Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The cost of getting lean

Earlier this year I was invited to do a couple of seminars with some dance students at a local college. It was a busy day, but very interesting. One of the questions I asked the students was about their ideas of being fit and being healthy. The point I wanted to make was that the two are not synonymous. Some very fit people are actually quite unhealthy and some healthy people are very unfit.

When you start a fitness programme you need to know what your goals really are going to be. Is it about fitness or is it about health? Are you confusing getting fit with getting healthy? In the world of Personal Training you will sometimes hear a reference to the "mirror muscles". Big guns, six-pack abs, all the things you might see on the front cover of the latest men's fitness magazine.

Inside the magazine there's usually an article detailing an exercise and eating regimen that will transform your body from the flabby dough-like consistency it currently has into the chiselled and sculpted adonis that adorns the cover page. No doubt it will work for some readers, but many more will be left exhausted in a pool of sweat and seeing a rather less than finely tuned athlete staring back at them from the bathroom mirror.

The truth is that some people have a naturally lean and well-defined, muscular appearance. There's a technical term for this type of natural physique but most people just call them something Anglo-Saxon and uncomplimentary! For the rest of us we have to work with what we've got and settle for something less than perfect. You may be able to get leaner, but you won't have all those impressive muscles.

So what are the costs, the pros and cons of getting leaner or fitter or healthier? To reveal that six-pack (oh yes, you have one it's just that it might be hidden by a party-7) might actually require you to measure all your food, every meal of every day and to work out longer than you are able to sustain. In other words, it might just be too costly, both in terms of your ability to commit to the process and possibly even your overall health.

In an interesting article about the costs of different lifestyles, expressed in terms of body fat percentage, Ryan Andrews & Brian St. Pierre set out some interesting information. Personally I believe that body fat percentage is a far better measure that BMI, particularly if you are in any way athletic or playing sports regularly. If you're a 6'3" rugby forward weighing it at around 18.5 stone, then your BMI would say your obese even if your BF% is only 12.

So, as the weeks tick down to the New Year and you're getting ready to set yourself yet another lose weight/get fitter resolution, think about what you are truthfully trying to achieve, whether it's possible and what you will have to do in order to reach and maintain your goal. Me personally, I'd love to be leaner, fitter and faster, but I am also hopefully realistic about what I can commit to achieving. That doesn't mean I won't try and reach some goals that are tough, but I'm enough of a realist to settle for the possible rather than reach for the impossible.

The article mentioned above has a really interesting series of graphics that set out the benefits and trade-offs for a range of BF%'s. It's worth a read.

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