the spaz of fitness has arrived

No Pain, No Pain

In Rhetoric, Training on July 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm

The notorious “Uncle Rhabdo”

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m examining the gym as social/rhetorical space in my PhD work, and now and then I come across something I think worth sharing with my indulgent blog-readers. If this sounds like too much academic fluff, I apologize. What I’ll be looking at in my dissertation is the gym (particularly gyms that market “functional fitneess”– so CrossFit-esque though not necessarily strictly CrossFit) as a social space. And I want to examine how rhetorical practices (verbal and nonverbal) influence physical practices and vise versa, as well as how cultural context impacts all of the above. It’s all very muddled right now, but I’m excited about it because– not only is it something that fascinates me endlessly– it’s very unexamined territory right now, and thus an invigorating place to be in one’s studies. The gym’s such an interesting space because inhabits a borderland between “public” and “private,” and– even more interesting–it’s where we go to change our bodies, for whatever number of reasons… but those changes reflect and enact any number of personal and societal ideals.

Anyway, there’s very little work done on the gym as social space– particularly fitness facilities. Sports theory has focused largely on professional (or collegiate) sports… some of the material I’ve found has been entirely useless while others have presented fascinating kernels of insight without further exploration. One article I read, authored by an English professor/spinning instructor meditated on the vocabulary used by different fitness instructors in their training methodology. How the harsher, drill-instructor types seemed only to recruit already-fit clients. Anyway… she pointed out how much of fitness refers to itself as punishment– how many personal trainers tell you to “work off” the muffin you had this morning, or– even worse– to “earn” the pumpkin pie you’ll eat at Thanksgiving, as if you’re being castigated for a predicted crime. While I’m proud to say that CrossFit eschews much of this (I’ve heard no mention of burning off your morning donuts in the box), it has definitely embraced exercise-as-punishment– or rather, exercise should hurt. However facetiously, this is a sport that’s made a mascot out of rhabdomyolysis.

Another fascinating aspect of studying CrossFit for me is that it’s still an emergent sport. It’s still finding its footing, still in the process of becoming whatever it is it wants to be. I see a lot of CrossFit now taking steps towards caution– more advice about smarter programming, patient training, and fewer glamor shots of ripped hands. Nevertheless, we have many years of that “no pain, no gain” philosophy to counteract. A lot of what I see on the CrossFit forums these days is veteran, more experienced athletes counseling new enthusiasts about moderation. Not every day has to be a metcon, not every workout needs to leave you an incoherent puddle. But is anyone surprised that CrossFit has perpetuated this athletic masochism? We have t-shirts like “Fran Happened” — featuring bloodied palms from 4 minutes of delirious exertion. We’ve adopted slang such as “meeting pukie” as if exhausting yourself to the point that your body rebels is a rite of passage.

Don’t get me wrong, I love in intensity. I’ve written several odes to that meditative state you hit in a particularly grueling workout, but I’m glad CrossFit is beginning to draw the line between pushing your limits and brazenly crashing through them. CrossFit already attracts a certain type– people eager willing to throw themselves through strength programs followed by all-out-intensity rounds of box jumps and thrusters and wall balls. 5 days a week. Perhaps sometimes what we need to reinforce sometimes is not the “pain” but the healing. After all– that’s how we build our strength, right? You get stronger not when your muscles are torn apart, but as they repair.

There’s Jo’s thought of the day.

As for my “Whole 14” challenge, it’s going by quicker than I thought. Soon, I’ll be reintroducing peanuts, then soy, then protein powders and then eventually I work my way through the other banned ingredients to test my individual tolerance. As to how I feel? It’s day twelve and… meh. The sugar cravings are gone, which I appreciate, though I don’t doubt they’ll come back. I just don’t think I’ll avoid all sweeteners everywhere forever… they’re everywhere, and they’re tasty on occasion. My digestive disturbances are significantly fewer and further between. Unfortunately, they’re not altogether absent. I suppose it would’ve been too naive to hope for one of those paleo “transformation” stories where this lifestyle cured me of a lifetime of suffering. Not quite so much. I do feel better–much, much better, but I still have to accept the fact that my genetics suck and my digestive system may always hate me a little bit. But my recovery still sucks. I’m still sore-ish, and really before this I’d long moved past the perpetual soreness you feel upon starting a CrossFit regimen. The recovery drink is probably a crutch and my dependence on it might entirely be placebo effect… but at least it was working? I hope it’s not what was irritating my stomach, but I suppose we’ll found out later in the week.

No really excited WODs to post about today. Yesterday, I worked on O-lift technique– definitely light weights. Today, I did squats (3 week reset), bench (still going up– *knock on wood*), and then I tried an actually fun new exercise: lateral sled drag. Basically, you hook a sled up to your ankles and walk sideways to work your adductor/abductors (I never remember which one’s which). 6 x 20 yards.

Happy Sunday, folks!

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  1. […] don’t have a dose of masochism).* [*For a more serious discussion on CrossFit masochism, see here] I officially move on Wednesday, so my apartment’s a disaster right now. I keep discovering […]

  2. […] CrossFit sits on the opposite end of the spectrum. (For more on problematic CrossFit rhetoric, see this post). We have mantra’s like “Death before DNF” (DNF = Did Not Finish), implying that […]

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