Keith Uhlig: Running against the minimalist grain - Trendy new workout theories don't fit everybody (column)

Trendy new workout theories don't fit everybody

1:13 AM, Jul. 11, 2013  |  Comments
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There's a minimalist trend running through the fitness community.

Like a streaker across campus, it's exciting, titillating and compelling. But it's almost completely wrong for me.

The first minimalist fad was the running shoe thing. It's based on the theory that it's unnatural for a human being to run with these clumpy pieces of spongy rubber on our feet, and that modern running shoes actually promote a running style that is harmful to feet and legs. You get rid of the high-end shoes, get rid of them altogether or use something with the support of slippers, and your legs will respond by getting stronger and faster.

This theory appealed greatly to me, and I worked hard to adopt a running style - it involves landing on the middle of the foot, rather than the heel - that is closely associated with the idea. Perhaps I did it wrong, doing too much, too soon, a rash hallmark of my athletic career. But I ended up with an Achilles tendon injury that lasted at least 18 months. I went back to my old heel-strike fallback running form and felt instant relief. Now I am running with the old-fashioned cushioned running shoes, landing squarely on my heel and rolling forward, and am nearly pain free. My goodness, that feels tremendous.

Another minimalist trend involves strength-training concepts, using body weight instead of barbells and dumbells. Because I haven't fully adopted a strength-training regime into my routine, I can't say I've embraced this, either. I just would rather be outside riding a bike, running along the river or doing just about anything that moves me from place to place.

I do need to do some strength training, however. I'm getting to that age, you know, the half-century mark, where muscle degrades and if you want to continue to do the things you love to do, you'd better strengthen up. But I certainly don't want to spend $30 for a DVD that has me doing the equivalent of the push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups that my gym teacher Mr. Gunderson taught me in elementary school.

The latest minimalist workouts I've been reading about are either fast and furious or slow and placid.

One is the fast, intense workout. For runners, this means short periods of fast sprinting. The idea is to get the most benefit from exercise in the shortest amount of time. One example I've read about was a workout that consisted of 10 one-minute sprints with 10 one-minute jogs between. The 20 minutes gives you the benefit of a regular hour run, or something along those lines.

The other trend is to go very easy but very long. This means standing while working or walking on a treadmill while going about your business.

I believe that either of these kinds of workouts can be effective. But they aren't right for me. My favorite workout is a run that lasts about an hour and is of moderate effort. It might not be the most effective or efficient, but it makes me feel good. And isn't that why we exercise in the first place? It should be.

What I'm really hoping for is a "moderate-ist" trend in fitness to come along. Like Goldilocks, I think I would find that "just right."

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