Why do I train?

I was recently asked during a workout (I work out in my driveway on a semi-busy street) by a passerby, “why are you doing that?”

As you can imagine, this particular passerby was a young, curious child with walking somewhere with one of their parents.  I didn’t have a lot of time to answer, as they were continuing their walk by, and while dripping sweat on the ground, chest heaving, I dropped my weight and said, “because it’s fun!”

Maybe the kid thought I was lying, and I’m fairly certain that the parent did, as they smiled and walked away.  After I finished my workout I got to thinking, why DO I train?  This blog post will look to answer this question.

I want to remain extremely functional as I grow old. I think if I can work hard to max out with a 500 pound deadlift now (or hopefully within the next couple years), than lifting my grocery bags off the ground when I’m 90 years young will be a breeze.  While I can appreciate the reduced work capacity associated with aging, it just gives me more reason to work hard now.  Studies have shown exercises can increase functionality in the elderly, the young, and those with disease (1, 2, 3).

I want to avoid disease and give my MD no reason to doubt my health. As we all know, obesity rates are through the roof, heart disease is killing about half of all North Americans, and diabetes rates are increasing at an alarming rate (I’ve seen they’re changing the name from “adult onset” to “age onset”, I assume this is because too many young people are suffering from this condition).  My genetics aren’t exactly stellar in the cholesterol department, the heart disease department, and to a small degree the diabetes department.  If I can optimize my blood markers and provide my body with a calm, balanced environment, I’m going to do what it takes to create that environment.  Many sources have found that insulin sensitivity is increased with exercise.  Body weight, body mass index, body fat, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and hsCRP (an inflammation marker) all respond favourably to regular exercise (1, 2, 4, 5).

I want to stay sane. Exercise is known to help reduce the occurrence of depression and lead to better well-being (6).  I know that when I exercise I feel better for that day and in the long run.  I don’t usually feel fantastic DURING the workout (sometimes I do), but shortly afterward I feel great.  I think it is due, psychologically, to a sense of accomplishment, as well as the endorphin release and further cascade of hormones released by the body in response to the stimulus of the exercise.  In my, n=1 case, I know it makes me more productive, happier, and more relaxed, consistently.

I want to look good naked. Don’t we all?  I don’t think I need to argue the fact that exercise is an important factor in body composition.  Diet is also hugely implicated, but we’ll talk about that in another post.  Exercise provides the stimulus your body requires to release hormones that will increase your insulin sensitivity, and cause you to synthesize protein to fix the damage you did to your muscles while exercising.  This protein synthesis is a metabolically expensive process, and you do it while at rest.  This means you’re burning mostly fat for the fuel used to assemble the amino acids provided by the protein in your diet (you’re eating high quality protein, right?) to restore your muscle tissue.  There is a lot more involved but that’s part of what is going on.

I like the challenge. Originally with exercise, I never stayed with my program which was usually because I didn’t HAVE a program.  I just figured going to the gym and doing some stuff was enough.  Occasionally I would follow the mens health monthly workout poster thingy.  I employ Crossfit for my training, which constantly challenges me to get better at everything as well as trying new movements or weights on a frequent basis.  It keeps me interested, and I ALWAYS feel like I have a lot of room to improve.  As long as you don’t let it get you down, it’s a great motivator to keep at it to get better.

Anyway, that’s what I can think at the moment as to why I train.  Why do YOU train?


  1. Martins, R., Verissimo, M., Coehlho e Silva, M., Cumming, S. & Teixeira, A. (2010)  Effects of aerobic and strength-based training on metabolic health indicators in older adults.  Lipids in Health and Disease. 9:76.  Accessed online on 28/08/2010 from:
  2. Ansari, W., Ashker, S. & Moseley, L. (2010)  Associations between Physical Activity and Health Parameters in Adolescent Pupils in Egypt.  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.  7: 1649-1669.  Accessed online on 28/08/2010 from:
  3. Subin, Vaishali Rao, V. Prem & Sahoo (2010)  Effect of upper limb, lower limb and combined training on health-related quality of life in COPD.  Lung India. 27(1): 4-7.  Accessed online on 28/08/2010 from:
  4. Bradley, R., Jeon, J., Liu, F. & Maratos-Flier, E. (2007)  Voluntary exercise improves sensitivity and adipose tissue inflammation in diet-induced obese mice. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism. (295) E586-E594
  5. Kirwan, J., Soloman, T., Wojta, D., Staten, M. & Holloszy, J. (2009)  Effects of 7 days of exercise training on insulin sensitivity and responsiveness in type 2 diabetes mellitus.  American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism.  (297) E151-E156
  6. Babyak et al (2000)  Exercise Treatment for Major Depression: Maintenance of Therapeutic Benefit at 10 Months.  Psychosomatic Medicine. (62) 633-638

Consider your paradigm…

Hi All,

I was taking a shower at the wonderful Microtel in Beautiful Waterloo, New York when I stepped out and saw a small advertisement on the bathroom door handle for the hotel.  It said something along the lines of “we’re ‘green’, just look at our colours!”  with a small yellow circle, a plus sign, a small blue circle, a small equals sign and then a green circle.

Being an alternative health care practitioner, I often find myself trying to come up with good analogies or examples of what it is I do, and why my approach to your health might seem weird.  When I saw this ad, a quick train of thought ran through my head.  Buckle your seatbelt and open your mind.

Blue plus Yellow equals Green right?  Well… maybe.  When we eventually make it into school for kindergarten or grade 1 (I don’t remember when I first learned it) we learn to paint.  We do finger paintings, conventional paintings, we have pencil crayons, proper crayons and the like.  We know when we paint the green grass that we ran on last weekend into a picture, we have to combine yellow and blue.  Yellow, blue and red are the “primary” colours in paint, and we are VERY comfortable and confident that when we combine yellow and blue, we will get green.

Fast forward 10 or 11 years to physics class in high school.  We learn about the spectrum of light.  You may recognize that white light will refract into a rainbow of colours due to your familiarity with Pink Floyds album cover for Dark side of the moon.  Well when we learn the “primary” colours of the spectrum of light, we find out they are red, blue, and GREEN!  What???!?  Impossible.  Green is half blue -half yellow, how the heck could they say it’s a primary colour!  Fools!

I’m fairly confident you didn’t react that aggressively, but that uncomfortable feeling you got is a PERFECT example of learning something that isn’t congruent with your current paradigm.  Green IS a primary colour when we are talking about the spectrum of light.  So even though it might feel odd, it’s still right.  It’s just a different way to look at things.  It’s a different paradigm (and maybe a subtle reason why physics isn’t overly popular in high school) which makes us uncomfortable.  What is important is to embrace that discomfort.  It’s only when we’re outside our comfort zone that we can grow.

So now let’s switch over to health care.  I can’t speak for everyone, or even for the many different forms of alternative health care.  What I can do, is offer a reason to why exercise is important, and should be fun, why chiropractic is more than “cracking” bones, and why eating well actually matters.  When you have a bacterial infection, you take antibiotics and you’re cured.  The medical doctor uses careful measurement and lab tests to determine which type of bacteria it is so that they can prescribe the appropriate and most effective antibiotic for you.  Thank goodness for medicine, in this setting.

Let’s look at another scenario.  You show up to your MD for your yearly check up and the doctor finds you are in the high end of normal for fasting blood glucose, total and LDL cholesterol, you’re overweight and you suffer from odd sleep patterns and digestive issues.  You don’t give it much thought as none of them are overly alarming and they’re “part of life”.  You mention that you “get through it” and that it must just be that you’re “getting older”.  What they might do, is offer a prescription statin for your cholesterol, a medication to help with your blood sugar, a sleeping pill for when you’re having trouble sleeping and a myriad of other medications/advice for your digestive problems.  Each problem is addressed, and supplied a “solution” for.  But what if all those problems stem from one common source?

Enter the alternative health care practitioner.  We don’t have a pill to give you or a surgery to suggest that will fix your problem.  However, if we work together with you, over time, you will experience greater health than you could ever imagine.  Your chiropractor will help you move within a full range of motion, without pain, and this effect on your movement neurology will aid in everything from digestion to headaches and those random aches and pains you have.  Taking nutritional advice will help you come back to balance and avoid foods that are insulting your body in the subtlest of ways (and sometimes in NOT so subtle ways).  Taking the time for physical activity regularly at a leisurely pace, and occasionally at a challenging pace will produce an adaptation in your body that will help you experience your goals in a more timely manner.  Over time, you notice that you don’t have that nagging knee pain, your headaches are gone, you’re looking better in the mirror and you are maybe even getting more compliments.  But none of it came quickly, and you have no idea exactly how it happened.  There was no quick, specific thing you added or took away to “fix” you.  Who knows if your knee no longer hurts due to better walking biomechanics from the exercises or chiropractic or if it was a lack of gluten wearing away at your cartilage.

When you accept that there is no quick fix, and that YOU are responsible for your everyday health, and that we (alternative health care practitioners) have devoted our lives to learning how to help you experience your greatest health, you may notice that at first this new approach is uncomfortable, but then after a while, you figure it out.  It isn’t the same as medicine, but it works too.  It isn’t wrong because it’s different, it’s different because it’s different.  So when you slip back into the one problem – one solution thinking, and you will, and you wonder, “wait!  what was it that made me feel so much better?  Was it the exercise?  The chiropractic?  The massage?  The nutrition?”,  just remember that it wasn’t any of those things…

it was you.