I’ve been health conscious almost all my life. I say almost because I used to be the exact opposite as a child. Details are unnecessary but let’s just say as a fat kid, I clearly remember how I had convinced myself that doing a single pushup was “impossible”. So it’s no surprise that it took me 6 months to reach that milestone. That’s right; it took my pathetic 12 year old self 6 goddamn months to do my first push up. I’ll give you a moment to recover your breath after all that laughing.

Over the years of course, that changed. I’ve never been “fat” since I hit my teens and not withstanding some brief periods of illness and injury, I’ve been within 5% of my training targets, whatever they may be.

What I haven’t been however is “fit”. In fact, I will never be. And if that sounds like a contradiction, you really NEED to keep reading.

Note that I said I will never be “fit” and not that I will never be “healthy”.  And no, it’s not a question of semantics. Far from it.

Saying “I want to be fit” is like saying “I want to be rich”. It means nothing. Absolutely NOTHING. It isn’t a goal. It’s a pipedream. A fantasy. At the very best, it’s a moving target and one that you will never hit. Because it has no plan, so specifics, it is a loose generic term that means different things to different people. But worst of all, it’s shaped constantly by the media and whoever the world decided is “hot” at that moment. You have a better shot at winning the lottery.

Being healthy on the other hand is something else entirely. Sure, taken by itself, one could argue “healthy” is a generic term too. There is some grain of truth there but not much. Being healthy means your physiology has to adhere to some rules. There are numbers you need to hit. Certain biological facts you can’t dodge regardless of what you look like. That last bit is important. We have been programmed, to equate health with appearance. I can’t even begin to explain how damaging that is. But screw it; I’m going to try anyway.

Like many teenage boys, my idea of health was dictated by Hollywood. My generation grew up on a steady diet of Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Van Damme. You can see where this is going. To my adolescent brain anyone who didn’t look at least remotely like them, was by my twisted definition “unhealthy”. So I threw myself whole heartedly into bodybuilding. It took a while, but by the time I hit 23, I was by any standards, a BIG muscular guy (to those of you who know me and think I look big now, believe me I’m a fraction of the size I used to be then). I looked great and my gargantuan ego was satiated. By all accounts, I had surely made it. One little problem though:

I was killing myself.

A routine medical checkup revealed that by blood pressure was on the higher side of normal and my cholesterol levels were ridiculously high. Keep in mind in was only 23 years old. Further investigation brought even more bad news. Turns out the type of food (and the enormous quantities) I devoured in order to keep my hard won size was putting me on the bypass highway. Moreover, my “cardio is for sissies” plan meant I could barely keep my breath after three flights of stairs. Apparently, my six pack was little more than a pretty looking package wrapped over a ticking time bomb. Long story short, I looked fit as a fiddle but was very unhealthy.

It was devastating. All that hard work, all that pain only to be negated by a stern looking old man (thanks doc!) brandishing numbers on a notepad. More than anything, I was confused. How could I be unhealthy? Me? The dude that looks like a million bucks? That’s absurd!

You know what they say about denial being the first stage on the road to acceptance right?

Eventually, I started to piece all the parts of the puzzle together. I shunned almost all of the literature and bodybuilding mags I had. And I gave away my TV. This is where my education really began. I started looking at my body from the inside out and the results were, to put it mildly, staggering. Turns out body building wasn’t the problem. I was. In my efforts to look fit, I had sacrificed my health. That’s a bad trade off and a stupid one.

So I started to run, do yoga, bike and generally try anything to “stretch” myself in ways that had nothing to do with flexibility. I lost a fair bit in terms of musculature, but gained many times as much in energy and general wellbeing. My cholesterol levels plummeted, as did my blood pressure. My new found energy rekindled my love for boxing and I’m more flexible now than I was in my 20s (I’m 31 as I write this).

I still look good (in my opinion, not some glossy magazine’s). I still lift heavy things and enjoy it. I still push myself constantly in the gym.  And I still eat like a pig (on occasion) but the horse is now exactly where it belongs. Right in front of the cart. But most of all, I’m still learning.

And it feels awesome.

So the next time you decide to get fit, do yourself a favor. Endeavor to become healthy instead.