The other day this dude said I look “a little flabby around the waist.” Really? He also said that I needed to “tighten up and look ripped” if people are going to take me seriously as a fitness trainer. Was he being harsh? I don’t know. Maybe I do need to tighten things up, look more like a fitness model, and try to get my body fat down to a more respectable level. After all, isn’t that what people want? The six-pack abs, the ripped body, the physique that turns heads at the beach?
Let me tell you about this guy that so blatantly pointed out my flaws. He’s the same jerk that has repeatedly pointed out every little thing that is wrong with me for the past 4 years. Even after I lost over 50 pounds of fat. Even after I worked hard to complete P90X (multiple times); even after I completed a round of Insanity; even after I trained for 6 months in a Muay Thai gym; even after I went on strict diet of no gluten, no refined sugar, no alcohol, no caffeine, no processed food, and very moderate meat consumption for 6 months – this guy always looks at me and says, “Not good enough.” This guy is me.
There’s a saying that says, “We are our own worst critics.” Isn’t that the truth? You want to know how many people have called my “fat” or “flabby” in the last 4 years? Zero. On the contrary, I’ve heard all kinds of “you look greats” and even “you look amazings.”
I remember last summer I was hanging out with my sister in-law, and she asked if I wanted some sort of treat (I don’t even remember what it was). I told her, “No, I’m really eating clean right now to lose a little more fat.” She kind of gave me a look and asked, “Umm… you mean lose some of that fat you don’t have?”
And hey, I’m not one of these people that goes around looking for validation, seeking compliments by way of my own self-inflicting expressive putdowns. But the reality is when I look in the mirror I don’t see a ripped, chiseled body like that of Tony Horton or Shaun T or Jason Statham or the guy on the cover of the latest Men’s Fitness magazine. I see a guy with a bit of muscle still trying to find his abs.
So, why after a 4 year journey of weightlifting, P90X, Insanity, running, Paleo diets, vegan diets, pre-workout drinks, post-workout drinks, intermittent fasting, and God knows what else do I find myself six-packless? Is it genetics? Is it my age? Is it my body type? Have I not found the perfect diet or workout system for me yet? Or could it be that I have put an image in my head, instilled by society, of what I am supposed to be, which is not necessarily who I am? Maybe I am the best Glen I can be, physically.
This got me thinking: does “ripped” = the best possible physical shape one can be in? We see these men and women on magazine covers, in movies, and on TV that look amazing. They have flat stomachs, toned bodies, and are seemingly flawless. Are they training harder than me? Are they eating that much better than me?
I pondered it further and thought, who are the people that are in the best physical shape? The best of the best. Those that train like no one else, work with the best trainers, use the best training methods, and work harder than most other people. I would say that professional athletes have to be some of – if not, THE fittest people on the planet. And I think one category of sports that requires some of the most intense training sessions is the realm of fighting. Boxing, martial arts, wrestling – they all require a training and conditioning regimen that is like no other.
Often times, fighters are ripped. They have they abs and muscles that look like they were carved out of stone, especially when they cut weight before a fight. But there are those that are not exactly ripped either. Take the man that many consider to be the best boxer of all-time, Muhammad Ali, for example. I heard that Ali trained 6 hours or more per day! 6 hours! Strength exercises, running, hitting the bag, sparring, etc. His daily workout looked like what most of us would do in a week. And Ali looked like he was in great physical shape, but hardly ripped like some fighters are. Think of Mike Tyson in his prime: muscular with a body like something out of comic book.
Ali pictured above, Tyson pictured below
One of the greatest mixed martial arts fighters of all time Fedor Emelianenko was hardly the ripped-bodied competitor like many of his opponents. But in Fedor’s prime he claimed an impressive 27-fight win streak (almost unheard of in MMA). And Fedor wasn’t always scoring one-punch knockouts either; some of his fights would go into late round action. Compare Fedor’s physique to other fighters such as former champion Frank Mir and there is a noticeable difference.
And what is the reason for the difference in physique? Did Tyson train harder than Ali? Did Fedor not train as hard as Mir or the 27 men he defeated in a row? That’s probably not the case. Is it a diet thing?
Or could it be that they all train in a similar fashion, they all just have different body types. Each one of them is in top physical condition, only with a little different appearance on the outside. Could that be true?
And what about me and you? If I were to follow a specific diet and specific training plan and you followed that same plan, would we look exactly the same at the end of a six month period. Even if you’re a 5’8” medium-build white guy with a receding hairline (like myself), chances are we would look a little different at the end of the day.
And could it be that not everyone who eats clean and trains hard gets to be bearer of the almighty six-pack? Maybe some of us should be happy that we are healthy. Happy we are in shape, able to lift relatively heavy things, able to run a mile or two (or more), and can race our kids down the street without having a heart attack. Maybe being the best us we can be is what we should really be concerned with.