In The Cranky Fitness Laboratory

The Plucky, Yet Unfortunately Imaginary, Cranky Fitness Research Assistant

Would you like to know some of the exciting develoments now taking place in The Cranky Fitness Laboratory? (Which I feel should be pronounced la-BOR-a-tory, the way it is in old horror movies; it's that kind of place).

The Cranky Fitness Laboratory is situated on the campus of Frittering-Dawdling University, should you ever care to visit.  The lab's Research Director, Professor Crabby McSlacker, will be happy to show you around!  However, be sure to call in advance, because Professor McSlacker is a busy little nutball.  She is always experimenting and tinkering and inventing things. Her research interests include exercise physiology, nutrition, psychology, and, depending on how piggy she's been lately, weight loss.

Let's find out what's going on in there, shall we?
Reinventing Science Itself With the McSlacker Method© of Data Analysis!

Traditional health and psychological research is not just problematic because it keeps changing its mind all the time. (Speaking of which, are multivitamins good for you or bad for you this week? I can't remember).

The real problem is that scientific research is too picky and too boring and it takes forever! Using the old fashioned scientific method, you are supposed to measure the impact of one variable at a time and hold everything else constant.

Suppose you want to find out whether drinking the blood of virgins will really reverse the aging process.  Well, then you wouldn't go try those resveratrol capsules you've been curious about at exactly the same time, or start sleeping with that new hot Cardio Kick Boxing instructor at the gym.

Why not?  Because then if you looked in the mirror and your wrinkles had all disappeared, how would you know if it was due to the virgin blood or the resveratrol or the martial arts inspired whoopee?  Under the traditional method, you'd have to hold off on the resveratrol and roundhousing until you knew exactly what the deal was with the virgin blood.

But let's say you are a neurotic health nut with an internet connection. Then not only are there your own weird inventions to test, there are also hundreds of promising theories, shortcuts, supplements, routines, diets, visualizations, workouts, gadgets and hacks to tempt you every day.

If your goals are, for example, (1) to find the most delicious and healthy food items you can eat all day long in unlimited portions; (2) have an awesome physique capable of incredible feats of strength and endurance; (3) be astonishingly productive yet still blissfully happy; and (4) live forever, it would take approximately 370,000 years using traditional scientific methodology to discover the best ways to do all this.

But see the problem?  You'd be dead first. And being dead would significantly compromise your ability to enjoy your success.

The McSlacker Method© is New and Improved Science and it's much faster!

Here's how it works: 

You just do everything that sounds hopeful all at once.  Wait a few days, and then try to get a vague sense of whether things are getting better or worse.  Next, just leap to whatever conclusions make you the happiest!  Then stop doing anything you don't like doing much, and keep doing the things you like.

Doesn't that sound like more fun?

Okay, I just remembered I promised you a tour of the lab, but since there are dozens and dozens of experiments going on at any one time, I'll just highlight two of them.

The Slog:

This is a new product invention inspired by my bizarre and illogical unconventional take on Barefoot and Minimalist Running research.

The "Slog" is a Shoe that has been cleverly hacked to be more like a Clog.  (Shoe + Clog = Slog!). And yeah, this just means I take the shoestrings out of the top couple sets of holes and lace up at midfoot rather than at the ankle.  This allows my heel to rise out of the shoe a bit as I shift my weight forward, and magically induces my lazy feet and calf muscles to function more actively instead of behaving like they are made of cement.

(As I mentioned in that post, with my plantar fasciitis issues, there's no way in hell I'm going to give up cushioning in my shoes).

The Hoist Roc It Mini-Review:

So I returned to San Diego a couple weeks ago to discover that my gym had apparently adopted the theory that stretching is unnecessary. They virtually eliminated the stretching area while I was gone, but they did ad some new gadgets, including a whole circuit of Hoist "Roc-It" machines.

These use "dynamic adjustment," so your whole body moves as you complete the exercise. According to the Hoist people, "the ROC-IT line embodies a unique training experience that achieves the unrestricted joint movement and core activating benefits of functional training coupled with the stabilizing benefits of machine-based equipment."

This sounded like a nice way to pretend I was doing functional fitness like the cool people do, while still getting to be a mindless robot moving from machine to machine, hooray! And a great new opportunity for off-site experimentation.

Of course I went roaming around web in search of Hoist "Roc-It" reviews, to see what experts thought about this technology before I invested time with it myself... but didn't find much not actually written by the Hoist folks themselves. Sensing a search engine opportunity to exploit, here is the Cranky Fitness quick and dirty version.

Hoist "Roc-It" review:

Pro: These are slightly more fun that your average isolation-type weight machine. At least until the novelty wears off and you realize it's just a boring-ass strength training workout, not an actual ride.

Pro: They do seem to give you the ability to target a particular muscle and make it hurt like hell the next day, while at the same time using some core muscles, although not enough so you really notice it much.

Con: They don't provide the lateral instability of a free weight, so you aren't getting better at the sort of stabilizing and balancing required to lift physical objects in the non-gym universe, where objects are not all helpfully attached to big machines.

Con: The handles seem built for big giant Man-Hands, turning the row machine, for example, into a hand/forearm workout, which is not actually what I was looking to accomplish.

Con: The machines do not start administering electric shocks to people who hog them for ages; this is a feature they really need to look into.

But anyway, here's another related invention, which like most of my inventions, no doubt already exists under some other name but I'm too lazy to google.

LazoMatic Gym Machine Protocol:

Note: This works on all gym strength training machines, not just the Hoist.

The problem is that if you're isolating particular muscles, there are quite a few of these machines you need to get to.  And in my case, I still do my own little weird functional fitness medicine ball workout after I'm done with the machines, so the thought of doing multiple sets on each one makes me suicidal.

The alternative to multiple sets?  The Super-Sucky-Set!

I do one set on each machine.  However, I start with a weight so heavy I can only manage it for a rep or two. Then, without stopping, I move the little pin thingy down one notch for another few reps, till I can't eke out any more, and so on, until I've done 12 Extremely Unpleasant repetitions if it's an arm exercise, or 15 Extremely Unpleasant Reps if it's a leg machine. I figure I'd only be getting that many maximully awful reps in 3 conventional sets, right? And anyone who actually knows something about exercise physiology may want to pop into the comments and tell me that this is stupid.

The hardest part about this Super-Sucky-Set method? It's not moving the pin back to the highest weight when done, thus allowing the person who follows you to think the very lowest weight was the one you used the entire time. Seriously, for someone who claims I don't give a crap what others think of me in the gym, that's the hardest freakin' part.

So do you guys do your own health, nutrition, and fitness experiments and tinker around with different approaches?  Are you the least bit scientific about it?

Laboratory: Library of Congress
Water Photo: David Reeves
Roc-It: Hoist

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