Here’s All the Exercise Advice That Requires No Exercise

Illustration by Carly Jean Andrews

After all, working out can kill you

As a native son of L.A., I have a complicated relationship with exercise. Growing up in a city notorious for its driving culture, I, like most of my fellow purebreds, prefer to drive as little as one block rather than to walk the same distance. On the other hand, everyone here looks like they’ve just left the gym — a sort of citywide form of peer pressure to be in the best possible shape at all times.

So when I come across a study or article that tells me do less with my body, I can’t help but grin like a comic-book villain. And believe it or not, there are a lot of these kinds of studies out there. More than you would ever think, actually. Here are my six favorites:

1. Last week, TheNew York Times published an article that explained “Why You Shouldn’t Walk on Escalators.” Though walking on an escalator hardly counts as exercise, the author’s insistence on not even doing that made laziness endorphins flood my body. In an experiment done in 2015 at New York City’s Penn Station during the morning rush, researchers found that standing on both sides of an escalator reduced congestion by about 30 percent. Better yet, the “time in system” — or how long it took to stand in line to reach an escalator and then ride it — dropped sharply when everyone stood (not walked), according to a blog post by the researchers.

2. In 2015, Forbes published a piece that detailed the injury risks associated with high-intensity weights and nonstop pace workouts such as CrossFit. This makes sense considering that CrossFit’s founder, Greg Glassman, was quoted in a 2005 New York Times story as admitting “it can kill you.” At Vox, Julia Belluz cited several studies that “have revealed alarming trauma rates” among CrossFit athletes. “Of the 132 people who responded to the survey, 97 (or nearly three-quarters) reported getting hurt during CrossFit training, and most injuries involved the shoulders and spine. These respondents reported a total of 186 injuries; nine led to surgeries.” The obvious answer to these problems: Don’t do CrossFit.

3. Also in 2015, the Times covered a study that suggested frequent exercise causes “profound changes in cardiac physiology and structure.” These changes can mimic heart damage, with cardiac cells often becoming “leaky” after strenuous workouts or events, releasing proteins into the bloodstream that, in other circumstances, could indicate a heart attack. Again, my takeaway: No exercise = no heart attack.

4. In 2011, British researchers set out to study the heart health of a group of fit older athletes. The results, published a few weeks ago in The Journal of Applied Physiology, were rather disquieting. None of the younger athletes (or better still, the older nonathletes) had fibrosis in their hearts. But half of the older lifelong athletes showed some heart muscle scarring. The affected men were, in each case, those who’d trained the longest and hardest. In other words: Spending years exercising strenuously or completing more marathons was associated with a greater likelihood of heart damage…



Why So Many Athletes Have Such Terrible Diets

by John McDermott

In 2013, NBA big man Dwight Howard developed a rare nerve disorder called dysesthesia while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. He had tingling in his extremities and was losing motor function, to the point he had difficulty catching passes.

Dysesthesia is common among prediabetics — not men who make a living physically exerting themselves. But Lakers nutritionist Cate Shanahan knew Howard had a “legendary sweet tooth,” and suspected his tingling was due to his sugar intake. Sure enough, Howard revealed to her he had been consuming an unthinkable amount of sugar. According to ESPN:

“Howard had been scarfing down about two dozen chocolate bars’ worth of sugar every single day for years, possibly as long as a decade. “You name it, he ate it,” she says. Skittles, Starbursts, Rolos, Snickers, Mars bars, Twizzlers, Almond Joys, Kit Kats and oh, how he loved Reese’s Pieces.”

Not even the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Howard could metabolize all those carbohydrates and all that fat.

Howard will likely be remembered as a good player who never achieved his physical potential. Made of nothing but lean, fast-twitch muscle, he is one of the most impressive physical specimens to ever play in the NBA. But he’s averaged less than 20 points per game over his career, and critics will always wonder how much better he might have been had he maintained a healthy diet during his prime.

Dwight Howard

Perhaps the most remarkable (or disturbing) part about the Howard story is that it’s not all that uncommon within the realm of men’s professional sports. There are a startling number of high-profile NBA and NFL players who’ve kept objectively terrible diets during their playing days, including:

  • Kwame Brown: Like Howard, Brown was a highly touted prospect who jumped to the NBA right out of high school. He’s also one of the biggest disappointments in NBA history, recording only one double-digit scoring season in his 13 in the league. That may have been due in part to his dreadful diet. Brown ate Popeye’s fried chicken for every meal, even breakfast, when he entered the league.
  • Caron Butler: Butler admitted he was “addicted” to Mountain Dew for much of his 14 years in the NBA, drinking two liters of the stuff a day.
  • Lamar Odom: Long before he was a bit player in the Kardashian universe, Odom was a professional basketball player with a serious candy habit. He ate candy for breakfast before games, saying it helped fuel his performance on the court. Specifically, he ate Twizzler bites, Gummy bears, peach rings and Hershey’s white-chocolate cookies-and-cream bars (his favorite).
  • Derrick Rose: Back when he was an MVP point guard for the Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose admitted to regularly eating McDonald’s, potato chips and, of course, lots of candy. He kept a Skittles vending machine in his home. “Everybody’s got their poison, and mine is sugar,” Rose told ESPN in 2010



Everything That’s Ever Been Said About Boning Before Sporting Events

by Andrew Fiouzi

1. The idea that celibacy breeds maximum athletic performance dates back to 444 B.C., when Plato, of all people, opined, “Olympic competitors before races should avoid sexual intimacy.” A few centuries later, Aretaeus of Cappadocia, a celebrated Greek physician, gave Plato’s thinking a little more color: “If any man is in possession of semen, he is fierce, courageous and physically mighty, like beasts.”

2. The most detailed explanation, though, can be found in Philostratus’ Gymnasticus, the oldest text on sports known to man: “Those who come to the gymnasium straight after sex are exposed by a greater number of indicators when they train, for their strength is diminished and they are short of breath and lack daring in their attacks, and they fade in colour in response to exertion. … And when they strip, their hollow collar-bones give them away, their poorly structured hips, the conspicuous outline of their ribs, and the coldness of their blood. These athletes, even if we dedicated ourselves to them, would have no chance of being crowned in any contest. The part beneath the eyes is weak, the beating of their hearts is weak, their perspiration is weak, their sleep, which controls digestion, is weak, and their eyes glance around in a wandering fashion and indicate an appearance of lustfulness.”

3. Perhaps that’s why Cleitomachus, a star pankratiast (sort of an ancient form of MMA that was a big event during the earliest Greek Olympics), is said to have never slept with his wife, and would avert his gaze when he saw two dogs mating.

4. To ensure that a male athlete’s seed was never spilled — intentionally or otherwise — Galen, another prominent Greek doctor, recommended the following around the 2nd century, “A flattened lead plate is an object to be placed under the muscles of the loins of an athlete in training, chilling them whenever they might have nocturnal emissions of semen.”

5. That said, not everyone thought a little pre-game bacchanal was the mark of a loser. In fact, in 77 A.D., Pliny the Elder, author, philosopher and inspiration for a delicious beer, as well as a naval and army commander of the Roman Empire, argued directly against Plato and everyone else above when he wrote, “Athletes when sluggish are revitalized by lovemaking.”

6. Despite the passage of about 2,000 years, our thinking on the topic has not gotten any clearer. And the methods some athletes have gone to suppress their libidos are no less barbaric than sticking lead plates down their pants. For instance, Antonio Miguel, head of medical services at the Club Universidad Nacional Pumas, one of the top soccer teams in Mexico, has said, “At the end of the 1950s and beginning of the 1960s, people thought that sex diminished the players’ performance. Coaches gave us nitrate salts (potassium nitrate, a substance used to prevent erections) because, according to them, this would inhibit the sexual desire.”

7. With or without nitrate salts, Muhammad Ali, according to several reports, abstained from having sex for six weeks before a fight.

8. After all, WOMEN WEAKEN LEGS:

9. All of which seems backward, since a 1968 study, “Muscular Performance Following Coitus,” found that men who hadn’t had sex for six days did no better on a strength test than men who’d had sex the previous night.

10. Same for a 2000 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness involving 15 high-level athletes between the ages of 20 and 40 who participated in a two-day experiment. Its conclusion? Sexual activity had no significant overall effect on how the athletes performed during exercise and mental tests.

11. In fact, Emmanuele A. Jannini of the University of L’Aquila in Italy has found that sex stimulates the production of testosterone. “After three months without sex, which is not so uncommon for some athletes, testosterone dramatically drops to levels close to children’s levels,” he told National Geographic.

12. Of course, Joe Namath didn’t need Jannini to tell him that. “I try to [have sex the night before a game],” he explained in his 1969 Playboy Interview. “Before one game last year, I just sat home by myself and watched television, drank a little tequila to relax and went to sleep fairly early. But most of the nights before games, I’ll be with a girl. One of the Jets’ team doctors, in fact, told me that it’s a good idea to have sexual relations before a game, because it gets rid of the kind of nervous tension an athlete doesn’t need.”…



Do Compression Socks, Sleeves, and Wraps Help You Work Out Better?

Basketball players, runners, weight lifters, and everyday gym-goers are always looking for an extra edge, and they think compression gear might be just the thing. By squeezing yourself into these stretchy garments, you supposedly increase blood flow, which in theory, means more oxygen to working muscles and a better workout.

Compression gear comes in all kinds: high-knee socks, elbows sleeves, long pants, knee wraps, and tops. These tight-fitting clothes are usually made from a blend of spandex and nylon to hug the hell out of your arms, legs, or torso, without constricting your movement. Compression leggings and socks are popular among triathletes and long-distance runners, for example, and Asics ads for their products feature optimistic claims: Compression gear helps you run farther and recover faster “because you’ll be removing lactic acid quicker, reducing soreness in muscles.” Those are some pretty fancy pants, to be sure, but it’s a bit hyperbolic.

What Compression Gear Can and Can’t Do

Compression gear does increase your circulation, that much is true. It can raise your core temperature, for example, but whether that’s significant enough to help you break records or perform better than you would without it is less clear. According to an analysis of the current literature published this year in Sports Medicine, compression gear has overall trivial benefits on variables that are related to running performance, like your running economy (how efficiently you run), stride length, number of steps, and other mechanics. The authors note the benefits might be more psychological than anything: you feel less fatigued than you actually are and can slog on a little longer because you’re more aware of your body’s relation in space. With that, you’re able to move more efficiently, and that makes workouts feel less tiring.

On the other hand, competitive weightlifters swear by knee wraps (different from knee sleeves), which are elastic garments that you wrap tightly around your knees to protect them during heavy squats. A study in Journal of Strength and Conditioning observed that knee wraps actually do help the wearer lift about 10% more weight, but they do so by changing the way you squat. In other words, these are helpful for powerlifting competitions and little else. 

So it seems it depends on the compression gear and the activity you’re doing. In sports with explosive type movements, like intense sprints and vertical jumps, wearing compression gear offers minor improvements, as this study review in the International Journal of Sports Physiological Performance found. But the study also doesn’t rule out the undeniably strong influence of the placebo effect. I remember wearing compression leggings for my half marathon race because I believed they’d help me finish strong—and lo and behold, the pants really did run all 13.1 miles! (Seriously, I did finish my all-time best.)

When Compression Gear Actually Does Help

Compression gear has actually been used for medical conditions like lower leg blood clotting, diabetes-related edema, and other circulatory issues for years. They’re a viable and helpful option in place of blood thinning drugs and other more invasive forms of treatment. They’re also great for helping keep injured joints warm and providing some support to them.

Most compression gear manufacturers like the popular 2XU like to emphasize the recovery benefits. They “reduce muscle soreness,” the product pages say. And well, there’s some truth to that.

According to a review of the research in British Journal of Sports Medicine, wearing compression gear after intense exercise or competition can help speed up recovery, and at least, reduce your perception of overly sore muscles. One study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research observed better recovery in rugby players who wore the leggings for 24 hours straight after exercise, which is to suggest that if you’re focused on recovery you should try wearing your compression gear for lengthy periods (like a couple of hours at least) after exercise. We’re not sure exactly why the gear helps with recovery. One simplified version of a theory is that their compressive nature reduces the space available for inflammation and swelling…



Stop Pretending You’re Surprised Football Fans Are Racist

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Posted By: Dr. Bones

(From my weekly column at Greed: “No Quarter”)

(GREED) – Football is perhaps the most American sport ever devised. Born from the angst-encrusted days of post-WW2, it caught on quickly with the thoroughly prussianized populace. The entire game is a big metaphor for our own military success: soldiers from some far off corner aggressively fighting their way to the “end zone” of some foreign power, all the while keeping our own “safety” through rigorous attack. Fans can remember certain seasons as if they themselves had fought them, tribal identification with each team’s totemic figure so deep as to inspire tattoos and fierce, often riotous rivalries.

So why is anybody surprised that a sport so reflective of American values is also home to anti-black attitudes?

Just recently Robert Klemko of posted photos of shirts being sold to fans outside of  Ralph Wilson stadium during Quarterback Colin Kaepernick‘s first start in nearly a year, highlighting the tact and maturity football fans are known for.

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Shirts with a rifle scope trained on Colin Kaepernick selling for $10 outside of Ralph Wilson stadium.

This is but a small piece of the virulent hate and bigotry that was freely on display, Bills fans going as far as cheering each other on to “tackle the Muslim” as they rushed a dummy fitted with a Kapernick jersey and afro under a proudly waving American flag.

Bills fans scream “tackle the Muslim”, then a young lady obliges.

Remember: all this over kneeling during a song to protest the literal thousands of black lives being snuffed out by police hands. “Jesus Christ,” I blurted aloud when I first watched the above video, “those people sound like blood-hungry apes!” Yes, those screams are what really did me in, because I knew down in my stomach what they were: the same pitch and intensity that terrified Black Americans knew meant a lynching wasn’t far away. White or black, everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line knows exactly what those cries for violence mean, what those t-shirts really say. Horrifying as it is, such behavior should come as no surprise to anyone.

Violence and mayhem are part and parcel to the entire American experiment, the song Kapernick refusing to honor gleefuly recounting how nothing “could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”

This long-standing history of racial injustice has stretched right into the NFL itself, where white first time coaches are hired at a 21-to-1 ratio over black ones in a sport where 68% of the players were black. So what if 1 in 3 players got banged up and ended up mentally handicap? They were rich, right? Wasn’t that all that mattered?

Kapernick’s protest has brought attention to the flagrant abuses and misdeeds permeating the country and NFL fans are pissed at HIM for ruining the fun. They don’t want to acknowledge the widespread and systematic brutality Black folks have had to suffer under the same flag they view as god’s gift to Earth, because to do so would cause them to begin to question everything they believe about the world and their lives. Far easier for your average inbred caught drunk on a Sunday morning to scream and make vague threats of violence, and lo-and-behold that’s exactly what we’ve seen.

Good God, why the hell do you think we all have guns down here? When I heard Trump was going to be holding a rally in my hometown I made it very clear to as many people as possible I was armed and would not hesitate to kill any would-be Klansman that might feel empowered. The neighbors don’t visit as often, but I can’t say the Klan does either…



Your Religion Might As Well Be Football


Something about spending my 9/11 obsessively watching football  made me think it might be a good time to re-air this piece (which originally appeared on the site on 9/12/2013). There’s some additional commentary at the end about my psychic sports predictions for the heads. Enjoy:  

Ahhh Football season. The crisp feel of fall winds and the sound of drunkenness in the afternoon. There is absolutely nothing more distinctly and disturbingly American than football culture. So, you get a bunch of dudes who may or may not drink very often incredibly drunk in the middle of the afternoon. If their team wins, they get increasingly wasted and elated. If they lose they get dangerously sauced and pissed off. Yeah, that’s gonna end well for the kids.

Don’t fool yourself. Football (or any sport for that matter) wouldn’t exist in its insanely bloated capacity if weed and hallucinogens weren’t outlawed back in the day. People would probably be more into fucking and playing the electro delay sitar. Maybe there’d be porno sitar players. I don’t know. What I do know is that alcohol is legal and because of that, football culture is fucking PERFECT. You work a dumbshit job all day but hell, it’s all worth it because on the weekend you get to throw back drink after drink and yell at people who could kick the living crap out of you. There’s a reason half the ads during football games involve booze. The most hilarious part is where they imply that downing cheap beer and watching football is going to get you pussy. Riiiiiight.

Did I mention I watch football like a crackhead? Yeah, probably should get that out of the way. Half the shit I write is making fun of me when you get down to it. So why is it that I find myself getting suddenly obsessive about other dudes calculatingly beating the shit out of each other every fall and winter? I guess because of my childhood, but there’s more to it than that. Christ, I only played like one year of organized ball before I realized I hated getting yelled at like a drill sergeant. Oh, and it fucking hurt. Fun when you’re young, but you start getting bigger and damn is it painful. With all the new information coming out about just how dangerous it actually is, this particular addiction should be getting harder and harder to justify to myself, but I’m more hooked than ever. Why? Why Man? What the fuck is wrong with me? I’d say the answer has a lot to do with it being one of the few things I have in common with people. Believe it or not, writing about telepathically summoning discarnate entities through sex magick (which I do on Facebook continually, like my page) isn’t a super crowded world at this point. I know right? I spend most of my time feeling like I exist in a dimension I don’t remotely jibe with and watching sports grounds me. Hell, I’ve even been known to go running for the remote to throw on Sportscenter at the end of an extended acid trip. Stuff brings me down to earth easy, reconnects me to the boring world of other people.

I like their football at least, but why is it that sporting events make so much goddamn money? In middle America a college football game can regularly draw a bigger crowd than basically anything. It’s totally insane. A reunited Led Zeppelin with an undead zombie John Bonham opening for Pink Floyd couldn’t continually bring in 100,000 fans every week. Church? Yeah, good luck with that. So, why are we so addicted to this shit? What is it about the allure of finite rules and collective yelling that compels us to give people money? The main reason I bring this all up is because of a study that was conducted at the University of Washington that went viral a year back. We re-blogged an article about it, but I never got to comment, so here are a few choice tidbits to refresh your memory from the UW website:

“More than half of all American churchgoers now attend the largest 10 percent of churches.”

Those would be churches with more than 2,000 congregants, think about how fucked that is for a minute, then continue.

“(T)he Holy Spirit goes through the crowd like a football team doing the wave. … Never seen it in any other church.”

And then this priceless quote from the study’s author, professor James Wellman.

“How are you going to dominate the market? You give them a generic form of Christianity that’s upbeat, exciting and uplifting.”

How you can be a Christian and selectively edit out the passage about the money changers in the temple is beyond me (sort of what got Jesus killed right?), but Wellman’s research essentially confirmed what I’d already known. I’ve joked about it for years. Having an interest in spirituality, I’ve tried to watch evangelical sermons on occasion and I don’t get it at all. They’re not actually saying anything, but they’re saying it all over-the-top-emo style (sort of like Obama). It’s like how you talk to a dog. The words are largely irrelevant, you just intone the meaning exaggeratedly. With some of the sermons I’ve watched, I actually try and summarize the whole thing to myself after the fact and I don’t have anything to work with. It’s like sand through my fingers. Boring, boring, sand. The whole charade’s designed to provide the same sense of collective profitable release that you can get from a football game (also on Sunday mornings), but let’s face it, way more people give a shit about football…




The Uncanny Symbiosis of Modern Religion and Sports

Photograph by Cadaverexquisito / Wikicommons

There is a church in Argentina called Iglesia Maradona. In this church, God is football—soccer—and its prophet is the renowned player Diego Armando Maradona. Founded in 1998, the year after the star’s retirement, the Church of Iglesia Maradona now has some 120,000 members worldwide, who bear its insignia D10S—a portmanteau of Dios, the Spanish word for God, and Maradona’s shirt number, 10. Members congregate in sports bars; transubstantiation occurs not to wine and wafer, but to beer and pizza. They even have their own version of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Diego, who art on the pitches, hallowed be thy left hand,” alluding to Maradona’s controversial “hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup.

It all sounds a bit absurd, but at least some of the church’s founders and followers appear to be serious. Co-founder Hernán Amez told The Argentina Independent in 2008, “It’s not just a bit of fun—it’s a religion. Religion is about feelings, and we feel football.” He is right, psychologically speaking. The power of religion, sociologist Émile Durkheim wrote, stems from its ability to unite two of our deepest yearnings—the universality of God and the cultural specificity of a clan—through totems and rituals. The specific beliefs of a religion do not matter so much as its ability to meet these emotional and social needs. In other words: deed then creed. Given this, Iglesia Maradona doesn’t seem so strange. After all, 90 percent of Argentinians declare allegiance to a soccer team. In many ways, the devotion to soccer in Argentina resembled a religion already.

While it may be common to think that ancient sporting rituals were performed in the service of religion, this modern example, and others, suggest it can just as easily go the other way: Religion adapts itself to sport. Take the United States, where football (American football) and Christianity are closely linked. Football counts 63 percent of Americans as fans, more than any other sport in the country—and 33 percent of them believe God intervenes in football games. As Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote in 2014, “The relationship between sports and religion in America has always been close, and it has often been awkward.”

Some might argue that this awkward closeness can be seen in the development of megachurches, defined as churches that have 2,000 or more in weekend attendance—they’re often modeled after sports stadiums. Crenshaw Christian Center, perhaps the largest such structure in the U.S., can pack 10,400 churchgoers into its 360-degree stadium seating. Critics of megachurches argue that their large size discourages nuanced discussions of social justice issues and the formation of intimate communities. What they do encourage, though, is group-feel. Sociologist Katie Corcoran has likenedsitting in megachurch to standing in the crush of a packed stadium: Both allow the self to melt away.

“What has Jesus done that Maradona hasn’t?”

Recognizing this potential for self-transcendence, megachurches are now seeking to wield sports’ power for their own ends. In 2005, theologian Matthew Brian White examined the 100 largest megachurches to see how they used sports to win over followers, a practice known as “sports evangelism.” In addition to distributing pamphlets and videos at major sporting events, megachurches have created their own sports associations, such as Upward Basketball, which integrates religious practices into pre-game rituals and play…


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