I think there comes a time in every educated Personal Trainers blogging career, if you can call it that, where we feel a strong urge to talk about the mythical creature, Toning. And while I’ve always tried to separate myself from the “mainstream” Personal Trainers out there, there is just something about having a conversation with someone; client, friend, passerby which, when the phrase “all I really want to do is tone….” dribbles out of the persons mouth I want to turn and walk away. I liken this feeling to the dietician when they hear someone say that they are following a low-fat diet. Or something else that seem obvious to you but clearly not obvious to others. You think to yourself, “there is so much information out there, how does this person still think this?” I would like to connect a few dots here. The same person who says that they want to tone is that same person, who in the same sentence quite often will as also say, “I just don’t want to get bulky” (another very popular blog post to be sure). These thoughts/beliefs are not this persons fault. The amount of misinformation that is out there is incredible. In order to sell copies, your favorite fitness magazine will avoid phrases that might scare a potential reader off. Would you read an article or click a link that read, “Top 10 ways for women to add muscle”? Most of you would not. But in fact the concept of “toning” means exactly that.
In order to have that perfect beach body, we must add muscle to our bodies, period. Muscle is important to any fitness or body composition goal. Let me put it this way, under your skin, and other soft tissue, you are a stickman. Think about that for a second. We all have the “same” skeleton. If you want to have “sexy” arms or a “firm” butt you have to put something between your sticks, aka bones, and your skin. Your choices for this are simple: you can either fill it with fat or muscle. The conversation about plastic surgery is beyond the scope of this blog so we will pretend that option doesn’t exist. You tell a woman that you have a great new program for her that will help her really pack on some lean muscle mass and fill out beautifully, that woman will leave a roadrunner plume of dust behind her as she runs away. Why are women so afraid of putting on muscle? It seems like in the mainstream media, there are two styles of “fit” women depicted. One is lean and slim (to which most woman will say “eat a cheese burger”) and the other is a muscular strong looking body builder or Crossfit champion. And because that is all we see in the media, that’s it right, one or the other? Obviously not! There is a happy medium and it exist in the realm of “toning”. The problem is that most people have it backwards. They think that toning is hard and getting muscular and “bulky” is easy. I invite you to, politely, ask the next muscular female you see, how easy it was for her to attain that figure. I promise you that there are more hours of hard work in the gym and even more time and effort in the kitchen in that physique than you can imagine. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that realizing your personal fitness and body composition goals will be easy, it opposite in fact, it will take hard work and dedication, however, anything worth having takes work. What I am saying is that you should not be afraid to build a little muscle in order to get there. I don’t know where muscle gets such a bad rap, but I’d like to drop some knowledge on you. The more lean muscle your body has, the higher you metabolism will run and the more calories your body will have to use in order to just survive. And that is even at rest! A little more muscle means that you can burn more calories sitting on the couch! More muscle, generally, means you are stronger. If you are stronger then life in general is easier. Jars open with ease, moving the couch to find the pen you dropped is a piece of cake, the groceries come inside in one trip not two. So don’t be afraid to get away from the low weight, high repetitions that you have been using for the last four years and challenge yourself with 10 more pounds or a weight that you can move 6 – 8 times instead of 20.
There are many different components to fitness, and if improving your general fitness level is your goal, having a myopic approach to improving it, will always sell you short. So get off that toning routine, forget about the “burn” for a few weeks and pick up a dumb bell or kettle bell that makes you grunt a little. You have to get strong to be strong.
Once again, thanks for reading,
PS (for the fitness pros out there)
After writing this I have come to a realization. It’s not the word “toning” that I have an issue with, it’s the mentality that it brings with it and the stigma that it re-enforces. I encourage all of the trainers who read this, let’s take back the word toning. Let’s re-educate and inform our clients, friends or passersby to the true meaning of the word. Empower people to feel confident in training the way the body wants to and was designed to be used. Build strength, add muscle, and get toned!