Training

Three Exercises That You Never Want to Do

Long, Slow Boring Cardio
If running is boring, why do we enjoy it?

Surfing the Internet, I spotted an eye-catching link at the bottom of a news story:

Three Exercises That You Never Want to Do. 

That may not be the exact googling title, but you don’t want to go there, because after what seemed like a half hour of chatter by Carolyn, the weight-loss champ, and Craig, the ercise scientist, I still had not learned which three exercises to avoid.

Was I being conned? The same Google search page also offered 5 bad exercises, 7 bad exercises, 10 bad exercises, 50 bad exercises! Also 5 Foods You Must Never Eat. And 3 Big Money Mistakes. But when you click into each site hungry for knowledge, you get talked to death with only hints that you might learn something later if you patiently wait out the pitch.

As for the Three Exercises That You Never Want to Do, I’ll save you the trouble of listening to the pitch, because your friendly, neighborhood fitness blogger (me) hung onto the endless pseudo-scientific babbling by Carolyn & Craig long enough so I now can reveal the three awful exercises we should all avoid. Eccchhh!!!

1. Crunches

2. Long, Slow, Boring Cardio

3. Light dumbbells

Instead of the Terrible Three, we should all be following Craig’s Four-Minute High Intensity Program, which will cause fat to melt from our frames, revealing the tight, muscular and hot-hot-hot body beneath. Cover of Cosmo, here we come. But wait!

Long, Slow, Boring Cardio?

Hey, isn’t that what we love to do? Maybe not everyone, but at least those of you who surf regularly into my various sites in Cyberland. Craig assures us that running an hour on a treadmill is B-O-R-I-N-G!!! At least that’s the message with which he’s hitting his potential customers: those who never have touched a treadmill before, those who never have run outdoors before, those who never have done any exercise before, the archetypical couch potatoes so often maligned by those of us in The Fitness Industry.

Maybe running an hour on a treadmill is boring to some, if not many, Craig, but what about running for an hour along the Chicago lakefront, or in New York’s Central Park, or along San Vicente Boulevard in Santa Monica, California aimed at the ocean? As for a marathon, Craig is generous: Put it on your Bucket List, do it, ruin your knees, then spend the rest of your life doing his Four-Minute High Intensity Workouts to insure that construction workers will continue to whistle as you walk at a slow, boring pace past their work sites.

Talk about long, slow and boring, it seemed like I was watching Craig’s infomercial for as long as some of us forced indoors by thunder, lightning, rain, darkness, snow, ice, hail and evil predators might run (boringly) on a treadmill. But I felt it my duty to serve as your surrogate long, slow, boring video viewer. Then even after identifying the Three Exercises That You Never Want to Do, I still had learned little about Craig’s Four-Minute High Intensity Workout. Apparently, this is a common Sell Technique in Cyberland: Pick a catchy title. Talk forever about the title subject without revealing anything, then when truth-seekers hit the X button to exit, nail them with farewell pop-up ads featuring items you will send them for free, yes, FREE!!!

I never did discover how Craig’s Four-Minute High Intensity Program worked, but at least he and his cohort Carolyn branded themselves as being anti-runner. Yes, stay on that treadmill more than an hour, and you are in deep trouble. Did I mention the damage to your heart that came with our Cardio. Yes, seriously: That's what they claimed.

Craig and Carolyn serve up a blend of pseudo-science in proving their case, offering mostly uncredited or misinterpreted “research” to condemn the three bad exercises. Crunches? You would need to do 6,000 of them to lose a pound, after which you will have suffered severe back damage. Long, Slow, Boring Cardio? In one study, some poor woman actually gained 2.1 pounds while training for a marathon, while those following Craig’s program (like Carolyn) were shedding 20 to 30 pounds. Dumbbells? Specifically light-weight, rubber dumbbells, pink or some other female-friendly color? I can’t remember the reason why they won’t tone your arms like the actress whose picture appeared who impressed her fellow cast members with newly firmed shoulder muscles.

Perhaps, I was more concerned with what Craig had to say about Bad Exercise # 2: Long, Slow, Boring Cardio. In the Craig book of science, you will gain weight because you will eat more. And you will be so exhausted after that boring hour on a treadmill that your metabolic system will slow down, causing less calorie burn during the 23 other hours of the day. And you will damage your heart. Yes, Craig, there are some studies that can be bent to suggest negative side effects of excessive exercise, but then how come so many epidemiological studies, beginning with the classic study by Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger of Harvard alumni and continuing with Dr. Ken Cooper’s massive research study at The Aerobics Center, dictate that people who exercise regularly, even run long, slow and boring marathons, live anywhere from six to nine years longer than people who do not? And, maybe as important, have more satisfying lifetyles as they age gracefully.

Many, many years ago Joe Henderson, a past editor of Runner’s World, wrote what I consider an iconic booklet on what Craig brands as long, slow and boring cardio. This was toward the end of the 1960’s when LSD was the drug of choice for so many stone-heads. Joe titled his booklet Long Slow Distance: The Humane Way to Train. (Joe’s booklet is still available both in print and online, by the way.) It came out at a time when many American distance runners spent a lot of time at the track doing speedwork, specifically interval training. I was a prime example of someone following a high intensity training program. On one occasion, I showed up at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field and ran 70 x 300 repeats with 100 jogging between. In Joe’s book, he describes the training of Amby Burfoot, another Runner’s World editor, who won the Boston Marathon by using LSD. No, not the bad kind.

A lot of people credit Frank Shorter (with his Olympic medals) and Jim Fixx (with his best-selling book) for starting the first running revolution in the 1970s. One of the precursors to that revolution certainly was Joe Henderson, who taught us that we did not need to train like a maniac to finish marathons.

And the doors opened!

But the subject was Craig & Carolyn and their Four-Minute High Intensity Workout. You go your way, Craig & Carolyn, but leave me with my Long, Slow, Boring Cardio. That’s why I was out on my bike this morning, accompanied by my wife Rose, pedaling to one of our favorite coffee shops, maybe not Long Boring, but certainly Slow Cardio. We also stopped at the gym where we each did crunches (on a machine) and played with some lightweight dumbbells.

Except Craig & Carolyn may be the dumbbells, not us.