Are You Truly Fit or Just Looking Fit?

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Are You Truly Fit or Just Looking Fit?

When you think of being “fit”, what does that mean to you? Does it mean looking like Dana Lynn Bailey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or some other elite athlete? Is it a number on the scale, blood pressure score, jeans size, a body free of disease, or something else?

To some people, it may mean following a regular exercise routine. To others, it may mean being well toned or muscular. It may mean eating a balanced diet. And still to others, it can mean the ability to excel in athletics or other physical challenges.

Being fit ultimately refers to your own optimal health and overall well being. Fitness pertains to all aspects of your life – physical, emotional and mental.

Being fit means that you are able to push the limits of your body and not face any serious consequences as a result. This means that you can run long distances, lift heavy weights, go for brisk walks and do all the other things that place your body under stress. This is achieved by subjecting your body to that stress repeatedly until that becomes an almost ‘normal’ state for it and you have to place it under more stress in order to get the same challenge – this might be achieved through running increasingly long distances, lifting weights, trekking at high altitudes or a range of other activities. This requires strong muscle fibers which can help deal with heavy loads, as well as a good circulatory system and cardiovascular/aerobic fitness in order to pump energy around your body and nutrients.

Living fit involves a mix of physical, mental, and emotional components that make us who we are. We literally create our bodies from the inside out with what we put in, what we think, and what we do. Regardless of what we think perfect health looks like, there is one thing we all have in common when it comes to fitness: Everyone wants to feel better.

What Being Fit And Healthy Means

You can achieve “FITNESS” when you are strong, energetic, healthy and happy with the way you look. Truly happy and not just convincing yourself that you’re fine just the way you are, but looking into the mirror and genuinely feeling satisfied and proud. That is what the practical definition and goal for fitness should be.

For many of us, being fit means maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise. However, the “healthy weight = fit” idea omits and misrepresents several important components of what being truly fit means. In biological terms, “being fit” means “being able to provide for one’s own life and wellbeing; the fittest are those who can do so the best.”

Now that’s a little closer to what we should be working toward.

Not just being fit to the point of sufficiency, but being the fittest. So, the question is:
What can you do to be the fittest you can be, or to obtain the best quality of life possible?

To answer that question, we’ll examine the five components of physical fitness.  That’s right, there are five.

Not just “fitting into my favorite jeans,” “being able to run a marathon,” or “bench pressing twice my body weight.” Our definitions are from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Body Composition: This refers to the relative amount of muscle, fat, bone, and other vital parts of the body. Body composition can provide a better evaluation of overall health than weight or BMI alone, so it is important to maintain a level of body fat that is neither too low (below 3-5% for men and 8-12% for women), nor too high (above 20-25% for men and 29-35% for women). A variety of body fat measurement tools exist including calipers and bio-electrical impedance devices, and although some are more accurate and expensive than others, all can help you monitor changes.

Tip: Have a body fat analysis performed to know your starting point, and begin implementing small, healthy diet and exercise changes to improve body composition.  

Cardiorespiratory Endurance: Cardiorespiratory endurance is the ability of the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems to supply fuel during physical activity.  This means being able to sustain an elevated heart rate.  Activities like walking, swimming, and bicycling will all lead to improvement, and the good news is that the activity you choose does not necessarily have to be strenuous (at least initially).

Tip: choose an activity you enjoy and start slowly, increasing the intensity and duration over time.

Flexibility: Flexibility is the range of motion around a joint.  Maintaining good flexibility helps protect the muscles and joints from injury in all kinds of activity.  It promotes balance between agonist and antagonist muscles allowing for proper posture alignment. A basic stretching program, such as 10-15 minutes of light stretching for the upper body, lower body, and core after a workout, may be all you need to improve this oft-neglected fitness component.  Yoga and Pilates classes can also add more structure to your flexibility program.

Tip: the key to improving flexibility is to make time for it! Add 10 minutes to the end of your workout to stretch or take 10-minute walking/stretching breaks at work.  

Muscular Endurance: Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscle to continue to perform without fatigue.  You can improve muscular endurance by doing sustained activities such as walking, swimming, or bicycling.  When it comes to weight training, completing longer sets (12-25 repetitions) would be considered working in the endurance range.

Tip: look for opportunities to activate your muscles outside the club.  For example, walk to the grocery store and flex those biceps by carrying groceries.

Muscular Strength: Muscular strength is the ability of the muscles to exert force during an activity.

Sorry to those of you who want to stick to the treadmill, but this means using your muscles against resistance, whether that comes in the form of a dumbbell, resistance band, or your own body weight against gravity. Tip: take the stairs instead of the elevator, or do some pushups during TV commercial breaks.

To be truly, “totally fit” we need to focus on all five components of physical fitness. Not only will we be healthier overall, but we will also enjoy the benefits of reduced risk of injury and disease prevention (osteoporosis, diabetes, etc.).

kite surfing

When you are fit, you have:

  • Feeling good and having lots of energy.
  • Being able to ride your bike long and hard because cycling really makes me happy!
  • Exercising regularly and being able to enjoy it. I workout because I enjoy it, not because I have to.
  • Being able to live my life and indulge guilt-free while maintaining my body fat percentage with no brutal effort. Because I love to eat and eating makes me happy.
  • Combination of muscular strength and endurance, cardio and flexibility. You may not excel in a particular one but you must work on everything.
  • Seeing yourself get better, faster and stronger. I may not be faster than the person next to me but I’m  faster than I was yesterday.
  • A balanced lifestyle You can easily sustain where you’re completely satisfied with yourself physically and mentally.
  • BEING HAPPY. You know what is “good enough” for you and when to stop.
  • Inspiring and motivating others to be fit and healthy.


What Being Fit And Healthy Doesn’t Means

  • Being ripped and having a 6-pack.
  • Having a low body fat percentage that isn’t easily sustainable.
  • Being skinny.
  • Obsessive behavior over health and fitness.
  • Restricting calories and counting calories and macros to a tee.
  • Getting depressed and stressed out when you miss a workout. Or never missing a workout a.k.a. no rest days.
  • Judging others for not living the same lifestyle.


Being Fit and Healthy is a way of Life

skinny-vs-fit-01Looks do not define being fit and healthy.
 Just because you look great physically or you are able to run a full marathon effortlessly does not mean you are fit and healthy. You maybe training (or over-training) to look good and to be able to achieve greatness but you may be struggling inside because this lifestyle is eating you up and takes too much effort to sustain.

Just because you’re more ripped than the guy beside you does not mean he cannot kick your ass if he wanted to. Having a 6-pack may only mean you have more discipline than someone who does not because abs are made in the kitchen. The guy next to you with no 6-pack may train even harder than you but he refuses to “diet” because he finds no personal value in having a 6-pack. Just because you are jacked up and look like a body builder does not mean you are fit. You can lift heavy-ass weights but can you do a high intensity endurance workout? Just because you can run a marathon does not mean you are strong or can squat your own bodyweight. It all depends on your goals and your definitions of being fit and healthy.

So, to sum up here, the practical definition of “FITNESS” is obtaining and maintaining a physique that is strong, energetic, healthy, and looks the way you want it to look.  That doesn’t have to mean looking like an elite athlete or fitness model, or having killer 6-pack abs, that just means looking in the mirror and feeling proud and satisfied.
All of these things will have a tremendous impact on the quality of your life, and you must pursue them.

Be strong in all areas of your life. Be proud, live healthily and live a rewarding and exciting life.  Life is short!  Let’s not waste it being sickly, lethargic, ashamed and weak.  Live a life that your grandchildren will be proud to tell their children stories of, and more importantly, live a life that brings you a wealth of joy and satisfaction.


Being Fit and Looking Fit

fat loss vs weight lossWe can’t talk about fitness without mentioning cake, as in having your cake and eating it by wanting to look fit and be fit. Let me explain this a little further: Looking fit and being fit are not always the same thing. Because the body is a system made up of individual modules looking fit and being fit is really a case of training each module to, visually, look the part or training the system to be one awesome, badass tool.

You could, for instance, train your biceps so they are big, starve yourself and come out looking like Adonis but the moment you actually need to do something you will instantly understand why fitness models (who look great) don’t win Olympic medals. Simply put, it’s not their job to perform at that level, it’s their job to look good. Have you seen Olympic athletes off season? They look ordinary. It’s not their job to impress you with their muscles, it’s their job to be exceptional at what they do when they are competing but off-season they look like any other person who trains.

You can take a body part, your arms or your abs for example, and work on it and make it look extremely good, and it will, but if you won’t work on your body as a whole you and get each part to harmonize with the rest, you won’t be able to run faster or jump higher and you certainly won’t have greater endurance. You won’t be fit, you’ll just look like you’re fit.

Athletes themselves define fitness between what looks good on the beach and what really allows them to “get the job done”. Similarly, each and every one of us get to decide what it is we want from training: do we want to look like the hero or be the hero? There are no wrong answers here, just like there are no wrong answers in how you live your life. We all get what we want as long as it what we really want and that applies to training.

Visual fitness is always more impressive and something people can judge instantly (which is why Fitness models get work) so more people strive for a muscled physique and a six pack – it is more impressive at least up until the moment when you have to run or fight or perform any other manual task in life. Endurance, strength, flexibility, how much recovery time you need after a session – these things can’t be achieved through just working on how you look and starving your body to make your muscles stand out.

When it comes to performance, your highest priority are the results you get when performing not the ones you see in the mirror. You can be very fit but not look like it, you can have extra bodyfat reserves because that’s what you need to give that extra push when you need it. If your body is starved, you are tired all the time because you have given up carbs and are low on energy, your quality of life drops as well. You just can’t do everything you want to (though you will probably look like you can).

Bodybuilders know this very well, they cut carbs for months and they shape their bodies for the day they will go out there and show what they have achieved. And it gives us awe not just because it represents the beauty of the human body but the resolve of that person inside it. We understand that he or she gave up a lot to look like that and they have worked on that body the same way a sculptor would. In many respects it’s a work of art, but unlike with stone creations these results are temporary because no one can continue to push their body indefinitely. We are all slobs off season.

That’s another very, very important aspect of fitness. We see all these breathtaking images of muscled, beautiful men and women all around us, on TV and in magazines and all over the web and we feel like we have failed, why don’t we look like that and what can we do to look like that? The answer is: go on a quest.  If you work hard and you stay consistent, and that’s all it really takes, you will look exactly like it for a time. You will look exactly like it for a time because it is a quest and it is an ultimate prize, the achievement unlocked moment, but it’s not something you get to keep unless that’s all you do for the rest of your life – and very few people can even when it is their full time job.

Bloggers and fitness models starve themselves to oblivion just so they can take a few pictures and immortalize the moment for posterity. Never even for a second let yourself believe that that gorgeous, perfect picture you came across of someone looking sharp is how this person looks all the time. And you should never expect or demand from yourself to be like that all the time either. Always see it for what it is, it’s a goal and a quest and it is certainly something you can try and reach but it isn’t a permanent state of affairs, not for you and not for anyone.

Low body fat and that chiseled starved look don’t last, it can be achieved again and again through tremendous discipline and sacrifice, but it’s not going to stay and it’ll eventually become harder and harder to achieve not just physically but mentally too. The same goes for performance fitness, if you don’t use it – you lose it, but unlike visual fitness it is a lot more permanent, it extends and improves your quality of life and it can be maintained indefinitely provided you call upon it regularly.

All you have to do is train, consistently. That’s all it takes to be fit, capable and strong. You don’t have to starve or count calories, you don’t have to give up on the food you love – you just have to work for it. Performance fitness is all about what you can do, how long you can do it for and how fast you can recover before you can do it again. That’s what it means to have complete control over your body and have confidence in your every move. You may not look like you have just come off the cover of a magazine, but you’ll look fit and you’ll actually be fit. And then, if you at some point want to look chiseled you can do it too just to know what it feels like. After all, that’s all visual fitness is – it’s a dare, a way of showing yourself and the world that you have the discipline and the courage to go through seven hells and do what it takes.

The two sides of fitness, the visual and the practical sides of it, are not necessarily exclusive to each other but in the modern world they are more often are. You can go from performance to visual fitness and then back, but you can’t go from visual to performance as easily – it’s going to be a whole different journey. Visual fitness is essentially a trick, a promise of performance and strength when there isn’t much of either, it’s an illusion but since anyone looking good is not automatically expected to perform we are led to believe that it’s the same thing.

To get started either way identify your goals first, whether you want to look good now or for the rest of your life, whether you want to just look good or whether you also want to be able to do anything with your body and have complete control over it. You have to understand what it is you want from fitness to train right and get the results you want. The main difference between getting the look and being the real deal is the permanence of the results and the quality of your muscles. You can be fit for life or you can be fit just for the summer. There are no right or wrong answers, it’s simply a choice.




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