Body image

Up to now I’ve asked you to consider the reason for getting fit on the pure physical benefits: the increased ability to be active for longer, the energy and endorphins you will have in store to attack your daily tasks and projects. The way you might look and how others will judge you is not something I’ve detailed here, but all of us can be chest beating gorillas or displaying peacocks at times. Our appearance is important and the clothes, shoes, hair, and ink we use to adorn start with the physical frame of our bodies. Begin by understanding the relationship you have with your body.

The goal of becoming fit is to create habits that will stay with you your entire life, simultaneously improving it. The physical improvements and how you might be perceived are artifacts of that process and not the reason why you should do it in the first place. In the previous post we discussed motivation and how it is fleeting; how you should depend on routine and master delayed gratification to achieve the goal of becoming fit. If your goal is to look a certain way, your journey will be harder for a number of reasons.

The key one is realism. Understand the food and exercise industry aren’t the only entities invading your headspace. Hollywood is responsible for selling an unachievable result and packaging it as normal. The majority of shirtless leading actors in big budget blockbusters film scences dangerously close to organ failure having gone without water for a couple of days. But hey, those defined, shredded muscles look amazing.

As well as realism, there is predictability. The body is a machine. Work, refuel, recover and rest appropriately. Repeat. The measurements of what you can achieve will improve. If your measurement is something that fluctuates with your hydration levels, how a passing stranger looks at you, or what comment a relative makes about your shape in a certain outfit, then you cannot depend on it. Say it with me, “My goal is not to look a certain way. My goal is to get fit.”

So what if that’s not your goal? Perhaps you are in this purely for the aesthetics? We will consider the different types of fitness shortly, and when we do I suggest you choose the type of fitness that most closely mirrors the average practioner of a given sport or training regime. The key here is to train for that sport/regime, and not for the body image.

If you are embarrassed about the way you look, some of what I’ll ask you to do may be hard to begin with. I know some people are intimidated by gyms. My advice of starting with an easy workout that establishes good form and routine will mean you may go into a gym and lift an empty olympic bar. You look around and you see no one else, not a single person, lifting anything quite so insignificant. Don’t worry, the vast majority of people who come to workout are focusing on themselves and are quietly supportive of what you’re doing and why you’re there.

No matter how far from fit you begin your journey, we all start somewhere. Shop around to find a gym with a good culture, and forgive your past self for the actions that led to what your body is today. You are going to do something about it so ignore what you or others think about your body. Focus on the system and the results will follow.