Most of what we write is intended for people who are new to health and fitness, but this article is focused on those who have dedicated themselves to improving their health and appearance over time. There’s a letdown that comes when you realize that despite your best efforts for years, you still don’t look the way that you thought that you would look. This is a dangerous time for even the most dedicated fitness enthusiast. This is the time when you have to decide who you are, a wannabe or an athlete.
Newbie Gains of Fitness
Many years ago, I began to lift weights for the first time. I lifted light weight and low reps but guess what? I saw results! If I bench pressed that same 25 pounds for 10 reps now, I would lose muscle fast! You might think that this is age-related but it’s mainly newbie gains related. I also “squatted” that 25 pounds. The problem is those so-called “squats” were absurd. They were very shallow and only 10 reps, but I got results! It took very little time or effort to work out. Now, I push myself to my absolute limits of strength and endurance for hours on end. I count every calorie and track my macros. I should look like a god.
Delusions of Fitness Grandeur
Notice that I’m talking about looks here. What I’m not mentioning is my lab work that makes doctors jealous! My doctor said that he wishes that I could talk to all of his patients. All of my lab values are perfect and I have no inflammation in my body. I should be overjoyed, right? Still, I hold images in my mind that I want to emulate. Funny thing is, those images are visions of perfection. That should be a clue, right? The truth is, nobody is perfect. If anyone appears to be so, there’s definitely some trickery involved somewhere. Some of the most iconic IG models have openly discussed the surgeries, drugs and camera tricks used to create the images that many people want to emulate. Most of it is a lie.
Ribs removed to create a small waist, fat vacuumed off the belly and injected into the buttocks, breast implants. butt implants, dangerous anabolic steroids, SARMS (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators), DNP ( an illegal diet drug from the 1930’s that was banned because it literally burns you up from the inside-out) and Synthol, or “muscle oil” injections directly into the muscle to make it larger are some of the horrors that the icons subject themselves to in order to create “The Perfect Body”. Hardware store grade silicone has even been used to create a bigger butt. Many of those people die. The “Brazilian Butt Lift”, the vacuuming of fat from the belly and injecting it into the butt, is the most dangerous cosmetic surgery in the world. One in 3,000 results in death.
The few models who even slightly resemble the images that they post are often hospitalized as a result of the insane methods that they employ to look the way they do. Very recently, a so-called medical doctor who is thought of as one of the best-looking women on IG, who has the “Wisdom Tooth Body” that’s so sought after right now, was recently hospitalized after collapsing at the gym. She was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, nephrolithiasis and pyelonephritis. It’s a miracle that she lived.
Is “The Look” worth your life? Is your hard work meant to end in the grave? Regardless of appearance, if the body that results from extreme methods of sculpting is weak and sickly, it’s not attractive. What good is a manikin? One of my favorite coaches on YouTube will have lifelong complications from the methods that he employed to achieve a winning physique. Almost all of these “tools of the trade” will shorten your life. Keep your focus on getting a healthy body, not a manufactured one.
The Real Tools of the Fitness Trade
Although those extreme methods to attain “The Look” may sound appealing to you when you realize that without them, you will most likely never look like a Barbie or Ken doll or a superhero, get a grip on reality. Do you want to die earlier than scheduled? Probably not. We have lost sight of what a truly strong, healthy body looks like. If you want to find out, work out as hard as your doctor will allow, count your calories and rest. Avoid negative influences that will deter your health initiative. Repeat. Repeat again every day of your life. At some point, you will realize that this is it! You, right here, right now are what a strong, healthy body looks like.
Now, do it again. As David says, “Trust the process.” This goal is not a one-time event like winning a race. It’s attained daily through living the lifestyle that creates it, every day for the rest of your life. In this “insta-world” we are led to believe that whatever we want should be accessible quickly. That is not the case for a healthy, athletic body. It has been said that everyone wants to look like a bodybuilder but they don’t want to do what a bodybuilder does. The truth in that statement is not immediately obvious. Even if you realize that this is talking about the hard work that goes into building a muscular, healthy body, you may not realize that the main ingredient in the making of a bodybuilder is time. Even when people resort to artificial means to build, there’s still a significant amount of time involved in that unhealthy practice, years and years. When you are dedicated to building a HEALTHY, muscular, athletic body those years stretch out indefinitely.
Although we are capable of building an amazing, natural physique, everyday life gets in the way of progress. I have often said that I so wish that all I had to do was eat, sleep and work out. If that was the case, I could probably get closer to my ideal body much quicker! Financial responsibilities, and the job schedules that go with them, get in everyone’s way on the path to goals. Family responsibilities can hinder progress if we let them. Personal injuries and/or illness can stall progress for a significant time. We always say, “Live to lift another day.” whenever the possibility of injury exists. Forgoing workouts long enough to heal is much smarter than pushing through a workout risking farther injury. If you do that you may injure yourself badly enough to cause disability. A famous online coach lifted an extremely heavy bench press with an injury and has never bench pressed again.
The ability to keep going in spite of these stumbling blocks, is what will produce the desired results. This tenacity, or perseverance, is most likely the most important tool in your toolbox. There are very few people who lead a charmed life where they can only do what they want to do. Prioritizing your health care and healthy habits that lead to your desired goals is the only thing that will get you there. When you give your health it’s proper priority, you will become tenacious
When we first begin our journey into fitness, we will have a program that works. Sometimes we want to stick with that program just because it worked in the beginning. As we progress however, we must be willing to adapt. When our strength and stamina improve, we must work harder! I am on my FIFTH program in less than FOUR years. Each one was exactly what I needed at the time. I did not do any hard cardio for the first three years. My cardio consisted of walking or hiking. The day came when that was not enough so now I ride a dual-action fan bike and use a heart monitor to make sure that I’m working at exactly the intensity that I need to continually improve my cardio-vascular health and keep fat-burning as high as possible while sustaining the ability to build muscle. As David says, “We’re threading a needle.”
It’s possible to get progressively leaner and build muscle at the same time but it’s not easy. As you progress, you must be willing to grow and develop your program as you develop your body. You must continually improve the quality of your nutrition. Your program will get harder as you get more fit and you will get more fit as your program gets harder. Accept that and grow or don’t accept it and lose progress. The choice is yours.
I have gone from a standard weight set-up without proper safety equipment to an Olympic set with a power-rack, a “safety cage” that should protect me. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that it can’t protect me unless I use it the correctly. I had a near-death experience on the bench. I have added a cable system, a slingshot trainer, ab straps, a front squat harness and a dual-action fan bike to my gym. You might go to a public gym but it’s actually cheaper to buy your equipment a little at a time. There’s no waiting and no drive. You will most likely be more consistent if you have your gym at home. If you think that you can’t afford it, consider your priorities. Are your spending habits improving your health? If not, make changes.
If you want a fit, HEALTHY body, these are the tools that you need to implement. The “quick route”, drugs and surgeries, may give you a sculpted body but the inside will eventually be dying, sooner than necessary. To top it all off, you may not even get that sculpted physique, but you will get the negative side-effects.
As you progress in your physical fitness, don’t be tempted to take short-cuts. You’ve come this far by hard work, blood, sweat and tears. You’re doing exactly what you need to do.