Phil Graham is a highly-respected competitive bodybuilder, performance nutritionist, fitness expert and personal trainer. He is based in Northern Ireland.
When you log into one of your social media accounts how do you feel? Motivated? Inspired? Invincible? Or does it leave you feeling a million miles away from building the physique you want?
From the minute we wake up to the minute we go to bed we are constantly exposed to images, videos and posts that portray the idea of physical perfection and the idyllic fitness lifestyle. Many people, myself included, are guilty of seeing a photo or video online and instantly thinking ’that’s what I want to look like.’
And it’s important to be regularly inspired and to have an ideal target of what you are working so hard to achieve. There are plenty of individuals within the fitness industry that can prove extremely motivating, especially when you look into their personal stories or personal journey of how they have overcome certain challenges to build the body and live the life you to which you aspire.
However, there is a fine line between setting a positive and realistic goal, and aiming for an physique or performance ideal that doesn’t really exist. For instance, you don’t know how long that person has been training, whether they are genetically gifted, or using chemical assistance. What’s more, you don’t know how recent that photo is, or whether it’s been digitally altered, or had a filter applied, or the time and effort that’s gone into getting that one shot. Lighting makes a huge difference to how a physique looks in front of a camera, remember, and no one has ever posted a selfie without ensuring the perfect lighting set-up.
Painting a picture
A professional fitness model may do one shoot in a day, using different locations and outfits, then drip fed out across their social media accounts over the weeks and months, which creates the impression and paints the picture of them being in physical perfection all year round.
The truth is that it’s very hard to maintain peak physical condition 24/7, 365 days a year, especially when you take into account the metabolic abnormalities that occur when in a prolonged hypo-caloric state, added to that everyday stress life throws at us.
Yet if you take these pictures at face value they can quickly not be a source of inspiration at all, but constant reminders at your self-perceived failure to make giant improvements week-in, week-out, or the time it’s taken for you to get closer to your dream body, especially when you are only just starting out on your fitness journey.
I’ve lost count of the times that clients of mine have complained about feeling demotivated, depressed and wanting to give up having gone on social media despite them having great sessions and making giant strides of progress.
This can prove very destructive in someone’s journey to building a better body. It’s therefore extremely important to be able to look at inspiring images and let them motivate you to being the best you can be without piling on internal pressure that you must reach that pinnacle of perfection or else you are a failure.
Thinking positively in this sense means when you see an image of a physique that you aspire to emulate you can look at it and say to yourself that while you respect and admire what you see, it is not a realistic goal for you right now and you shouldn’t place all your focus on looking like that anytime soon. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was an impressive physique.
And remember that some people add muscle very easily and never seem to put on fat. They are genetically gifted and find it relatively easy to build and maintain a great body. Just think back to when you were at school. There was always one kid who was very skinny no matter what they ate, and another who was the best at every sport, and one who was really strong without ever having lifted a weight. It’s down to their genes and this is what determines how easy or hard we find it to build muscle and burn fat.
Whatever your starting point, with the right training and nutrition plan and the right mentality, drive and determination – and the right coaching if required – you can make a remarkable change to your physique.