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The Dark Side of the Fitness Industry

Primarily, as ‘physical’ as this lifestyle is, it’s 100% mental. Whether you are establishing your goals, motivating yourself or obtaining the knowledge necessary to reach those goals, it all starts with a state of mind, a certain ambition and an attitude. So, a recent injury has caused me to reevaluate why I do what I do. So I asked myself some questions.

  1. What are my specific goals that I want to achieve from lifting weights?

  2. Do these goals truly benefit my health/function as a human being?

  3. What kind of example am I setting by reaching these goals?

What’s about to be a long answer to question 1 will illustrate the vain, narcissistic, superficial side of ‘fitness’ that I am glad I acknowledged and escaped. I find this unfortunate revolution to be highly due to social media and it’s ability to harbor and parade these deceptive ideas of being ‘fit’. So badly that the term ‘fitness’ is well on the way to losing it’s true meaning entirely. For instance, imagine someone that’s really fit. You’re probably thinking of someone with defined, symmetrical muscle tone and perhaps some prominent abs. This is somewhat of an ambiguous image but my point is that many people now base their idea of being fit entirely on aesthetic appearance.

This is where I used to be with question 1. I held more value to looking a certain way than feeling a certain way. That’s not healthy. Never in my fitness journey did I feel poorly, I actually had an amazing coach who undoubtedly trains his clients based on the core values of fitness and genuinely places function before aesthetics. But that’s not where MY mind was at. Which is funny because as a trainer myself, I always strived for my clients to invest more attention towards improving in areas such as mobility, flexibility, endurance and strength. So why wasn’t I practicing what I was preaching? My best answer is getting too wrapped up the fitness/competing industry, where everyone wants to obtain this certain look.

You see these female fitness ‘icons’ with their developed glutes, tiny waists and rounded shoulders. I understand this look isn’t for everyone but it’s one of those perceptions that swallows you and that aesthetic goal becomes tunnel vision. Any other factors (such as function, mobility endurance etc.) became trivial. Needless to say, my fitness goals were becoming based on appearance. Now, some may argue this is essentially what competing in bodybuilding is (what you’re being judged on at least). However, before I offend anyone, I am by NO means saying that people who compete are narcissistic individuals, this was just the route I was traveling down. I actually know many fitness competitors that are the opposite of that and carry the mindset that I have currently developed. I also believe competing has many benefits when approached the correct way. Simply put, I think many people do it for the wrong reasons. Which leads me to the next question, ‘Do these goals truly benefit my health/function as a human being?’

Based on what you’ve read so far, the answer to that is no. Sure, I was training, getting stronger, developing muscles but was I actually ‘in shape?’ Not really. I guarantee I could find many people who don’t look as ‘fit’ as I do but could out perform me in almost anything. In my opinion, these are the people that truly represent being fit. A recent injury opened my eyes to this and redefined my understanding of fitness. Here’s where I was wrong, confused and mislead. And it all relates the ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ testimony. So here I am, this ‘fit’ looking woman with developed muscles, appearing to be ‘in shape’. I acquired an athletic APPEARANCE. What’s behind this ‘look’ tells a different story.  Before I proceed I suppose I should fill you in on my injury. I was dead lifting far too much weight. There was no reason for me to be dead lifting as much as I was, and it served no purpose. I should have followed the plan my coach had laid out for me but at the time my ego had unfortunately taken precedence. So, too much weight for too many sets left me with torn ligaments around my sacrum /lumbar region (tailbone area). This happened in November 2014, it’s now almost February 2015 and I still struggle to pick something up from the floor without cringing, and sneezing is essentially my worst nightmare.

Moving forward, the lesson I learned from this is far more valuable than the pain and time it will take to recover. 1. I’m lucky it wasn’t worse 2. I’m optimistic and patient 3. My new goals excite me. Back to the original question. No, my goals did not benefit my function as a person or even represent fitness for that matter. I was too caught up in achieving a certain look and ignored the basic components of fitness and being healthy. Again, because I had a great coach, my eating has always been performance based. There are so many coaches/public figures in this industry that hand out cookie cutter, unsustainable, low carb/calorie diets that are utterly a recipe for disaster. While important to mention, that’s a topic for another day.

Honestly put, eat to perform and perform to function/move well for life. Those should be platforms of any fitness related goal because without proper nutrition and intelligent training, I can guarantee you will not be as successful. Yes, with these things considered, reaching your goals will take longer but the long term benefits/results will be significantly more worthwhile. The idea of instant gratification that is so prominent in today’s society I believe, is to blame for this. Don’t fall into this trap like myself and many others have. Getting anywhere with any type of goal (fitness related or not) will require work, failure, frustration on repeat. But if you truly want to do your best and be your best, you’re going to have to sacrifice ego, redefine failure and let go of time frames. Work your butt off every day, give 100% to all aspects and you will get where you want to be. Now that I’ve gone a little off track with my fitness specific post, I will move on to the next question: What kind of example am I setting by reaching these goals?

Before, the example I was exhibiting is that you should work out to look the way you want to. While looking good is nice, it shouldn’t be priority. This brings me to social media. All these ‘fitspo’ accounts of girls (and guys) posting racy pictures of themselves to ‘provide inspiration’ to others. A few things here: 1. It is certainly important to be proud of your body 2. There’s a difference between pride and having an inflated ego 3. It gives people a false sense of what fitness truly means. I’ll begin with being proud of your body. This goes for any stage of your fitness journey, you should never, ever shame yourself because you are not where you want to be. Are you treating your body well? Providing it with adequate fuel and proper training? If yes, then you should be very proud.

Here is where my second point comes in, the difference between pride and amplified ego. So let’s say you want to show it off.  Here you are with a nice body, so you post pictures of it all the time, I mean, everyone else “fit” is doing it. Are you really doing that to inspire people, or seek approval? I would encourage you to stop putting your self-esteem in the hands of complete strangers. It just seems as though many of these fitness accounts are putting themselves out there for likes, followers and attention.  I’ll admit, at one point I was one of those people.

Luckily, with my injury and some insight from people that care about me as a person and saw who I truly am through all of that, I was able to comprehend this. So, for those of you that follow or look for inspiration via these accounts, what would they be without all those pictures of their ‘fit’ physique? Would they still inspire you?  My point is, there is so much more to fitness than looking good. Which leads me to my final idea regarding the fabricated representation of fitness that seems to be taking over. At this point, explaining my prior misconception of fitness will be redundant. So, I’ll move on to my current goals/the example I want set as a trainer and mentor but most importantly, a human being.

First and foremost, I want to be functional, which will take some time considering my injury but there are so many things I can do in the mean time to progress that healing and pursue my goal. For instance, I will work on flexibility, joint mobility, endurance, strength and power which I think are the true characteristics of an athlete.  Ultimately, I want to FEEL good. Sounds silly but focusing on the true aspects of health/fitness will take you to a mental and physical peace you never knew existed. By doing this I want to show people what true pride, self respect and discipline looks like. Lastly, I have no timeline for this endeavor. I am simply going to listen to my body and do what I know is truly beneficial to my body/longevity on a daily basis. This includes taking rest days when I need them, staying active by walking, eating wholesome foods to fuel my daily activities. This ALSO includes eating pizza on Fridays with my family, getting drinks with friends and eating not so nutritious foods from time to time. This is balance, something that is far overlooked in the fitness industry, especially competitors. I am determined to do everything necessary to become a person that truly represents fitness, health and wellbeing.

I’m not saying I’m right. I’m simply giving my story from an insiders perspective and  someone who went down a questionable road.  I encourage you to ask yourself:  Who am I seeking approval from- strangers or myself?  Do I want to be “fit” or simply appear that way.

All my best,

Amy

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