I want to break down a common misconception and show you that fitness isn’t about what you think it is.
If you look at (almost) any fitness site or magazine, you see perfect bodies, chiselled abs, and minimal clothing. You’ll also see monster lifts and social media is filled with people making PRs on everything from deadlifts to pull ups and everything in between.
So that’s what we chase. Bigger lifts, better abs, and the perfect picture to show it off on Instagram.
I firmly believe that setting goals to get a bigger deadlift or to lose a bit of body fat are absolutely wonderful goals to have. There are bigger things that we are playing for by improving our strength and fitness.
Maintaining quality of life as long as possible.
The goal isn’t to live forever. The goal is to live as well as you can for as long as you can. That means maintaining your independence. Staying physically capable is a major component of healthy ageing. The stronger you are, the more robust and resilient your body is against whatever physical challenges come your way. It improves mental resilience and plays a role in keeping your brain and cognitive functions operating at a higher level.
You can’t control the impact of accidents or genetic influences on your health and physical ability. Staying as strong as you can for as long as you can helps you maintain your independence as you age. One of the main reasons older people get put into sheltered accommodation is the inability to physically care for themselves. But by training now, building some more lean mass via resistance training and increased protein intakes, you can lay the foundation for improved quality of life as you get older.
It probably takes a lot less than you might think to be able to do it. Once you have built up a little muscle mass, it’s a lot easier to keep than it was to build.
Reducing chronic pain
I’m not going to suggest that making gainz is all that’s needed to deal with chronic pain issues. Pain is a far more complex topic than will allow me to say that. But most of the typical day to day niggles that many people deal with can be chased away with a little more focus on building stronger muscles and connective tissues and improving their movement quality.
I’ve had clients go from having knee pain climbing stairs, to realising that they’ve just bounded up a flight or 2 without having to take their time, and for me that is a far better metric of progress than any deadlift pr they set.
Being able to bounce out of bed in the morning without spending 20 minutes trying to get moving is underrated. When I tore my hip flexor a couple of years ago, it would take at least 10 minutes to manoeuvre myself out of bed and get into a standing position. That really brought home home many people go about their days when dealing with chronic pain issues. Many of which can be improved, not necessarily cured, with a sensible, structured training plan.
It’s not about building insane strength or physiques. It’s about building improved ability to deal with what life throws at you.
Don’t allow the image of what fitness is in the media, online and on TV put you off from making improvements in your health and fitness. Most of us will never be world class at the physical pursuits we choose, but we can be the best version of ourselves, whatever that looks like. And more importantly, by doing the work now, you’ll more easily maintain the results and reap the benefits for years to come.