Last week I received a press release about a new type of workout: Naked CrossFit. At this point I should just drop the mic and walk off the stage.
Because honestly, what more can I add to that?
Here’s the thing.
Fitness is one of those topics where (unlike Apple products) there’s rarely anything new under the sun. So fitness marketers have to get creative in order to catch your eye.
NAKED CrossFit? Now I’m listening. I’m totally grossed out, but I’m listening.
Only thing wrong with these “clickable” topics is they get so “out there” they become either dangerous or ineffective. Or both.
Or, in this case, sweaty and gross.
Plus, it’s another case of All Or Nothing.
Let’s face it, moderation is boring.
No one wants to hear that it takes months to see results, that you need to gradually work up to a high-intensity workout, or that cutting calories by counting them actually works.
Nope. We want results now, dammit, and it doesn’t matter if it nearly kills us in the process.
We expect to suffer, be hungry and miserable and go through pain to achieve our goals.
No one brags about walking a mile, but you will hear about it if they tear a meniscus, injure their rotator cuff or end up in the ER.
In fact, if you end up in the hospital with rhabdomyolysis,* it just proves your mettle. Many news stories talk about the rise in this potentially deadly condition due to exercisers pushing beyond their limits and ignoring warning signs.
Let’s have a moment of silence for common sense.
As a writer and contributor to many websites for the past decade plus, I’ve had to “sell out” a bit at times because it’s simply part of the business of catching people’s’ attention.
Sometimes, it’s done without my knowledge. Case in point, a couple years ago I wrote an article for Prevention.com about how your body language can help or hinder your success.
As what often happens with my articles, it gets picked up by another site and repurposed. In this case, Men’s Health posted it under the title “9 Ways to Use Your Body to Get Promoted (without seducing your boss).
Alrightly. Not quite my intent, but it’s not my decision at this point.
Same goes for fitness advice.
There’s one huge reason why it’s tough to get creative with exercises: The human body doesn’t regularly sprout new muscles.
If it did, oh what fun!
Imagine… Scientists have just discovered a new muscle! We thought this one died out with the dinosaurs, but researchers at the University of Shlobatnik recently uncovered a tiny muscle hidden deep inside the glutes. It’s remained elusive up until now because the second we look at it, it disappears. It’s the muscle single-handedly responsible for sagging butts after 50.
So they name the muscle Optimus Gluteus Primus, latin for “I see you in there, you little bugger!”
Now, we can legitimately create new exercises targeting Optimus. Maybe something like this:
Stand on one leg, holding a whole pineapple overhead in your opposite hand (it must be ripe or it won’t work), now hop around in a circle while reciting the alphabet backwards.
Do that three times on each leg for best results.
(You’ll know the people who’ve read only part of this post if you see them doing this maneuver in the gym.)
But such is not the case.
Since we don’t actually grow new muscles, “new” exercises involve altering the angle of the movement, changing the speed, adding heat (hot yoga), combining it with other exercises, and so on.
Or, apparently, when all else fails, you get naked.
In the end, your muscles either get bigger, more fatigued or stay the same. Or, in the case of naked versions, you quit when you realize you just mooned the entire gym while doing squats.
Many women also fall prey to this way of thinking, e.g. I don’t want big muscles so I’m not lifting weights!
I’m here to tell you: You don’t have to choose between flab or biceps the size of Volkswagons.
NEWS FLASH! There’s a middle ground.
And no, an effective, safe workout, is not nearly as sexy as ending up in the hospital after a workout hooked up to tubes and surrounded by blinking monitors.
Workouts that help you get fit and otherwise get you closer to your goals won’t make the news.
It’s a pretty quiet process, actually. But trust me, when you exercise, whether it’s lifting weights, walking around the block or doing a downward facing dog, it’s Party Town USA inside your muscles and cells.
A simple muscle contraction sets off a chain of events more exciting than the biggest concert at Madison Square Garden.
But you won’t hear anything from your body unless you do something wrong and injure yourself. Then you’ll hear a loud “OW!” emanating from your mouth.
So how do you know if a workout is right for you?
Here are a few tips:
FIRST AND FOREMOST: Check with your doctor first always, to be sure you don’t have limitations. For example, I have osteoporosis, so I can’t do traditional crunches or weighted twisting exercises without risk. If you have high blood pressure you’ll need to stay clear of hot yoga, which raises blood pressure
1. Exercise your whole body, not just the areas you’d like to improve. This includes exercises for each main muscle group: back, chest, arms (biceps, triceps), shoulders, core/abs, legs (quadriceps and hamstrings). Use the search box on this site for exercises targeting these muscle groups.
2. Start with one set (a set equals a group of repetitions or reps) of a each exercise and wait a day to see how your muscles feel. If you’re just starting out you may not feel a whole lot during the workout but the next day you may be unable to sit down. Don’t push it.
3. Increase resistance when you’re ready. Once you’re beyond the real beginner stage, at least a couple weeks out, gradually increase the resistance (no more than 10% a week) until you reach a weight where you can do 12 to 15 reps. The last few reps should be a challenge, otherwise it’s not enough to create a change within the muscle.
4. Include stretching and/or foam rolling at the end of each workout when muscles are warm. Foam rolling may be done before your workout but never stretch until you’re warmed up or you risk a muscle pull. I’ve seen it happen. It’s not pretty.
5. Lastly, know the difference between good pain and bad pain. Good pain is when you feel a burning from the lactic acid, your muscles shake or otherwise let you know they’re working hard. Any sharp or sudden pain or “pop,” tingling or numbness or anything that simply “doesn’t feel right” should be a sign to stop. If it keeps up, see a doctor. Do NOT work through it!
Got questions? Comments? Post ‘em below! I’d love to hear from you! Or drop me a line at email@example.com.
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P.S. Of course you also need to eat clean and do cardio, right? More on those topics in other and future posts!
Your Ageless Body Coach,
*rhabdomyolysis: a breakdown of muscle fibers that then leak into the bloodstream and cause kidney damage. Read more about it here.
Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.