Friday, October 06, 2006

Mass Hysteria: The Myth of "Bulking Up"

So I've been absent for a few days--nothing like an 18 y.o. cat with a kidney infection and kidney stone, along with redefining my affiliation with Dartfish to distract me. But here I am.

I'm speaking to a group of individuals enrolled in a weight loss program through the Washington University Program in Physical Therapy next week. My friend Cindi (Cinister, the super cyclist and registered dietician) has invited me to speak for the second year. The topic du jour is resistance training: Don't believe the Hype: Be Smart, Be Healthy, Be Strong. My goal is to get these people to actually understand that using weights and training with real resistance is NOT going to cause any undo masculinization or lead to that great American fear, unwanted bulk.

Who the hell started this absurd myth anyway?

Every week this fitness myth is propagated by mass media. Why on 9/25 our wonderful Post-Dispatch "Health & Fitness" section carried a special article from the Washington Post by some guy named John Briley. This "Eyes on the Thighs" piece just made me cringe. You know the drill: some very unfortunate woman dutifully performs some type of cardiovascular exercise (stairmaster, elliptical,etc) and develops THUNDER THIGHS! In this article, the culprit is bicycle commuting to work. Give me a break. I don't care what gearing this person has selected--there is NO WAY some commuting cyclist is going to develop extensive hypertrophy from riding a bike back and forth to work.

Maybe she's increasing the amount of bad food she puts in her mouth because she burning more calories. Maybe she's making very poor food choices and the low level of riding she is doing cannot make up for the subtle increase in weight gain. Let me at her. I want to measure thigh girth, body fat, caloric expenditure and caloric intake and THEN determine whether there truly is an increase in lean body mass in the thigh area.

There are few if ANY people in this world who have a true biological disposition toward massive accumulation of aesthetically excessive lean body mass--regardless of the intensity and volume of training. Professional bodybuilders are NARCISSISTIC FREAKS who utilize absurd training schedules, wacky nutrition practices and illegal substances to create unnatural amounts of lean body mass. Can you tell I really have no love for these people? They, and the soft-porn publications that promote their activities, give resistance training a BAD NAME. Bodybuilders and the "sport" of bodybuilding perpetuate fear and loathing toward something that should be a healthy, lifetime practice for everyone.

The real problem for the rest of us is a disposition toward ingestion of too many crappy calories and not enough intense regular physical activity. So people, don't believe the hype. Be smart, be healthy, be strong. Lift some weights. Ride your bike. Bend your knees and move your center of mass. Your bones will thank you and you WON'T develop thunder thighs.

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