The importance of physical fitness as a marker of good health is more important than ever. Many individuals are truly fit, others simply claim to be. Which one are you? Are you fit or delusional? Fitness does not happen randomly. It requires planning and strategy. Those who enjoy the benefits of being fit know that well.

On the other hand, there are those who in their quest to become more active will attempt to boost their physical activity by spicing up mundane activities rather than following a structured exercise program. Things like parking in the furthest spot, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc, are all commendable, but they are no substitute for a well thought-out exercise program.

It is not uncommon for these individuals to overinflate the caloric impact of those activities to justify not only their lack of a designed program, but also overindulgences. How convenient to ignore that such values are based on nothing more than generic calorie burning guidelines and wishful thinking. Those who have ever used one of those calorie burning calculators popular in many sites are well aware of the shortcomings.

The anecdotes range from outrageously funny to plain absurd. It is as if those calculations were absolute and infallible, and it is amazing (and quite frustrating) to watch people convincing themselves of their validity. I can think of many examples, but there is one that stands out in my mind. A former client had read a colorful article on the web stating that walking the dog for half hour burned a substantial number of calories. He also relied on an online calculator that had predicted a generous 300 calories for performing the task.

Yikes! Talk about overinflating!

He walked the dog twice per day so he figured at 600 calories per day; he was creating a deficit of 4200 calories per week. He had also read that creating a deficit of 3500 calories was sufficient to lose a pound of fat.

After 10 weeks, he was angry and disappointed that the supposed 42,000 caloric deficit had not materialized into the 12 pounds of fat that should have been gone from his waistline. Though he had never followed any type of structured physical activity, he had convinced himself that he was doing plenty. He had only come to see me for validation to his notion that he had a slow metabolism, or a hormonal problem, and that he had tried hard, and the only way was liposuction.

Needless to say that he did not like what I had to say, but accepted to try something designed specifically for him. His journey was difficult as he kept relying on the flawed calculator to justify his setbacks. In one occasion, he warranted an insane amount of junk food and alcohol to the predictions of his calculator. He had gone scuba diving two days in a row, with 3 dives per day. His trusty calculator told him that each dive burned 800 calories, so he thought he had created a deficit of 4800 calories in two days. Frankly, I only know of ultra endurance athletes who can expend this caloric output safely on a two day period, and this person was far from being one.

Only when he ditched the calculator and stopped focusing on meaningless caloric predictions, he was finally able to remove the obstructions that prevented him from thinking clearly and adopting rational and productive changes.

Does this mean that all extracurricular activities are useless?

Not at all! There is absolutely nothing wrong with extracurricular activities, and they are in fact encouraged. So long as you do not use them to substitute a solid program or to justify overindulgence, your perception of reality will not be warped and you will not waste time wondering "why you are not getting results". There is an abysmal difference between being truly fit and being active but thinking you are fit. Achieving fitness requires planning and commitment.

You could get all bent out of shape trying to convince me how active you are and how all these great things you are doing are sufficient, but you know well I will not believe a single word you are saying. Not at first anyway. You could also tell yourself out loud how great you are doing and how you have burned hundreds of calories by performing the most mundane chores. Congratulations! You have made an amazing job of fooling yourself.

You cannot fool reality though. Your results speak quietly but far more powerfully than any diatribe you spew out to yourself or others. It is only when your results speak that I start paying attention. Alas, I have yet to meet the "active" person who can back up the claims of being fit with actual results.

The same goes if you use exercise, even when structured, to justify your buccal weaknesses. Who has not run into the typical individual overindulging in sugar and processed foods after a work out? "I earned it!" they state. This is in itself would not be bad if it were the occasional treat (as in once per month in small portions) but that is rarely the case and more often than not these people will overindulge on what they "earned" in big servings at least once per day. If you think that is not you because your modus operandi is to overstuff your face with the thought of "I'll work it off tomorrow" think again! You are not different and you are engaging in the same behavior, just in the reverse order.

Before you start shaking your head and saying "That's not me" take an honest good look at yourself. If you are a role model who has achieved fitness and can back it up without hesitation, then pat yourself on the back. You are one of a few. However, if you are one of those still waiting for those big results to "happen soon" despite the time invested, you should have a serious talk with yourself. You may not like what you'll find out, but your eyes will be open to reality, and only then, you will be able to finally start your fitness journey.

Author's Bio: 

Israel A. Sanchez is Bainbridge Island's top Strength and Conditioning expert. He helps his clients overcome major pain issues and puts them back in the path of amazing fitness. Visit his blog at Coach Izzy Talks Fitness.

Israel is available for presentations and lectures on the topic of Exercise, Health, Fitness, and all things Strength.