Today, “Where do you train?” and “Do you do CrossFit?” are two of the most frequently asked questions in Egypt.
It is a blessing to realize that for the first time, the Egyptians are as concerned about their health as much as they are about what they’ll be eating for lunch – maybe even more.
This trend has recently dispersed among all ages and social classes in Egypt, as people seek training before and after school, university, and work hours. On the other hand, new gyms and boxes are being started each day.
However, just as new health-oriented restaurants and fitness facilities are opening their doors to people every day; the most important aspect of a truly healthy lifestyle remains somehow untold. This aspect is what motivates us daily and therefore is a crucial aspect to our wellbeing; mental health.
My focus in this article will be focusing on how people react to their bodies before, during, and after training; however, before we dive straight into why I believe people should train to feel good, let’s go through some basics in fitness, nutrition, and general health.
Today, the concepts of gaining weight and losing weight are seemingly crystal clear. To gain weight, one must be in a caloric surplus – consuming more calories than they are burning. The weight gained, whether it is muscle or fat, will vary based on two distinct variables.
What differentiates Muscle Mass Gain from Fat Mass Gain
How to Increase Muscular Mass
When muscle gain is the goal, protein intake and exercise become a must. A person needs to be consuming between 1.5 – 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (1.5-2.0 x BWinKG). In terms of exercise, they need to take part in the resistance and/or strength training.
Resistance vs. Strength Training
Resistance is designed to add incremental resistance to each exercise, while strength training is aimed towards increasing an individual’s overall strength level. Both training styles go by the concept of progressive overload.
Progressive overload is the act of altering one variable in your training to make the exercise slightly harder on your body. This alteration will lead to an increase in strength, for your body to adapt to a certain load. This adaptation process results in muscle gain.
I will be going through the detailed difference between both exercise approaches in a future article.
Increasing or Decreasing Fat Mass
Weight loss is as simple as weight gain, as it is determined by only one variable; which is being on a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit is simply decreasing your daily caloric intake.
So, the golden rule for achieving the desired outcome here is simple: eat fewer calories than you burn daily. For instance, if your average daily caloric expenditure – what you burn each day – is 2,000 calories. To lose weight, you’ll have to eat less than 2,000 calories.
Here is how you can calculate your daily caloric intake
Simply by multiplying your total body weight in Kilograms * 22 will result in your basic metabolic rate (BMR), which is basically how many calories you need to stay alive. The basic metabolic rate determines your body’s daily requirement of energy to accomplish its basic processes – digestion, circulation, etc.
To get your daily caloric intake, multiply your BMR by an activity factor, which is how active you are daily – ranging from 1.4 (sedentary) up to 2.0 (very active). If you’re an average active person I would recommend multiplying your BMR by a factor of 1.5 or 1.6.
(Body Weight in KG) x (22) = (Basic Metabolic Rate) x (Activity Factor)
That being said, I am now comfortable to jump straight to the main subject of today’s article.
Happiness lays in being comfortable with your body results.
Yes, looking better and generally “fitter” will make anyone feel better about themselves; however, the latter has no direct impact on how happy you are. Let me explain:
Looking Good Is Subjective.
The “Bear Look” where you look big and muscular, but carry an adequate amount of fat has become an up-and-coming trend in the fitness industry today. Promoters of this look argue that to look masculine, you need to look wider and thicker.
Then again, just like the “Bear Look”, some people are more interested in achieving the “Hollywood Look”. This look is characterized by a slim body that carries only a bit of muscle with very little fat. So your muscles are defined, but not very big in mass.
The argument here is that everyone’s perception of looking good is different. You might think that looking big, but carrying fat is what suits you; however, this preference can change when your girlfriend says she prefers a guy with abs.
Same goes the other way around; a girl might spend a year trying to fit in a size 26 jeans until her boyfriend says he likes her the way she is.
So, to me chasing a certain look will always cause more harm than bliss; instead, we could invest in how we want to look like, or how to feel better and healthier in our bodies. Looking good will come as a side effect to our mindset.
Being Resilient to Change.
I am still recovering from this phase in my fitness journey.
Even though it sounds simple, when you’ve looked a certain way for a while, it becomes uneasy to settle for less. Regardless of what the cause of this setback could be. Whether it is new goals set, having pressures in your life, being injured, or simply just taking some time off and enjoying yourself.
Once your body changes, even if it’s an additional 1 KG of fat – you start noticing it. This is most common among people who were overweight; we always have our past in the back of our heads impeding us the enjoyment of the present moment.
Train To Feel Better, Not To Look Better.
Since first impressions last a lifetime, our physical appearance is the first noticeable thing about us before approaching or being approached by someone.
This is why for some of us, the concept of training to feel good might be hard to consider. However, as soon as our perception of what is considered healthy and what is considered otherwise shifts, life will become a lot more enjoyable.
As people, we always tend to neglect the outcomes of our spontaneous, momentarily decisions or actions. We need to start reassessing our goals by setting happiness, instead of the six-pack, as a number one priority.
Most of us tend to think: once I have achieved my dream body, I will be happy.
So let’s say you’ve achieved your dream body, you are now a strong muscular guy with visible abs or a girl who looks fit, curvy, and strong. The question here is: what’s next?
Truth is, no matter how accomplished we feel, eventually the new body becomes who we are now. Our goals then will begin to deviate towards emphasizing small, minute details only we can notice in our bodies.
So, no matter where we get in terms of physical achievement, we’ll always want more. We’ll find ourselves in a vicious cycle of body image dissatisfaction, as we’ll forget where we started from, and how much we’ve progressed.
The latter is the exact reason I strongly suggest we should train with the aim to feel better first; the look better part comes as a result. Because with good training and an average diet, the body will naturally look leaner, stronger, and more defined.
How to Implement the Mentality of Training to Feel Good
Here’s some practical advice as to what to do, whether you’ve just started your fitness journey or you’ve already achieved your goal.
Follow A Fitness Lifestyle Instead of A Hack
What eased my consistency in training and dieting is that I do what I like; therefore, I was able to balance between what I like to eat and what will keep me healthy and fit by not feeling constrained and pressured into being on a diet and knowing my food intake limit.
This way I was able to have a bar of chocolate when I felt like having one, while always keeping my target at the back of my head and counting along as I go. After all, fitness and healthy dieting are there to make us live better, not worse.
Immense life changes take large periods to become habitual; therefore, patience is a key factor in chasing a healthier lifestyle. There will be times where we feel down, unmotivated, and unsatisfied. We need to realize that it is part of a long journey which hopefully will last forever.
Then again, attaining better health, energy, functionality comes as a side effect.
Avoid Spending a Lot of Time Staring at Your Body on The Mirror
Also one of the habits I haven’t fully overcome. I still can’t help checking myself out to see progress. This habit can be discouraging as the progress becomes less and less clear as we improve. This though doesn’t mean I’m against looking for progress in the mirror, because that is one way of measuring good progress.
It can, however, turn into an obsession where you need to constantly see how you look to feel better. Try to keep it on the low.
Enjoy Your Fitness Journey
Seeing that most people are goal-oriented, we tend to see our journey as an “Uber ride” to our goal, instead of a self-discovery one.
In truth, the process is as enjoyable as the goal. Just by realizing the fact that we have something we’re daily waking up to work on is motivating and joyful.
Once we realize our happiness is more important than getting biceps quickly, and that our physical appearance does not predicate our worth; we can then enjoy the feeling we get while training.
Lastly, I’d like to encourage you if you’re thinking about starting your fitness journey, and reassure you can approach fitness from a whole new perspective even if you’re already into it.
Go ahead and enlighten your “gym buddies” with these new perspective facts on fitness and dieting.