Look Good or Be “Fit”
This is the question! Do you want to “look good” or “be fit”? Does Joe public or Susie soccer mom want to be fit or look good? Are they the same? Why does it matter?
I’m here to tell you NO. They are NOT the same! That said, yes you can achieve a good level of fitness and wellness while training and eating to look good. We are bombarded daily with ads, commercials and social media posts with all sorts of trendy workouts, fancy diets and fat loss supplements but which ones do what? Of course, they will all claim that you can lose weight, build muscle and have the “toned” hot body that you have always dreamed of having. There is some layer of truth in there (IF), that’s IF you know when and how to apply them all and for how long. Have you ever seen any of these programs tell you that it isn’t a be all end all program, that it will need to be progressively adjusted along the way and that it alone will not get you to your goal? Did they even ask you what your goal was? More than likely you are banking on looking like the model associated with the ad, commercial or social media post BUT did they use this method to look the way they do? Likely NOT! So, if you want to look like them or somewhere close, shouldn’t you train and eat the way that they do? HHMMM, what is the common-sense answer to that? YEA! Face this FACT now. Not all but the vast majority of them did NOT use whatever program or product they are modeling for as the MAIN method that produced the body they are showing you.
So, you want to be “FIT”?
I think I already know the answer to the question but I have to ask because what I see these days more than anything else are people who REALLY want to look good but they are training to be “FIT”. I’m not at all saying that being fit is a bad thing, hell, it’s great and we should all work to be more “fit”, more “healthy”. Now, I know this is a topic that can be debated to death but I’m going to try and inject some common-sense and some facts that cannot be debated. What is it to be fit? This is a term of measurement. How well can you perform a task or how healthy you are and has very little to do with whether you look good or not. I could point you to any number of people who could literally kick my ass at wind sprints, who could run longer distances than me, do more pushups than me or do more burpees than me. The list goes on but what do they look like? Do they look the way they want to look? I work with people every day that could likely kick my ass at all of this but look nothing like what they tell me they want to look like. I would likely vomit if I tried to go do a respectable cross fit workout. Thinking of H.I.I.T. training (today) sparks thoughts of needing an oxygen tank to carry with me, yet this is what I see people doing or thinking they need to do.
Every day I talk to people who are doing 3 times as much work as me and eating far less than me yet they are not achieving their goals. Men want to have big chests, shoulders, biceps that stretch the sleeves of their shirts and washboard abs. Women dream of a flat stomach, toned legs, a tight firm ass and sexy shoulders yet the way they train and eat is setting them up to be the opposite. All of the above “wants” require muscle development, that is, muscle building not muscle break down. I see and hear of the Fitbit numbers, the hours on the treadmill or elliptical, countless hill sprints, miles jogged, wall ball reps, H.I.I.T sessions, sit ups, burpees, battle rope sessions, miles swam, Tabata sessions and of course how long, how fast and how many calories were burned. Have you seen and heard these things? Maybe you know someone who goes to the gym religiously and maybe they initially make some progress but that stalls quickly and they never seem to change after that? Maybe they begin to get smaller but they don’t look toned, they just look smaller and looser? Again, I say these people could probably kick my ass at these tasks but do they look like they want? By all accounts, they have improved their cardio vascular “fitness” and endurance but have they achieved their goal? I say NO.
Train to look good!
If you want to look good, build yourself up! All of the activities that I discussed above have a place but they do far more to break you down than build you up. They each have value. That said, they are all just TOOLS. Like a king of hearts, really important but just a card to play not a winning hand. Strength training is a FULL HOUSE, the tool box, the bull dozer, the horse power behind an amazing body! If you want your body to be “toned” (which is not even a real thing, it’s a description), to look muscular, tight, firm, strong and vibrant, train it to look that way. Learn the ways of resistance training. Resistance training can be more than just weights. It can be, in the beginning, body weight, milk jugs, bands, dumbbells, barbells, machines or sand bags. Hell, the list could go on forever. Almost anything can provide resistance. It’s all in how its applied.
You want your body to adapt. You have to push it beyond its current capability in order for it to adapt, to NEED to adapt. After all, MUSCLE is costly for your body in energy. In order to get your body to adapt in this way, you must create a need, a survival NEED. You can’t simply use light weights or your own body weight in some cardio like routine with the same weight to go faster or longer. You must always be working towards pushing your body to be STRONGER and more EXPLOSIVE. Work to build muscle which BURNS CALORIES 24 hours per day. The resistance used must always be progressively increased over time in amount and duration, consistently challenging your body to not only maintain the muscle you have but to grow more calorie burning muscle tissue, increasing your metabolic rate even at rest, 24 hours per day.
Muscle is expensive!
Let me see if I can sum this all up in a common-sense way. MUSCLE BURNS CALORIES. That cannot be debated. Take that statement and apply it to all the cardio based, fancy routines I mentioned above. Now, if muscle itself burns calories even at rest, what about when you are doing all those wind sprints, hill climbs, miles ran on the treadmill etc.? Muscle is costly and it weighs more than FAT. When you perform all of these cardio like activities, which do not REQUIRE SIGNIFICANT STRENGTH, for extended periods of time, reps, miles etc., your body’s job is to become more efficient at doing those tasks, right? It carries around all that muscle that is expensive in calories / fuel during all these activities yet isn’t needed for strength to perform the activities. What is it going to do to be more efficient? Your body can and will burn up muscle to reduce its own energy need in order to perform those cardio based tasks easier and more efficiently making you, yes more “FIT”, yes smaller but not strong; not the way you may be truly seeking to look and setting you up for fat regain in the long run because now you have far less muscle and less calorie burning ability.
What’s the solution?
Base the foundation of your training in resistance training. Resistance training should make up at least 80% of your training. Your resistance training should be PROGRESSIVE, meaning each workout should be approached with a mindset of getting a couple more reps on a particular move with the same weight as the last workout or more resistance / weight has been added than the last workout. If you can do 12 reps for 2 consecutive sets with a given amount of resistance, you need more resistance / weight. Your body will only adapt to the stress that it’s given. Once it adapts from a strength perspective, it will begin to further adapt from an efficiency perspective in the absence of even greater stress via resistance.
Use cardio as a tool to spark metabolism in short durations. Low to moderate intensity cardio in short durations (30 to 60 mins.) is fueled mostly by fat stores. Going beyond 30 to 60 minutes can begin to cause muscle break down. H.I.I.T. style cardio, which is very intense, should be used in even shorter durations (under 20 mins). Contrary to popular beliefs, these intense cardio activities are fueled by glucose stored in the muscle, NOT FAT. The benefit of H.I.I.T. cardio is an increase in your metabolic rate AFTER completion, NOT during. Doing too much high intensity cardio can break down muscle tissue, there again 2 steps forward and 1 step back when comes to achieving your goals.