Gray: Beyond six-pack abs: Training for the game of Life

The sleek covers of men’s muscle magazines and women’s glamour magazines send us the message that we should create bodies of steal that shimmer in the sun, and tighten with every move. These images dominate our mainstream and social media. We tell ourselves that if we aren’t worthy of a posed picture on Pinterest or Instagram that we aren’t worthy at all. Let’s agree to buck the system.

You do not need six-pack abs to embrace fitness as a way of life. Let’s redefine success.

If we move beyond just vanity and focus on training for life, we open the world of health and fitness to everyone. What if our new standard was to have a body that feels good when you wake up, when you move and when you age? What if our new standard was to simply achieve a healthier body weight to prevent diseases and chronic health conditions? What if our new standard was to feel more confident in the skin that you’re in? What if our new standard was to get off of medications that we could control through diet and exercise first? What if our new standard was to avoid surgeries by strengthening our bodies? What if our new standard was to ward off stress and worry by using fitness as our outlet?

If we redefine success, we’d invite more people to find it. We’d have more local success stories like Ann who enjoys bubble baths again because she’s able to climb in and out of her tub with greater ease. We’d have more success stories like Mark who is finding joy exercising with healthy, energetic people to help him fight the aging process and not give in like others his age, in their 50s or 60s. We’d have more success stories like RoseAnn who is on fire about life. She fell in love with strength training after 11 surgeries and years of struggle. She decided to fight back and not be limited by her limitations.

Fitness has taken each of them to a better place. Do they feel better about their bodies? Yes. It is good to love your body and there is no shame in wanting to look good. But success goes beyond your physique.

When we redefine success, we’d celebrate more people like Jer LaLonde. Jer loves playing softball, but was sitting on the bench last season. He was deconditioned and overweight, causing him to struggle with back pain.

Not enjoying the game he loves was bad enough, but when he realized he needed to buy bigger clothes because he was too heavy for his normal size he was embarrassed.

That was Jer’s turning point. It was clear to him that his lack of exercise and love for sweets was taking away his confidence and the ability to move pain free. He knew worse health problems were coming if he did not change.

Jer had been a member a health club, but had not yet taken it seriously. Now he had a burning reason to get healthier. He committed to workouts at least four times a week and as he grew stronger, he added more challenges to his workouts. He also cut out sweets and now has a diet high in protein with lots of fruits and vegetables. If he has to grab food on the go the choice is always a sandwich, not fast food.

In just three months Jer has lost 35 pounds. He never had to buy the size 40 pants that were staring him in the face. He is a lean and strong size 34. Even better, Jer eased his back pain with consistent exercise and movement. His muscles are stronger and his chance of injury has dramatically dropped.

At 38-years-old, this father was too young to be sidelined. Thankfully, he realized that and took action. Not only will Jer be a better softball player this season, but a better dad because he has made his health a priority. He is now back in the game of life and inspiring others around him.

Trina Gray is the owner of Bay Athletic Club, a mother of two, a national presenter on fitness and wellness and a change agent in the community. Her wellness column appears monthly.