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January 17, 2019: The Treadmill Effect

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. A lot of knowledge is a very dangerous thing. This is the conclusion I’m coming to about many things, including the use of positive reinforcement in animal training, the importance of movement in our lives, the stultifying effect of social media on our culture, and now, the use of machinery in open gyms.

I’ve now been studying body awareness/movement science theory for seven years. And the more I have learned, the quieter about this I’ve gotten. This is because most people aren’t interested in this particular topic. My thinking is that much of it goes against what we think we know to be true about movement in relation to training. This is why I have spent considerable time reading and being in the company of body awareness/strength training experts. For example, body awareness experts will tell you that less is better, and that imaging (which creates new neural pathways) will help to release habitual tension patterns. And fitness trainers will tell you that increasing the load, rather than the number of reps, builds strength.

In her book, Katie Bowman makes a convincing argument for moving in more natural settings. She eschews gyms and in particular, treadmills. My personal experience supports her premise. A number of years ago I had a membership at a local gym, Peak Fitness. I also hired a personal trainer. The personal trainer showed me how to use the weight machines. I didn’t last because I wasn’t getting enough one-on-one time with her.

Alys the gym rat
Alys the gym rat

Gym rats from Runner's World

And I abandoned using the treadmill because I could get a much better workout outside. As Bowman so aptly notes, the terrain is more varied, and so your feet move in more varied and less repetitive ways. So I went to timing the length of my outings –that sufficed. As importantly, I realized that treadmills are a huge energy drain.

It is true. Fitness Coaches are expensive, but I think well worth the money. Otherwise, the time spent engaging in conditioning (which few machine users know anything about) yields few, if any, positive results.

There are no absolutes. Yesterday my sister El told me she now goes to a local Portland Community Center where they have a workout area. The down side is that her workout program (which is machine based) isn’t the best. But the up side is that there is a much-valued sense of community there. This seems to me to be the most important and overlooked aspect of working out. If you feel alienated or out of place, you will not go back. If you feel a sense of community you will keep going back. And perhaps other doors will open, the doors being more efficient and useful ways of working out.

I don’t know how this sense of community comes about. I don’t yet feel it where I work out. I go there simply because my coach is one the best in the business and I’m seeing results. I actually envy the fact that Eleanor’s primary motivation for continuing with her gym workout, right now, is that she feels comfortable in the Mt. Scott Community Center. Good for her. I applaud her efforts.

18. 1/18/19: The State of the Farm Address

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