by Robert Maxwell
Just about every time I turn around, I hear from someone with a debilitating repetitive strain injury. Just last week, I ran into a guy I knew working at the grocery store. He used to work behind the deli counter slicing meat. Now he’s in the produce section, and glad of it, because he claims the repetitive motion of working the meat slicer “ruined his shoulder”. He had to get surgery to fix it. Now, maybe it’s just my narrow, strength training-oriented view of the world, but it seems to me such light work shouldn’t cause injuries worthy of surgical intervention. His situation isn’t unusual, either. You don’t have to look too hard to find men who have thrown out their backs, torn tendons, ruined rotator cuffs, and strained ligaments, all while doing work a child could’ve done 100 years ago, back before stagnation was a such a common way of life. This epidemic of masculine weakness is nothing short of tragedy. So what can we do about? Reclaiming true manhood is the solution, and doing so boils down to two simple things.
Every man should be capable of moving furniture, lifting boxes, or raking leaves without suffering painful damage to his body. So why isn’t this the case? In a word, weakness. The human body adapts to repeated physical effort by getting stronger. This strength extends to muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Without frequent training, these body parts become weak and prone to injury. Like machines, our bodies need constant maintenance to work optimally and avoid seizing up. Without this maintenance, we gradually degrade until even the slightest physical strain is more than we can handle. That’s when needless injuries happen. I can’t think of many phrases more emasculating than “don’t strain yourself”, delivered to a man about to lift a cardboard box or his parents’ old TV set. Physiotherapy works because it’s a tiny step above absolutely no movement at all. If your muscles, tendons and joints are accustomed to zero exertion, even the lightest exercise will strengthen them. If you’ve let yourself sink to this point, it’s time to start doing some real work. Stop flapping your arms for 10 minutes a day to ease the pain of the elbow you strained while lifting a paperclip, and start getting legitimately strong by picking up a barbell.
Fuel Your Body Right
Like a vehicle, your body only works with the proper fuel. That means eating right. If you don’t exercise regularly and eat like a slob, don’t be surprised when you pull a muscle reaching up to screw in a lightbulb. The parts of your body that determine your strength – muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones, not only need ongoing stimulation to get and stay strong – they also need the right nutrients to support ongoing strength. I find it amazing how many guys load up sugar and carbs, avoid the gym like the plague, and are completely mystified when their bodies break down. The performance you get out of your body is a direct reflection of the activity and nutrition you put into it. You body doesn’t owe you a strong, injury-free existence. If you’re weak and prone to repetitive stress injuries caused by light, easy tasks, it’s your responsibility to do something about it. The thing about physical limitations is that they’re extremely flexible. If you routinely push yourself in the strength and vitality department, your body will reward you with physical progress. If you neglect strength and fitness, your physical limits will shrink down to the level of the hardest task you face in everyday life, whether that’s lifting a box, tying your shoe, or walking the dog.
Robert Maxwell is an online strength and fitness coach and founder of The Man Factory. Are you a man 50 or older? Become your best self at www.manfactorytraining.com/strength-north-of-50