Physical fitness

Are people afraid to exercise? Does the “no pain, no gain” slogan frighten them so much that they have to crawl behind the growing pile of candy bar wrappers, empty popcorn bags, and drained pop cans that are in front of their couches and consume more of these products at the speed of light so as to block out any association with the act of physical fitness? Then again, are exaggeratedly muscular, vein-popping, steroid-chugging bodybuilders REALLY the best spokesmen that the fitness industry can produce? Are people here in North America so drawn to the sedentary lifestyle that the mere mention of exercise will instantly bring about a vocal revolution by the unfit & unhealthy who will declare that their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are being threatened by whacked-out, drugged-out, fitness freaks? Why does the media pump out ‘studies’ every now and then showing that the rate of obesity in North America has surpassing the 50% mark and is becoming an “epidemic”? Is it the fear of exercise that’s keeping overweight people from losing weight, or do these people have specific health problems that hinder them from exercising in the first place?

I began going to the gym when I was 13, and slowly but surely it became a regular part of life. Even without the gym, I’d be no stranger to physical fitness because the majority of the jobs I’ve had were very physical. I eat a lot, but I watch what I eat (read: light on the junk food); on occasion, however, I munch on sweets, candy, and things covered in peanut butter. I know that every calorie consumed is a calorie that counts. I don’t know who started the silly notion that you can ‘cheat’ your calorie intake, or that some calories “don’t count”, but I wouldn’t doubt that they needed an excuse to eat tasty foods and therefore made one up.

A wise, older man once told me, “If you want to lose weight, burn more calories than you consume; if you want to gain weight, consume more calories than you burn”. It’s a simple and correct statement. Nutrition labels can be found on the packaging of a lot of foods that you buy. If the food you’re eating is high in fat and/or carbs, you shouldn’t be eating a lot of that food in one sitting. For example: on the “Nutrition facts” section of “Two-Bite Brownies”, the following is noted:

Per 2 brownies:
Fat: 10 grams
Carbs: 20 grams
Protein: 2 grams.

I don’t take in more than about 15 grams of fat per meal, so one brownie would be enough. By reading the “Nutrition facts”, I become aware of what’s in a particular food, and because of that, I limit how much of it I’m going to eat; that is precisely why snacks (like brownies) are TREATS (meaning you have them only once in awhile).

If the wave of retarded-ness that was “The Atkins Diet” taught us anything, it was that carbohydrates are to be eaten in moderate amounts. Prime example: if you have a job where you’re on your feet the vast majority of the time, being physical, your calorie intake (and your carbohydrate intake) should be higher than if you had been sitting on the couch all day watching movies. Being in school is slightly different, because you’re sitting around in class most of the day, but you’re also walking from class to class, and you may be walking to and from school every day; plus, your brain is constantly active. It has been said that the brain runs primarily on carbohydrates, therefore your calorie intake could be SLIGHTLY higher that day than the “sitting on the couch, eating, and watching movies” day. Carbohydrates give us energy, but when you don’t use that energy the body stores it as fat, so, in essence, all those fat people out there have lots of stored-up energy! Wouldn’t it be awesome to see a pickup truck speeding by you as you’re walking to school, two guys sitting in lawn chairs in the back of the pickup truck holding fishing rods, clear plastic bags full of candy and other assorted sweets on the ends of those fishing rods, and chasing the pickup truck is a stampede of girthy humans?

Some fat people are fat because they don’t exercise enough. Some have severe arthritis or asthma that prevents them from exercising. Some eat constantly. Some eat only once or twice a day (but those meals are packed with lots of fat and high glycemic carbs) and claim to not need exercise. Some just don’t have the time to follow a workout program because of jobs and/or other commitments. There are thousands of people out there who have thousands of reasons to be bulky. There may be people out there who are doing all they can to lose weight and don’t know what else to do because they are not seeing results, and because of that, some have given up. Some are desperate to try anything (fad diets, questionable methods of training, the purchase of expensive workout equipment), and I believe the media is willing to take advantage of those people (i.e. lie, deceive) just to make money. Taking advantage of desperate/uneducated people may not be a crime, but trying to convince someone to buy your product through the use of flashy commercials, alliterative catch phrases, and the promise of “guaranteed results” (all at a low price), and then having that product accomplish almost nothing that was said in the advertisement SHOULD be considered a crime (and not having the “results may vary” line to hide behind). When you’re trying to sell home gym equipment to everyday people who don’t know the first thing about bodybuilding, and the actors in the commercials using the equipment are highly trained and conditioned athletes who know what they’re doing because they have the knowledge and training, you’ve got to include more information in your commercial than the regular “consult your physician before beginning any sort of exercise program” rhetoric.

I’m not going to completely blame the advertising industry and the companies/corporations who are trying to sell fitness equipment; people have to take it upon themselves to learn about physical fitness, nutrition, and the human body before they even consider listening to anything being promoted in the ‘health and fitness’ industry. I can remember the first few times I went into the gym at the age of 13; someone asked me what I was training one day, and I responded with, “Everything” (clearly I had no idea what I was doing, and I paid that price with extremely sore muscles in the days following). But over time, I read, experimented, checked my progress and changed things accordingly from there. Any physical fitness program that you undertake is just like any test in school: you’ve got to study for it. You cannot go in blind and ‘hope for the best’.

Sometimes one may wonder why they’re exercising and what all the pain and suffering is for. Of course, a lot of people who go to the gym want to look good; I myself started out with that line of thinking. Looking back on it now, I can boil down exactly WHY I wanted to “look good”: women and attention. When I first started weightlifting, I’d be looking in the mirror to see if any girls were watching me, and I’d try to lift incredibly heavy amounts of weight to impress them – all that effort translated to more time wasted and an increased risk of injury. It could be seen as a fruitless endeavour, because I didn’t get much of either (not enough to feed the ego, anyway); however, I still train to this day! I came to the realization that I wanted to look good for me, not anyone else, and that spelled the end of exuding machismo, engaging in theatrics, or putting on a show in the gym.

Often times I hear gym rats making rude comments about fat people they see in the gym; at least those fat people are in the gym and trying! I’d rather see fat people DOING SOMETHING about their weight than sitting at home or in a bar. But again, education is first and foremost. I’d love to see a gym packed with overweight people who know how to train rather than skinny people who don’t. I’m not trying to exclude people or turn the place into a ‘Physical fitness education degree required’ club…but reading helps.

If someone is happy with being fat, then that’s their choice. I’ve got plenty of friends who are overweight, and I don’t preach to them that they should get off their pancaked hides and run for their lives because it’s not my place to do so. However, if people are whining and complaining about being fat, if they’re eating WAY TOO MUCH and not knowing why they’re outgrowing clothes faster than babies, if they want to look good but don’t know what to do, they should start with reading a wide variety of books about physical fitness, observe what they’re eating, and begin a mild cardiovascular program to get their bodies used to the idea of exercise. Things like walking, jogging, playing volleyball, swimming, learning to walk on your hands and juggle beach balls with your feet at the same time, or finding some friends with a pickup truck are good ideas.

You want to be fit? There’s no better time than now. There are plenty of people out there who CAN help you, and others who WANT to help you. All you need do is make the effort.

  1. #1 by Trish on May 9, 2006 - 4:08 pm

    Hey you! Well said!! I am one who although much larger than my teenage years, is staying active. I walk every where and I tell you chase a few kids around for a few hours and run back and forth to various appointments let\’s see how many calories you burn. hehehe. You mustn\’t forget that even those that have weight issues need to remind themselves as hard as they try that they are worth it! 😉

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