what are you fit for?
Updated: Jul 14, 2020
As a Kinesiologist/Strength and Conditioning Coach, it’s one of top two things clients say during the meet and greet, “I want to lose weight, and get more fit”. Those are great goals, but my question back to them is always, fit for what? Most of the time, when people tell me that they want to be more fit, they mean they want to look like the Instagram model, or some random person on the internet, who has “shredded 6 pack abs”. Unfortunately, there is an absurdly unnatural obsession with abs in our (North American, perhaps also other) culture (and I won’t even get into the massive problem of using social media as fitness influences). As a result, people easily conflate physique with performance. However, for the general public, I believe that is not the ideal way to look at fitness and health. Rather, my primary concern is always about output, as in, what can my clients can do, not what they look like. In my experience working clients, if you consistently work really hard during your workouts/practices then your body composition (presumably the desired higher muscle to fat proportions), should be a by-product of your hard work. Yes, you read that correctly. In my opinion, your (potential) beach body should be a SIDE-EFFECT of your hard work, and should NOT be your focus!
Always, I encourage ALL my clients to forget their weight, and “6 pack abs” as a form of validation for physical fitness. Don’t be a “slave the scale”, and rather, focus on: how many pull ups they can do, how much weight can they deadlift, squat, chest press(etc.), and how many rounds of burpees and battle ropes can they do without their form going to sh!t. The point is, if you pair consistent focus on hard work, with a balanced diet, I think it would be difficult not to see desired body composition results.
When my clients start focusing on performance, rather than physical, it becomes evident that having abs shouldn't be a focus. As they begin to ask themselves, how would me having visible 6 pack abs help me play with my kids better and/or easier? How would having visible abs help make my physically demanding job easier? How would me having 6 pack abs help me actually land a harder punch? How would having abs help me score more or run faster? The obvious answer, I hope, is that having visible abs probably doesn't help that much.
Take these incredible athletes for example:
These women were some of the best in their sport. Unfortunately, if we walked down the street and saw Cheryl Haworth (middle), we (myself included) would more likely assumed that she is obese and not “fit”. Conversely, we would almost unequivocally declare that Kim Chizevksy (far left) is incredibly “fit”. Again, fit for What? Obviously, she is fit for Bodybuilding, but she is not an Olympic Weightlifting Medalist. The point is that different demands of the sport will dictate their training, dietary and physical composition requirements.
Further, bodybuilding (Figure athletes) is not chronically sustainable! People who training for bodybuilding competitions not only does not look like that all the time, but they also likely have several problems such as: prolonged and severe caloric/dietary restrictions (causing chronic fatigue and other health problems), most likely using performance enhancing drugs (PED, or supplements, some of which are illegal and expensive), excessive hours of training (which most of us don’t have). All of those to achieve a certain look that is not necessarily most beneficial to health and life.
Instead, I encourage my clients to adopt habits for their health and general fitness such as: manage macronutrients, have a balanced diet (yes, eat carbs too), and exercise vigourously 3-4 hours a weeks. That’s only 1.8-2.4% of your entire week! There it is, no magic bullet (or pill). Just consistent hard work coupled with healthy eating behaviours. It’s not going to be easy, but it might be one of the few worthwhile goals in life to have the patience to see through.
So, where do I start? How many How much carbs/proteins/fats do I eat (or not eat)? How many sets and/or reps? As a Kinesiologist, I have the ability to wade through some of the scientific evidence and most of the bullsh!t on the interwebs, and give you the most efficient form of training, specific to your fitness goals. With the plethora of misinformation available, working with a qualified fitness professional has never been more worthwhile! I believe that qualified fitness professionals are more important than ever, because I am able to identify and prescribe work out programs that ACTUALLY work (you will be surprised how simple most things are). So begin by asking yourself, what do you want to be fit for?