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Chefs - As Tough As Elite Athletes

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Any job that requires heavy lifting is going to increase strength/muscle. Any job working in a hot environment is going to increase tolerance to that environment. Any job requiring repetitiveness can lead to repetitive stress problems. Any job requiring being on your feet all of the time can lead to problems related to that. In any job that causes some degree of pain or discomfort, the body (and mind) is going to learn to deal with that pain/discomfort. It's all tied to the work being done, not where it's being done. I'm not saying kitchen/bakery isn't hard work. I know it can be, I do it too. I just think it's a bit over the top to try to make it sound like some kind of special superhuman effort. It's just another work environment that will take some degree of toll on the body over time that you have to adapt to if you want to keep doing it.

That being what it is, it's also fallacious then to equate elite athleticism (or really any athleticism, when it boils down to brass tacks) with special superhuman effort. It's just another manner of conditioning the body for strength and endurance in a different set of tasks.... However it's worthwhile to recognize that there are very few other occupations that expose their professionals to the sheer range and depth of stressors as kitchen/bakery do.

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Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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That being what it is, it's also fallacious then to equate elite athleticism (or really any athleticism, when it boils down to brass tacks) with special superhuman effort. It's just another manner of conditioning the body for strength and endurance in a different set of tasks....

I would agree with that as well. Some people are naturally predisposed to being better at certain things than others and may attain a higher level of proficiency for a given effort but, yes, athletics are also something the body is adapted to through training/practice.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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One of my co-workers is in the doghouse (in a VERY BIG WAY). He found out that several of the chefs and front of house managers are under the age of 30, and quipped, "I don't know if I want to keep doing this. All of you look 20 years older than you really are."

I think that has much more to do with the "extra-curricular activities" than the workload. But still, it's a valid complaint about the industry.

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Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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One of my co-workers is in the doghouse (in a VERY BIG WAY). He found out that several of the chefs and front of house managers are under the age of 30, and quipped, "I don't know if I want to keep doing this. All of you look 20 years older than you really are."

I think that has much more to do with the "extra-curricular activities" than the workload. But still, it's a valid complaint about the industry.

Speaking of which, I'd also like to add that in a lot of cases, our choices of extra-curricular activities also lead to an above-average tolerance and stamina! Honestly, I can't remember the last time that I caught any kind of appreciable buzz from drinking a six-pack of beer, conversely, I know plenty of green cooks and culinary students who are falling down after the same amount...


I'm a lifelong professional chef. If that doesn't explain some of my mental and emotional quirks, maybe you should see a doctor, and have some of yours examined...

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One of my co-workers is in the doghouse (in a VERY BIG WAY). He found out that several of the chefs and front of house managers are under the age of 30, and quipped, "I don't know if I want to keep doing this. All of you look 20 years older than you really are."

I think that has much more to do with the "extra-curricular activities" than the workload. But still, it's a valid complaint about the industry.

Speaking of which, I'd also like to add that in a lot of cases, our choices of extra-curricular activities also lead to an above-average tolerance and stamina! Honestly, I can't remember the last time that I caught any kind of appreciable buzz from drinking a six-pack of beer, conversely, I know plenty of green cooks and culinary students who are falling down after the same amount...

I think that's still related to the individual, not the profession. I'm not green or a student and I might be falling down after a six-pack. I rarely drink and when I do, never more than 1 or 2. I eat pretty healthy for the most part, exercise regularly and sleep at night instead of prowling the bars. I don't smoke (never even tried it). I don't do drugs of any kind (not even OTC or prescription when I can avoid it). I haven't drank enough to be intoxicated, or even feel an appreciable buzz, in many years. Of course that may not be valid evidence that it's not profession related, it's entirely possible that I'd just be the oddball in most restaurants.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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You are more likely successful and have stable relationships in your life, Tri 2.

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Oh we're tough all right, but we're not elite athletes. I recently got an activity tracker because I was curious to see how many calories I actually expend in a day. I feel like I'm constantly running for 9-12 hours a day and am generally exhausted by the end of a shift. But it turns out that even though I'm constantly moving, it's not intense athleticism. Over an average work day, I walk about 5 miles (back and forth to the oven, dish pit, etc) and climb 40 or 50 flights of stairs (walk-in and dry storage both upstairs from the kitchen) but have fewer than 10 "very active" minutes, with 5-6+ hours of light activity and 3-4+ hours of moderate activity.

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So chefs, I'm looking for some solutions to upper and mid-back pain, having to do with lifting, and being tipped at the waist so much, baking. Any yoga moves come to mind? I recently read an article about Yotam Ottolenghi, and how he had typical "bending over the stove" back pain, which he solved with yoga stretches . . . but the article (in the New Yorker) didn't mention which stretches he practiced. Maybe some core-strengthening would help? Any personal experiences out there? Thanks in advance.


Lizz

---

"you miss 100% of the shots you don't take"

-Wayne Gretzky

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Chefs as tough as elite athletes?

The title of this thread brought to mind visions of Mario Batali pole vaulting!..... Nah!!! No way!!! :shock:

Most chefs that I know tend to be quite ambitious...some are tough....some not so much. None pole vault! :blink:


~Martin

Unsupervised rebellious radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader and adventurous cook. Crotchety cantankerous terse curmudgeon, nonconformist, contrarian and natural born skeptic who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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The Executive Chef that I used to work for confided in me that at his age (I believe he was not quite 50 then), he felt that he had destroyed his body by cooking for so many years. He had bad knees, a bad back and terrible migraines most of the time. He had in fact stopped working the line at all and was creating menus and trying to find something else to do with the rest of his days.

If felt sorry for him. He had spent so much time devoted to his career that he had neglected his family and his health.

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Personally, I swear by aspirin. Not tylenol, not aleve, but real, pure aspirin. For some reason, it eases the pain far, far better than any other pain reliever I've tried.


I'm a lifelong professional chef. If that doesn't explain some of my mental and emotional quirks, maybe you should see a doctor, and have some of yours examined...

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It's better for you too, David. Ibuprophen and the like will build up in your liver, and since you are a drinker, can send you to your reward sooner than you had planned.

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I doubt there's much reward for me, of all people! I do love real aspirin though, it cuts the pain quickly, and keeps it at bay, for a long while...

I also stretch my back several times a day, whenever I have a minute, as much as I can. I find that a little pain while stretching, saves me a good deal of pain later, ya know?


I'm a lifelong professional chef. If that doesn't explain some of my mental and emotional quirks, maybe you should see a doctor, and have some of yours examined...

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Oh, come now. There's hope for all of us.

I take aspirin, too. Mainly because, as you say it works better and more importantly, all the other acetaminophen products make me vomit. Literally. Obviously, my stomach knows best since I've never gotten sick on aspirin.

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So chefs, I'm looking for some solutions to upper and mid-back pain, having to do with lifting, and being tipped at the waist so much, baking. Any yoga moves come to mind? I recently read an article about Yotam Ottolenghi, and how he had typical "bending over the stove" back pain, which he solved with yoga stretches . . . but the article (in the New Yorker) didn't mention which stretches he practiced. Maybe some core-strengthening would help? Any personal experiences out there? Thanks in advance.

I'm really fond of the simple standbys: sun salutations and downward dog. They seem to extend and realign everything that I mess up when I've got stove or countertop related back pain.


Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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Also yoga therapy balls, great for getting deep into those knots in your shoulders and lower back.

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