Freaks, hotpants and fitness v health
The Oxford English dictionary defines a freak as: a person regarded as strange because of their unusual appearance or behaviour. Mindful of this we’re going to wade into the great fitness v health debate with this opener:
You, are a freak.
The evidence, part one: unusual behaviour
Running marathons, racing triathlons, spending your Sundays riding/running/swimming further than most people consider driving? Back-to-backing your spin, yoga and Crossfit sessions to ‘mix it up a bit’, then going home to make some awesome food yourself, in your own kitchen no less?
In the UK alone, now ‘the fat man of Europe’, a quarter of the population is obese and a third is classified as inactive, while the average adult spends 20% of their life sitting down (not including the 20-30% they’ll spend asleep) and time spent cooking at home has halved since 1980.
Those that run for anything more than a bus are rarer than sober people in a kebab shop, while those who actively push their limits in any physical activity, cook food rather than phone it in, and engage in regular training of any kind are in a minority of frighteningly small proportions.
You, are seriously unusual. Like freakishly unusual.
The evidence, part two: unusual appearance
An Ironman, popping to the shops last week
You may think your sporting attire is the most normal thing in the world but honestly, this one’s a shoe-in.
Ironmen, have you seen yourself in your triathlon mankini lately? Runners, what about those ‘racing’ run shorts that bear a striking resemblance to 1980s roller disco hot pants? And don’t you cyclists think you’re immune either - you can buy all the Rapha you like but this season’s most accessorised colour in tight Lycra is still dayglo pink. As for you ultrarunners, with those vest backpacks you look like you just robbed an S&M dungeon.
Run club track session, or escapees from a 70s roller disco? It's hard to tell
Like we said, you’re a freak.
And you should be bloody proud of it.
Because being a freak means all manner of other ‘freakish’ things are likely to happen to you.
Compared to the legions of non-freaks around you, you can expect to:
- Feel happier
- Handle stress better
- Live longer
- Catch fewer colds
- Have more sex
- Sleep better
- Look better and - more importantly - feel better about how you look
This is just a snapshot, the list goes on. Being a freak rocks.
Freaks, we salute you for having the courage to stand up, stand out and chase what you want, not what everyone else tells you you want.
Which isn’t to say being a freak can’t go too far.
Take bodybuilders for example.
Not just any bodybuilders, we’re talking the top gun pros who adorn the stage at the annual Mr Olympia contest, the World Championship of bodybuilding.
Four-time Mr Olympia, Jay Cutler. Are those pants really tiny or is he really huge?
These creosoted leviathans are seriously bloody impressive. The only people you’ll ever meet who are genuinely larger in life than they are in pictures, they are the absolute zenith of the ‘bronzed adonis’ archetype, and there is no doubt their iron-willed dedication, brutal training, and equally brutal eating/doping routines require a strength and drive few on this earth possess.
One thing they are not however is healthy. Not in a million years.
Forcing down that much food, mixing that many drugs, and doing it all while pushing through that much body-wrecking exercise, health ain’t really in pro bodybuilding’s makeup if you want to make it to the top. The list of ex-pros with careers cut short by injury, or more pertinently, by the ultimate early bath of all - death - is testament to this right away.
But deep down, no one ever thought pro bodybuilding was healthy, so what’s our point?
Well, even for the best adjusted athletes out there we can all be tempted to sacrifice a little health on the road to performance.
It could be not sleeping enough during that hard training week as you struggle to cram work, family and training into a week that really needs an extra three days in it.
Or gritting down sports nutrition products with all the nutritional value of hair gel in a death-or-glory bid for those last few miles.
Or everyone’s favourite, ‘training through injury’ because race day’s really near and I’m bloody terrified I won’t be ready.
We feel your pain. We’ve been there. But these seemingly small things are the small chinks in the armour which, if not nipped in the bud, can rapidly unravel into those bigger kinds of problems that take a lot more fixing than a few hours in bed/on the toilet/at the physio (delete as applicable) can handle.
America’s biggest (in every sense, he’s six foot seven) life coach and motivator, Tony Robbins, has one of the best takes we’ve ever heard on fitness v health. In his book Unleash the Giant Within, he explains:
“Fitness is the physical ability to perform athletic activity. Health however is defined as the state where all the systems of the body - nervous, muscular, skeletal, circulatory, digestive, lymphatic, hormonal, etc are working in an optimal way”
“Most people think fitness implies health, but the truth is they don’t necessarily go hand in hand”.
His solution to balancing this tricky state of affairs?
Whatever your goals, put health first.
“By putting health first, you will always enjoy tremendous benefits in your life. If you achieve fitness at the expense of health, you may not live long enough to enjoy your spectacular physique.”
It’s a seriously simple mantra, but one with huge value. Make sure you’re always serving up your main dish of fitness and performance with a well-stacked side serving of health and you’re on the fast track to faster racing, better living, and much more of both for as long as you like.
To you freaks out there, we salute you.
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