I hate the 'exercise snack'

*curling Arthur fist* plus, how eating 'healthy' can hurt performance, solo vs. group workouts, a barbell backflip, and more. Links 32!

I hate the 'exercise snack'

More and more, I’m hearing calls for the “exercise snack.” “Fit your exercise into small bites here and there,” they say. Probably we should all be moving more and getting many exercise snacks throughout the day with not having to think about them. But having already lived that life, I object to it as a whole health-maintenance modality.

I have grim memories of the time I pursed exercise snacks, before they were called that. On its face, it just sounded like an easier way to do exercise. Rather than making time to go to a whole gym, the idea was to hunt-and-gather opportunities to make oneself pant and stress within the natural terrain of one’s day: opportunities to “take the stairs,” “walk instead of drive,” “do a few burpees because I have 30 spare seconds.”

But what sounded like an easy compromise became an all-day preoccupation, and then internal struggle over whether to take advantage of each opportunity, and then guilt over not taking all of those opportunities. Noticing others experience this same struggle made me wince. While riding my bike in New York at my own leisurely pace, I would get passed by someone wearing business casual on a CitiBike, cranking the pedals with their slick leather-soled shoes like a bat out of hell, sweat pouring into their crisp Oxford shirt collar.

While there are a number of studies that show even tiny increments of exercise, like a single 4-second second sprint or a weekly three-second dumbbell curl, can show results, I’ll also say, those things are hard, and the progress in those studies is s l o w. I can say from my many years of choosing to take the stairs that taking the stairs never got any easier from taking the stairs alone, and it sucked every time. When I actually put in my few 30-minute sessions a week, the taking of the stairs got measurably easier. I breathed easier at the top, as if the stairs had never happened. But what also got easier was blissfully choosing to take the escalator instead, because I didn’t feel a moral obligation to take the stairs.

At a point, wedging our needs into the slim margins of life becomes a capitulation to capitalism. If we are being advised to sneak basic personal maintenance in the gasps of air between our many obligations, we should be taking that not “on the chin” and more as “something is wrong with society.” I mean, sure, exercise snacks for all, but snacks alone is not a life.

What subscribers got last week: A reader asked me when, if ever, it’s okay to try to intervene when someone is visibly self-harming or being harmed, such as when they have been influenced into doing a Chloe Ting shred and eat only [redacted three-digit number] of calories per day. I can speak to this, both as a former sufferer of these kinds of predatory trends, and as a control-freak problem-fixer.


Really loved this Christine Byrne piece that articulates a thought that has lurked in the back of my head for a while: eating “healthy” might be hurting your performance. I got into some of these points on my guide to eating like a big beautiful horse. But in short, too many high-volume and fibrous foods, avoiding processed foods, and relying on hunger cues/trying to pace your eating can prevent us from eating enough and to spec to support athletic goals.

I liked this piece on solo vs. group classes, though I think my take on it can be boiled down to one line: Agree that group classes often under-instruct, and the instruction part of beside the rest of the points (being motivated together, having fun, etc) to the detriment of the kind of person who would tend toward exercise classes. I get more out of all exercise stuff having more strength and a better sense of how my body works, and wish other activities I’d done before it (yoga, Pilates, etc etc) had put more into helping me understand what all those movements were supposed to really be doing; I had no idea before lifting. We are seeing more and more instruction-oriented classes out there, especially for strength training, which is what I would recommend to a beginner versus a class that just dances you around for a while.

The myth of visible abs. Sure, you can have body fat low enough to see your abs. But will it make your life unbearable? Almost certainly yes.

We’ve lost our sensory connection with food, but we can get it back.

A barbell backflip??

Even F1 drivers are hitting the weights (though the moves with the bands around his head are sending me).

I too think about hip hinging every time I bend over the sink.

I hadn’t seen this kind of deadlift jack before.

I did a little LIFTOFF Q&A on Instagram stories yesterday, answering questions from people who have bought the program but haven’t started it yet! I’m also going to have a bunch of really good LIFTOFF-related surprises next week, so you should keep it tuned to my Twitter and Instagram channels in order to not miss them. Turn alerts on, even. I don’t think you will regret it.


Is DrOpPiNg tHe WeIgHtS ReAlLy LoUdLy PaRt Of A sUcCeSsFuL gYm ExPeRiEnCe” 🙄 Yeah. It is.

Finally, a woman in sports. It’s about time we a saw a little feminism in the glances down at Cracker Jack box Industrial Revolution-era coping snacks space.

This is a mostly a personal victory, but I am brothers in arms in with any non-NYC New York State when it comes to recognition of our great cuisine: the garbage plate is getting the Brooklyn treatment. I’ll be washing that puppy down with a Genny Cream Ale soon enough.

This feels like a slightly new strain of “published workout next to a picture of a newly minted action star’s ripped body, implying the one thing caused the other”: admitting that the workout written out in the article did not itself get the actor in shape, but that he does... uh... do it from time to time.

I’m tired of being sustainable.” I’ve been saying, that shit is exhausting! Individual action hasn’t been a relevant climate strategy since the 80s. We need top-down action.


How everyone got so lonely.

I am VERY excited for Russian Doll to come back.

The Severance finale is today and I have not seen it yet do NOT speak to me about it, but our girl was renewed for Season 2; rejoice!

That’s all for this week!! Thank you for reading and subscribing, and I’m excited to unleash a bunch of great stuff on you all early next week; stay tuned! Love you thank you let’s go—

Social image by Lindsay Henwood via Unsplash.