‘Exercise is the fountain of youth’
The quest begins with the end point in mind. Any goal needs an end point. The end point of my journey (without admitting it out loud) was the abs, the glorious abs. I bought the magazines, watched the videos, and followed the beautiful people. I was ready for my end destination. The 6 pack and therefore the happiness when I looked in the mirror. But I never got there.
The road to my failure was paved with the intentions to starve, ingest supplements, obsess and ab-crunch myself to success. Life is the journey – the end point is not life. My end point was a ‘picture’ of health when really it might have been a picture of misery.
The pressure of the modern fitness industry to look perfect had got to me and I could not resist. For a few months of my life, I restricted my life experiences, rice cakes and weighing bananas were a norm. Yes, weighing a bloody banana, in fact for the most part I was avoiding bananas because I read once that they were too calorific. They are terrific. In fact, I am going to eat one right now before I continue.
Delicious. It was taking too long – this transformation to a newly ripped body, my daily look in the mirror was showing me pathetically slow and inconsistent results. Slow and steady, screw that, I want it now. I restricted calories, I upped my protein intake, I stopped drinking alcohol, I stopped eating out, I stopped going out and I stopped doing what was natural and enjoyable. Restriction was the word.
It came to a point where I thought to myself maybe steroids or some magic pills were the answer? I decided before steroids I would try all the other more legal pills and potions. The supplement store is the answer to the question – can I buy a quick fix? What I need is branch chain amino acids, green tea extract, glucosamine, creatine, protein, casein, pre-workout and of course a string vest. All those products defined fitness to me. I had fallen for the fitness industry myth – fitness must be purchased.
The greatest trick the fitness industry ever pulled was having unsustainable dehydrated body images at its centre. Hence the quest began for the average person to achieve this, and how? Buy buying the fitness industries powders, plans and packages.
Fitness is not body goals and abdominals – it is about health.
Sustainable and enjoyable health must be at the centre of anyone’s fitness plan. Fitness should be the ability to run and jump while being strong and flexible, enjoying the process and enjoying living. The days of a restricted life for a six-pack photo needs to end. An unhealthy relationship with food where it is seen as an enemy is unsustainable for most. Food is awesome, it is a true joy in life. Fall in love with fresh, healthy, delicious food while exercising in a way you love.
Easy to say I suppose, just you know ‘eat whatever and exercise whenever’, it will all be fine. Sometimes exercise is uncomfortable and maybe not what you want to do at that moment, but what is uncomfortable is what happens when you do not embrace real health and fitness.
Your health is not something that just happens, you can be healthy, you can feel great, but you must work at it. If you can work for someone else from 9 to 5 you can work for yourself for 30 minutes. You do not need a fancy gym or an expensive personal trainer, you can work out in your home, follow a HIIT video on YouTube and just go for it.
Having low body fat so your six pack shows though is not necessarily going to feel great but being able to hop out of bed each day with energy feels amazing. How about you strive to be the person who can run 5km in the countryside with a smile on your face and end the day with a glass of wine and delicious cheese with friends. No restrictions just a balance.
We are the protein generation. According to the fitness industry I must eat more protein than any member of my family has ever eaten (all generations). Is there any chance that my body does not need that much protein or should not be carrying a large amount of show off muscle? Maybe my masculinity will be diminished with smaller shoulders, but surely it should be more diminished with an inability to get up a flight of stairs without breathless panting.
Remove yourself from what some media says fitness is. You must define what it is for yourself, what sort of person you wish to be, day to day. A glorious end picture of a ripped physique is not a fitness, fitness is an everyday experience.
Fitness industry – you are winning but you are killing fitness, the inspirations you show us are projecting an image of unsustainable perfection, but healthy living is coming for you. Industry wants and needs to make money to survive, it hates when you strive for health and happiness without them.
The fitness industry wants you to strive for the six pack and lack of cellulite and the misery that quest can bring. You must join a gym, buy the clothes, the equipment, the supplements, and the packages – just to be fit? Yeah right.
I never ended up getting the six pack, I gave up after a few unhappy months, I lost about 7 kilograms and lost my passion for exercise. I hopped on a plane for a holiday and proceeded to eat and drink too much in a rebound from my months of restriction. I felt terrible, my insides agreed, tiredness and apathy ruled. All my work was undone in a few weeks, in fact post-holiday I was in worse physical shape than I had been in when I started my fitness quest six months earlier. The key to health and fitness lay somewhere between these two extremes and I have been searching for it ever since. Searching for the fitness balance.
My rebirth in fitness has been a pleasure. I killed the fitness I was being sold and created my own. I play sport, I go to the gym, I run, I do yoga (not enough), I lift weights, I go to Crossfit and I workout at home, I combine everything, and I feel great. I drink, I eat out, I eat well, and I eat desert and I feel great. I have found my fitness goal, to enjoy exercise while experiencing life and not caring about the bloody six pack anymore, bonus – I am healthier and happier.
You can get in shape anywhere. Set yourself challenges. Test how many push ups you can do in a minute and set a goal to double that in two weeks. Why not? Go for walks. Walk with no headphones just with your thoughts. This has proven to be a magnificent way to exercise your brain as well as your body. It will focus your mind. Try it. Why not?
You probably do not need much convincing of the benefits of fitness. Fitness has three areas – nutrition, exercise, and rest. The informed combination of these three leads to fitness. Without this information mistakes occur. The CDC (Centre for Disease Control) in America recommends that each adult does at least 150 minutes per week of at least two different styles of exercise – for example running and weightlifting. Fitness could be the answer to a lot of the world’s health problems.
Exercise regimes will improve physical performance. There is also evidence that physical activity has a positive association with cognition and academic achievement. Get those students exercising to get the best test scores.
Speaking of students, knowledge is key when it comes to nutrition. There is a need for nutritional education in schools as there is a positive correlation between nutritional knowledge and practices. This may be lacking in many schools, perhaps it is something that nations should be addressing along the constant international war to improve mathematics scores. Children will choose the healthier option when given the options and the knowledge.
With nutrition, avoiding process foods and meeting your energy expenditure with calorie intake is a healthy way to live. If you want to lose weight it is important to know your Total Energy Expenditure (TTE) and go slightly under that in calories, however your TEE will reset after a short period to match your new calorie intake as your body adapts. It is important to arm yourself with such knowledge before an intrepid move into ‘dieting’. Don’t forget to eat breakfast as it is recommended that humans consume 15-25% of their intake at breakfast.
When considering fitness an often-overlooked aspect is rest. The body needs time to recover from exercise, up to 72 hours when it comes to intense strength training. The body needs adequate protein, healthy diet and hydration post exercise. It is also suggested that cold water immersion post exercise can help recovery , we will look more at that later. The most important part of your fitness definition when it comes to rest is sleep.
Optimal sleep allows athletes reach their peak performance, although you may not be a professional athlete you do need to address your sleep. Sleep quality and duration are global health problems. Too much as well as too little sleep being significant predictors of death. We need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night to fully rest and recover.
In order to facilitate a good nights sleep the optimal conditions will help, low noise (below 35dB), temperature (17-28 degrees C), humidity (40-60%), complete darkness (no blue light) and good ventilation. Recent studies have shown that frequency and volume of social media use are associated with poorer sleep.
Challenge – commit to a month of exercising daily, no fancy supplements, equipment or purchases. Use YouTube 20 or 30 minutes HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or dance videos, go for a run/walk, do a load of burpees, take flights of stairs or play sport. Everyday do something – half an hour. Do it because you know you can. See how you feel after a month.
Why be unclear on what fitness and health means to you?
Why not find your own definition of fitness?
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