Fitness professionals the world over have a nasty habit of driving people to believing that fit means you have low body fat and a six pack. It’s understandable. A six pack is a visual representation of all the hard work that you’ve put in. It shows others that you’re committed.
It doesn’t mean that you are exceptionally fit. Fitness, and specifically athletic performance can often benefit from lower body fat. Low fat levels doesn’t mean you are magically a great performer and more fit. By the same token, having higher body fat does not always make you a slovenly couch potato. Case in point is the Olympics. Watch any event and you will see bodies at the peak of athletic perfection. You will also see some folks who don’t match the Western definition of fit.
Leisel Jones of Australia qualified to represent her nation for the fourth consecutive Olympics in the 100m breaststroke. Over the last few weeks down under, there’s been a flurry of criticism implying that she’s fat, out of shape, and not serious about her event. All this conjecture is based on the fact that she does not look like a lean athlete.
On the flip side, five time US Olympian Dara Torres is often held up as a model of athleticism and fitness. She’s got an amazing figure and has delivered phenomenal effort over and over again.
This summer, Torres attempted to qualify for her sixth Olympics. She just missed out. Jones was able to swim strongly enough to qualify for the Olympics. Australia is a swimming powerhouse, so it is not like it was a gimme. You don’t select Olympians based on visual aesthetic. You select based on performance.
Jones has a chance to quiet her critics today with a solid swim. She also reminds us that it’s not always about how you look. It’s about how you feel and what you can accomplish.