Get Fit, Not Ripped

Round is a ShapeI very much appreciate a recent article by Dr. Michael Gleiber–that’s M.D., and not a mere Ph.D.–in which he argues that we do not need to look ripped in order to be properly fit. He goes on to describe four aspects of activity by which we can measure our fitness. For example, he suggests this push-up test for strength and endurance:

Push-ups are a great way to test your strength and endurance. When testing yourself, make sure you are keeping proper form. Lie facedown on the floor, elbows bent with your palms next to your shoulders. Keep your back straight, and push up until your arms are fully extended, then return to the starting position. Each time you return to that starting position, it counts as one push-up. If you can only do a few pushups before you need to rest, you may need to work more on your strength and endurance.

I like the idea of focusing on outcomes rather than muscle definition, but did you notice the problem with Dr. Gleiber’s prescription? “If you can only do a few pushups”? How many is a few? I have a former Marine friend who would probably say that 25 is a few. And how many is a lot?

He also suggests measuring aerobic fitness by walking a mile “briskly,” measuring flexibility with a sit and reach test, and measuring body fat through BMI (ugh!). Only in the case of BMI does he give a benchmark against which to measure fitness, but he fouls that up by saying that BMI “indicates your percentage of body fat.” As we’ve seen elsewhere–and as he surely knows–BMI does no such thing.

This guy is a spinal surgeon, so I’m guessing he’s busy. But is he really too busy to give us some actual standards by which to measure our fitness? Is it any wonder, absent those standards, that people simply look in the mirror and use the “ripped” test that Dr. Gleiber condemns?

But Don’t Love That Body Too Much

Muscle BoyAbout two weeks ago, I mentioned a post by Paul Maxwell in which he questioned male body image problems. Maxwell suggested that we’re trying to impress five different people/groups/entities for five different wrong-headed reasons. Here are his five headings:

  1. To our selves, we want to be confident.
  2. To the opposite sex, we want to be sexy.
  3. To our peers, we want to be intimidating.
  4. To our fathers, we want to be competent.
  5. To God, we want to be superhuman.

I’ve been letting Paul’s ideas float around in my mind since I originally agreed, and I have to say that I’m now convinced he got it wrong. Yes, these five reasons to want to have chiseled bodies are wrong, but they are not an exhaustive list.

A couple of years ago, right about the time I started to get my diet and exercise house in order, I taught at a church children’s camp. My lessons used the idea of masks as a metaphor. Recently, I saw a photo from that camp and–I kid you not–asked this question: “Who is that fat guy in the mask?” It was me, fifty pounds ago. With that in the background, let me tour the five audiences above.

I want to look good for myself, because looking good …well, looks good. I’d rather look in the mirror and see a healthy-looking me than the one in that camp photo. I’m not particularly vain, but I know that a less flabby, more muscular body translates to health and energy and other good things. (Proverbs 27:19)

I want to look good to the opposite sex, or at least one member of the opposite sex, my wife, because I love her and I care about her and I want to demonstrate that love and care by keeping my body healthy and reasonably attractive. (Proverbs 5:18)

I want to look good to peers, but not to intimidate. I’m not going to intimidate anyone, but by having an unfit, unhealthy body, I become a distraction. When I speak with my peers, I do not want them to be thinking of me as the fat guy or the wheezing guy or the guy who is probably going to have a heart attack. (Judges 3:17-23)

I want to look good for my father, but not really. My father passed over a decade ago. However, since I carry his name, I believe that my appearance will reflect on him. It’s a matter of honoring my father when I take care of my body. (Exodus 20:12)

I want to look good for my God. But actually I don’t want to look good so much as I want to have a functional, healthy body. God will never be impressed by how I look, but He can be pleased with how I treat the body He gave me. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

When I look in the mirror, I see a body that could stand to lose 10 pounds but that is in the acceptable range of fat and muscle. My wife is pleased. My peers are not distracted. I believe that my appearance mostly honors both my father and my God. These are sufficient outcomes, and they are worthy reasons to pay attention to that image in the mirror.