The well-designed fitness program

A few weeks back I started doing the 100 Push-Ups program, doing incline push-ups. Yesterday I went to do them and experienced sharp, stabbing pain in my right wrist.


A year ago I was working my through the StrongLifts 5×5 barbell lifting program. After about six weeks I had tendonitis in both elbows so badly I couldn’t hold my tea mug. I couldn’t hold my tea mug, people. This clearly constituted a crisis.

This past spring and summer I worked diligently on improving my running, with the goal of running a 5K this fall. I did two short runs a week, and a longer run every two weeks. I worked on form and endurance. About two weeks after I ran 5K in my neighborhood I had to admit that I had so inflamed my IT band and left psoas that I could barely walk.

I read a lot of books on fitness and physical culture. A lot. And they all say the same thing — that a person needs a well-designed fitness program in order to see “real” gains. (Real gains is never truly defined.) That, essentially, messing about with a little running, a little swimming, some weights, some kettlebells, and some bodyweight exercises just won’t improve anything.

Yet that’s exactly what I do. And it’s exactly what I apparently have to do, or else I hurt myself. Doing too much of anything for too long leads to connective-tissue damage for me.

It’s … it’s difficult to avoid feeling like a failure when I get two weeks into some new program and have to stop. It’s difficult to not be angry at my body for not performing as I request it to. But, there you have it. This is the only body that has been issued to me and there are no replacements. I am not the person for whom the well-designed fitness program works. I am one who messes about, doing whatever feels good and not-painful from week to week. “Well-designed” for me means changing what I am doing constantly so that no set of tendons or ligaments gets overtaxed.


2 Responses

  1. My sympathy on your wrist injury. Have you tried different hand positions? I find that the standard hands-flat-on-the ground position is hard on my wrists. Knuckle push-ups on my fists are much more comfortable. Bonus – they look really bad-ass. At home I use push-up stands that V. picked up years ago.

    I understand your frustration at well-meaning fitness advice that does not work for you. I have been hearing a lot of positive comments about Zombies Run. I am really glad that my friends are having fun and using this app in their fitness programs. I am never going running. Ever. My knees are already in bad shape and running would cause too much damage. On the other hand, I am finding that a once-a-week strength session seems to allow me to make gradual progress. Mark Lauren talks about this in “You are your own gym” and I think Tim Ferris uses the same info in “The 4-hour body” (which I have not read).

    Tailoring a lifestyle. It is a lot of trial-and-error work. But the results are soooo much better than one-size-fits-all.

  2. I can’t help but think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here… If a fitness program causes you injury, it is not well-designed.

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