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The 10 Worst Exercise and Dietary Habits to Leave Behind in 2010 – Part 1

by Dr. Stephen Gangemi on December 30, 2010

1)Stretching. Yeah, that’s right – stretching. The belief that stretching will prevent or rehabilitate an injury and increase performance continues to be unproven both in a clinical setting and through more and more studies. It’s a hard-core belief system that continues to be carried over from generation to generation, despite any evidence showing that stretching helps. Those who still want to keep this passion alive are the same ones who are still not eating eggs because they think it’ll raise their cholesterol levels (it won’t), but it just sounds so right. Read my somewhat controversial post on stretching here.  I never stretch – not before any training, not before any Ironman event. To quote Jack LaLanne, “Have you ever seen a lion stretch before it attacks?”

2)Orthotics. Orthotics continue to be the most over-prescribed, injury supporting device used today. If you want to make a cast of your foot to support the dysfunction which you suffer from, orthotics are the way to go. They don’t fix any problem, but they sure will support the one you have, leading to new abnormal compensations throughout your body, or create a new one. They ain’t cheap either. I like to say that orthotics will keep you walking yourself into problems and they’ll kick you in the ass on the way out the door, if they haven’t done so already. More on the foot device here.

3)Your non-minimalist running shoes. What some, (mostly the orthopedists and podiatrists), are calling the new “fad”, as if Tang came out with a new flavor for the astronauts, barefoot running has been around for well, about forever. Nike came out with the Nike Free in 2004 and I was lucky enough to get them as soon as they hit the shelves. I run the marathon portion of Ironman races in them despite the fact that I was told one cannot run more than a few miles in them or “you’ll destroy your feet and knees”. I didn’t, but I don’t stretch either, so why would I listen to that advice. Now just about every shoe company is coming out with a minimalistic type of running/walking shoe, and new shoes companies and being created just for that matter. If you haven’t heard the term “zero-drop” already, you soon will and I predict that all running shoes will soon have a number associated with them stating the amount of drop from the heel to the ball of the foot. Zero-drop is barefoot. Click here to the link to one of my articles and also click here to go to one of my newest favorite websites about barefoot running.

4)Not wearing a heart rate monitor. If you still don’t have a heart rate monitor while you exercise, you’re making a great guess at what your heart rate may be, and you’re probably very, very wrong. Whether you’re going to start a walking program tomorrow or are an elite athlete already, HR monitors are a must. They’re more important than your shoes. Well, you already know your shoes aren’t important- your feet are. A HR monitor is going to be your least expensive and most accurate coach. Here’s the link to read up on them.

5)Counting your miles. Nobody cares. Really, nobody really cares, especially your body, and that’s what really matters. Your body cares about two things – heart rate and time. So whether you walked two miles in 20 minutes or the same in 40 minutes it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the heart rate your performed such exercise at, and how long you performed it. Sure, miles are important when it comes to racing and if you are planning on doing that then you need to be able to race that distance, but you still need to focus on the time of that distance, not the distance itself. The person running a marathon in six hours is under substantially more stress than a Kenyan running the course in just over two hours, both physically and nutritionally/chemically. Start focusing on time; it’s mentally easier that way anyway. If you know you’re going out for a 30 minute run there is one thing that is certain – you’re going to be done in 30 minutes. If you want to go out for a four mile run then that time is going be what you make of it (the intensity) and what it makes of you (the weather, course, training partners).

So be done counting miles. Only time. Only heart rate. No more stretching. No more thick-heeled, over-supportive shoes. Think about why you’re wearing your orthotics.

For 6-10, click here.

I'm a board certified chiropractic physician and clinical nutritionist with a passion for true natural health care. I implement dietary & nutritional therapies, exercise & movement practices, and lifestyle changes along with manual therapy techniques to help the body heal and prevent illness and injuries.


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  1. Agree with everything except the no-stretching.

    I find some (careful) stretching to make a night and day difference in my ability to run smoothly. If I do a slow jog for 1/4 mile, then do my basic stretches, then I can proceed as per normal.

    If I don’t stretch…ugh…gait is all messed up for along time…eventually I do loosen up but it takes 2-3 miles to reach the same point.

    I also find that wearing flat shoes at work after hard or long runs helps
    stretch out the legs and keep things happy. If I don’t…baaadness the next day.

    Were there people over 50 in any of these stretching studies?

  2. It’s a controversial subject (stretching). It’s good that you do your stretching after you do a bit of a warm up, but I find your situation very common – you NEED to stretch to be able to run well and “loosen up.” That’s a problem. If stretching was actually addressing the root of your problem and the reason your feel tight, then you wouldn’t need to do it each and every time. If you WANT to stretch lightly because it’s relaxing, then that is fine, but if you NEED to – well, there’s something not right … muscle imbalances that aren’t being addressed. Tight muscles are a result of muscle imbalances caused by nervous system stress, not a stretching deficiency. I still need to write my (no) stretching article – soon!

  3. Yah stretching AFTER a gentle trotting warm up is the best. Then I can pour on the coal 8)

    Can’t tight muscles just be from training hard and being older?

    If I ran low mileage I would have no need to stretch.

    When I run 30-40+ miles a week (run 4-5 days a week), I find stretching helps avoid Achilles tendinitis (as does using low drop running shoes, wearing flats during the day and doing eccentric heel lowering exercises)

    I do easy spinning biking 1-2 days a week to loosen up my legs as well as some floor exercises to try address core strength etc so I’m not sure how much more I can do?

    I also find that ITB stretches are easy to do with a foam roller (or with other stretches) and are one of the most successful stretches to do…nips any problems in the bud. Are you against these too?

    • Tight muscles can be from training TOO hard, definitely. That is your cue that you need to chill out and recover more often and add in the aerobic activity (or rest). Age? Only to some degree. You’re 50 aren’t you? — so your website says. 50 is not old. If you were 80 I’d say you might not be as limber, but you shouldn’t be “stiff.” You say “If I ran low mileage I would have no need to stretch.” That means your body can handle that training, anything more than that – it can’t handle, so you’re tight and you need to stretch. It sounds like you’re realizing the answers to your own questions and that’s good – you train too hard or too much, you need to stretch. Wanting to stretch is okay to some degree, needing to is not.

      Rolling on the foam rollers is fine, so is “The Stick” to work out trigger points.

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