I very much appreciate a recent article by Dr. Michael Gleiber–that’s M.D., and not a mere Ph.D.–in which he argues that we do not need to look ripped in order to be properly fit. He goes on to describe four aspects of activity by which we can measure our fitness. For example, he suggests this push-up test for strength and endurance:
Push-ups are a great way to test your strength and endurance. When testing yourself, make sure you are keeping proper form. Lie facedown on the floor, elbows bent with your palms next to your shoulders. Keep your back straight, and push up until your arms are fully extended, then return to the starting position. Each time you return to that starting position, it counts as one push-up. If you can only do a few pushups before you need to rest, you may need to work more on your strength and endurance.
I like the idea of focusing on outcomes rather than muscle definition, but did you notice the problem with Dr. Gleiber’s prescription? “If you can only do a few pushups”? How many is a few? I have a former Marine friend who would probably say that 25 is a few. And how many is a lot?
He also suggests measuring aerobic fitness by walking a mile “briskly,” measuring flexibility with a sit and reach test, and measuring body fat through BMI (ugh!). Only in the case of BMI does he give a benchmark against which to measure fitness, but he fouls that up by saying that BMI “indicates your percentage of body fat.” As we’ve seen elsewhere–and as he surely knows–BMI does no such thing.
This guy is a spinal surgeon, so I’m guessing he’s busy. But is he really too busy to give us some actual standards by which to measure our fitness? Is it any wonder, absent those standards, that people simply look in the mirror and use the “ripped” test that Dr. Gleiber condemns?
There’s an older gentleman at my gym who plods along on the treadmill several times a week. He usually wears one of several hats that identify him as a World War II veteran. Assuming that he was at least 18 in 1944, that would make this fellow at least 89 this year. He could, of course, be several years older.
I mention this because I admire this man for continuing to move. A recent study, from Norway, suggests that by hitting that treadmill, even at a slow pace, this man is shifting the odds in his favor. The study looked at a cadre of men in their 70s and 80s, following them for 12 years.
The more time spent participating in vigorous physical activity, the lower the risk seemed to be. Men who regularly took part in moderate to physical activity lived an average of five years longer than participants who classified their leisure time as sedentary.
When looking at all the numbers, researchers determined that 30 minutes of physical activity, whether light, moderate, or vigorous, six days a week, was associated with a 40 percent reduction in risk of death from any cause.
My father-in-law is 75 and spends way too much time in doctors’ offices or talking to hospital personnel. Sometimes that can’t be avoided, but sometimes it can, as this study suggests.
Let me be abundantly clear that I am not yet in my 70s or 80s–or even my 60s or mid-to-late 50s–but I do hope to continue with as much activity as I can muster to squeeze at least that extra five years out of life and to get the most of the other years as well.
Twice on Wednesday, I was told, “You’re looking really great” by two widely separated women. One of them has been a friend for many years. The is someone from my church whose husband I know much better. In neither case did I think they were suggesting anything beyond a simple and sincere compliment, but these comments got me thinking.
Perhaps you were not aware of this, but taking care of your body will typically make it look better. It’s true. And whether you like it or not, somebody who sees you working out might just see something in you that you’d not intended. It’s pretty hard to be around a bunch of fit people and not notice their bodies, right?
An article by Jonathan Angelilli takes on this problem in a big way. He points to what he calls the “pornification” of fitness, in which the fitness instructor becomes less an instructor and more an object of desire.
Your fitness can never be outsourced to a hot trainer, doctor, or pill. It’s you that must do it, from the inside out. It’s the very nature of the beast. That is why “the source of all power comes from within” is one of the core principles of TrainDeep. Saying “you do it for me, I’ll pay extra” just doesn’t work when it comes to organic systems and nature. Here we can experience the definitive limits of trying to monetize the natural and spiritual realms.
Certainly not everything in Angelilli’s article is something I can support, but he raises a great point. My work at improving or maintaining my body should be about making myself more fit for service and, as an added bonus, making me more appealing to my spouse. That’s really it.
So if you run into me at the gym or out on the street, just keep your eyes to yourself. I can’t help it if I’m looking really good.
I love the idea of effectively multitasking. A lot of supposed multitasking just involves task shifting. But there are things we can do while performing some mindless task. I’ve been contemplating a “Standing Desk Workout” for some time. Now along comes Kyle James with “10 Ways to Get a Good Workout…Even with Kids.”
My favorite of these ten ways is dropping to do push-ups while giving the kids a bath. Seriously!
While the kids are in the bath, grab 10 quick push-ups on the bathroom floor. When I first started doing this, I had a hard time doing more than five so I modified the exercise by doing push-ups from my knees. After a couple weeks, I was able to throw in some standard push-ups as well. Once you are able to do more of them, switch to “sets” of push-ups. Three sets of 10, several times a week, will quickly strengthen your abs, backs, triceps, and core all while your child splashes in the tub.
If you don’t mind the general oddness of that, I’m pretty sure that you can manage to do a set of push-ups while simultaneously making sure the kids don’t drown. That’s multitasking and a good stewardship of your time.
I recently ran across an article in Men’s Fitness that promised to show me ways to “Stay Shredded All Season Long.” While the article, which was cobbled together as answers to single questions asked of five different fitness experts–leftovers from five different interviews perhaps?–seemed to have some useful advice, I had to question the overall premise. Do I really want to be “shredded”?
One of the questions asks for the best exercises for training the abs. The expert says, in part:
The best way to keep your abs conditioned all year round is to follow a healthy diet with a close eye on slightly restricting your starchy carb intake like breads, pastas, etc.
Do you notice a problem there? This guy doesn’t mention any exercises here. To be fair, he goes on to talk about exercises, but the fact that he starts out talking about starchy food suggests that he’s more interested in appearance than in actual strength. Does a layer of belly fat really have anything to do with the strength of your abdominal muscles? Can’t you have incredible strong abs while maintaining a few extra pounds of flab around the middle? And is that really a great burden to fitness.
The question here is what we supposed to be fit for. Is fitness a purely cosmetic thing? Does the fit person need to look like a Greek statue? Or is fitness found in the ability to do the things that we want to do?
Frankly, I don’t need to be shredded.