Fitness in the Media

What do you think of when you hear the word, fitness? Just stop for a moment and think about it. If you are living in America, odds are you’ve been bombarded with commercials, advertisements, and late night infomercials telling you what it means to be fit; and probably how you can get there. Just how realistic is what they’re selling you though?

What’s with that “ideal” body image sold to us by the media? You can see it everywhere you look these days. For men it’s all about broad shoulders, massive biceps, and lean six-pack abs. The media wants guys to look just like their favorite childhood superheros. As far as the ladies go, the hollywood ideal is a little bitty waist, round full hips, and long slender limbs. From movies to magazines; these unrealistic expectations of body image are all around us. Unfortunately for most of us, the media’s ideal body is nearly impossible to attain. When people can’t get there, they often spiral into obsession with their body image to an unhealthy level. So is that what fitness is all about?

Like most young men, there was a time in my life when my goal was to look just like the guys on the cover of Muscle and Fitness. My young impressionable mind just thought that was the way guys were supposed to look. I remember pressing, curling, and and pulling to no end. No matter how much I worked out, I looked like a scrawny wimp when compared to guys like Ahhnold. What I didn’t know at the time, was that it all comes down to genetics. Only 20% of men are genetically predisposed to bulking up, and I had no idea. In addition, (and also unbeknownst to me) most, if not all of those guys in M&F Magazine are on the juice… Just saying.

People are a diverse breed, and come in a multitude of shapes and sizes. This is really good news, because not everybody wants to look like a body builder. In fact I hear women say it all the time, “I don’t want to lift weights, because I don’t want to bulk up.” Well ladies, I’ve got some more good news; it’s not going to happen. Lifting weights is an outstanding way to build lean body mass, but if you don’t take steroids, you’re not going to get big. Again, only about 20% of men can do it naturally, and it all comes down to genetics. The ability to put on the mass comes from a combination of testosterone, and a high ratio of fast twitch muscle fibers. Fast twitch fibers are responsible for power, strength output, and speed; explosiveness. These are the muscle fibers can get really big, but also fatigue very quickly. Slow twitch fibers on the other hand contract more slowly, and can work for a much longer duration. They also don’t tend to get very big. Most people you meet probably have close to a 50/50 ratio of the two types. I am definitely one of those 50/50 types. This is excellent news for me, because I love to run, bicycle, hike, ride, and climb. All of these things require a good amount of endurance, and to have a good amount of endurance, you need to have a good amount of type 1 (slow twitch) muscle fibers.

Now that I’m a little older and wiser, I’ve outgrown my desire to endlessly bulk up. Looking back, it seems almost ridiculous. I’d much rather be well rounded than have — well, round biceps. A healthy level of lean body mass is definitely a good thing, but at some point it’s not going to make you any more fit. In recent years, it seems that the fitness community has also shifted to a much more natural philosophy. The focus these days seems to be geared toward function in day to day life. You can see it with the rise in popularity of “functional training” and CrossFit over the last few years. People are training to make their daily tasks easier. The question now isn’t, “How big are your guns?” but, “How well do you perform?” Personally I am very exited to see the shift, because I see fitness as being very holistic. To me, fitness extends beyond the gym, and into every aspect of being. It’s everything from what you put into your body, to the way you train, the way you treat others, and even your impact on the planet. In my mind, fitness is the ability to adapt and thrive in any given situation. If you have efficiency in movement, stability, mobility, and a good level of strength and endurance; nothing in this world can hold you back. That’s what fitness is all about. Forget about looking good, that just comes with the territory.

So what exactly is fitness? Well my friend, that’s for you to decide. I can tell you this though; If you aren’t where you want to be, it’s never too late to start training.