Practical Thoughts on Aesthetics, Training, and Lifestyle

What’s the first thing that enters your head when you hear the word “core?”

You probably think of washboard abs, fitness models, and a summer-ready, beach body. I don’t blame you. Well-defined, washboard abs are the epitome of the conditioned body.

But it is with regret that I see many clients pursuing programs that promise six-pack abs above overall health and wellness. I have seen programs encourage trainees to essentially starve their body of nutrients to burn belly fat. Not only that, these programs promote the use of supplements and drugs to hurry along results. This “magic pill” mindset may help the trainee to have the “look” for a day, but what’s the end goal?

By focusing on movement quality, proper training cycles, and skill acquisition, the “Everyday Athlete” trains with intentionality. They bring the principles of athletics to their exercise, diet and overall health regimen. They reject trendy fads that focus on appearance only. Instead, their objectives are motivated by a higher order goal.

The Everyday Athlete focuses on the long game.

It is apparent that today’s overabundance of information, coinciding with constant stimulation, produces anxiety, stress, and discontent. I see this issue born out of our desire for the “magic pill.” We want what we want, and we want it right now.

Although it is not bad to want to show up to important events with your best-looking body, it is vital to understand the consequences of binge exercise and nutrition. This “magic pill” mindset disregards wellness as the main goal, and instead creates a mindset around poor relationships with food and exercise.

Binge dieters and exercisers commonly experience the “rebound effect.” They work their butts off for a few months, only to gain back all their body fat and bad habits.

With respect to the pursuit of bodybuilding, vanity inspired training often veils true health by encouraging the look of an “athletic mannequin.” Ripped muscles, low body fat, and muscle symmetry are the bodybuilders goals, but at what cost? How can one reconcile their appearance with drug use, binge exercise, crash dieting, and countless hours on the hamster wheel?

A well devised fitness program should focus on overall improvement of the body’s health. This approach is often a balancing act composed of self-experimentation and long-term consistency. Achieving aesthetic gains should be the result of encouraging mindfulness in nutrition, movement, and habit formation, and not strictly a vain pursuit.

“This approach is often a balancing act composed of self-experimentation and long-term consistency. Achieving aesthetic gains should be the result of encouraging mindfulness in nutrition, movement, and habit formation, and not strictly a vain pursuit.”

The Everyday Athlete finds beauty in movement health as a lifestyle.

Our goal should be simple: achieve the attributes of gaining high degrees of athleticism, performance, and aesthetics. All we need to do is hammer the basics. 45 minutes of well-constructed training per day is all it takes.  Any more time than is necessary is superfluous and wasteful.

The Everyday Athlete keeps on the straight and narrow: they know that to maintain and grow in their movement health, they must engage in a minimalistic program that yields maximum results. They know it’s a cardinal sin to abuse exercise. Movement health is about advancing and improving your life.

Training thus becomes a lifestyle, and not a means to an end. The Everyday Athlete finds solace in walking from the far end of the parking lot and active weekend adventures. They don’t allow the mental pain of hard work to enter their vocabulary. They know that each muscle group is the sum of a greater whole and train their body in patterns over “body part” splits.

Aesthetics are found as the result of consistency. The everyday athlete realizes it is easier to develop and maintain their six-pack with realistic eating standards. They do not give in to the temptation to consume lethal amounts of sugar, but see foods as a way to fuel their mind/body growth. They also develop an empowering and reasonable mindset around food. They know certain events and gatherings call for foods outside their normal guidelines of “healthy,” and take action to  pre-plan their meals and exercise to take these events in stride.

To the Everyday Athlete, “core” is a bad word.

Not because “core” is the wrong terminology for the muscles and structure of the midsection, but because most proponents of “core training” tout a variety of crunches and planks as the sole training mechanisms for the midsection.

This is disconcerting.

The Everyday Athlete realizes that the core is the foundation for all movement. As such, to achieve a fully functional and cohesive body, core function needs to be maintained and strengthened systematically. Training programs should emphasize working the core musculature on each training day.

The demands of the movements in compound kettlebell, barbell, and bodyweight movements work the core from a rotational and anti-rotational standpoint, where specific core conditioning exercises further train the core for better aesthetics and performance.

What about the six pack?

Six-pack musculature will appear when core function has been restored and body fat is at or below 10% for men, and 14-16% for women. Depending on your current state of fitness, it may take a few weeks, or even a few years to attain the elusive six pack.

Remember what they say, “abs are made in the kitchen.” Although, the everyday athlete desires overall health from a movement perspective, the trainee is encouraged to maintain focus and consistency in their nutrition efforts. For best results, a whole food, paleo-based approach (like Whole30), is my highest recommendation. My clients that have implemented a paleo-style diet have noticed less body fat, more lean muscle, clearer skin, better sleep, and improved digestion.

It seems that fitness industry is stuck in a model of “core centricity.” We see six-packs as the ultimate indicator of “being in shape.” The Everyday Athlete knows better than the that. The elusive structure of the six-pack is often a vain pursuit, and relies heavily on genetics.

Those with completely vain pursuits miss the goal. Their physical materialism ends up doing more harm than good as they develop a “magic pill” mindset that masks the true pleasures and pursuits of life and movement health. The Everyday Athlete realizes the importance of a well-devised training program that encompasses a total “lifestyle” shift. They see that the fruits of their labor come from long-term consistency, low levels of stress in their approach to training and enjoying their lives.

Ultimately, it is our choice of how we choose to live our lives. Movement health is vital since our body is the vehicle in which we experience the universe. I encourage you to discover the gift of honing your six-pack aesthetics, just make sure it’s through a love of health-in-self, and not a love of one’s looks.