Awhile back I wrote a blog titled:

Does [pro triathlete] Daniel Clarke Have A Death Wish?

If you haven’t read the blog, then click on the title above, link to the blog and give it a go. At the time of writing, the only evidence I had of Clarke’s path to self destruction were the signs and symptoms he listed himself in his vlog where he states that after workouts, especially long hard sessions, he would have blurred vision, dizziness and headaches. A background in sports & exercise physiology, pathology, orthopaedic and respiratory and neurological rehab, plus over a decade of working as a registered physiotherapist with terminally ill patients allowed me to piece together that through his triathlon training Clarke was pushing himself routinely to extremes which were resulting in him asphyxiating his organs, including his own brain to the point of not only temporary, but permanent damage.

If more evidence was needed to support this hypothesis, then the autopsy report of dead bodybuilder Rich Piana provides more than plenty. Bodybuilders no different than almost all athletes today train HiiT (Hi Intensity Interval Training) in order to achieve their performance goals & objectives, thus the death of Piana should serve as a wake up call to not only bodybuilders but to all: athletes, parents of junior athletes, coaches and trainers. The image below is that of Piana, and to the side is the autopsy report.  The findings of the coroner are a bit blurry, and since they are critical to this blog they have been relisted:

Autopsy Findings of Rich Piana:

  • Cardiomegaly
  • Mild coronary artherosclerosis
  • Bronchopneumonia with bilateral pleural effusions
  • Ascites
  • Brain with edema, ischemia, and necrosis

Brief Explanation of each findings:

  • an enlarged heart
  • mildly blocked arteries
  • inflamed lungs with retained fluid between lungs & chest wall/ribs
  • fluid between abdominal organs causing abdominal swelling
  • brain with swelling & areas of brain cell death due to insufficient oxygen

So that the cost of HiiT (Hi Intensity Interval Training) is understood by all…

When athletes consistently train in the “Red Zone” (see Rate of Perceived Exertion – RPE – chart) they do the following in order to force their body to deliver the repeated maximum / all-out / ‘beast-mode’ efforts:

  1. They take and then hold a large breathe to maximize the pressure within their rib cage and their abdomen to lock their core providing a stable surface against which to move their extremities (arms & legs), and
  2. They trigger their nervous system into a flight-fight-freeze reaction to cause their glands (e.g. hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenals, thyroid) to flood their body with hormones spiking heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and hyper-stimulating the nervous system to spike muscular activity.

The point of breathe holding and triggering the neural-endocrine (i.e nervous & hormonal) systems is to maximize muscular output.

What happens when an athlete repeatedly goes beast-mode, all-out, does repeated hard interval efforts… here’s an image (weightlifter who blows blood vessels in his nose while lifting, below) that I hope will burn into your memory so that next time your meathead coach or next time you become a meathead and get the insane notion that somehow HiiT is anything other than attempted suicide, or failing immediate death, HiiT is a death sentence nonetheless, you just have to wait to find out the total extent of the damage you’ve done to yourself.

HiiT is not healthy sustainable training.

HiiT is a death sentence.

If not for an outright heart attack, heart failure, a stroke, an aneurysm or other cardiac or circulatory system accident, then in the long term… the cumulative effects of HiiT will result in enough brain cell death that dementia/Alzheimers cannot be ruled out, and don’t forget that it will cause enough pressure and inflammation that your heart and arteries like those of Rich Piana will be damaged beyond repair, your vital organs – like your liver and kidneys – will be struggling to function properly or verging on failure, and you will have caused sufficient joint, tendon, ligament, and cartilage damage that joint replacement surgery will become the only alternative to regain functional movement.

Watch the face of the power lifter in the image above. Watch especially his eyes as he strains to hold the weight for the time needed in order for the lift to meet qualification standards. Do you see how his eyes glaze over… as blood pours out of his nose indicating that he is holding his breathe to such a degree that he has skyrocketed his blood pressure to the point he is literally blowing blood vessel walls (lucky it wasn’t an artery in his brain, lungs, heart, abdomen or anywhere else). Not only do his eyes glaze over, but like someone suffering a TIA (transient ischemic attack, as in a small stroke) his eyes roll back a bit, but he strains to retain focus on the judges hand, waiting for it to come down signalling a qualifying lift and allowing the effort to end. As the seconds go by, you can count the brains cells he has killed as a result of asphyxiating (i.e. depriving of oxygen) his brain, (not to mention the damage to his other vital organs).

In addition to irreparable damage to his heart, arteries and brain, Rich Piana’s autospy report also identified abdominal swelling. This swelling is the result of the breathe holding during the effort which skyrockets blood pressure within the abdominal cavity literally squeezing the blood vessels to the point that it wrings out – like wringing out a wet towel – the plasma from the blood vessels into the abdominal cavity. Do you train HiiT and… have a “beer belly”, a few pounds in the middle area that you want to lose but can’t seem to, a gut that doesn’t disappear no matter how much you train, perhaps grows larger after training sessions, especially hard training sessions. Think about it…

Think about how much pressure you would have to cause in order to literally squeeze fluid out of your blood vessels. Now think about the fact that the same pressure squeezing blood vessels is also squeezing each and every one of your vital organs… your kidneys, your liver, your pancreas, your spleen, your reproductive/internal sex organs… squeezing the life out of your organs, organs you need to live every single second beyond your beast-mode effort.

HiiT is one suicide attempt after another, until its no longer an attempt but becomes a mission accomplished: suicide.

But, but… HiiT is heralded as the short cut to fitness, as the short cut to peak performance, as the short cut to losing weight, to improving as an athlete, to qualifying for every major event. Heralded by whom? Surely not by health focused professionals. Its heralded by profit hungry companies, by ego driven and ignorant trainers, coaches, and teams who need athletes to sacrifice themselves to the point of nearly committing suicide hoping that the athlete will triumph by standing on a podium, by winning a championship bringing fame and fortune to those who mentored them. Its heralded by those who are willing to monetize hopes, goals, dreams of aspiring athletes for their own profit and popularity.

It took us how long and how many football players to finally admit that concussions are more than just a little bump on the brain. How many football players after stellar careers in the CFL and NFL in their 20s, now in their 30s cannot remember where they left their keys, cannot remember who they are, who the other people living in their multi million dollar mansions are.

The number of casualties in all sports are piling up… but HiiT continues to be celebrated as the means to an end.  It is, just not the end anyone is told about.

My hopes…

I hope that triathlon pro Daniel Clarke reconsiders his training, reconsiders whether dizziness, headaches, and blurred vision (he is only missing slurred speech to have ALL the symptoms of a stroke) is the means to the end that he truly wants. That other pros, namely pros like Lionel Sanders who seem sold on “beast-mode” wake up and realize that the only short cut they are training is one that leads to toe tags and body bags.

I hope that triathletes, swimmers, cyclists, that all athletes, all parents of athletes, and all coaches & trainers start wake up and realize that asking athletes to train based on HiiT is asking athletes to believe that self harm leads to peak performance when all self harm can lead to is death.

Consistent peak performers – at least those who refuse to compromise on their core values & beliefs – do not train using HiiT, they do not train inflicting self harm, believing in a no pain-no gain philosophy, they do not train to lose; they train to win. Training technique, capacity, and skill acquisition is the path, the only path to health and consistent peak performance and most importantly to your fullest potential.

As a varsity level athlete I trained HiiT, I trained it and was instructed to train it and I did because I didn’t know better, and because I trusted that those training and coaching me did know better.  They didn’t.  The outcome… I have done serious damage to my body, damage that I am training now to repair, damage that I hope I will be able to undo partially, perhaps fully.  But like most athletes I didn’t realize at the time what I was doing to myself, so I didn’t stop at injuring myself, when my kids grew up I signed them up in programs that trained them in the exact same way I was trained. Luckily, when they ran into challenges in competition I made the right decision.  I didn’t, I couldn’t believe that my children were incapable… incapable of keeping up, incapable of improving, incapable of progressing further; so I had to find a different narrative, a narrative which believed in the potential of my children, all children, and by default a narrative that also believes in the potential of myself despite being older, a narrative that believes in the potential of everyone no matter their age and starting ability.

I decided to believe that the problem isn’t my children, it wasn’t me, it isn’t everyone who wants to lose weight, learn to swim efficiently, develop power on the bike, speed on the run, strength and endurance in the gym… what was wrong was the mindset, the concepts of training, the philosophy of how do we become our fullest potential. Today, I know that HiiT offers nothing more than fake fitness, fake/cosmetic health… look at Rich Piana… an appearance of ability on the outside, but on the inside a brutally damaged, scarred, wounded body and brain which likely was barely surviving between ‘workouts’ and thats just a reflection on Piana’s physical health. I cannot imagine his mental and emotional state when Piana was willing to torture and beat his physical self to a pulp.

I don’t want to read about anymore dead athletes, especially children athletes coached into early graves due to egotiscal parents or trainers.

I don’t want to read about anymore swimmers, cyclists, or runners with arrythmias, with congestive heart failure, with enlarged hearts.

I don’t want to read about anymore triathletes, especially tween and teen triathletes who have been pushed to the point of having to retire early because their coaching and training has resulted in injuries, illness, burn out.

If your coach/trainer/team demands you train HiiT then consider that they are asking you to sacrifice yourself for their benefit, not your own. Anyone who makes such a demand on your life, doesn’t deserve to be in your life.

If you are a coach, a trainer, a team manager and after reading this post are realizing that you may be in fact training athletes in a manner which brings nothing but harm to them, a manner which risks not just their well-being but their life… then I ask you to sincerely ask yourself… are you qualified to coach, to train, to mentor an athlete, or for that matter anyone? You may be passionate about sport, but all the passion in the world doesn’t make up for a lack of knowledge, a lack of experience, a lack of skill; passion does not and cannot overcome ignorance and incompetence.

Today the average person is un-healthy… they are at least overweight if not obese, they are suffering from at least one if not a handful of chronic/lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, osteoporosis, depression they are likely at some if not high risk for a stroke or an heart attack and if your plan is a regular dose of Hi Intensity Interval Training (HiiT) I ask you to consider whether you are going to do anything remotely right for them, and perhaps the risk is for you to do more wrong. Consider that the risk is that you will inflict more damage upon them, setting them even further back in life, in their health, and that you risk not only their physical health, but failing to improve, you risk damaging their mental and emotional states as HiiT only reinforces anxieties.

If you are what you claim… concerned about the well-being and health of others, then become a student before you pronounce yourself a teacher.