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What does it take to look like an elite athlete or fitness magazine cover model?

We have all seen the images of men and women with rippling muscles and rock solid six-pack abs in movies, and cover of fitness magazines and wondered how do they do it and how can I get that body. Let's ignore the fact that a lot of what we see on screen and media is smoke and mirrors with digital media professionals using the magic of visual post-processing to make their subjects look better than they actually do. The truth is even if there are digital enhancements it doesn't usually create something out of nothing and most of those models/actors do still have enviable bodies, atleast for that shoot. And that is the key point to note, during that shoot.

Many actors work for months on their diet and fitness with trainers, dietitians, and their cooks to achieve that look. This costs enormous amounts of money and requires a very focused dedication to the exclusion of any other commitments. Most of us don't have that luxury. Models also follow a very regimented routine and an ever stricter diet and exercise protocol when getting ready for a photo-shoot. Bodybuilders have a very specific training plan when getting ready for their competition. This requires an intense level of sacrifice, and its not just about giving up your favorite food, but it also means enduring a lot of pain, giving up social engagements, spend a lot of time planning, and in general have an obsessive mindset towards the pursuit of a single goal. Again, not all of us can spend that time when we have other commitments, and if being a fitness model or a bodybuilder is not our main profession.

You might argue, what about the athletes who seem to stay or atleast look fit year round. While this is debatable, as the fitness of athletes also varies depending on whether they are in active season or off season, but compared to an average non-professional athlete they do pay attention to their fitness year round. But what's important to note here is that the active period of their professional careers, when they are playing at elite levels, is in their 20s and 30s and very rarely into their early 40s. The intensive training required to perform at these levels takes a heavy toll on their body and the wears and tears and effects of injuries keep accumulating and by the time they retire they have several years of physical trauma built-up in their bodies. Thankfully, many of them might have the resources necessary to seek medical help for their chronic conditions. But this is not a desirable outcome, or something that most of us would want to deal with.

The point is that there is a heavy cost associated with elite levels of fitness and it is not sustainable, and if some people can sustain it, they can only do so for a short while. Thankfully, most of us don't need to be at that level and we can still look great, feel great, and be healthy without any injuries or chronic conditions well into our old age. Sure, there are some sacrifices to be made along the way and some commitments are necessary to build our dream body, but its entirely possible with a reasonable approach that doesn't take a heavy toll on the body. With a slow and steady approach of incorporating healthy habits in our lifestyle and making changes that we can commit to whether it is for diet or exercise, we can achieve the body that will make us resilient to health issues and vagaries of life, while still looking amazing.

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