Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Primum non nocere

Or (in English) "First, do no harm."

Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase that means "First, do no harm." The phrase is sometimes recorded as primum nil nocere.

It is one of the principal precepts all medical students are taught in medical school. It reminds a physician that he or she must consider the possible harm that any intervention might do.
(From Wikipedia)

I recently attended a kettlebell workshop (RKC/Hardstyle) taught by Dr Mark Cheng of Kettlebells LA and hosted by Rannoch Donald of Kettlebells Scotland.

The first thing that Mark said at the workshop washed over me a little at the time, but I've been thinking about it more and more since then. The primary thing he wanted us to remember with respect to our training was simple: FIRST DO NO HARM.

Training and exercise should not damage or injure. They should enhance your life, health and function rather than diminish it. I've injured myself in the past through exercise - I still suffer from a bad back initiated about 16 years ago when deadlifting - and it is so frustrating and paradoxical. Sometimes the extra fitness benefit is not worth the health risk that comes with that little bit extra. I was reminded of this last night - I tweaked my back doing burpees, an exercise that had irritated my back in the past. I was primed for it - unfamiliar exercise over the weekend and a long drive left me tight and sore.

I want to be fit through my 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond. Perhaps that means a different perspective on exercise.

Do no harm - in terms of the movements, the frequency, the intensity.


scott said...

That is exactly the conclusion that I am coming to (finally). But it is so hard. If you are into working out, the extra pushing is very difficult to control, even when you know better, even when you feel a warning twinge. Too bad it takes hard lessons. One of my biggest issues involves always pushing myself beyond muscle failure, and that has caused much grief and slow recovery. DeVany says never do it and I am finally understanding why. Great post, great blog.

Chris said...

Thanks Scott

Chainey said...
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Charles R. said...

I'm 56, I played football, hockey, tennis, and volleyball, mostly not very well, but with enthusiasm.

I also trained stupidly (we knew a lot less back then, but we should have known enough not to almost kill ourselves.)

When the testosterone is pumping, either yours, or everyone else's in the gym, it is really, really hard to keep your head, and make good choices.

I am paying for that now. It is taking me years to repair the damage, and there are some things I will never be able to do again, that I should be able to do.

But for me to try to tell that to someone in their just doesn't go over. "Sure, grandpa. You bet."

Take care of your knees. Take care of your back. Don't overtrain. When you are tired, rest. When something starts to hurt, stop doing that!

Part of the problem is that the reason we are at the gym at all is because we are motivated to push ourselves. So it's always an uphill struggle.

Oh, and by the way, you aren't going to live forever. That shocked the hell out of me, I gotta tell you.

Billy Oblivion said...


Switch gyms. Go to one like a YMCA where they're used to working with geriatrics, rehab patients and soccer moms. There you will find trainers who are perfectly willing to let you work inside your comfort zone.

Uh. You're in New Zeland, do they have Ys there?