Our society has become increasingly outward facing, superficial and materialistic, as traditional family links and communities have faded. Individuals look more and more for attention and confidence through validation of their physiques, their appearance, their jobs and wealth. And of course, the modern fitness industry as we know it is a product of this shift. The aerobics craze pioneered by Jane Fonda in the 80s was followed by the fast rise of Arnold Schwarzennegger bodybuilding-style training, which remains to date the most popular trend with gym-goers. Exercises became extremely simple: any average Joe could grab a pair of dumbbells and get some average results. Everyone, from injured athletes, to obese women, were prescribed isolating exercises with limited range of motion. And nothing else. The focus was put solely on individual muscles as a way to achieve a physical appearance, a certain body shape.
Nowadays however, we are slowly seeing a shift to more natural movements. The rise of cross-fit, of functional training, the increased use of stability balls, suspension training, etc, all of these point to a trend towards training the body as a whole, as one big functioning body part, as opposed to individual muscles. It's a great step forwards, as it shows a marked emphasis on body function, as opposed to body shape. Why do I think it's a step forwards? Because I believe that you look like the way you move. If you only do muscle-building exercises with little stretching or other movements, you will look like it. If you sit at a desk all day and do little exercise, you will look like it. And if you train with a variety of movements, from running to yoga to weight training, you will look like it too. If you look at top-level athletes for example, the best bodies, in terms of both function and shape, are those that compete in a variety of disciplines.
For me, the ideal body is one that is trained using a wide range of movements and sports. I train my clients with that idea in mind, and my sessions are a mix of athletics, weight training, yoga etc. I also ask them to try out a variety of activities on their own, from classes to sprinting or swimming. Not only does it help them to enjoy their training, it also makes their bodies perform better and in turn, look more athletic.
The fitness industry is still very much focussed on goals. Gyms, personal training, equipment and supplements are all sold by promoting a physical result, an appearance. Until our society shifts its focus to a less superficial one, a body's shape will always be more valued than it's function. But that doesn't mean that function should be sacrificed. Quite the opposite: by training for performance, by practicing a variety of different movements, by pushing your body's strength, speed, and stamina, you will gain an even better body shape. And while I do believe that we should all train our bodies because of our love for movement and physical exertion, I would be out of a job if it weren't for people seeking an improved physique.
"You look like the way you move". This is my new motto. It encapsulates my philosophy on fitness, on training, and even my approach to life. "You look like the way you move", so get moving, and enjoy it.
Love & Health