Tag Archives: body image

Body Shape Matters

condor wingspan

When I was in Yoga Teacher Training, my teacher did an illustration that I think is completely valid. In Ashtanga, we do this jump-back and jump through maneuver. For the jump-back, imagine being seated with legs crossed. You press your hands down and lift your body off the ground and then rotate shooting your legs back into chaturanga (like a half-pushup). Then for the jump-through, you bend your knees in downward facing dog and jump your legs through your arms coming to seated without touching feet to the ground. So to show that everyone can do it and we don’t have T-Rex arms, you sit, lift legs crossed and pull them close to your body, and then push your hands forward beyond your legs to show you that are actually long enough for your legs to fit through. Hmmm?

I think there is more to it than that. As much as we want to say bodies don’t matter, they do. It goes beyond strength and flexibility. In Olympic weightlifting and Powerlifting, they study femur and humerus length and calculate ratios to evaluate bodies and the best variations for success. I attended a seminar by the former Olympic weightlifting team coach, Zygmunt Smalcerz. He was supposed to talk about how to get kids into Olympic weightlifting. But in former Communist Poland where he was raised, they did things differently. You measure kids proportions at an early age and then place them in the program where they would find the most success. Some kids started an intense career in Olympic weightlifting, while another kid started their career shoveling coal. He was very matter of fact about his ideas. We were there to hear about opportunities for kids, but ended up with measurement standards.

So, I’m sitting down watching mixed martial arts on TV. Fighters have to qualify at the same weight class, which are almost exactly the same. They may be very different in height. But what is weird is that height isn’t completely correlated with a fighter’s reach (how long his arms are). So I looked up how they measure reach. They extend arms wide like a condor from fingertip to fingertip. It is basically a measure of wingspan, which a condor’s is about 10 feet wide. Common measurements are 70-78 inches. If I did it correctly, mine is like 63 inches. What?!! I know when I buy suits, I sometimes buy a 44 short so that the sleeves don’t extend past my hands. There really is something to this wingspan thing in yoga.

I don’t want to make excuses for successes or failures in what we do. But bodies do matter. If a person is overweight, it can be much harder to do some twists and folds. If a person is very thin lacking muscle mass, poses like chaturanga and planks can be difficult. I wish I measured a colleague of mine in yoga teacher training. He had very long arms and legs. He could jump back & through like a BOSS! Whereas, I’m sure I could out bench press him easily, but I couldn’t do a jump back at the time one bit. Flexibility and strength in bandhas play a huge role too. But structure still matters.

So in all things yoga, we need to be happy where we are. There are some things we may never do. We may never bind in Marichyasana C, so that’s the furthest we’ll ever go in Ashtanga. We may never do jump throughs. And that’s completely OK. We walk our own journey and make it our own. We find contentment, santosha, with where we are. We live in the now and find our bliss wherever we are. Forget comparisons and judgments. We are where we are.

condor wingspan comparison

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The Perfect Male

crossfit body

Yikes! At first glance, no problem. At second glance, we probably shouldn’t be talking about what perfect is or trying to fit someone else’s standard. However, allow me to wander.

To meet the demands of performance in competition at the CrossFit Games, there IS a law of averages. Yeah, this sometimes goes out the window with outliers, but the average doesn’t lie. The average clean & jerk in 2015 was 318 pounds. So athletes have at least a 405 deadlift and usually much more. A 365 squat is also a likely minimum. But they also need to be able to run at least a 6 minute mile, do 100 pullups with a 20 pound weight vest, and row a half-marathon. If you’re too small, you won’t lift the weight. If you are too large, you’ll die in the longer events. So what is the perfect male body size for CrossFit competition?

In the 2016 Games, the average height of male athletes was 5 foot 9 inches at a bodyweight of 194 pounds. Consider Rich Froning is 5’9″ and 200#, he fits this well. Mat Fraser, the reigning champion, is 5’7″ and 190#. Rich Froning carries about 11% bodyfat. I would imagine that, due to the workload and need for stamina into 30-45 minute events, having bodyfat reserves is a good thing. Bodyfat also allows for good recovery and hormone production. It wouldn’t pay to have 6% bodyfat in performance athletics. So, I suspect a good number of male CF athletes fit this profile.

So this comes to me. I’m a Master’s male athlete. I consider myself short, but I fit the profile of a CF athlete at 5’7″ height. I weighed in this morning at 190#. However, I am 4-6% higher in bodyfat on average compared to top Games competitors. Also, everyone loses muscle mass as they age, so I could afford to be in the 175-185# range to optimally perform in CrossFit.

Despite all of this, what am I going to do? Ummm, nothing. Other than eating clean, getting nutritious food, meeting protein demands to keep muscle mass (which means strength), and drinking lot of water, I’ll keep at what I’m doing. I still have cheat foods (or reward foods), but I could probably cut back on those a bit. I don’t really need french fries with a meal. I don’t need 3 donuts when 2 would feel just right. We have to enjoy life, right? As long as I’m doing the hard work, varying what I do, exploring time domains from a few minutes to an hour, keeping up with massage and yoga, and doing a variety of sports, then I should be fine. We’ll see about the Games Open competition next year.

 

Type that Body!

body shape

We are all genetically prone to inherit traits from our parents. Our body shape is one of these characteristics. What type of shape are you?

  • Pear, hourglass, bowling pin, triangle, …
  • Endomorph, ectomorph, mesomorph
  • Tall, short, thin, round

And can we break from these shapes? Its not easy to do. In sports, work, and life, I always say “rely on your strengths.” If we focus only on what we perceive or people tell us are our weaknesses, we’ll only live a bleak life of inadequacy.

As a Native American, I was born to have a big barrel chest. Unfortunately, this goes along with visceral belly fat and thin limbs (aka skinny legs). If I were a bodybuilder, this means  I don’t have to do a lot to stimulate my pecs and upper back. But the core of my work should focus on heavy squats, lots of abdominal work, and I can’t neglect things like biceps curls & triceps extensions.

In my 20’s, I always had six-pack abs. But its a battle of the bulge now. All I can do is stay persistent. I can’t get disheartened by lack of progress. Embrace who you are. If you have something special that your parents gave you, then why not flaunt it. But don’t worry about things that you can’t easily change.

I Like Big Butts…

Over and over in podcasts and my readings, everything comes back to the butt. Think about the major places where bodies bend: elbow, knee, ankle, wrist, shoulder, hip. The hip is where the largest and strongest bend occurs in the body. The largest muscle in the body is the gluteus maximus and all the associated muscles in the buttal region. At the cellular level, mitochondria is the engine of the cell. It is where energy conversion takes place. Bigger muscles, mean bigger muscle cells, means more mitochondria, means more fat burning, means less fat on your body.

Long story short—

If you want to burn fuel, build more ass muscles!!

I’m not saying that is all you should do. But everything starts with the squat. If you don’t have time for anything else, do squats and lunges. Everything else will fall into place after that.

I’ve heard excerpts from Christmas Abbott’s book “The Badass Body Diet”. She has a very ass-centric view on health and fitness. And people like Cory Gregory, President of MusclePharm, are advocates of Squat Every Day. You can see my previous post on Lunge Every Day for more on that. Think of Olympic weightlifters who squat every day because it is the primary mover in getting weight from the ground to overhead. And when you get old, do you know how you die? You die when you can no longer get up off the toilet (aka squat). It is very unhealthy to not be able to squat anymore.

See dudes walking around with a bony butt with a ghost-like presence in their jeans? Don’t be that dude. And girls, yeah you may get a bigger butt by squatting a lot. But guess what, keep doing it and the fat will melt away leaving you with a toned, leaner-than-ever, bikini butt.

It all starts with the butt! So get after it! Get up and do a few lunges and squats. Right now!