I've given up the fight! That's right, I've officially conceded my position. For the past 9 years, I've been determined to help the world realize the difference between "smart" exercise and "stupid" exercise. In the attempt to achieve this, I've written many articles on why things like Crossfit, and P90X and Boot camps and TRX class and all the rest are just plain ignorant. Many people have read and commented on my position about mud races and Spartan races and why they're just flat out destructive for the human body. I've steadfastly held the position that it's never worth sacrificing quality for quantity when it comes to exercise. No doubt this position has put me on the outside of the popular mainstream. Despite all of my amazing efforts to awaken the masses, I realize that it doesn't serve me to continue the fight. Adults have a difficult time discerning fact from fiction. Regardless of all the neuroscience, bio-mechanics and exercise science that points to all of these exercise models being horribly dysfunctional, people will continue pursuing them because many within our race are just disconnected and living in the dark. That's fine with me because I represent the small percentage of people who are actually qualified and quite successful at fixing much of the damage caused by negligent trainers and their exercise systems.
We need to collectively turn our attention to the demographic that needs the most help and can actually benefit from the current evidence out there. This demographic in my opinion , is youth athletes. They've been right under my nose all this time and I've never given them their due respect. Living in Boulder, Colorado I've had the honor of working with some amazing high school and collegiate athletes, as well as a few Olympians. I always thought it was standard for parents to tell me how great it is that their child can play soccer again because I fixed his lingering ankle/groin issues.I didn't take too much stock in the testimonials from my high school athletes who go away and tell me, "they're doing scary, stupid stuff to us in the weight room." I just always figured that they are athletes and this is what that world looks like. I take tremendous pride in teaching my young athletes the value and importance of correct bio-alignment, proper muscle balance and symmetry, and uniform movement patterns. As a result, nearly all of them are able to identify dangerous exercises and practice routines (stretches) and keep themselves out of harms way. I have had an extensive and prolific athletic career myself and never remembered anything exercise related that made me either a better or worse athlete. Boy how times have changed.
This past January I came across "Any Given Monday" by Dr. James Andrews and it changed my world. In this book, the leading sports orthopedic physician in the country lets loose on every topic from preventing youth sports injuries, to why coaches are not qualified to be coaching, to parents aggressively pushing their children into athletics without knowing the risks, etc. I realized in a second that this is a subculture of our population that is in extreme danger and can actually benefit from modern science/medicine. Thanks to Dr. Andrews for bringing this epidemic to the national forefront. I certainly don't use the term "epidemic" lightly. Remember, I was the one who targeted the obesity population and informed them that without an emotionally supportive system in place, you can exercise all you want to no avail. Of course, I was right. I have extensively researched and gathered many resources on why youth sports injuries has become an epidemic and it's quite startling.
When I was a kid growing up in the New York City metro area, I remember spending countless days playing sports with my friends. Everything from basketball, to baseball, to stick ball, to soccer, to football and of course there was bike riding. We rode our bikes, skateboards, scooters everywhere we possibly could. I went through high school and college in excellent physical shape and I attribute my upbringing and sports involvement as the main reason for that. One thing I can't recall is anyone I knew ever tearing a ligament. Or rupturing an achilles tendon. Aside from broken bones and ankle sprains, which were fairly standard, the occasional concussion was the worst thing we saw. When I began reading Any Given Monday, I was shocked at how many injuries Dr. Andrews had seen and fixed in young athletes. Hundreds of elbow surgeries on high school baseball and softball pitchers. ACL/MCL reconstruction on high school football players are sadly common these days. I started thinking about it and realized that this is only going to get worse before it gets better. Trainers and coaches are hammering young athletes far beyond their capability levels. Without proper rest and recovery, young athletes don't stand a chance of avoiding injury. When it comes to exercise, my mentor Sam Iannetta said it best when he stated, "if the exercises you're doing currently can't be performed by you when you're 80, then they're simply the wrong exercises." This statement has stuck with me for the last 9 years and holds as much value today as it did in 2004 when I first met Sam.
Because of my background in athletics, I've always navigated towards athletes in my training, not only increasing their performance but also rehabing their injuries. It dawned on me years back, how come my young athletes don't get as injured as these college age and high school age kids who are all busted up? They all play equally as hard. They all compete nearly year round with no off-season. The markers were all there. All athletes are currently putting their bodies through consistent abuse. All athletes are victims of overuse and not enough recovery. The only difference I could find was that when I got to work with young athletes, I identified the flaws and discrepancies in their bio-alignment and fixed it. These athletes were then much more capable of withstanding the punishment of sports. I've heard from countless parents, "he's always walked a little off', or "her knees have always bowed out like that." No one is paying any attention to proper joint alignment and symmetrical muscular development in young athletes. Or perhaps they are paying attention but just not fixing it. Either way, when I think of it from that angle, it's not shocking that so many athletes are getting broken under the intensity of their sports demands. I wonder if it's fair for youngsters to get pushed to perform at such high levels knowing that they are at risk for major injury by doing so? It definitely raised quite a response when President Obama recently stated that if he had a son he would be hesitant to let him play football due to the high number of impact related brain injuries. Will that be enough to get some coaches to back off on the intensity? Only time will tell.
One thing is certain. Many of the on field injuries are perpetuated by poor training and poor technique in the weight room. I can't accurately state how many athletes I've worked with that show me their "warm up routines" and it's horrifying. From soccer players to fencers to baseball players to swimmers, all kinds of young athletes are absolutely trashing their joint structures with some of their warm up routines. And many of them have poor joint alignment and poor joint function to begin with! Coaches and trainers continuously adopt the principle of, practice hard and train hard and you'll win more frequently. The problem with this philosophy today is that athletes are not getting the time to allow their bodies to avoid the stresses of their sports and just naturally develop. Intelligent parents will seek out the training programs that preach smart exercise for young athletes rather than the standard "beat em till ya break em" methodology that is seemingly everywhere. At Functional Fitness in Boulder, Colorado, fitness professionals are taught how to support athletes through their exercise program, as well as through their practice routine. I have modified and made adaptations to hundreds of warm up/stretching routines for athletes to help reduce stress on their bodies. Also encouraging rest, recovery and hydration are vital to athletes reaching their potential and remaining healthy. Athletes reach their potential through a combination of training, proper nutrition, mental well being and rest/recovery. It's inconceivable that a pro athlete would play at an intensely high level year round. However, many young athletes are pushed into competitive regiments that occupy their time nearly every month of the year. This just isn't healthy.
Thankfully I have been taught a system of exercise that can target and correct many of the movement pattern imbalances that push humans, not just athletes, toward inevitable injury. I am committed to educating the young athletes that I train on the dangers of over training. I will continue to always teach them impeccable exercise technique so that they can confidently perform their programs flawlessly anywhere. And I will continue to help them to identify the exercises and stretches that put them at the most risk. I'm certain that the athletes that work with myself and other fitness professionals at Functional Fitness will continue to achieve and perform at a high level without many of the issues, short and long term, that are plaguing much of the athletic community currently. I will provide more insight on this topic in the future. In the meantime, think it over. And please don't hurt your children! Thank you. @Rich1ill