Here’s a simple secret that most of the fitness industry doesn’t want you to know, the first step to “getting in shape for summer” is learning to appreciate your body as it is.
At least that’s how celebrity trainer and Bowflex fitness advisor Tom Holland sees it, and it’s the reason he put together this 30-Day Summer Strong Challenge (outlined at the bottom of this page). Essentially, the goal is to break down unrealistic stereotypes about body image and encourage people to discover and share what “strong” means to them.”
“Strong is not just a look or body type, it’s a lifestyle and state of mind,” Holland said.
Below, Holland offers some insightful thoughts and advice about body image, explains the importance of strength training and explains how the benefits of exercise go way beyond improving our outward appearance.
The Active Times: In your opinion, what are some of the consequences of idealizing unrealistic body types—especially during the summer?
Tom Holland: Idealizing unrealistic body types often leads to misplaced negative feelings about ourselves, which can keep us from being the best we can be. This can be a big stumbling block, especially during the summer when there can be an increased focus on slimming down.
We sometimes forget that our genetics play a major role in determining our body type, which means that our body shape is predetermined to a certain degree. Basically, there are three main body types—ectomorph, mesomorph or endomorph—and we can often tell which type most closely resembles our own based on certain characteristics; although many of us have a combination of all three.
While we cannot alter our genetics, we can be as healthy and fit as possible by exercising regularly and eating right. Let’s shift the focus to getting strong and healthy—that’s what “getting a beach-ready body” should be about.
In addition to focusing on a 30-day strength challenge like this one, what can we do to shift the focus from phrases like “slim for summer” to simply emphasizing the benefits of feeling strong and healthy?
TH: We need to bring more awareness to this concept of strength, how being healthy and fit is so much more than having a certain body type. We also need to put forth a completely new paradigm—one that focuses on all that we gain from exercise and healthy eating, rather than simply what we lose.
This can be everything from having more energy to play with your kids to cutting down on the extra sugar in your diet.
What are some of the benefits of exercising for the purpose of increasing strength and ability, rather than focusing on losing weight or “improving” your outward appearance?
TH: Exercise has a myriad of benefits above and beyond weight loss. It boosts our mood, builds self-esteem, increases our functional strength, strengthens our hearts, alleviates anxiety, boosts our immune systems and decreases the risk of numerous types of cancers and other age-related diseases, to name but a few.
Also, what’s going on inside of our bodies ultimately translates into feeling better and a healthier attitude and outward appearance.
Why is strength training important?
TH: Strength training is essential to any fitness plan. Not only does strength training boost cardio health and burn calories, but it also helps our bodies work optimally. Weight lifting helps you perform typical daily activities— like carrying groceries or doing chores—without any problems.”
What would you say a “strong lifestyle and state of mind” entails?
TH: Great question! I think a strong lifestyle and state of mind ultimately comes down to control. It’s really important to realize and accept what we do and do not have control over in our lives. Three of the most important and powerful aspects of life that we can control are: how much we move; what we put into our mouths; and our self-talk. When we are truly aware of, and take responsibility for all of these, we can be extremely powerful both physically as well as mentally.
This self-awareness coupled with acceptance of what we can and cannot control, makes a big impact on our path to overall health and wellness.
Personally, what are your favorite benefits of weight lifting?
TH: I love strength training for many reasons. Here are my top three:
1. I really enjoy the workouts themselves and gain a lot of personal satisfaction.
2. I like that I am appreciating and taking great care of my body, and making it a priority to be fit and healthy
3. I love the positive example I am setting for my two sons by exercising and doing my best to lead a healthy lifestyle.