Measures of Health

As a personal trainer I spend a minimum of 30 hours in a gym every week. People of all different fitness levels, abilities, and body types surround me. Unfortunately, my industry is one that is often driven by a certain set of stereotypes around what fitness is. Magazines, posters, and commercials of fitness models drive a message that being fit and having a very certain look go hand in hand. I find that this often leaves the everyday gym goer feeling as though a specific aesthetic is the goal, and this in turn leaves me trying to emphasize that physical health is far more important than striving for a certain look.

The thing is that in reality, when you step into a gym, the majority of the people within it do not resemble fitness models. This is, however, not to say that they are not themselves fit. Factually you just cannot determine a person’s physical fitness by simply looking over their body. I even have to admit that when I first began training clients, on some unconscious level I stereotyped individual’s levels of fitness by their bodies, as I was constantly surprised by what they were or were not able to do on the gym floor. This quickly taught me never to assume anything about a person by what shape or size they are. Even now I find myself constantly wowed by the stereotypes that are broken about the human body and what it can do at any age.

Any educated fitness professional (and sadly, there are many out there who are not) will measure physical fitness by client’s ability. All too often, however, uneducated personal trainers only resort to the weight scale, or a tape measure to provide an analysis of “improvement”. By resorting only to these methods of measurement, we only serve in keeping the focus on the body. I encourage my clients to focus on different types of fitness ranging from aerobic capacity, strength, flexibility, power, balance or coordination. I do this in the hope of spreading the knowledge that the human body consists of far more than what we see on the surface.

Image source: My Modern Met (http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/howard-schatz-beverly-ornstein...

Image source: My Modern Met (http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/howard-schatz-beverly-ornstein...)

Image source: My Modern Met (http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/howard-schatz-beverly-ornstein...)

Above are several Olympians. The fittest of the fit, if you will. Each individual with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Each is a champion of their own sport. In showing these photos I hope to reiterate that our bodies come in all shapes and sizes, athletic or not. I encourage you, the next time you decide to measure yourself at the gym, to devalue the scale. Do not compare yourself to another body, but to your own improvements in whichever area you choose focus. Here is to happy and healthy training.

Jay Walker is a Personal Trainer at Absolute Endurance: Training & Therapy in Toronto, ON. He is currently pursuing an education in Counseling Psychology and can be contacted at jay.russ.walker@gmail.com.