By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training, Tucson, Arizona
October 1, 2015
I used to love this crazy ass television show called Ripley’s Believe It or Not. When the show first started, the venerable Jack Palance was the main man hosting the show. He had a candor within his voice and an image which was so perfect for the idea behind a show that praises oddities and weird diseases. Much of the content was from Southeast Asia and India, where some of the weirdest habits and the strangest diseases would crop up. There was one episode where there was this guy from Vietnam who could withstand eating hot grease, and I mean the kind of grease you would use to deep fry fish or fries at your local fast food joint. He would just drink it straight out of the hot pan he and his friends were boiling the stuff in. Apparently, this was something that made him cool within his circle of buddies, because he was apparently the guy that got hit with the “ugly stick” a few hundred times, and clearly needed a schtick that would gain him a little popularity and notoriety with his normal looking friends (or maybe the grease eating caused his weird face?). I found the origin of his habit quite strange, when his village first started deep frying their fish and he would grab the fish out of the hot pan and eat it right away. I can’t remember why he decided to drink straight hot grease. Maybe he wanted to have the weirdest super power ever! (which eventually this kind of behavior became a show hosted by Stan Lee!) Oh, and did I mention the same guy from Vietnam also ate glass as a side hobby? Of course he would! Another weird moment was about this guy in Indonesia who had a strange disease where his body had tree bark growing. He was literally Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, only he was in an excruciating amount of pain and couldn’t do anything on his own due to the fact he could barely move. It took years to figure it out, but it was some kind of infection that allowed bark to grow from all parts of his body. Of course, it took about 20 operations to remove all the bark and he lost all his fingers and toes, but I think that would be a good trade off. So the next time you complain about waiting at the emergency room for too long, just remember it could be worse! Living more than a decade as a tree must be pretty hard.
Of course, the show lost a lot of its luster when Dean Cain became the host in the revival version of the show in the 90s. Sure, he was good at hosting it and had the chops to do it, but the guy was just too good looking! We’re supposed to be intrigued by the stories, not the host. It was a weird casting change much in the vein of Unsolved Mysteries. You remember that show, right? Robert Stack had the voice, the menacing stare and the delivery to make that show amazing. His voiceovers during the UFO sighting mysteries made you think you were going to be abducted that night. Then the show went into a weird syndication spin, using all of the original stories from the main series and repackaging them with glitzy graphics and Dennis Farina. Ugh, if there was terrible casting choice that was it. Thankfully it ruined Farina’s career and he deserved to be ruined! Who would have agreed to such a terrible concept? Anyway, back to the weirdness. All of this has a point, trust me. Anyway, in the revival series of Believe it or Not, there was one intriguing story I remember that just made me want to say “What the hell is wrong with this person!!?” No, I’m not talking about the guy that would swallow 10,000 nuts and bolts or the woman who could contort her body into ways that seem impossible. I’m talking about a man that said he hadn’t sat down in about 15 years. Think about it for a second….every waking moment of your life you are standing. Work, play, eating….sex? Anyway, he had a special bed that would suspend him off the ground while he fell asleep, never allowing him to flatten or leave his upright position. Now the story was, the guy had to stand for a month due to a back injury, and just decided to take it to weird levels of existence no normal person could possible fathom (kind of like people not believing being vegan is easy!). Of course, there was the caveat that his case rare and you should never, ever do this. Personally, I have to agree with that notion quite well.
I’ve lamented many times about how many jobs I have had that were rough on my body, especially the one I work right now. The biggest issue for me has always been the idea of standing a lot. Back when I worked at a convenience store, which didn’t give you any breaks, standing for eight or nine hours on end was pretty typical. Fortunately most of us had an unwritten rule of doing “bathroom” breaks, which were just excuses to go sit down. Yup, not issuing official breaks is something you can get away with in a right to work state. Welcome to Arizona folks!! I got to say, this past weekend was just a horror show on my body. While it wasn’t necessarily busy per se, I felt more beaten up and tired than I have in a long time. And I have put 60 hours in a week and felt better than what happened this past weekend! But the one thing that seemed to kill me was the fact I stood around, waiting for work to happen…a lot!! I think I cleaned my truck trailer out a few times, almost to the point where I felt like going to the maintenance room and steal some cleaner, taking a few moments to actually clean the dirty wood plated walls. I didn’t actually go through with that, but that was the level of boredom I was reaching. I was so bored that I was able to nicely organize the boxes rather than sprint through the worst game of Tetris ever to keep up with the deluge. Anyway, my body was an absolute wreck. I was woken up in the middle of the night on Monday due to cramps. Of course, this has happened before, but usually after a long race or a run I was completely ill prepared for (like last year’s Arizona Distance Classic). But here is the question? Why did all my standing affect me in a way that would make me hurt like I had just pushed my body to lengths I had never pushed to before?
I’ve written before in a previous rant blog how some researchers and health experts consider sitting to be the new smoking. Due to a combination of poor circulation and poor diet, there is some good research backing this notion up. But research is also proving much of the same issues with sitting exist with too much standing. http://www.boston.com/jobs/news/2015/09/29/doctors-have-figured-out-guidelines-for-sitting-and-standing-work-don-die/4FV5SzHoXUjkNst8HFY3bK/story.html Much like sitting too much, you can still compress and injure the spine, setting yourself up for potential lower back problems in the future if you don’t try to take care of yourself (adjustments, massages, good shoes and good beds, etc.). You are also setting yourself up for stiff and sore muscles, deep vein thrombosis, heart problems and joint damage. So yeah, all the worst things in our society that can hurt and injure you. I can easily tell how susceptible I am to this sort of problem, mainly because I stand for 11 hours a day and maybe sit for about an hour. Now according to the research from the British Journal of Sports Medicine, this is not really an acceptable ratio of long term health in regards to keeping your workforce healthy. According to the BJSM, the best ratio for a person at work to adhere to is about 20 minutes of sitting, eight minutes of standing and two minutes of stretching. Now I know pretty much no company in America would ever adhere to this methodology, primarily for the fact control in the workplace is always essential (if I get caught sitting down, there is a good chance I might get sent home!). But wouldn't his be an interesting idea to try and implement, merely in hopes of seeing if it helps make your workforce a tiny bit healthier?
Now I know from personal experience that sitting down all day at a desk job is not a preferable experience, for my back problems and stiffness ultimately led me to start seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis (though my running and lifting was certainly better than ever due to the fact my energy was spared much of the day, unlike my current job). While we strangely put desk jobs on a very high pedestal due to the perceived notion of prosperity and safety, can we ever be safe in the work place? Now I’m sure my father will love this, but I seem to have the least amount of body issues when I was an electrician. Perhaps the reason I really didn’t care about fitness was the fact I didn’t hurt and ache as much as I do these days. Now of course, I didn’t work out in those days, pushing my body to lengths that would ultimately make me healthier. But think about this. I was a giant guy and with the exception of my knee and my IT band, my body typically stood up to the physical rigors (except when it came to heat and digging trenches….my energy would get sapped rather easily because I was cooking like a side of bacon). I was walking around, standing up, kneeling, sitting and even bending over into small spaces. There was a reason why I was roughly 400 pounds and never really looked it. There is a reason why my body can still lose weight in some places (while others not so much) because my weight was literally distributed evenly.
Of course, I am not stating you should abandon all forms of working out to save your body, but I am saying you should try and put an effort into saving your body while at your job. Personally, my fitness is what is really saving my butt at work. I can only imagine how bad things would be if I didn’t have legs that were capable of handling the pressure of a weight regimen, a running regimen and a brutal work schedule. Think about it for a moment. I was suffering cramps Monday night and then went into a decent leg work out Jon had designed for me at Parsons. I started off with some hang clean-squats, doing a couple sets of five at 135 and then following it up with a couple sets of three at 155. Despite my leg fatigue, I pulled off a couple reps at 175. Then I felt really confident, and attempted a rep at 195. Now I ultimately failed, but that was only because I couldn’t get out of my squat position. I actually pulled off the hang clean part despite the fatigue. I also did a lot of Goblet squats with the green kettles (53 pounds) and also did some hang clean-push presses. I will admit I decided to not do a two-a-day like I had been doing the last few weeks since I started working on the weekends and destroying my workout schedule. I decided to give my legs some rest and did my run on Wednesday night. Turns out it was my best run in weeks, trudging a little over six miles at a 9:46-per minute mile pace. I hadn’t run at that clip in quite a while, and it was pretty warm at roughly 85 degrees.
Truth be told, I really have no idea how I’m going to approach the problem with my legs and lower back, especially with the Christmas season just around the corner. But one thing is for certain, the human body is not meant to be forced into one mode. We are not meant to sit on our rumps all day, watching our mid-sections turn to jello. We are also not meant to stand all day, watching our feet turn into swollen masses and wait for the eventual varicose veins pop out (which is apparently a side effect of standing too much). Unfortunately, the suggestion created by the BJSM would be hard to implement anywhere, especially when being a workaholic is seemingly being praised at all levels of life. But something will ultimately need to change, for there is just not enough chiropractors and massage therapists to treat all of those bad backs and broken bodies (provided most people actually go that route).
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.
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