29-year-old Owen Lee is currently undergoing a fitness transformation with Maximuscle after winning a competition with Attitude to become the brand's new LGBT Ambassador. You can follow his weekly progress on Instagram.
When I told friends I was embarking on a fitness ‘transformation’, many raised their eyebrows and responded "Oh? But you’re already fit?"
Mo Farah is undoubtedly an incredible runner, but he’d make a terrible weightlifter. Similarly, doing occasional weights at the gym and playing racket sports might keep me reasonably healthy, but doesn’t necessarily make me ‘fit’.
My cardio capabilities, for example, are absolutely pants: see my ‘run a 10k’ resolution for 2018 which, after and abysmal training regime, saw me chobble over the finish line in tears of pain and exhaustion. (Heavy rain luckily hid my tears to avoid a bizarre-looking scene).
What I’m trying to demonstrate is that fitness is specific to particular exercises, with no single form or application. Our muscles and movements adapt and grow in line with the motions and strains we groove them to. This renders the concept of being ‘fit’ in all forms almost mythical. Those of you who play sport or exercise in a regular way I’m sure can testify to the difficulty (and sore muscles) involved when you try something new.
But I can understand why this generic term of being ‘fit’ (or not) has arisen.
Elite sport is played largely by those in their late teens to their early 30s. On top of that, though global exposure is given to those with larger body shapes - weightlifters, offensive linemen in NFL, props in rugby - the poster children of sport are usually their slimmer, toned counterparts.
As such, the media messages we’re exposed to have gradually built up a general view of being ‘fit’ as operating within quite a narrow field: Slim, athletically muscular and, typically, young. Whilst the body positivity movement is rebuffing this slightly from a mental health perspective, the majority of social media supports this concept of ‘fit’.
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Time to get J back involved in this fitness malarkey 💪🏋️♀️🤸🏻♂️😊 After struggling with his knee he’s back at the gym and getting back to running (did 3 km today) 🏃🏽♂️ I’ve missed our occasional gym sessions. Find we’re both usually a bit slower (chitchatting, don’t tell my trainer!!) but work harder when we’re pushing each other. Is there something that makes you work a bit harder at the gym? #gayguys #gaycouple #instagay #gayfitness #gaygym @attitudemag @maximuscle
At a personal level, I’ve been trying to put on weight to help me get stronger (so far about 5 kg in the last 5 weeks) and at times seeing my waistline grow and jeans tighten has got me down.
I’ve been told I’ve gained some muscle, though comparing myself to those at the O2 tennis, New Zealand test, or in my social media feed, I find my thoughts wandering towards the negative. Am I unhealthy, overweight, or unnactractive? Luckily, I currently have a Maximuscle nutritionist supporting me right now to counter the former, while the latter is an ongoing battle of self acceptance and positivity versus feelings of inadequacy and failure.
In a gym, sports club or on social media it can be too easy to compare ourselves to others. There's always someone hitting harder, lifting more, flexing further, running faster. This is wholly unhelpful: we're all on our own journey, with our own starting points, challenges and mini wins as we hopefully journey towards our goals.
I'm gradually learning that you can’t be the best at everything - even elite athletes have shown us that. Without knowing the background or journey of those we compare ourselves to, our self-criticism has no context or merit. The consequent failings we feel when looking at those more ‘fit’ than us are both illogical and unhelpful.
Sport and fitness is there to be enjoyed by all. 99.99% of us are not elite athletes and won’t ever be (damn it!). There is room for all shapes, ages, sizes, and shades of competitiveness: I’ve had people double my age outlast me on a squash court and seen a cyclist double my weight smoke me on the London to Brighton cycle ride.
So let’s try to stop these snap judgments. Declaring someone ‘fit’ or not based on stereotypes is at a base level an incorrect generalisation. Moreover, the comparisons won't help you. Sport and fitness has room for everyone regardless of appearance or ability, so embrace your journey and have some fun.
Who wants to be an elite athlete anyway...