Defining Health and Fitness
As a CrossFit Gym in Somerset West, our answer to health and fitness is being functionality, and a structured group class that promotes physical performance:
What defines health & fitness? Most people would associate a person with a great sculpted physique to be of a healthy standard of fitness.
Health and Fitness nowadays seems to be measured by your six-pack (how many blocks of abs are showcased), or a minimum of subcutaneous fat around the waist or large visibly defined muscles.
The desire to seek the perfect appearance and looks has created such a high demand for solutions and placed pressure on individuals seeking social acceptance, that opportunists in some areas of the medical and fitness industries have taken advantage of this to the extent that many people’s health ends up at risk. It has also led to questioning the integrity of the entire health and fitness industry.
The result all is that only two goals are commonly met:
1 Supplying the consumer with the aspirational body (wanted not NEEDED)
2 Enriching the company at the expense of a deteriorating effect on the consumer’s life expectancy (whether the desired result has been achieved or not).
Fitness Trends & Nutrition
The 1980’s – 90’s saw the introduction of bodybuilding and muscle-bound blokes, show boasting big triceps, veiny biceps, carved out abs or skinny models featuring on cover magazine covers, posters and in movies. These influences in the media set a new trend for people to achieve the ideal look to gain society’s approval.
The secret to these new profound looks seems to have been brought on by the use of trends such as free weight training, supplements such as protein shakes, fat burners etc. Single joint movements such as Bicep curls and unilateral movements such as chest presses and pull-ups were preached and endorsed by famous athletes who swore they were the key to their phenomenal physiques.
It didn’t take long before opportunist saw the gap in the market where these techniques could be replaced by seated fixed machines which looked like they were straight out of ‘Transformers’ or ‘The Terminator’. These machines were packaged and marketed so well that the market appeal increased even more.
This idea even led to the start of large, expensive purpose-built health and fitness centres which could host up to a thousand members at any given time, where hundreds of these machines could be fitted in and profits maximized. “It looks good so it must be doing me good” being the implicit mantra. Because of their scale, these clubs could offer cheap memberships of less than 10 dollars a month, would draw many thousands of people signing themselves into a 12-year contract. Inevitably 90 % plus of these memberships became nonactive due to people lacking motivation caused by the lack of progress in achieving desired results, which were promised to them by a salesman and falsely portrayed by the media.
It seems that the media, supplement companies and big gyms were more focused on profit than anything else. The actual, time effort and lifestyle sacrifices made by athletes to achieve such phenomenal physiques and was not emphasised, whilst the effectiveness of the ‘quick-fix, fitness gimmicky machines being sold to people were overstressed.
Most brands portrayed an image of a well-defined, muscular person whereas in actual fact 99% of the time that specific supplement had very little to do with the outcome of the look of the athlete on the bottle or packet. Steroid and substance usage had to take most of the credit for that but exposing that truthful fact would cause too much controversy.
People have been led to believe that physique or outer appearance is of the highest importance when it comes to social acceptance, success, health and fitness.
Not many people, especially of the remaining 80-90% sedentary members would ever be willing to go the extreme to take steroids in order to get “that perfect physique” and would rather opt for being at home on the couch.
This naturally had other adverse effects on insurance companies having to pay out as medical claims skyrocketed. Gym memberships were cancelled one after the other and disputes between member and gym owners began to grow.
As more people became reluctant to join Health and Fitness gyms an opportunity emerged to change the approach on how to up-sell “HEALTH”.
‘Sign up with your local medical scheme and get free membership at your local gym’ was supposed to cure the low retention rate at gyms. Gyms were now called “Health Clubs” and featured expensive new cardiovascular machines along with immaculate decor, state of the art changing rooms and many health and fitness classes. This took attention away from the muscle-bound skinny look.
Having a cup of coffee with a smoothie after your yoga session or chatting for hours with your highly expensive “qualified personal trainers” had never felt more convincing! The studios were packed with new introductory classes like the pump, step, core, dance, yoga, Pilates, belly-dancing etc. There was a major increase in member retention.
Governments are also ‘stepping up’ by introducing the new ” food pyramid: where starch is set as the base of our nutrition and having sugar is regarded as …”OK” as long as you attend your local health club and get your points.
So basically society moved from one set of publicity (protein shakes, egg whites and fat burners) to another (being – Zen and Functional). Even so, studies still show that peoples’ life expectancy is decreasing. People are getting more obese. Health and Fitness levels are still decreasing.
By now we should have established:
- Having a muscular, skinny or defined physique does not represent health or performance.
- Swiping your gym card daily or spending hours in the sauna, dancing the morning away in group classes or standing on a spin bike for hours, won’t get you fit, healthy or into shape.
- Being all ZEN and trying to become functional by, standing on a BOSU ball, getting your fat wobbled on a power plate or being strapped up in a suite with electrical impulses running through your veins won’t increase your life span, and
- Sitting on a machine practising arm curls or walking on a treadmill or having a personal trainer is not going to get you the results you really desire deep down.
General Physical Preparedness
We can all really learn from SPORT which solely benefits from functional training.
SPORT requires discipline. It is a team effort. You are held accountable for not pitching up. You are surrounded by individuals with the same mindset.
People have been misled by falsified methods of quick-fix diets, surgeries, new fancy exercises, well-branded gymnasiums with under-qualified personal trainers being better at selling themselves rather than inspiring people by their TRUE ACTIONS. Health and Fitness has been compromised by this.
We all need to utilize our TRUE aerobic, anaerobic and neuron-muscular systems. I personally believe that there is no better way of doing so but by getting involved in physical activities that require you to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. This means regular attendance, performance and intensity are measurable and more consistent. This includes activities such as: mountain biking, trail running, triathlons, golf, hiking, mountain climbing, water sports even fun sports at your local club like tennis, touch rugby, cricket etc. These are all ways of getting you motivated in participating and tend to be a lot cheaper, more fun and produce better results physically and mentally.
When your functional training performance in something becomes better, you automatically start shifting your goal from looking like a model to feeling competent. When you perform well in a team or community, your focus automatically shifts from being socially accepted based on looks, to acceptance based on performance and performance is more measurable than looks.
Performance-based Exercise in Gyms
If sports or hobbies are not really your thing and you prefer to stay around a gym, you could still be more selective with your choice of gym.
Functional training or Performance-based movements such as power-lifting, Olympic lifting, body weight gymnastics, running, swimming, climbing, pushing heavy objects, jumping sprinting all originated centuries ago from military training (getting soldiers physically prepared for combat to the days of ancient Sparta).
Today many smaller functional training gyms thrive on using this concept of performance and general physical preparedness as part of a single modality. It comes in the form of health and fitness within a community group or coaching environment creating the ‘TEAMWORK’ effect and where accountability, motivation and results are genuine.
What is the key to longevity? Performance or looks?
Eight out of ten times those who opted for performance or functional training are usually retained much longer at gyms. Performance used in functional training means progression and progression is solid and – it provides results which are inevitably followed by better physique. At the end of the day hard work wins!