Competitive Exercise: Unsafe At Any Age

The growth of competitive exercise has magnified competition’s greatest flaw: risk.  Crossfit (aka “the sport of fitness”) is probably the most recognizable brand behind the trend of making fitness competitive.  Adding competition to fitness is like adding dish detergent to your dinner, it takes something essential and nourishing, and ruins it. 

What can we learn from burpees and drugs? 

This is a video of Liz Llorents setting the world record for most burpees in an hour (in school they used to call them “squat thrusts”).  Liz did 1,490 in 60 minutes.  She received a lot of criticism for using “poor technique”, or for “doing zero actual burpees.”

The real question is: what else could Liz have done?  The previous record was 1,321.  There’s no way that Liz could have used “better technique” and also beaten the previous record holder.  To do more burpees in an hour than anyone else means you have to find the easiest/fastest way to do a burpee.  

At some point, competing means finding an edge beyond effort.  You can only work so hard.  The limits on exhaustion are quite real, and not “all in your head” as some self-help gurus claim when promoting a $20k seminar about their “secrets”.  

Why do athletes take performance enhancing drugs (PED)?  Because they work!  If you’re about to get cut from a team, maybe PEDs will keep you on the payroll.  If you’re on top, maybe PEDs can keep your aging body competitive.  If you’re in the middle, maybe they can help you escape mediocrity. 

Monkey see and monkey do. 

Competition based on what your body can do means working as hard as possible, which by itself increases risk without improving results.  Additionally, in that competition one of 2 things will eventually happen: (1) you will hit your limits with “good technique”, or (2) someone(s) using “poor technique” (or “cheating”) will beat you and make you feel bad; and will drive you to emulate.  This happens over and over again until you arrive at “burpees” that look like the ones in the video. 

What’s the bottom line? 

Your workouts/strength training should be just that: training to enhance your life (and maybe help you compete in something).  It doesn’t matter if you don’t like competition, if you are in a competitive environment your emotions and instincts will nudge you into danger every day.  In the same way that humans in environment that discourages physical activity and encourages overeating will gain weight. 

The secret of fitness success is consistency, and risk is the greatest enemy of consistency. 

Over 50? Over 40 even?! Here’s a great article on getting your (fitness) power back!

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