Living The Fitness Lifestyle

A number of you have written me about how to approach the days when you are not working out, when you are not following a meal plan and when you are not scheduled to participate in a physical fitness event of some kind. We tend to call these “off days” or “rest days,” some people even have an “off-season” and I tend to think these names are pretty appropriate. I think the major idea or concept we who engage in and live the fitness lifestyle must have is that there is never a time when our body is doing nothing. The only time your body will even come close to doing nothing is when you are dead and then it is still doing something; it’s called decaying. But on a serious note, we have to get it in our minds that living fit is more than a gym workout or a series of well planned meals, it truly is a lifestyle. Media and marketing do a great job of selling products but they have also given many people an unrealistic idea of what being fit is, what it looks like and how to live fit.

Popular mindsets to avoid

So often I talk to people who engage in body building and physique competitions. These are sports that I personally love and respect. These sports are characterized by a huge number of amazing athletes and they have always had a firm place in my heart as some of my favorite personalities and friends. However, most people (but rarely the athletes) tend to place the wrong label on these people and incorrectly think of these people as the ultimate symbol of the fitness lifestyle. In the majority of cases (there are exceptions) I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. I lived that lifestyle for the majority of my life so I know what I’m talking about.

In my experience the majority of these people only engage in fitness lifestyle endeavors around the clock when it’s time to get ready for a competition. The rest of the year many of them won’t train for weeks at a time, they eat anything they please and engage in binging, literally gorging themselves with food then turn around and initiate extreme dieting practices in order to prepare for their show. In addition to this, most of the people I’ve known in these sports (including myself at one time) only exercise and eat “clean” at various times throughout the year during the years that they are competing.

Over time, the great fluctuations in body weight, the steroid abuse and constantly changing dietary practices take their toll. Once their lives have moved past the competition phase, most of them tend to become recreational exercisers and end up having the same physical fitness shortcomings that most other people face. While sport is a tremendous way to stay in shape and enjoy our lives we have to ensure that we create lifestyle characteristics that will remain once our days of competition have passed. I struggled with this for years and can tell you that this is a tremendous challenge for the former physique athlete.

Get To Know Yourself It’s Going to be a Long Ride

Living fit (for life) is about you becoming aware of your body’s fitness shortcomings and designing a lifestyle that will improve them and maintain them at a high level. It’s really that simple. It’s not a get ripped-up for summer then gain all the weight back in the fall type of lifestyle. Sure there are times when a fit person may decide to take some aspect of fitness and improve it considerably in order to enjoy the benefits of it, but the thing to remember is there is no stopping point.

This is a key concept that is so simple, but so absent from most people’s lives. The fitness lifestyle never stops. It doesn’t end when you quit playing a sport, it doesn’t end when you get married and it doesn’t end when you start your own business. There is no stopping point for those who live fit. Sure we all have setbacks, struggles and challenges to overcome; but we overcome them. We know that these setbacks, struggles and challenges will be overcome while living in the fitness lifestyle. In other words we do not modify our lifestyle in order to deal with issues, we deal with issues while maintaining our lifestyle. As simplistic as this sounds, I’ve found that this is perhaps the hardest aspect of living fit that most people deal with.

Of course there are meals, days and times when we do things that are contrary to our fitness beliefs and lives. But they are the exception, not the rule. These things are allowed into our lives as a break from the norm, as brief events that add to our lives in other ways and are worth the cost.

Some examples may be:

Eating cake with your child on their birthday – there are so many positives that come from this
Having some drinks with an old friend who needs to talk – friends are priceless, this won’t hurt you
Enjoying cultural events by partaking in its food and drinks – many things in life can’t be replaced
So you get the picture. Living fit is not about sporting six-pack abs year-round (but can include this) until you get married then adopting the beer belly. Living fit is about a lifetime of choices and actions that lead to your physical betterment as your life goes on from phase-to-phase and relationship-to-relationship. The greatest thing I love about the fitness lifestyle is that it is never too late to begin. This is an amazing concept that has changed the lives of millions, myself included, and it can do the same for you if you so choose.

I challenge you to take a long look at many of the lifestyle choices you now make and consider ways to incorporate a healthier fitness mindset into those things in order to create and build a lifestyle that will provide you with a great level of fitness from this moment forward. You can do it! Living fit is a choice and that choice is yours.

Here’s to you!

Jared Meacham, MS.Ed., CSCS.

Jared is a fitness entrepreneur, personal trainer and recognized

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Discover The Everchanging Face Of Fitness

It’s very rare that I will write, comment or otherwise vent online but after thinking the idea over I’ve decided to share a few of my thoughts with you about what fitness is, what it’s really about and who should be considered fit. Of course this is only my opinion at this point in history, but it deserves being mentioned nevertheless. I’m writing this, admittedly, out of disappointment. I read fit people’s articles, newsletters and blogs constantly in order to learn and improve myself in this industry we call fitness but lately I’ve come across a number of very fit people drawing lines in the sand (regarding what fitness is), that, in my opinion, don’t really need to be there.

Now you’ve heard me say it a million times! Fitness (technically) is usually defined in a way that has something to do with having optimal levels of:

cardiovascular endurance,
muscular endurance,
muscular strength,
flexibility,
body composition (fat vs. lean body mass)
While this is true and I certainly agree, I think what we are talking about is a quantitative way to look at a qualitative issue. Yea sports are quantitative. How much, how many, how low, how high, how strong, how far, how big, how long – these are things we associate quite often with sport. In America we tend to be a quantitative society. We want to know how much money a person has, who has the most friends, who spends the most on clothes, who has the lowest body fat percentage, who can bench press the most weight and who can run the longest distance in the least amount of time. We are obsessed with numbers, quantities and keeping score.

So I raise the question: Is physical fitness really a quantitative thing? Or could it be that physical fitness is a qualitative thing? Maybe a combination of both? What do you think?

The only thing I can say about this is that (to me) physical fitness is more than how many times you can lift a weight, how far you can run or if you are flexible enough to put your feet behind your head or not. To me physical fitness is about things that cannot always be measured with numbers, it’s about more than a number, a weight, a distance, a score.

I tell my clients that we all have strengths and weaknesses at various points in our lives. At 24 years of age I had 9% body fat year-round, I could squat 700 pounds and bench press 405 pounds for reps. I can’t do that anymore. But I can do 35 pull-ups, stand on a stability ball for just about as long as I want and touch my face to my knee when stretching, all things I could not do as a beast-boy 24-year-old. So was I more fit then or now?

Take a look at the people around you. What’s their story? What are their experiences? Are they fat? Are they too skinny? Maybe they’re really weak and can’t lift much weight. Maybe they have a low-level of endurance and can’t run very far before getting winded. Think about it for a moment then ask yourself: if perhaps their current level is better than it was previously, does the fact that they don’t live up to your idea of what fitness should be really matter? If you think about any of these things they all depend on one thing: your perception of that person. I take the stance that fitness evolves as a person passes through life. What you thought about fitness early in your life may not be the same idea you have about fitness later on. I encourage you to embrace fitness throughout your life no matter what face it currently has.

Improve! Get better in some way. You may not always be able to do what you did as a young person but there are ways where you can become even better than you were. And I’ve seen people who were very sedentary as young people who have steadily improved their physical fitness level as they’ve aged. One client of mine, Lisa, told me she’s (in her 60s) in the best shape of her adult life. Isn’t that what fitness is about? If you really think about fitness, isn’t it about getting better, improving and doing what you need to do to feel better about yourself and your physical body? Aren’t those things mostly about quality and not quantity?

I think so. I think fitness has an infinite number of faces and takes on an unlimited number of characteristics. I encourage you to try not to see fitness in such a narrow scope that you forget that fitness, above all, is about people. It’s about people getting better, not being the best. Fitness is not a sport, it’s not a race and no one is keeping score. Fitness is about you as an individual. You may be a phenomenally successful athlete like Lance Armstrong or Drew Brees (both fit people) or you may be like my client Lisa (also a fit person) who in her 60s decided she wanted to walk with more energy, feel more stable and be able to play with her grandchildren.

Now I encourage you to consider this: Lisa can honestly say that she is in the best shape of her adult life, can Lance Armstrong currently say the same thing? So which person’s fitness level serves them best? I’ll let you decide.

Try to think of fitness as something that is inclusive, not exclusive. Sports are wonderful and in order to have a winner we have to keep score and compare one against the other. I encourage you to leave the score keeping to the athletes on the field-of-play, and only on the field-of-play, and not in the day-to-day activities that people lead in their pursuit of fitness.

Pursue Fitness for Life!

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