Wednesday, January 18, 2012

6-Pack Abs,A Sign of Fitness and Health? Exploring Training and Health Claims,pt.1

In a December 10,2011 post entitled,"Changing Times," I wrote how Runner's World magazine(RW)has changed over the years.I remarked how it is geared towards a different audience today,a readership that could be described as primarily joggers or fun runners. As regular visitors to this site know, I do not hold to a, "you're not worthy" mindset if someone is not doing x amount of miles or running this fast or that fast. That's a type of elitism and arrogance that may be a part of other sports but should never have a place in distance running. Those who have been around this sport for awhile recognize that there is a mutual respect among runners who share a common love for running,irregardless of performance.With that said, I have to take a moment and criticize Runner's World. Actually, the following can also be directed to all "fitness" and "health" magazines. While in the supermarket the other day I came across the latest issue of RW. Featured on the cover was a shirtless male runner with his 6-pack abs prominently on display,it seemed as if his abs had been photoshopped in an effort to highlight them. My initial thought was,what do 6-pack abs have to do with running, and what in the world is RW's preoccupation with them? This is not the first such cover by this mag,there have been many in recent years. One might ask,is this the look Runner's World is trying to sell to their readers? Is this what they now believe epitomizes health and fitness? Oh, how far the mighty have fallen. From the near emaciated physiques of people like Bill Rodgers,Frank Shorter,Tony Sandoval,Jeff Wells and others who used to grace their covers way back when,we are now treated to the 21th century version of the ideal runner,the guys,and occasionally the gals,with chiseled abs. Earth to the purveyors of this nonsense, prominent abs are the result of working them hard through a variety of exercises and diet,this does not always mean the owner is physically fit. For instance,when you see someone with big or well developed biceps do you assume they are in excellent condition? If you do you might be mistaken. I've known guys with a muscular build who can't walk up two flights of stairs or jog three quarters of a mile without sucking air. Well defined abs should not be the focus of one's training, for many though, it can be the by-product of an exercise program that includes some ab work along with aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.Unfortunately,spurred on by magazines and books that tout "the look," the line between vanity and true fitness has been crossed,and for far too many,it has led to confusion as to what being in shape really means.
In terms of fitness, I'll take the scrawny,white haired athlete pictured above anytime over the handsome model types you see on the covers of the health and fitness mags these days.

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