approximate reading time: 7 minutes

I’ll admit it, I missed the entire Superbowl this year.

But of course, I didn’t have to go too far or wait too long to hear endless chatter about the game itself, and the halftime show. Patriotic xenophobe comments notwithstanding, people were quite amazed by the looks of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, sporting great physiques at the ages of 43 and 50, respectively.

Heck, you don’t see that every day, no one can argue that. The two of them look great for their age. The hype that followed both in and out of the fitness community led to some divisive, opinionated responses. It’s easy to get caught up in the debate for debate’s sake. Looking at the whole picture could actually shed some light to both camps – because the truth is, both of you are right. And wrong.  Here are my thoughts.

#1: JLO and Shakira are Rich. Stinkingly Filthy Rich. 

Trainers and fitness experts who responded to the halftime show (or to the reactions of fans) by echoing the exhausted “what’s your excuse” routine as a way to motivate clients, would benefit from remembering that having the luxury of basically an endless money supply at your disposal can make things a bit different than it would be for the rest of us. When you virtually don’t have to think about your programming, your cooking, and possibly even your travel to and from a gym, it makes the convenience of making the pursuit of serious training gains significantly greater than if you lived in an alternate reality.  To enable yourself to not have to think about any of the above costs money. That shouldn’t go without notice.

#2: JLO and Shakira probably Train Hard.

It goes without saying that training hard and training often are the keys to getting a great, athletic, generally low-fat body type. That can speak to clients to show “just what it takes” if you have similar goals.

I do believe this.

But, with that said, a large part of their livelihood is contingent upon them doing just that. When you add the factors above to the mix, it creates the copacetic environment for these types to spend 3 hours a day in the gym (often with coaching), 6 days per week, while focusing on 7 hours of sleep per night when they’re not on tour. If your livelihood is contingent upon preparing documents, or performing assessments, or attending hearings, or running pitch meetings, then you’re probably not in the same ballpark. That doesn’t mean you can’t train hard or achieve great results – regardless of your age. It does mean that you have to do so from a more realistic approach. It also means that you’ll probably have to modify your expectations as far as results and sustainability go.

#3: JLO and Shakira Probably have Great Genetics.

Whether you’d like to hear this or not, there’s a reason that these two performers have been prominent figures in the entertainment game for the better part of the last two decades. Dating back to when each of them started out, do you ever remember a period of time where either looked totally “out of shape”? In addition to the fact that they likely keep an eye on their diet and training, they already had the classic “Hollywood body” that’s often praised in society. It’s the way the cookie crumbles. They didn’t choose their parents, and neither did any of us. Despite how entirely possible it is to ‘reshape your body’ as a result of hard work, good nutrition, and commitment, this should be one of the most eye opening points for both trainers and clients:  Creating physique goals that are based upon the body types of celebrities you like is a two-edged sword. First and foremost, those goals must be realistic. If you’ve got a wider frame, larger trunk volume and shorter extremities, chances are, the prima ballerina look isn’t a worthwhile body type to strive to attain compared to something else. If you’re tall, ectomorphic and gangly, the compact physique of an Arnold Classic competitor probably won’t be you.

On a similar note, winning the genetic lottery as far as propensity to store body fat is worth mention. For what it’s worth, genetics do play a role in just how sensitive you are to a bad diet, and just how fast your metabolism will be. MOST people in show business tend to fall more toward the good side of the fence in this regard, rather than the bad side. If that’s not you, then you’ve got a tougher road ahead of you. Not being exclusionary – just honest.

#4: JLO and Shakira’s Responsibilities aren’t the same as Yours.

That’s not to say that they don’t have any. It’s more that the nature of them is probably vastly different. Repeated short sleeps and high stress days is the typical norm for a family man or woman with a white collar job. Going to the gym to finish a long day’s work could be the difference between seeing the kids before bedtime, getting a decent night’s rest, or perpetuating an overall tiresome week.  Image occupies a very small percentage of what the typical office worker or otherwise “regular person” does for a living – but it occupies three quarters of a professional entertainer’s livelihood.

#5: We haven’t even talked about Going Under the Knife. OR about Using.  

I like to give benefit of the doubt – and for all I know, both of these lovely ladies are perfectly natural from head to toe. But it’s Hollywood. Chances are, they’ve done a thing or two along the way to “help” them achieve a certain look. Whether that’s undergoing any cosmetic procedures to change aspects of their physique, or using certain drugs or hormones to accent their training. We need to remember that these are two people who are both over 40, who have had two children each.  I’m not saying it’s impossible to look like this from training and diet alone. It’s very possible.  I’m just saying the possibilities need to be considered – especially when taking my earlier subheadings into account (especially #1 and 3).

Many people associate drug use solely with achieving more muscle or size. But the truth is, there are also drugs for increased strength, drugs to expedite fat loss, drugs to reduce estrogen levels, and more. Many celebrities with notably “in-shape” physiques that get widespread attention are far past the “bloom of youth” when such muscularity and leanness are most commonplace. They’re also often capable of making major physique changes in surprisingly short periods of time. I just find it interesting…

As I mentioned above, I’m a believer that a terrific physique can be a product of the right lifestyle of training and diet. And with the amount of time these two likely devote to that each day and week, they could be walking examples of that, and that alone. But, let’s be real. We’d also be remiss to completely rule out the slightest chance of this subheading holding some merit.

The Product

There are lessons to be learned from both sides of the coin. First and foremost: Training to look good isn’t something that should be penalized by society – “woke” or not. It’s just important to acknowledge that getting great results to look athletic in older age comes with a consistent lifestyle of hard work and a routinely good diet. There’s no getting around that.

What matters most, however, is that we make our tunnel vision toward such goals realistic. With all things equal, everyone has access to working out in some capacity. We’re not all quite as privileged to afford luxuries under that umbrella regarding certain facilities, time commitments, dietary norms, or hired professional help. Our circumstances should dictate our goals. Some of our circumstances may be changeable, and others may not be.

Further, we as trainers have a job to do so we don’t drop the ball. As much as it’s on us to stay positive and motivate our current and potential clients to put in the work, reduce excuses, and chase their potential in the gym, it’s quintessential that we don’t paint everyone with the same brush. This is a mistake that disregards an individual’s personal situation, starting point, and window of potential. Using JLO, Shakira, The Rock, Arnold, Sylvester, or other household names as the going example upon which to base our aspirations and training approach is only relatable to some, and reachable to even fewer. It may be nice to be inspired by their results, but it’s our duty as professionals to properly sift between good motivation and bad motivation.

Telling a single mom who slaves away at medium-income work 6 days per week to make ends meet for her two children, that the reason the JLO body-equivalent is escaping her is because she isn’t “committed enough to her goals”… is bad motivation.  It’s not “an easy lifestyle change” for a person like this, and it’s insensitive for trainers to assert that it can or should be. “Making the time” isn’t quite that simple.

And believe me, the case study I just came up with above is one of many that are very much real world scenarios. 

Trainers: How do you encourage your clients? Through setting generic strength standards? Enabling them to chase unrealistic physique goals? The answer should be by being a realistic navigator toward sustainable results.

Listen – I know it’s all with good intent that we tell the public that fitness is a few lifestyle changes away. That’s true. Just don’t forget about the dark side of that – the reality known as real life. Not remembering this can be even more exclusionary than shaming someone.

For the rest of us, it’s a better idea to focus on making changes that you can hold to by this time next year. For some, that may mean hiring a personal trainer, hitting the gym 5 days per week, and doing a nutrition course for more knowledge of macronutrients. For others, it might mean getting to bed half hour earlier, and drinking three extra glasses of water daily. Successfully achieving either of these given they’re new territory, constitutes a big win, in my books.

Let’s not miss the point of all of this.

If we really want to become the best versions of ourselves and be in great shape at 50, 60, or 90, it’s time to keep motivation and inspiration in its proper place. Then respectfully turn off the TV, log off of Instagram, and stop focusing on attaining other people’s results.

As a coach, I’ll do my part to encourage the same behavior.

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