Take a second glance: Images of female athletes

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Howard Schatz’s images of female athletes have re-emerged and gone viral. The images – intending to display the varying array of body types – are bothersome to me. Perhaps because of my own insecurities. But also because I know the way that our minds work: we compare.

Check out both images and the Huffington Post article here.

Let me lead you through a second glance.

I am an athlete

No, I do not train for a sport, but I am an athlete – training for life. I immediately scanned the sports – looking for those athletes that I could most relate with and I compared my body to theirs. I am often asked if I am a swimmer – so I scanned for the swimmers and compared my shoulders, my legs, and my torso to theirs. Nope, I do not look like them. While I am not in ‘ peak physical condition’ as the disclaimer says these athletes are, I cannot help but compare. That is what we do! We compare. We judge (we know we shouldn’t but we do). And we ultimately beat ourselves up. I train so hard, and dang!

Now, I did not beat myself up. I could see the flaws in the images…so it made it easy for me to keep from traveling down that dangerous slope of negative self-talk and self-criticism.

I will share one significant flaw – hopefully to keep you from seeing this as a true representation and to prevent you from allowing yourself to compare and spiral into a dangerous place of despair.

The images are not to scale

Unfortunately – and I noticed this almost immediately – the photos are not to scale. The images are presented in a manner that inherently leads us to compare the athletes to one another. Yet, the 5’5″ golfer stands taller than the 5’8.5″ bodybuilder.

It is a trick!

Minor? Maybe. But tricky, tricky, tricky!

That is just one example, if you look at the heights of these athletes, that screams of the deception.

The bottomline

The intentions are good. And yes, the bodies of athletes vary significantly. All human bodies vary significantly. But I feel that the presentation is flawed and deceiving.

I have heard several clients and friends talking about this ‘artwork.’ Some are disappointed by the lack of clothing. Some are truly amazed by the differences.

Me? I am disappointed and bothered.

What do YOU think and feel about these images?

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Moms: The myth of diastasis recti

To build a good business, you need to find your niche, build excellence within your niche, and own it! It works. Former GE CEO Jack Welch emphasizes this strategy to success throughout his book, Winning. Pick your niche and own it! There is a woman in the Twin Cities who has built a business on potty training other people’s children – and she has been incredibly successful. I know of another business that recycles sand – insanely successful. I support good businesses built on small, solid foundations.

Unfortunately, I have been bombarded with information (via Facebook) from a fitness business which has made a niche of diastasis recti and gone a bit wayward. Diastasis recti is a real condition – but the business’ methods are inaccurate, invalid, and much of the marketing is flat out bullsh%$t. They have blown the condition out of proportion. One of my goals of this blog is to educate. I want you to think critically about information that you see – and being able to see through the gimmicks and ploys.

What is diastasis recti?

Diastasis recti is a separation between the left and right side of the rectus abdominis muscle,
which covers the front surface of the belly area.

Diastasis recti is common among newborns, particularly premature, and pregnant women. In newborns, the muscles have not been fully developed and as the muscles develop this condition diminishes. In pregnant women, the abdominal muscles become lengthened and stretched as the abdominal cavity enlarges. Because of the length of a pregnancy, it will take some time for the muscles to return to ‘normal’ length and condition.

The business markets to the desperate moms out there – wanting to rid their baby fat. They are giving moms an excuse – in many cases illegitimate – for the remaining belly. This is fine – what I dislike most is that the offered solution is contrary to scientific evidence and knowledge. Therefore, it is not efficacious and effective.

No crunches?!?!?

The business (I prefer not to name it) promotes a crunchless (and situpless) fitness program to help moms. Sure, I get it. But the company states that crunches will worsen diastasis recti and promotes the alternative of working other muscles of the core. It is true, you can do plenty of exercises for your rectus abdominis without doing crunches. But what is wrong with crunches?

What is a crunch?

A traditional crunch begins with lying face up on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. The movement begins by curling the rib cage (NOT shoulders) towards the pelvis. Crunches can also be done standing or sitting. But what is the primary action of a crunch? Contraction of the rectus abdominis – which is the opposite of the lengthening which occurs in diastasis recti. So – tell me why crunches are bad, when they target the weak and lengthened muscle?

Situps are a whole different ball game and you cannot honestly put them in the same category as a crunch. Can a situp worsen diastasis recti? Sure, when you are doing them incorrectly and/or before you have progressed into being able to do them properly. With that said, you start with a crunch, move into a 1/4 situp, etc. (Progressions, progressions, progressions!!!)

Further, you also contract your rectus abdominis in ANY prone position – planks, pushups, mountain climbers – so you better not do any of those. Oh, and you also contract your rectus abdominis when you squat, bench press, step up, lunge – interesting, you contract your rectus abdominis to properly perform any and all exercises. Now I have thoroughly confused myself and I have no idea why anyone would believe that doing a crunch (properly) is what can do the most harm to an existing diastasis recti or that it could CREATE one.

Diastasis recti = lengthened and weak rectus abdominis

Crunch = contracted and strengthened rectus abdominis

A crunch contracts the muscles that supposedly lengthens and causes diastasis recti. I will let you determine if that makes sense.

Instead, work your transverse?

The business highly encourages transverse exercises instead of your traditional crunch. Yes, the transverse abdominus is also known as the natural girdle. But if diastasis recti is a condition that has stretched out and added length to the rectus abdominis, do you not need to perform exercises that contract the afflicted muscles (i.e., crunches)? Think about that. I know I am becoming repetitive but c’mon! How does working the transverse abdominus instead of the rectus abdominis improve the impairment causing the condition, diastasis recti?

Common?

The business is overgeneralizing the condition and unnecessarily scaring individuals into thinking that they need the program. Supposedly, you can measure the size of your diastasis recti by feeling for a gap – well post-pregnancy gaps are normal and all individuals have a certain amount of gap because of the belly button (duh?). It is far fetched. Further, any company that promotes such an ill-founded self-diagnosis should be ashamed.

To claim that diastasis recti is more common that most individuals believe is ridiculous. To claim that a man’s beer belly is a diastasis recti – sure, he needs to lose fat and strengthen his abdominis recti – NOT avoid crunches and be led to believe that he has a condition.

The bottomline

There are far too many myths out there. And just because a condition is real, do not believe that you can diagnose yourself! Is diastasis  recti a real condition and something to be concerned about? It is real. But if you are going to follow the advice and not do crunches, then you had better not exercise at all – because you might make the diastasis recti worse. Further, you had better remain lying down for the rest of your life, because sitting up and getting our of bed will make it worse, too.

Finally, be careful who you trust with your fitness. This is your life and this is the only body you will get!

P.S.

Pregnant women should avoid crunches, situps, and other flexion movements. Not because of diastasis recti but because of the risk of impinging the nutrient supply to the fetus.