This is part two in a series of posts that you really ought to read in order. So if you missed last night’s entry talking about a Definition Of Basic Human Fitness, you should check that out first and get up to speed.
The point I meandered my way towards last time was that there is a basic level of fitness that should be expected of a human being. You can debate the specifics, but in my definition it was based on what I logically conclude would be required for survival in primitive cultures. This is the level of fitness, ability and other physical attributes that we’re designed to have… although these days due to unhealthy, inactive modern lifestyles much of the population would not be at this level.
It is important to note that this Basic Level Of Human Fitness as I call it, is quite different from Sporting Fitness. As I pointed out yesterday, Sporting Fitness is specific to which ever specific sport we are discussing, and in most cases this is far beyond what would normally be expected from a human being in terms of endurance and stamina.
Pause for a moment to consider what I just said. This goes out to the people who are down on themselves for not being able to complete a 40 minute run around the park on the first try. Wow – so unfit, right? Well… not really. I put it to you that the only reason a person should have the ability to run for 40 (or even 20) minutes is because they have decided that it is an appealing goal and worked towards it.
Lately I’ve developed a fun habit of describing things as a “super human ability” because hell, lets give people (and ourselves) credit where it is due. Also I think surely it is an inspiring idea, that with the right approach and consistent effort you can become quite literally the next level in human evolution. Perhaps even more importantly, its helpful in terms of reassuring people who are new to exercise that they should have realistic expectations about what ability levels they are starting out with.
To reiterate. You should be within a certain weight range relative to your height. You should be able to get down to the ground and then get back up again. You should be able to walk around without being exhausted, and probably move fast for a minute or so to escape from danger. Actual sporting level endurance though? Not unless you have trained for it.
So where am I going with this?
Ok. Let’s back right up for a moment and remember why we are talking about fitness in the first place. In most cases, we’re talking about health and happiness. Some of you might even say “it’s all about vanity with me, to be honest. If I had the body I really want, then I’d be happy”. That’s fine too as far as I’m concerned, but be aware that you are only going to get that body by taking care of your health, not at the expense of it.
The important stuff is coming up. Pay attention as I break it down into individual points.
1. Know your true goal and your true motivation.
This is important. It is very common for people to make an incorrect assumption along the lines of “if I could run 10km, that would mean that I was super fit. If I was super fit, that would mean that I was healthy. If I was healthy, that would mean I would have the body that I want, and then I’d be happy”.
None of that is necessarily true. If your real motivation is to achieve a particular body type, you must train specifically towards that goal.
2. Weight loss can happen either due to improved health, or due to reduced health. We are only interested in improved health.
The way most people try to lose weight is actually by negatively effecting their health. Even if you’re self destructive and think “I don’t care as long as I get thin”, it’s a poor strategy. At best it may bring a temporary result, with any progress quickly stalling.
Let’s draw an analogy to running a car with no fuel. Now, your body is designed to adapt and survive, so you may find you still have improved performance despite not putting in sufficient fuel. So imagining we have a car that can somehow find a way to run even without fuel, what happens when there is no oil in the motor, no water in the radiator, and no air in the tyres?
Quite quickly, it breaks down. Not just “stops” due to being out of fuel, but is actually broken and requires repair.
This is exactly the same as the result of attempting to train on no fuel. Your body adapts with hormonal changes that allow it to keep functioning under extreme duress. Even if your performance at training continues to improve, this is at the expense of your health, not an indication of improved health. Despite expending more energy, results in fat loss stall. The internal organs that produce these hormones are over worked and can’t keep up. Before terribly long they are “fried” and cannot maintain the balance of hormones required to function. By this stage; you. are. BROKEN.
3. How we train for results through improved health.
Obvious by now, I should hope. Especially if you’ve read any of my other articles or the free weight loss program already. Most people will reduce fuel while doing more of what we we are not actually designed to do. How could this possibly lead to improved health?
Instead, we need to ensure adequate intake of energy and nutrients. We then train to encourage the body to make use of this fuel to become stronger. We do more of what we are designed for (resistance training through full range of motion), as well as some (although less) of the endurance activities. Rather than “what is the least fuel I can function on”, we determine “what is the maximum amount of fuel my body can utilise”, and endeavour to increase that amount through progressive improvements in performance at training.
I reiterate that this is the polar opposite of the “eat less, burn more” approach that much of the diet, weight loss and fitness industries recommend. That approach only puts the body under levels of stress that it is not designed for, while not giving it the opportunity to adapt positively by growing stronger.
Remember, we are training to go beyond what would be normally be expected of a human being, in terms of strength, stamina and endurance. We can only do this through healthy means, including adequate nutrition. As to being happy as well as healthy? Seeing the changes you want to see in your body, improving performance at training, feeling healthier and enjoying more delicious, nutritious food… how could you not be happy?