Rant 54 December 2009: Haven’t been there/done that, have an opinion anyway

November 24th, 2009  |  Published in 2009 rants, Stumpblog  |  19 Comments

Jupi Nakoolak-420x0

Hallooo?

Recently, the front page of Canada’s national newspaper (no, not that squarehead harrumphing old regressive piece of crap National Post, the real one) carried a striking story.

An Inuit teenager in the Arctic had survived a frightening ordeal: He’d spent the night trapped on an ice floe with a polar bear and her cubs for companionship.

Here’s a long shot, in case you’d like a bit of context. Supposedly you can see the kid in here somewhere as a small speck in the upper middle, but I sure as heck can’t. (I thought I could, but then I realized it was a spot of balsamic vinegar I’d splotched on the screen from eating salad in front of the computer.) The rescuers must have had seriously good eyesight.

ice_floe_teenage_324321artw

Double hallooo?

Now, for those of you living south of 60 degrees latitude (or not in Churchill, Manitoba), polar bears may look cute and friendly, like in the Coke commercials, but they most certainly are not. They are generally grumpy, hungry creatures who think people are basically upright cocktail weenies. If you think bears are cuddly pets, you’re probably the kind of person who would own a face-eating chimp.

Coke-Polar-Bear

NOM NOM NOM man that Coke washes down the taste of human!!

Take “essentially pissy carnivore personality” and then add “protective mother” to the mix, stir well with “trapped on a tiny floating island of ice” and you have a pretty shitty situation. You’re a yummy seal-flavoured shwarma, thus:

To protect himself, the teenager shot the mother bear.

The day following the story, aggrieved letters to the editor poured in. What kind of heartless bastard would shoot a mother bear? Kids these days! Why was he out hunting in the first place?

Not surprisingly, 100% of these letters were from people who:

  1. Lived in Southern Canada. (No, that is not an oxymoron.)
  2. Lived in urban areas where the most dangerous creature was a distracted frazzled parent on a cellphone while driving.
  3. Actually have grocery stores — and/or grocery stores that are stocked more than once a year when the planes can make it in.
  4. Had probably never spent time trapped on miles of frozen wasteland in pitch blackness, wondering which thing was going to kill them first: the minus-20C temperature or the angry maternal meat eater.
coral-harbour-nunavut

Now, this is not a rant about the ethics of hunting, or whether bears need killin’.

The point is this:

It’s really easy to have an opinion if you haven’t done something.

Especially if you haven’t done something difficult.

This story is a metaphor, so don’t waste my time with earnest comments about why people living in the toughest climate in the world should be eating soy burgers instead — I will delete such while whistling a jaunty tune, as evidence of the above point. (However, I welcome thoughts from anyone who has also shacked up with Ursus maritimus in Satan’s icebox.)

Armchair quarterbacks abound, especially in the fitness industry. And those armchairs are very comfortable.

But comfort does not bring insight. It does not bring growth nor understanding. It often brings snap judgements, dismissals, and assumptions.

Losing weight is fucking hard.

Gaining muscle is fucking hard.

Competing in a sport is fucking hard.

Squatting and deadlifting are fucking hard.

Olympic lifts are even fucking harder, especially when you fall on your ass doing them (like I did in front of an audience last month — cool instructor FAIL). (More on that adventure below.)

Getting out of bed and facing the world is fucking hard because right now, the world is not set up to enable your wellness, health, fitness, nor good nutrition.

Is this all worth doing? Absolutely.

Because here’s the thing:

Anything valuable is probably going to be fucking hard.

Parenthood. Getting an education. Growing up into a mature, emotionally successful human being. Not whipping out that awesome, soul-shredding comeback on your spouse and thus ruining 15 years of careful intimacy building. Etc.

Last month I helped out at an Olympic weightlifting workshop. I was supposedly one of the more “advanced” participants. Thus, I was called to demonstrate my snatch form.

(Yes, yes, “snatch form” is funny. Although I’ve been snickering more these days over “high crotch” in wrestling, probably mostly for the novelty since “snatch” has worn out its humour after a decade of OL training.)

So there I was, on the platform, onstage before a wide-eyed audience of beginners, demonstrating my mighty snatch.

(Ha ha! OK, that is funny! Anyway.)

I demonstrated each stage of the lift, step by step, slowly, pausing in key positions. Then it was time to put those pieces together and amaze the crowd with my speed and agility. Pull from the floor, hitch over the knees, slam into the hip drive, drop under majestically for the catch and whoops — miscalculate the bar speed, weight, and timing — aaaa FORE!!

Like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the bar soared aloft in a sternwise direction before plummeting to earth with an earsplitting crash. Propelled by my athletic thrust (ha ha! thrust!), I promptly leaped away from it before falling explosively on to my ass with a thwomp.

A microsecond of silence. Horror. Screams from the crowd.

They were sure I’d dislocated my shoulder or driven my tailbone into my nostrils. Luckily, my shoulders are flexy and my bottom adequately padded. No such skeletal rearrangement had occurred.

A voice from the crowd: “We got that on video!” Sigh.

Another voice from the crowd, this one the reassuring baritone of Bang Fitness’ Geoff Girvitz.

“Oh yeah, if you’re going to learn the Olympic lifts, learn how to fail. You are going to drop the bar, so you’d better practice that now.”

(Shout out to Randy Hauer for teaching me this point a few years earlier. You saved me, buddy!)

I shrugged and got up. Picked up the bar.

“Let’s try that one again,” I said dryly. And I meant it. I should have been embarrassed, but oddly enough I wasn’t. Instead of thinking Oh my Gawd I totally bombed in front of a group I was thinking Bar’s lighter than I thought; slow down that second pull.

So I did. I tried it a few more times, in fact, just to be sure. By the third, slower rep, I was in the groove.

“There we go,” I said cheerfully. The crowd smiled hesitantly. (They still figured my shoulders should have exploded.) We chatted for a few minutes about how to jump away safely from a flying bar.

Afterwards, nobody said Boy are you a fuckup. They said Holy shit, you recovered like a champ. Geoff didn’t even make fun of me, which pretty much violates one of the key rules about Bang Fitness’ sense of humour: learning through loving mockery.

Nobody made fun of me, because they’d all been there. They’d all dropped bars, fallen down, hurt themselves, or otherwise screwed up in the gym.

(Subsequently, another “expert” demonstrator — competitive O-lifter Ron Dykstra — clipped his kneecaps with the clean. I felt a slight misery-loves-company warmth.)

Conversely, I hear from a lot of people about how we should be eating and exercising. And you know what? 99% of those people have never done those things they say I should do.

Lifetime-sedentary people tell me that I exercise “too much”. People who wouldn’t know an Olympic weightlifter from Tinkerbell tell me with great authority that deep squats “hurt your knees”. People with blood vessels full of liquidized chicken wings dispense dietary advice like they’re from the Harvard School of Public Health. Guys who’ve never stepped on a mat, never experienced the pant-wetting fear of having another massive human being smother and choke you with your own arm talk about how this or that UFC fighter is a bum/should have flying-armbarred that other guy.

Lots of you are probably getting such well-meaning advice.

My well-meaning advice to you? Ignore it, and seek out the people who have actually had to make the hard choices.

  • Find experienced trainers who also train themselves, and they’ll tell you there’s no one-size-fits all program.
  • Find experienced nutritionists who also eat well themselves, and they’ll tell you that it’s OK to eat [insert forbidden food] now and again. Just eat some damn broccoli.
  • Find the diet coach that used to be heavy themselves. And maybe who still struggles not to eat that ice cream after a bad day.
  • Find the instructor who’s cried in the changeroom, just like you.
  • Find people who’ve been there, done that, made mistakes, learned the hard lessons, and they’ll support you all the way instead of breaking you down.

Here’s the take-home:

A lot of learning comes through painful experience, but this is necessary.

Even “experts” fuck up.

Get out there and do it anyway. (But have a good backup plan, just in case.)

People may judge your choices, but unless they’ve done that hard thing themselves, or have put in a LOT of evidence-based research concerning the subject, take their opinions with a grain of salt.

Final thoughts by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, currently battling cancer, from the movie Airplane:

Joey: Wait a minute. I know you. You’re Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. You play basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Roger Murdock: I’m sorry son, but you must have me confused with someone else. My name is Roger Murdock. I’m the co-pilot.
Joey: You are Kareem. I’ve seen you play. My dad’s got season tickets.
Roger Murdock: I think you should go back to your seat now Joey. Right Clarence?
Captain Oveur: Nahhhhhh, he’s not bothering anyone, let him stay here.
Roger Murdock: But just remember, my name is [showing his nametag] ROGER MURDOCK. I’m an airline pilot.
Joey: I think you’re the greatest, but my dad says you don’t work hard enough on defense.
[Kareem’s getting mad]
Joey: And he says that lots of times, you don’t even run down court. And that you don’t really try… except during the playoffs.
Roger Murdock: The hell I don’t!! Listen kid, I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA! I’m out there busting my buns every night! Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!

Responses

  1. felipe says:

    November 24th, 2009at 11:10 am(#)

    This might be your best one yet, Krista.

  2. Melanie says:

    November 24th, 2009at 11:53 am(#)

    This post is just what I needed. I’ve been dealing with this on an everyday basis recently.

    After years of doing the fitness magazine diets and workouts to no avail, I finally started lifting heavy (thanks Krista!) and incorporating refeeds and quickly started to look visibly fitter.

    Funny thing is half the people who say “You look great! What have you been doing?”, proceed to tell me that’s not what I should be doing. Extremely frustrating and even worse is the realization that I’ve been guilty of the exact same thing. Forgive me Krista, for I have sinned!

    Thank you for your great advice, amusing rants, and all around awesome site!

  3. ActionBabe says:

    November 24th, 2009at 12:38 pm(#)

    Conventional wisdom never worked for me. Sorry to everyone who’s ever published a diet book – it didn’t work. Don’t even get me started on those ‘fitness’ magazines.

    Commercial gyms didn’t work for me. One day I was working out and looked around and realized that the gym was filled with overweight people. Call me crazy, but I wanted to work out where the fit people worked out.

    It’s all about what works for you. Me? I found Bang Fitness, and my body’s changed more in the past three months than over 2 years anywhere else.

    Call me crazy, but when I find something that works, I stick to it.

    Great rant Krista!

  4. Rhonda says:

    November 24th, 2009at 2:10 pm(#)

    I agree- GREAT POST!

    I wish I had you around to yell that at me everyday. I am finding it a lot easier with this “dark at 5pm” stuff to get lazier and lazier. Dang me anyway.

    Keep up the good writing!

  5. Trishy says:

    November 24th, 2009at 5:18 pm(#)

    I’ve dropped barbells on myself too, but I still would have laughed at you once it was proven that you were indeed OK :)

    I work among academics, some of whom believe that their scientific brilliance makes them superior beings compared to people whose paychecks come from some kind of physical work. These same people cannot walk up a gentle incline for 2 minutes without huffing and puffing, but they are the first ones to disparage the efforts of professional athletes, physical trainers, and constructions workers with lines like “they can’t do what I do, but I could do what they do.” Yeah, maybe on the moon.

  6. Chris Collins says:

    November 24th, 2009at 8:13 pm(#)

    Wow, aren’t we pissy. You have made the title of you piece proud ‘Rant’. Good on you. Thank for the fightin’ words, I need them as I enter my low-season of the year.

    –Chris

  7. Charity says:

    November 24th, 2009at 8:44 pm(#)

    But.. but, isn’t that the central purpose of the Internet???

    (Great rant, thanks. :)

  8. Lieke says:

    November 25th, 2009at 4:36 am(#)

    So recognizable!

    I train. A lot. Hard. But I do not have the “fitness body” (not going to elaborate on that one, you know the drill) people seem to expect you should get from training hard regardless of build, age, training intensity or type, gender or genetics.

    So I still get lots of really dumb well-meant advice from the kind of people who literally got diabetes as a direct result of crappy diets, combined with smoking and total inertia.

    It took me years and years to stop giving a damn about what couch potatoe “expert” friends and family had to say, but I finally got there. Now I just do what I know is right for me, with huge overall benefits: I got at least twice as strong as before, train harder than ever, and am going fast forward in attaining my goals, like losing the excess dead weight I stacked on over the years because I listened to stupid advice.

    Thank you for this rant, Krista!

  9. OMGBFFA says:

    November 25th, 2009at 8:53 am(#)

    Amen.

  10. Lillian says:

    November 25th, 2009at 11:04 am(#)

    I do Olympic weightlifting, and I find that the best coaches are not the ones who made it the furthest with ease, because those ones were the natural athletes. It’s the ones who made it pretty far, and who had to fight like crazy to get there, who know what it’s like to learn something new and foreign as a bare beginner, that make the best coaches.

  11. Terry Gibbs says:

    November 25th, 2009at 10:09 pm(#)

    Last weekend I attended the Australian throwers convention. Among others in attendance was Dani Samuels womens World Champ in discus in Berlin 2009. At 20 she is the youngest ever world champ in discus, many of the competitors are old enough to be her mother (one of the Bulgarians at 50 could be her grandma).

    Talked lots and one gem was she does not squat, never has can do throwing drills on a balance beam, power clean 90kg and do power curls with 15kg dbs standing on 1 leg while jumping (one legged ) onto a box 45 cm high BUT she does not squat.

    Shared this gem on a forum frequented by masters college throwers etc, and was joined by someone with the classic one liner of “shut up and squat”, who after being admonished gave me a breakdown on his thoughts on Alexev and others who names he could not remember.

    It is like a surfer dropping in on your wave, or the no talent wannabes who in the 80’s ruining the graphiti art by “tagging it” and ruining the movement.

    Eeveryone who has a computer is an expert….and an opinion they wish to share.

    I would add one more to your list.

    Anyone can be a big frog in a small pond. Very few are brave enough to swim in the big pond and find out how good they are. Train with people and coaches who have been in the big pond, tested themselves, not hidden among the reeds. If you have never competed …don’t care what you have to say.

    A grumpy old guy in a dark hole in the wall gym, who placed in national or international champs is worth all the paper certs from non competitors put together…

    just my opinion

    Now I know what makes those coaches so grumpy..

  12. Kathy says:

    November 26th, 2009at 1:07 pm(#)

    Me too – I needed that right now. I’ve been going through a space of “I can’t be perfect. I might as well just give up.” Yeah, stupid, I know. Sometimes you just need to hear,”Hey, you’re okay, and you’re improving – that’s great!”

  13. Zsuzsa says:

    November 29th, 2009at 10:22 am(#)

    So glad you rabted again! I’ve been missing these!

  14. Kate Ussailis says:

    November 30th, 2009at 9:49 am(#)

    From the bottom of my heart: thank you, Krista!

  15. noodle says:

    December 2nd, 2009at 10:55 am(#)

    Great stuff to keep in mind as I prepare to visit family this weekend who will most likely spew out left-handed “compliments” about my physique. I’ll smile, knowingly, even though I’ll wanna pop ‘em.

    Weird how some people feel free to make disparaging comments about muscles on women, yet I would never in a million years say anything about someone’s fat thighs or muffin top.

  16. Chaobell says:

    December 7th, 2009at 1:36 pm(#)

    I get people who don’t know shit about shit either telling me I’m Doing It Wrong or flat-out accusing me of lying about all the running and cycling I do because… I have fat thighs and a muffin top!

    Exqueeze me for caring more about how well my body works than how cute it looks.

    (also I must be weird because I feel like I run better when it’s dark as hell in the morning, the day star steals my lifeforce)

  17. Richard Eis says:

    January 15th, 2010at 7:32 am(#)

    Nothing funnier than fat people telling me I eat too much. Apparently it will catch up with me…any minute.

    -Weird how some people feel free to make disparaging comments about muscles on women, yet I would never in a million years say anything about someone’s fat thighs or muffin top.-

    Jealous of the results….not so jealous of the lifestyle.

    Enjoying the website a lot.

  18. Cannoli says:

    February 3rd, 2010at 12:29 pm(#)

    I could have written this…

    Love you!

  19. Kathleen says:

    December 27th, 2010at 4:05 pm(#)

    Great post!

    You know, I think about this concept all the time, mostly when I hear young, male personal trainers bagging on their “fat, lazy” clients.

    Only someone who has never been there could be so cavalier, cold and cruel. Only someone who has never struggled with a weight problem could think it is “easy” to lose weight.

    It is F-ing HARD! For most women, losing weight through calorie cutting (which is how 90% of women try to lost weight) makes weight lifting seem like a tea party…


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