Make sure fitness comparisons are realistic

Several years ago, I remember smiling when I read the wording on a guys T-shirt that said, “The older I get, and the better I was.” Lately, this humorous adage has taken on certain reality of its own as I reflect on other comparisons people make.

One of the key tenets of working as a fitness trainer is listening to the emotional value of a client’s statements and determining if what is said means more than face value.

Emotional content is much more than the superficial meaning of what is being said, and more about the motivation or triggers behind what a client is trying to communicate.

There is a significant relationship between how a person feels about them self and how it translates into their body, work habits, and overall lifestyle.

Whether it is a man talking about the body he “once had as a high school fullback” or a woman talking about her body “before 3 children” people are frequently making comparisons of how they look now, to an earlier time in their life, a younger celebrity, athlete or model that they would like to look like.

There can be a fine line however, between when comparisons can serve as form of motivation, and when they can de-incentivize a person if they are not moving towards the image they have created in their mind.

Ultimately, it comes down to the same abc’s of setting goals, which begins with making sure that the proverbial bar height, can ultimately be jumped over.

Unfortunately, Madison Avenue has effectively crafted America’s version of beauty and physical appeal that both men and women compare themselves to using a “pass-fail” grading system. Weight loss companies, leverage 100% of weight loss on image, choosing to position a person’s functionality as a secondary benefit to their overall appearance.

There has been such a push to looking “smaller” that words like “function” conveniently are avoided when describing a person’s physical success.

Time, injury, decreased collagen production, and for women, the onset of menopause, are all added to the final inevitable force of gravity that wreak havoc on the human form. Comparing oneself to a time when none of few of these elements had reached full gear is flawed thinking, not to be confused with the importance of achieving the best life, that fitness can provide.

What this amounts to, is that comparisons must be relative to the individuals who have lives that resemble yours.  Are you in a wheel chair?  Then find google images of fit people in wheel chairs.  Are you 60, 70 or 80 years old?  If so, choose a picture of someone 5  or 10 years younger who looks fit.

The key point is that this blog is not about stealing anyone’s dreams or incentives.  Instead it is more about making sure your vision of success is defined by the kind of life you wish to lead, by defining your “success” less on how you look, and more on how robustly you can live.


John Hill

John is the web and photo editor at The Columbian, where he has worked since 1995 in various roles. A journalist for the past 25 years, he's a fan of good storytelling, data, graphics and still likes to read an actual newspaper. Twitter: @hilljohng

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