Is it to be Aesthetically fit?
A cheeky little combination of both!? I remember being in my 20’s and it was all about looking good. At that age I was naturally fit, so retaining a level to play football or run wasn’t difficult. I probably considered both important, almost as much as the vanity of youth that went with it.
It's a fact many people attribute fitness to image. It is important to us, in fact so important that we'll do whatever it takes to get it.
20+ years have long since packed up and gone and I’m now a young man in an old mans body. Obviously I’m not young, I have to adult a fair proportion of the time, balance a family, work and try and train, but I still feel young and there is certainly life in the old dog yet!
So what’s the point of this post? It stemmed from a conversation in the lift as I left work last night. Two of the guys were talking about going to the gym, the actual comment went...
“you going straight to the gym?” “Yeah gotta get the six pack, it’s nearly summer!”
To which I piped up....
“abs are made in the kitchen!”
And the retort came back....
“I spend too much time in the kitchen, that’s the problem!”
I know I can relate to that and I guess many others can too. I know abs are made in the kitchen, I blurted it out, and again it’s pretty much fact, there's science that proves that, (unless of course you're just a genetic monster), but you know what? As much as I’d like to be 20 again and have a six pack without any effort eating what ever sh*t I wanted, maybe being aesthetically fit isn’t as important as being physically fit.
Don't get me wrong, you can be both, again there are many people that rock that look in every sense! But I guess, they have more time to devote to that cause than most, ie. us ordinary folk that have other priorities to factor in to our busy days (like putting kids to bed), that don't work in the fitness industry.
There is a perception that if you look fit, you're healthy, or you are 'fit', it's can be a massive misconception, I know from experience that not to be true. I've stood on the start line of arguably one of the toughest events there is, with guys that look in phenomenal shape, they're beasts in their arena, but they can't get near you. Why? Who knows, I'm not a coach or a fitness expert, but maybe the foundation for all round fitness does lie in what you do in a cardio sense. Sure, if I stood in the gym and tried to go toe to toe in terms of raw strength against those sort of guys, whilst I'd give it my all, there would only be one winner!
Again, don't get me wrong, I fully advocate being in the gym and getting strong, lifting heavy and working the body for muscular growth. If truth be told, still, that's what I aspire to, but the reality is it takes time and a serious amount of hard work, and a proper plan that you have to be committed to. Whilst I have certain targets in mind when it comes to the types of events I compete in, I know I can't be the best marathon or trail runner or cyclist without understanding the benefits of a strength programme. To stay fit and to limit injury you'd be daft not to spend a fair amount of time concentrating on strength training.
If I look back on my 20's, it's probably what I did, but it was a lot more naturally attainable, my young mans body is gone, I have to become an expert at using what’s left!
I also don't buy into fad diets, that doesn't mean because I'm exercising I advocate eating whatever I want, I’m not saying “just because I'm exercising it doesn’t matter!” I know I don't fully get my nutrition right and if anything it's the one area where I let myself down. However, what I am saying is, you can be physically fit, make good choices to aid health and have a decent life balance and enjoy it too.
Sure if I had all the time in the world, I’d be making more of an effort to not just go for 6, I’d be gunning for 12. However, life is too short and besides, as one of the guys was getting off the lift he turned to me and said...
“to be honest I’d like to look like you!” “How long does that take?”
I was honestly taken aback, but replied....
“so far, about 5 years!”
To which he replied....
“Christ I have some work to do, it’s been two weeks!”
I offered to help where I could and encouraged him to stick at it, there’s nothing better for me, than seeing people on the journey to be a better version of themselves. Not only does exercise improve our health, I firmly believe exercise leads to improvement in our mental state, our well-being, actually I don’t need to firmly believe, it’s fact.
I also know the more we open ourselves to the idea of pushing our boundaries and getting out of our comfort zone, the stronger we become mentally, not just physically. Our mind has the power to determine if we win or lose, you have to train your mind in the same way you train your body, you do that and you can achieve anything.
Take me, I’ve run a marathon (ok many) but that first marathon puts me along with many others as a 1% statistic. Indeed if we take that further in to my stats, my VO2 max is in the top 1% for my age group. Actually none of those things mean a lot, there are many physically faster and stronger than I, but what I’d like to see is those 1%’s become 10, and then 20 and so on, and truly then I believe those statistic will mean something.
Why? Because what will be happening is those statistics that suggest we are unhealthy as a nation, will be decreasing, you only have to look at the Diabetes statistics to understand how alarming the issue is. Approximately 90% of all Diabetes cases world wide are Type 2, you re generally at risk of Type 2 Diabetes if you're overweight or obese, eat unhealthily and are physically inactive. The scariest thing is though, Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes (as it was primarily seen in middle-aged adults over the age of 40), however, in recent years, cases of Type 2 diabetes have become more common in young adults, teens and children. This increase has been connected to climbing levels of obesity.
Fitness and improving health may be a personal thing but I do believe we have a duty to influence and encourage as many people (including our younger generation and our children) as we can, to look after themselves better. This isn’t just about eating greens, lean meat and running until the cows come home. It’s about making better choices, better choices leading to better habits, better habits lead to goals, goals lead to opportunities we never knew existed and to individuals we never knew we could be, we have to be the example!
Magic formula? There isn’t one! The secret is to focus your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new. If like most you have to balance life, there are no shortcuts, it’s a small steps game, you have to make the most of the time you have. If your consistent and persistent you might surprise yourself and inspire others in the process, for me that’s worth more than any six pack.
Although don't just take my word for it, again I'm not an expert, I'm not a qualified fitness instructor, but I've been fortunate enough to turn things around and luckily I have some friends who think like I do!
For me, fitness is an elusive term. Depending on your starting point and cultural conditioning, it can have a plethora of markers and values. It’s synonymous with good health, athleticism, muscularity , toughness, strength and the lust worthy visuals of the day. In my youth, it was about being seen: faddy diets, exercise classes de rigeour & must have products. After facing my own mortality, my perspective has shifted dramatically. Long gone are the days of wanting to be the thinnest girl in the room or running a set number of miles. Today it’s about being functionally fit for life & enjoying good health, without jeopardising it for aesthetics. It’s about taking control of me & finally enjoying what my body can do for me. I’m about 2 stone heavier, but I think for a mid 40s that I’m definitely broadening my possibilities.
To be the best version of me! You taught me that!
For me mate fitness is, maintaining my results from losing almost 4 stone, being healthy, setting example to my grown up kids, and if it also inspires others that's a bonus.