The last bro standing. (Perceptions of fitness.)

At Body Combat a few days ago, Rebecca, our Wednesday night instructor, went to close the door before starting class. She called out to the group of guys gathered on the other side: “Are you coming in or staying out?” There were five of them.

“What kind of class is it?”

“Kickboxing.”

After some hesitation, they gamely filed in and arranged themselves in the back of the room.

I don’t usually look at others in the mirror during a workout, but this time, I couldn’t help but glance in their direction every once in a while. I was curious to see what would happen. The guys seemed to be in their 20’s, and looking at them, you’d assume that they work out. But how would they fare in Body Combat?

 

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They started out on point, striking, kicking, and keeping with the pace, doing pretty well considering they didn’t know the material. They were killing it, actually.

At the end of the lower-body warm-up, I cast an eye back there again and saw the first visible signs of fatigue. The guys started falling back as we worked through the tracks. Soon, each one was going at his own pace, which is normal… it’s how anyone, at any fitness level, can do Body Combat.

Release 65 is intense. If you go full-power when your muscles aren’t used to Body Combat, you’re going to feel it fast. The first guy to give up left the room during the second half of track 2 (Combat 1).

A little while later – I want to say it was after the H.I.I.T. session Les Mills planted in the middle of the workout – another guy fell out and left.

By then, I was totally entertaining myself watching to see who would leave next. I think it was during the capoeira track that two more made their escape.

The last bro standing started taking longer rests, and more frequently. I was rooting for him to make it to the end. The capoeira track was a quad-burner, but the Muay Thai track required more energy, and it looked like he’d exhausted his stores. Still, he powered through. During track 8 (Power Training 3), he finally waved his white towel in defeat (I say figuratively – he had a towel, but he didn’t wave it) and departed. He almost made it through that last cardio track! He’d been running on fumes, and he had nothing left; he didn’t know Body Combat, so he didn’t know that there was less than five minutes of cardio left. If he had stayed, he would have been rewarded with the abs conditioning track and the cool-down. It was impressive that he lasted that long, though!

Maybe these guys mostly just lift weights, and they’re less into cardio. Or maybe they used up all of their beast-mode at the beginning of the class, so they ran out quickly.

 

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In any case, the moral of the story…

Q: What do you get when reasonably athletic-looking bros spontaneously jump into a Les Mills Body Combat class?

A: A reminder of how Body Combat is a no-joke, super intense workout… and also an appreciation that you can do it.

The second and most important moral of the story? “Don’t judge a person’s fitness level based on appearance.”

In other words (I’ll say it again), someone’s body size or shape is no reliable indication of his/her fitness level.

You can look strong and fit, but have poor endurance. You can be overweight, but be in better shape than a thin person. You can be a thin person and have a higher body fat percentage than a heavier person. You can be a skinny person with a high enough body fat percentage to land you in a not-healthy category. You can have a Body Mass Index score that designates you as “obese,” but you’re actually a super strong power-lifting athlete or a football player or a body-builder or a fighter. You can be big and bulky, but extremely flexible. You can be “fat” while being exceptionally strong and fit cardio-respiratory-wise. And so on.

Just because you’re young and in shape doesn’t mean that you can make it all the way through your first Body Combat class as a drop-in.

The parameters we have to measure someone’s fitness level are loose at best. The fact is, we don’t know the story behind the exterior we see when we set eyes on someone’s physique, so it’s useless to judge a person based on his/her weight.

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