Monday, April 6, 2009

Would You Like Some Form With Your Function?

Have you ever heard the comment that the point of fitness is not how much you can lift, but how much you look like you can lift? It's been rolling around in my head for the past couple of weeks because I completely disagree.

Most people go to the gym for aesthetic reasons: the promise of a smaller backside, a larger bicep, or a slimmer waistline are probably more motivation to work out than getting off of your diabetes medication or reducing your risk of a heart attack, which most people never think will happen to them even as they down double-quarter-pounders followed by chocolate-covered bacon (it exists - check it out). Women don't hang bathing suits on their closet doors as reminders to lower their cholesterol, and men don't sneak peeks at their pecs to admire their low blood pressure. Hey, there's no shame in that game; I want to look cute in my bathing suit, too. But while looking good might get you to the gym in the first place, I think its more important to be able to lift heavy than to just look like you can.

For the past couple of weeks I have debated with myself over wanting to train to mostly lose fat and tone up in preparation for a looming beach vacation, or focus more on building strength so I can haul my butt over that wall in November. One requires heavier weight with fewer reps, the other lighter weight with more reps. One requires more protein, the other not as much. One makes me happy when I look in the mirror, and the other makes me happy when I forget to leave my ego at the gym door.

Just deciding which to pick felt like a workout in itself.

So I took the easy way out and decided to choose both. Who says that you have to either look strong or be strong? Who says we can't cook our plain oatmeal eat it, too? While each program has its own merits and fundamentals, they both end up in roughly the same place: a fitter body. Right? Well, kind of depends on how you define, "fit".

Last month at the tri-fitness camp, I met some women who looked strong and were strong, some who looked strong but weren't really, and some who completely shocked me when they performed feats of strength and agility that I would not have guessed they could do. I've been reminding myself that sometimes you do have to choose between being able to and just looking like you can. And begrudgingly, I knew which one I chose.

Sure, I could diet and cardio myself into a bikini by June, but I would rather be able to run 5 miles on the beach, because I stubbornly believe that if I can run 5 miles on the beach, I should damn well be able to get away with wearing a bikini, too.

And yeah, I could do leg extensions to tone my legs and tricep dips to de-flab my arms, but I would rather be able to jump really high and pull myself over a wall with brute strength, because if I can do those things I better not have jello-legs and flabby arms.

I guess what I am saying is that I choose function. And I am counting on God, Mother Nature, Karma, and wishing on shooting stars that form will follow.

And if they let me down, at least I'll be strong enough to kick their butts.


EDP said...

I agree that it's also important to be proud of what your body can actually do. I find that the more endurance I build and the stronger I get, the more I want. Sure, I want the numbers on the scale to keep going down, but I love being able to do a certain number of reps without collapsing into a puddle of fail.

Mike said...

Well-since I said this was an interesting entry this morning-I must add a comment......

I think it is better to be fit and look average or even a little worse than average. Just look at some of the "skinny-fat" girls that have come into the gym in the last year. I am sure you have heard that phrase-girls who look good but are in terrible shape health and endurance wise.The woman who just started is in great shape and actually pretty hot-looking, but she could barely do 5 crunches or leg lifts without being winded. Now maybe she has been sick or something-but she is not the only one.
Further-you do not have a good self-view of your body form-like most women. I mean, Suzy thinks she is fat, Jenny said in her message before she thinks her bottom is not worth looking at-my own wife thinks she is too heavy, yet she is very slender and in good shape because she works out 3-4 times a week. I don't know- you all look great to me.

I know I am in good shape despite my inability to lose all of my 2 liter stomach-yet my body fat is down from 28% to 20% and I have lost some 22 lbs since signing up at BT. If I look at pix of my Dad-he had the same build-so some of it is heredity.

So, for me, it is function over form.