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The exercise “recovery” industry is largely bogus (vox.com)
41 points by pseudolus 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

Two important factors not mentioned in the section "So what actually works...?", but potentially in the book (I didn't read it), are getting adequate sleep and alternating vigorous activity with rest (or slow exercise like walking). Many elite athletes sleep at least 9 hours per night.

As a former crossfitter, I never understood how people could show up for a 5:30 or 6:30 AM session 5 or 6 days a week. My hsCRP levels were quite elevated at the time even with my rule to sleep twice between workouts. For example, I could do a Tuesday night session and a Thursday morning session, but nothing on Wednesday.

Perhaps those daily crossfitters had such a low-stress lifestyle outside of the gym? Based on their personalities and stories of only sleeping 4-6 hours, I think not. I think they just had a "power through it" attitude, but that doesn't seem like a good solution for the long run.

"Perhaps those daily crossfitters had such a low-stress lifestyle outside of the gym? Based on their personalities and stories of only sleeping 4-6 hours, I think not. I think they just had a "power through it" attitude, but that doesn't seem like a good solution for the long run. "

When I trained much more I knew some of these types and most of them took a lot of painkillers and other drugs plus lived on caffeine or stronger stimulants. Daily hard training takes a toll on most people.

In a sufficiently large population you can find individuals who will thrive under any given training regimen. In weightlifting the Russians would find those who did best under Russian methodologies; the Bulgarians would find those who did best under Bulgarian methodologies and so on.

And speaking of the heyday of Russian and Bulgarian supremacy, Crossfit doesn't submit to WADA jurisdiction and the non-competitors don't even get tested by Crossfit.

I attend crossfit daily for months, though distractions in my life will disrupt it for periods (like partying) and I have to get back into it. It takes 2-3 weeks to build up to daily practice from nothing depending on the hiatus. But there's a point where the daily soreness just goes away and I hit some equilibrium between body and training intensity.

It's a matter of finding a sustainable level of intensity. Daily crossfitters have more in common with daily 5km or 10km joggers.

One thing I never do though is the one-rep max.

It's doable, but I'd strive for at least 7 hours of sleep. I try to get 8 or 9, but so far that's been impossible, even with the time commitment; my mind rejects not having any free time, which is off the table if you work, live a fitness lifestyle, and sleep those hours. Exercise to me, is irrelevant and didn't factor into my sleep schedule (probably should, but doesn't). It's more about what I need in general. As you said, fit crazed people just push through, cause it's the only way to get everything they want.

Sleep is awesome, yes. I don't quite get how people like Jocko Willink (https://twitter.com/jockowillink) function... but at least for me, the hours I sleep are rarely the limiting factor regarding how much I get done, but rather how I use the hours I'm awake.

Jocko almost certainly has certain genetic mutations that allow him to get by on much less sleep. These mutations have been identified for a while now[1], but they also seem to result in a vulnerability to degenerative mental conditions later in life. It is not clear if it is a direct result of the mutations, the decreased amount of sleep interfering with other processes, or something else.


1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/genetic-mutation-...

I'd advise you to listen to Cant Hurt Me by David Goggins. Lots of people, me included, explain away uncommon behavior with science but we are all capable of lots more than we think. The problem is we see others do incredible things and think we cant achieve something similar so we assume they're something fundamentally different from us.

While what you said is true, I think you will see that vigorous exercise plays a vital role in regulating body function and may allow him to sleep less.

Some people just happened to hit the genetic lottery.

I find if I've over trained I can't sleep overnight whether aerobic or weights, but if I run a long way I need to sleep immediately afterwards. I think everyone is different, there's no one size fits all

Hard to trust fully. Hiking, I have found if I go too long without drinking I hit a wall where suddenly everything is twice as hard; I don't die but in a matter of minutes I go from "what a great day" to "how am I ever going to do this". Then I drink water, and I feel better. Thirst really hasn't been a great indicator, and I've had to settle on drinking a measured 16oz every hour, depending on conditions & exertion.

Right, but I don't think that's really indicative of the "exercise recovery" industry. Bottled water, of course, is an industry, but I don't know of a company that's specifically trying to sell water for exercise recovery. It's just water, it's fairly well known that humans need that, especially when exercising.

I guess it's this part I'm reacting to more than anything:

“We’re taught we can’t trust our bodies and that it’s not enough to listen to your thirst.” But it turns out thirst is a great indicator of dehydration.

“You really can use [thirst] to know whether it’s time to drink or not,” she said.

You'll get thirsty before you are dead. But for me I hit the wall before I really feel thirsty. Nobody describes feeling insatiably hungry and following their hunger as a strategy to avoid bonking- they manage their exertion and monitor their carb intake. For me & water, it is the same.

Perhaps there is some nuance here- perhaps, like with food, your body suppresses the drive to drink during endurance sports. But maybe when you sit on the bench after a play, you do reliably feel thirsty when you need it.

There's a product in the US that was initially marketed as "Propel Fitness Water".


The article does explicitly call out "exercising for more than an hour" as something different.

That comment in the article was specifically about the simple carb (sugar) content of sports drinks, which is indeed silly for non-endurance use, but something of a separate question.

It's not just recovery. Apart from the most basic equipment, the entire exercise industry is bursting at the seams with bullshit. It's not really limited to industry, even; exercise culture embraces all kinds of myths, from traditionalist "everybody knows" prescriptions (with many of those being in conflict) to galaxy-brain contrarianism to "broscience", and you can find products and services that cater to almost all of those myths. It's not shocking that stuff like cupping and cryotherapy thrives in that environment.

Health and fitness are definitely the biggest bullshit magnets, probably because they're universal human issues with few easy answers.

I was in the training industry as a coach/trainer before going full time developer. One reason I went into software instead was because of all the bs, guess what, it's even more bs in the software industry. You should use these tools, these programming languages are the best, you should follow these style guides, chasing the next big thing, sound familiar ? :P At least with exercise there are a lot of scientific studies, but in software there are mostly gurus, hype, cool-aid and strong beliefs, and plenty of money to be made by smooth talk and snake oil. Just like in software , the experienced developers do not buy the bs, just like the experienced coaches/athletes. It's people who buy software, or are new to training that fall for it.

Yup, one of my favorite recent ones is machine hatred. I understand that experience has called into question certain machines, but so much of it seems to be based on nothing at all. As you said "everybody knows". eg. Everybody knows that if you ever use the smith machine, your entire body will instantly be destroyed. We just know this.

The argument against using machines is pretty well defined. There’s no mystery here: machines limit the use of stabilizer muscles in compound lifts so they become under developed. Depending on your body type and the exercise they also limit your full range of motion.

Very specific machines are great for isolation work. The leg press, for example, is used by a lot of trainers to target quads in isolation vs. attempting to address that imbalance with squats which introduces the back and hamstring.

> There’s never been a case of a runner dying of dehydration on a marathon course

I don't think this is true, unless the claim is 'on a marathon course' so they can discount dying later in the hospital. Still, it's not common.


There is an adverse cardiac event for one in every ~50,000 runners of a marathon. Complications of a heart attack may include death.

This point was mentioned by the health director of the NYC marathon, an MD responsible for an event which sees ~50,000 runners participating each year.

I agree that the sports industry is trying to sell tons of unnecessary stuff. But only because there is not (yet) any scientific evidence doesn't mean that something doesn't work.

Sports academia has a long history of false findings and changing its mind. Just look at how the opinion about stretching changed, which in my humble opinion should be rather easy to assess.

Given this uncertainty I'd look both at academia and at what top athletes do. Keeping in mind that the top athletes have very different circumstances and needs compared to amateurs.

> Just look at how the opinion about stretching changed

What happened with stretching? Did we formerly not like stretching, or did we formerly like it but no longer?

Stretching went from dynamic stretching (bouncing) to static, and then back to dynamic - with phases of not stretching at all. There were even books about how stretching was considered dangerous or harmful.

> "True recovery requires nurturing a recovery mindset,” she writes, “one that fully honors the body’s need to recuperate and senses when it’s time to chill."

...and there's the proposed next bogus pseudoscientific fad for recovery.

> One of the most fascinating findings in Good to Go is that soreness or injury from exercise can be exacerbated by psychological stress. “The psychological component of recovery is underappreciated among athletes,” Aschwanden said, pointing to studies of college football players who had a higher risk of injury during stressful periods of the academic calendar.

active warmup, static cool down, focused stretching on risk areas (tendons) maybe a foam roller on the old IT band, and a trip to the sauna if i have time.

seems to work fine.

cupping seems like obvious woo, for sure.

In my experience, cupping is able to pull muscles in ways that bending your body cannot. I never cared about the claims of detoxification, but the ability to effectively grab hold of a muscle and pull it is what I found helpful from my few experiences with cupping.

So you're saying it's basically a massage?

I guess it depends on how you define massage. Short of cutting a person open, I can’t imagine another way to pull on the muscle except through vacuum pressure.

My PT guy said they're apparently finding real effects for cupping. I don't remember the details, but the outline was that cupping is controlled bruising, and your body reacts to bruising by going into "fix-it mode" (that's the technical medical term) in that area, and that can help speed recovery from other injuries in that area.

So it's not "detoxification", but rather stimulating healing functions.

This was a two-minute conversation, so...

Generally inflammation is a bad thing. Interesting to see the long term science on this, if it’s ever done.

Inflammation isn't bad per se. It's a component of many disorders, but it's also a normal and necessary biological process.

Chronic inflammation is bad. Temporal inflammation is usually good.

How do you know if it actually work or just placebo?

I don't really do warmup or cooldown because they're a waste of time when I have to do cardio for ~20 minutes and one hour for weightlifting.

Ime, I used to run occasionally and never warmed up, but once I started running more seriously (5-6x a week, interval/long runs, ~20 miles a week) injuries popped up right and left (knees, hamstring, shin splints). Warming up improves range of motion and flexibility, and I run with much better form. Cooling down I dont do as much, but I do focus in muscles that feel tight. Tight muscles tend to have poor flexibility and can lead to injury and poor performance.

well, i don’t have to go to PT when i warmup and stretch.

i’ve previously run into tendon and joint issues from not taking care of myself afterwards.

i think that regular core exercise is a broad-spectrum anti-injury treatment...but it doesn’t protect against ITBS, and my jacked up shoulder complains when i don’t do my normal PT warmups for it.

at this point it’s so fully part of The Gym Ritual that it’s automatic anyway.

the sauna is mostly a psychological luxury, but that’s important too.

Stretching and foam rolling have no recovery benefits and don't prevent injury, according to meta-analysis of the studies of them.

But, they probably also won't hurt you (possible exception for static stretching before exercising).

They feel nice, anyway. And it's part of The Ritual.

A practice doesn't need to be "scientific" to be effective. If a practice is effective you should probably be able to figure out why it's effective given some effort (half-assed explanations are often pseudoscientific), but not having an a priori theory is no barrier to efficacy.

Maybe, the guy is just trying to sell the book by creating a controversy

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