coach based in Toronto who works with strength, sports performance and conditioning clients. He contributes to many major magazines, including...
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