Fitness Crazes That Are Genuinely Crazy

Weird Bike

Fads come and go. From the slap bracelet to Swing music to McCarthyism, some things can be all the rage one day, and just a wretched, rotting pile of offal the next. This is usually the case because the popular item du jour (which is French for “dude, sure” I think) clearly boasts a dearth of intrinsic merit, and it merely takes a moment for Johnny Q. Public to catch on. How else would parachute pants have ever become a thing, right? Right.

Just... the worst.

Just… the worst.

This trend remains true as we move away from matters sartorial and communist witch hunt and into the arena of health and wellness. Clearly the Lemon Detox Diet is absurd and without merit, for example, yet it was briefly quite popular (and even remains as such among some very ill-informed people) despite a lack of proponents in the medical community. Why can I deride this detox with such certainty despite my having never passed (nor attempted to pass) the examinations required of a certified nutritionist? Because consuming nothing but lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for days on end is not healthy, it’s stupid. Yes, you’ll lose weight on this “diet,” but you’ll also lose weight stranded on a life raft, and I don’t see anyone clamoring for the Oh Jesus Christ, I’m Lost At Sea Diet. (Though I do see dollar signs dancing before me now that I think of it. Better slap a patent on there…)

Related: A Man Who Knows Fitness

In other instances, though, we find so-called diets and exercise fads that, in their own time (even if said time is… today), seemed not only plausibly effective, but became surprisingly popular. In fact, the fitness crazes we’re discussing today are or were, at least for a time, considered to be not only not horrid ideas, but in fact great ideas.

Spoiler alert… these are bad ideas.

Victorian Exercise Machinery


As we know well today, everyone who lived in times earlier than today was a goddamned lunatic without any common sense. Just look at the funny clothes they wore and the smallpox, right? The silliness of these olden days often carried over into what can sort of be called the gym, or at least its predecessor. Before there was the Bowflex and the NoricTrack, there were the Zander Institute’s Exercise Machines. The institute was named for Gustav Zander, a Swedish physician whose heart may have been in the right place, but whose designs for “exercise” equipment lead us to question if his head was there, too. To be fair, Dr. Zander didn’t have much to build on, but that still doesn’t give him a pass for most of his Rube Goldberg-style contraptions…

Barefoot Running

Remember a few years back when people were suddenly saying that the less you wore on your feet, the more benefits you’d get from running? Some people started wearing those weird toe-shoe things…

Weird Toe Shoe

Weird Toe Shoe

…while others ditched the shoes entirely and hit the road/trail barefoot! And guess what? That was a mistake. As it turns out, the several thousand years we as a species have spent developing and perfecting footwear was time well spent, as proper footwear protects our feet, not to mention other body parts like knees and spines and such. When you ditch the shoes and run barefoot or in minimalist shoes, you may well reduce the “heel strikes” that padded soles can allow a runner to endure, but you also put yourself at great risk for stress fractures, torn tendons, plantar fasciitis, and of course cuts and punctures.

Hot Yoga

First off, we want to make sure you know two things:

Yoga dates to the 6th Century BCE, arising in a region now a part of modern India.
Hot Yoga dates to the 1970s, arising in CA “thanks” to Indian emigre Bikram Choudhury.

This Guy...

This Guy…

Being limber, fit, and at peace are all good things. Yoga provides those things for many of us. Suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and heat stroke are all bad things. Hot yoga can provide all of that for many people.

There is no science to support the central claims of Hot Yoga, such as the benefits of sweating out “toxins” or the increased flexibility the heat gives you. Your liver and kidneys will take care of the toxins

And as for getting limber? There’s a reason we call the pre-exercise routine “warming up.” You do it slowly, safely, and organically, you don’t just go right to 11.

And last but not least: folks, take it easy with the cross training stuff. Working out hard is great; working out so hard that you collapse and/or injure yourself is madness.