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What Shape is In Shape

Posted Oct 24 2008 9:34am

You always hear people talk about being “in shape”, but what exactly does that mean. Round is a shape. Pear is a shape. Long and lean is a shape. Does being “in shape” mean you can’t be in any of those shapes?

Now, when most folks talk about being “in shape” it’s pretty obvious they have a couple of very distinct types in mind; usually buff, lean, six-pack abs, tight buns, sculpted everything else. You know the usual kind of stuff you see on the front of magazines like “Men’s Health” or “Women’s Health”.

But after going to Yosemite I came to appreciate that those shapes actually have very little to do with great health, or even great fitness. Sure, they look good. OK, they look great. But often the muscles are more for show than effect.

In Yosemite one of the most fascinating things to do is watch people climbing. You quickly get a stiff neck watching them try to scale El Capitan. They look unbelievably tiny, slowly climbing up that massive granite face. It clearly takes great technique, strength and stamina to make the ascent.

But when you see them on the ground you come to appreciate that you don’t need a buff body to be able to do that. The climbers we saw came in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Short, stocky, long, lean, pudgy, skinny, and everything in between.

Of course some of them are sculpted amazons, of both sexes, but most are not. The same is true when you look at the folks doing big hikes up in the Sierra. They come in all shapes and sizes, but they share one thing, they’re fit. You have to be to hike long distances at that altitude.

Remember a couple of years ago, there was a lawsuit in San Francisco involving a woman who was suing a gym because they refused to hire her as an aerobics teacher, saying she was too fat. The only problem is the woman had already been teaching the classes and while she was clearly no skinny Belinda she was more than fit enough to do the job. She won the case.

So next time you are at the gym or out running, cut yourself some slack. You may not have the most perfectly proportioned physique, but the most important thing is that you are out there doing it, working out, trying to stay healthy.

Just remember the aerobics lady, and remind yourself that you don’t have to be a particular shape to be “in shape”

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