Exercise and Sport; Do It Right!

Have you ever heard the expression “A good thing is only as good as how it is used.”  Take the pen for instance.  On the one hand the written word can inspire greatness, and bring light where there is darkness, it can educate, stimulate sharing of ideas, bridge communication gaps… on the other hand the mighty pen can condemn, encourage hatred, break hearts, heck in the hands of that Borne identity/ultimatum guy a pen could kill you.

The workout world has many similar examples (albeit not quite as graphic): A great training program and exercises designed for a 20 year old highly conditioned athlete in the hands of a 16 year old newby to the gym will have significantly different negative outcomes.  A complex Olympic lift while having countless benefits when executed properly has huge potential to injure people when form is ignored.  The simple squat, push up or even a running gait when practiced repeatedly with imbalance and poor mechanics will do more harm than good.

I should state that I am a huge proponent of the value of exercise!  I strongly believe every system and organ of the body is improved with regular APPROPRIATE physical activity.  But let’s look at that word appropriate: An office worker spends 8 hours seated and hunched at a desk then goes to the gym and does sit ups, push ups and spins the stationary bike.  Good on ya mate some activity is better than none, however, all of these exercises shorten and tighten the exact same muscles that your job already shortens and tightens.  What would be more appropriate, healthier, and allow you to enjoy exercise as opposed to struggle through it is to strengthen the opposite muscles (back extensors) and stretch the tight guys (pecs, abs and hip flexors). I realize that no one really cares about joint balance and pain prevention strategies.  People tend to prioritize weight loss, ‘popping ‘pipes and the ever elusive six pack, however for those that want long term success, balancing their mechanical issues is in fact priority # 1. If you are working out but are in pain, energy tapped, or don’t feel invigorated by your current routine or the exercises in it, take a step back and make sure you are moving in balance and that it is appropriate for you and where you are at today.

I hesitate to bring this up yet again but too many people just don’t get it. Youth Sport is certainly another prime example where a good thing is only as good as how it is used: Camaraderie, exercise, sharing in wins and losses, building motor patterns, exposure to character and values challenges… all of these potentially excellent life altering experiences can easily become tainted.  When adults use youth sport for their own gains like a coach playing injured athletes so he can improve his own win loss ratio.  Parents forcing kids to play year round under constant pressure so they can live their own lost dreams of sport greatness.  Win at all costs, referee abuses, fans fist fighting, red faced high pitched screaming cursing mothers… its out there folks, its everywhere.  Changing it for the better starts with you!

For all the goodness that sport can bring it is not inherent, it doesn’t just happen.  We all have a role to play to ensure that the youth sport environment is consistent with the needs and developmental capacities of children.  Go to CS4L (Canadian Sport For Life) for more information on how to ensure that a good thing (Sport) is used for good!

Ed Stiles BPE, Certified Exercise Physiologist is a member of the Alberta Sport Development Center’s Performance Enhancement Team and operates Peak Performance Fitness Services. He can be reached via email at asdc@mhc.ab.ca or at peakperform@hotmail.com