“Haters gonna hate.” This saying is often a touche remark made by those in subcultures of fitness (or other areas of life) who stand firm in their beliefs about a program, a specific doctrine or a method of achieving well-being that often receives harsh criticism. People love to hate Crossfit, Pilates and minimalist shoes. Some hold a misaligned view of the powerlifter “who will go into cardiac arrest because he can’t even walk up the stairs without losing his breathe.”
Everyone please stop pointing your fingers at each other and, instead, start using some basic wisdom and common sense when choosing an exercise program.
Last week I received backlash on my contentious article discussing the virtues of self-limiting exercises. An individual commented on why they believe minimalist shoes are dangerous. They felt I was misinformed, and after all, Vibram is in a big lawsuit because people have reportedly hurt themselves running in such terrible shoes that were claimed to be superior to the non-minimalist counterpart.
Apparently, I shouldn’t be recommending something that causes such atrocious injuries. By the way, the criticism came from a very fit runner who has used traditional shoes his entire career. He also has had two knee replacements from running. Let’s close in prayer.
All kidding aside, please realize that the shoes have nothing to do with those reported injuries. Some studies that confirmed the efficacy on minimalist shoes were used on “experienced barefoot runners.” Of course there’s substantial evidence favoring minimalist shoes when experimented on people who have adapted to such training.
Conversely, when researchers studied these shoes on inexperienced barefoot runners, bone marrow edema increased substantially indicating a stress fracture.
PROGRESSIONS ARE KEY
What does this mean? People who are un-adapted to barefoot or minimalist running must use progressive overload and other specific training prescriptions to slowly become adapted to avoid injury. This principle applies to all forms of exercise. This is why every program under the sun has progressions.
This is common wisdom folks. It’s the same case with what’s going on in Crossfit. Someone hears that Crossfit is a great, affordable way to achieve “world class fitness.”
The problem arises when this someone is a sedentary, middle aged, non-athletic male who smokes, is 20 pounds overweight and lacks a baseline bio-marker for movement health. He signs up and tears a disc anulus in his lower back during an intense 25 minute effort trying to desperately, awkwardly complete “Fran” (a popular Crossfit workout) that takes an average Crossfitter four minutes to complete; elite times are just over two minutes for men.
The fitness public prematurely blames Crossfit, Vibram, and other ideologies based on incomplete evidence. I’m not saying that healthy, fit people don’t get hurt running barefoot or by participating in high intensity exercise. However, just because someone gets hurt we can’t assume it’s because the program or design is flawed.
LOOK AT THE CONTEXT
We need a larger context, and we must read the scripture above and below the blanket statement that is falsely accusing certain ideals. For the record, I am not affiliated with Crossfit and to call myself a runner is laughable; I don’t have a dog in this fight. I am just slightly annoyed when I hear people make exaggerated claims on the dangers of certain programs when they don’t have all of the evidence to support such opinions.
People in third world countries sit all day in a deep squat position. All day long. What would happen if an average American who has terrible ankle, knee, and hip mobility sat in a deep squat position as he ate dinner? He probably wouldn’t be able to function the next day and would call in sick.
Does this mean that deep squatting is bad? Some people believe squats are terrible, and they likely are for certain populations. They aren’t terrible for the adapted tribesman in Afghanistan who has never had the disposable income to buy a chair and has sat in a squat his entire life because his survival has dictated so.
The point is that you must use basic wisdom when choosing an exercise program. Are minimalist shoes for everyone? I don’t know, but running barefoot or minimally clad is biomechanically correct.
But the American way goes something like the following. “Gee, I heard minimalist running is cool and hip.”
Moderation and easing into things isn’t the way this guy operates though. That is so “non-American.” This cool guy who has ran 70 miles per week his entire adult life buys a pair of minimalist shoes. He immediately continues his 70 mile weeks and blames the shoes when he sustains a stress fracture. He has paid no respect to adjusting his mileage, stride technique, terrain and speed.
As the old adage goes, “It’s the Indian not the arrow” thing going on most of the time. Stay safe out there!
Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at r2hp.com or 970-401-0720.