What Does Fit Look Like???

Having had the opportunity to learn from this person first hand, I felt like he would be the perfect educator to shed some insight for the next “Ask the Expert” blog post.  If you ask 10 different people what their definition of being “fit” means, you’d probably end up with 10 different answers.  Luckily for us, we get the answer from one of the leading educators in the health and fitness industry (yes, that’s him in the photos below).

With over 20 years in the health and wellness industry, Peter Chiasson is one of the most educated and experienced health professionals in Canada. A Master Certified MAT (Muscle Activation Techniques) Specialist, a Masters designation with the Resistance Training Specialist program and a Rehabilitation Specialist, as well an Instructor for both the MAT and RTS programs. Peter is also a nationally ranked competitive bodybuilder and over many years has made it his personal goal to be at the leading edge of health and fitness education.  In 2003, Peter established Core Strength Inc. where he works with professional athletes, medical professionals from many fields, fitness experts, fitness beginners, seniors, as well as people with numerous traumatic conditions and injuries. Located in Toronto, Core Strength Inc. is the most comprehensive biomechanics based rehabilitation treatment and exercise mechanics training facility in the country.

As a fitness professional and competitive athlete I am frequently confronted with the question, “ can you give me one tip that will help me get (look) more fit?” I have great difficulty not peeling my skin off my own head and restraining the columns of fire that seek to burst from my eye sockets in response, knowing that anything I say at that point in time will probably fall on deaf ears. Not to mention the one thing I tell them is meaningless without context or the other 150 tips that are required to accompany the first one.  It all boils down to the fact that there are two very serious issues the fitness industry has with its perception of fitness;

1) Fitness doesn’t have one particular “look” and in fact most of the people who have that super lean and muscular appearance we are used to seeing on magazine covers and on the competitive stage are far from healthy which most seem to think is synonymous with fit… it’s not.

2) The very notion that if it were as easy as doing one or two things and keeping the rest of your chocolate cake eating, binge weekend drinking, taking your car everywhere you can, lifestyles just the way they’ve always been… is simply ridiculous.

Most people who ask for “that one tip” are simply not prepared to make a serious life change, and dare I say are likely doing it for the wrong reasons anyway! (If you think the previous statement is implying that people wanting to get in shape purely for looking good is wrong in this writers opinion… you are correct).  I have heard that one of the many driving forces for people engaging in fitness programs and boot camps throughout North America has to do with the anthropological concept that adheres to the need to be more attractive to the prospective mates around us, so let’s take this concept alone and examine it’s validity.

Somewhere in the last 30-40 years guerrilla-style marketing has become such a powerful force in the North American existence with countless magazine covers and television commercials of hard bodies selling anything and everything. It has overridden our base instincts as to what we find attractive in a mate, which first and foremost had mostly to do with the ability to procreate for the female of the species, and hunt and protect the brood for the male counterpart.

Example; females with adequate levels of body fat and hips that clearly and visibly facilitate childbirth were prime candidates for selection of a mate. I wonder how the women of today especially the elite of the fitness world would measure up in that scenario?  Super-low levels of body fat making hormone levels dip to the point where often the menstrual cycle ceases altogether, and tiny waists and hips would present extremely poorly in the hopes of childbearing, which would send the male counterpart searching in the other direction.  The male of the species with the ultra lean muscular physique would have incredibly unstable insulin and blood sugar levels with virtually no body fat storage thus unable to protect the brood in the cold climates/seasons and hunt for days at a time without feeding himself. An extremely inefficient existence putting the perpetuation of the species at great risk if one looks at it using the anthropological basis and context.

I think here is where we have to ask ourselves, “What do we really want out of being fit?”.  The popular lean muscular look that seems synonymous with North Americas’ idea of fit, may not be exactly congruent with health and longevity like we think it is. I wonder how widely circulated a magazine article would be if it was titled, “Exercise is found to be leading cause of orthopedic injury and dysfunction.” Or, “ Let’s keep that body fat percentage at higher levels so we can make babies and they can still breast feed!”

Like most articles published nowadays that wouldn’t be the whole story but you get the point. Being fit should be about having more physical tolerance for our activities of daily living (ADL’s), and having a greater ability to handle and perform activities while reducing the risk of injury, period!  It should be about looking forward to playing with your children for as long as possible so we can enjoy our lives with them, making sure that we can take good physical care of ourselves and our loved ones so physical exercise like walks on a beautiful forest trail or a swim at the beach are still things we can do until a very ripe old age.

If all we aspire to is a “look” of fitness, I think we may be missing the point completely. The biggest tragedy I see on a daily basis as a Rehab Specialist is in the quest for fitness with the goal of a “fit looking body” people have forgotten the very basic needs of the human body to have available and maintain the health of their joints.  As a result, through mindless training and compulsive exercise, we as a society are getting knee replacements at 35 years old and hip replacements at 45 years old, and these are people that “look” fit!  The fitness industry needs a serious paradigm shift towards health and wellness and not using these same words to disguise a short road to wearing away our bodies prematurely.

Fitness and health should be one of the most important things to all of us but intelligent and mindful fitness. Getting fit is a process; it’s not a quick fix and cannot be simplified into a “one-tip” mentality either. Fitness is complex, it’s a lifestyle and a way of looking at exercise and our ability to live long and productive lives. I’ll bet a byproduct of that will most likely be healthy looking people… but that will come in good time, not because of some boot camp that we do 2 months before our wedding just to fit into a dress that (hopefully) will only be worn once.

Maybe you can reminisce 15 years later while you are in the hospital recovering from knee surgery looking at the wedding album when you were in such great shape from that awesome trainer that pummeled you for two months but made you do enough squat thrusts to fit you into that little dress.  Bottom line, I have been a competitive physique athlete for 24 years and my four year old loves that daddy has big arms but the funny thing is, when I am 30 pounds heavier in the off season he doesn’t notice at all. What he does notice is when daddy doesn’t hug him right away when he sees him and he always feels how snugly daddy is when he’s being carried into the house half awake. I learned when I had my son, there is no more important reason to have a strong fit body than to care for the ones you love, and to be able to do that for a lifetime without interruption is the greatest gift in the world… to them and yourself.

2 Responses to “What Does Fit Look Like???”

  1. Wheelnutz says:

    Very good article; I thought I was alone in think this way. Just to expand, “It is better to ‘Fit’ and fat, than skinny and not”.

    As Personal Trainers, we should aim to help our clients attain the best norms of Cholesterol, Blood Pressure and ADL; this has and always will be my belief.


  2. I’m a 50+ male, Husband, Father who had a hip replacement at 46 and a knee replaced just last year with another hip replacement looming this fall. i was very active all my life, dominated by hockey and baseball, my son’s are all young men now and i find i have more free time. I’m tired of being slighty overweight but mostly I’m just tired of being sore. I have switched sports now – cycling and golf – which is easier on the joints but am now focussing more on the type of fuel i use to feed ‘the machine’ while sppending more time stretching. Not looking to be on the cover of mens health, just looking to stay flexible and as pain free as possible. would like to add that i am very thankful to have discovered the excellent folks at Core. thanks a bunch.

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