Body image, strength, and old age: A better way to look at your level of fitness

I’ve pretty much always been skinny.

This meant I felt ridiculous being unhappy with my body. After all, I had what everyone seemed to want. How ungrateful could I be to feel unhappy with how looked?

Regardless of whether I should or shouldn’t have felt that way (hint: your feelings are your own. No one can tell you otherwise), that’s how I felt.

Growing up with zero confidence i.e. ability to talk to girls, I thought maybe if I was more fit, they would talk to me. Because I’d rather shove my hand in a wood chipper than initiate a conversation with someone I find attractive.

I didn’t want anybody to know how dissatisfied I was with my physique. I was very concerned with what people would say, to the point where I would do pushups and situps in secret. I’d get really embarrassed if I got caught.

It wasn’t until I started training Muay Thai in college I found a sneaky alibi for getting stronger and more muscular -- I was going to the gym to get better at my sport, not to get jacked.

After 3 years of this I eventually started feeling more confident in how I looked, mainly because I shifted my measuring stick to performance. This was easier to judge because performance is more quantifiably measured than appearance. 200 lbs is always 200 lbs. It’s less complicated in that way.

This opened the floodgates to a whole host of other insecurities and comparison traps because I was now basing my worth on how much weight I lifted, and how well I trained. If I had a good training session and put some weight on the bar I'd feel great! I'd be so freakin' confident!

But, if I had a bad training session and/or got hurt (which happened a lot because I constantly pushed my body too hard chasing that confident feeling), I'd feel completely deflated. On the upside the body image stuff subsided substantially. Hooray!

And now, a short interlude for some somewhat morbid philosophy.

The rich, the poor, the powerful and the weak -- we all die in the end. Time is the great equalizer.

"All sorts of people have died—all professions, all nationalities...We have to go there too, where all of them have already gone: … the eloquent and the wise—Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Socrates … … the heroes of old, the soldiers and kings who followed them … … Eudoxus, Hipparchus, Archimedes … … the smart, the generous, the hardworking, the cunning, the selfish … all underground for a long time now.”- Marcus Aurelius

Eventually, our bodies decay. Eventually my body will grow weaker, or less strong, depending on whether or not you’re a glass half full or half empty kinda person. At any rate, my body will be able to lift less weight.

Judging worth on performance, on physical strength, is as problematic as judging worth on body fat percentage! It’s just trading one measuring stick for another.

I still judge myself based on these criteria from time to time. It’s hard not to in the society and culture we live in.

I’m not the strongest guy in the world. I’m happy with my strength levels, my progress, and the strides I’ve made. But, whenever I see someone on Instagram deadlifting twice as much as me for a warm-up I severely doubt my worth as a coach. Why would anyone listen to me when there are stronger, more muscular and lean people out there?

Here’s the thing though. No matter how ripped or strong I get, there will ALWAYS be someone stronger and more ripped then me. No matter how physically strong I get, I’d still have the:

Exact. Same. Problem.

What’s to be done?

Enjoy the journey. Enjoy each rep, for its own sake. Truly fall in love with the process.

Fall in the love with the act of working towards a goal, not the goal itself. You’ll find you reach the goal much quicker anyway.

"But what if I haaaAAAAaaAAAAaaaate working out and eating healthy?"

Fair question.

I truly believe everyone can enjoy exercise and healthy foods under the right conditions.

It’s just a matter of finding the right healthy foods, prepared in a way you like, and finding a style of exercise you like, with people you like exercising with.

Beyond that, the more you do it, the more you’ll enjoy it. You just have to build up to it.

Gradually your perspective shifts. You realize you feel better after you workout. You’re in a better overall mood, have more energy, you’re having more sex, and getting better sleep. Life is great!

Your brain removes the separation between exercise and the feeling/results you get from it. They become one in the same.

This happens especially when you’re aware of WHY you want to get fit in the first place. Be aware of the person you want to be, why you want to be that person, and what that person does every single day.

For example, if fitness is important because you think fitness shows determination, you start to associate acts of fitness with being a determined person.

Ramp up the intensity slowly. The most important thing in the beginning isn’t that you work hard each workout, but that you show up week-in week-out (even it’s for a 5 minute walk on the treadmill), so you start building a consistent exercise routine.

Try different things. Try yoga, cardio, zumba, pilates, barre, bodybuilding, crossfit, soccer, martial arts, cycling or whatever sounds fun to you. Try some new things and see what you like.

Yes, I have a bias towards strength training because of the results it gets my online clients. It's definitely not the only way to lose fat and build muscle, I just think it’s the most effective way ;-)

Ultimately the best workout is the one you do.

Actions define you. Not results.

You can’t control the results you get, you can only control how you act. Fall in love with acting in the way the person you want to be would act. In my opinion, this is a far better “measuring stick” than any number.

Oh, and don't forget to grab a free copy of "Insanity Free Fat Loss: 10 Secrets for Long Term Success" to burn body fat (and keep it off) without dieting or obsessing about your health.

Posted on Feb 24, 2017