Over the last three and a half decades, I have come in contact with tens of thousands of athletes and fitness enthusiast in my work as physical therapist and sports performance specialist. In my experience, with the exception of the genetically gifted elite athletes, almost all of them work out for body image. They want to look better! At the same time, almost all of those I meet are not happy with the results they have achieved from ever longer and more taxing workouts; they still don’t like what they see in the mirror. Typically, after initially losing a few pounds from their workouts, their weight loss stalls and many even gain weight as they continue to train harder and harder.
Fighting the Fit But Fat Syndrome
The problem is human nature and the American work ethic. Human nature dictates that when we find a good thing, we want to do more of it. Workouts make us feel good, so we do more and more until we are overtrained or broken down with injury. Reinforcing this human tendency is the American work ethic. Nothing is worth having if you don’t have to work hard to get it — this seems to be the philosophy of most athletes and gym rats. This creates an overtrained population of sportsmen and fitness buffs who remain pudgy, bloated, and perform below their potential. The public is also lead astray by the media representation that professional athletes perform grueling workouts for hours each day, month in and month, out, to get their svelte and muscular physiques. Not true. We train elite world champion athletes on a maximum of 11 hours per week early in the training cycle with low intensity, longer duration workouts, and as little seven hours per week when we peak their fitness over the six weeks before competition.
You cannot fight human physiology. Training too much, too hard, and without built-in recovery or an aggressive recovery program leads to the all-too-common overtrained and frustrated, “fit but fat” athletes. When we are overly stressed, whether it be from work stress, emotional turmoil, or over exercising, our body produces too much of a hormone call cortisol. Cortisol directs our body to store fat and water and leaves us with poor performances and a bloated image in the mirror. This leads most people to work out even harder and longer, which only exacerbates the problem.
The solution to the “Fit But Fat” syndrome is found in scientific principles of periodization training, with a progressive work load, built-in recovery periods, and a rationally-driven variation to workouts in regular eight week periods.
Training is only half the battle when it comes to achieving the body you want. Food and science based nutrition is the other.
In his book, Healthy Running Step by Step out in Sepetember Robert Forster covers nutritional strategies. Whether you are a runner, hiker, cyclist, swimmer, or a person who works out in the gym, this information will make your journey to the fit and lean body you have always wanted a lot easier.
Authors Robert Forster, P.T., and Roy M. Wallack
Review – “Authentic, loaded with insight and information, “Healthy Running Step by Step” illustrates the scientific approach Bob used to help me and many others stay injury-free and achieve our ultimate Olympic goals.” – “Jackie Joyner Kersee, six-time Olympic medalist and multiple world record holder
ROBERT FORSTER, PT, has practiced Sports Physical Therapy in Santa Monica, CA, for 31 years. Robert has lectured throughout the US and Europe on Sports Rehabilitation and safety in exercise. Robert served as a private physical therapist at four Olympic Games for Olympians Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence “Flo-Jo” Joyner, Alyson Felix and their teammates who have won a combined 32 Olympic Medals under his direct care. He also worked pro athletes Pete Sampras, Kobe Bryant, Elton Brand, Maria Sharapova, as well as M.M.A. champions including B.J. Penn. Robert has published several articles in the scientific press and co-authored The Complete Water Power Workout Book published in 1993 by Random House. He has also written a regular column in Triathlete magazine, appeared in several episodes of the popular Fit to Hit series on the Tennis Channel and recently created the Herbalife 24 Fit Workout DVDs based on the principles of periodization training.