Illustrating a Fitness Book

Illustrating a Fitness Book

I get asked a lot why I use drawings instead of photographs for the fitness books I write for Internal Force Fitness. There are two answers to that question really:

  • I enjoy doing the pictures
  • I didn’t want to present something people felt they had to 100% copy

Everyone moves differently, so the images I present are there to give you the bare bones of the exercise. How you will look doing it is just that; how YOU look doing it. How far you move is how far you move, how far you bend is how far you bend. You get the idea. I wanted Internal Force Fitness to be one of the best sources of fitness information for people who just want to do a little bit of exercise and feel better about themselves!

How the brain views illustrations

When I originally did the illustrations for my first book: Walter Camp’s Daily Dozen Redux, an issue with hands came up for one of the moves. Here is the original illustration from the book:

Walter Camp’s Daily Dozen ‘Crawl’ Exercise

This is how the illustration looks now:

Walter Camp’s Daily Dozen ‘Crawl’ Exercise – Amended

Spot the difference? Yup, it’s the hand (ignore the trainers – that was just an upgrade!). The hand in that upright position in the first image cannot PHYSICALLY be in that position. The hand actually rotates as it is raised from the horizontal, so the thumb ends up at the back of the hand if you were viewing from the front.

It actually took me a long time to work out that was wrong! I put this down to what I call the “personal reversal” effect.

Old-Fashioned Fitness Classes

Old Fashioned Fitness Class

If you have ever attended a fitness class in a room without a mirrored wall you may well have experienced this phenomenon. Back in the day, a fitness instructor would stand in front of a class – facing a class (that bit is important) – and ask the students to copy what they were doing. The problem with this, however, is that when they step to their left, your brain is seeing someone move to the RIGHT. You’re not seeing what they’re seeing – you’re seeing the reverse.

Your brain tries its hardest to work it out, but in a fast-paced environment, frustration tends to win out! It’s like watching a fitness DVD with a thumping beat and someone telling you to move your left foot then your right hand – all of a sudden you have no idea which is which!

How on earth does this relate to hands being reversed I hear you cry? Well, try this:

  • Hold your left (or right) arm out to the side.
  • Now raise that same arm up to the sky.

Did your arm defy the laws of physics or did you just rotate it without really thinking? Now look up at the hand pointing up to the sky. See how it looks – the same as in the picture! The picture is a combination of reality and what you can ACTUALLY see.

I showed that picture to a test group and not a single person noticed what was wrong and followed the instructions and illustration perfectly. That’s why I started reading around the subject of image processing by the brain.

Giving up exercise because you can’t DO it.

I know a lot of people give up on exercise, and I know the reason a lot of them give:

I can’t do it!

What that means of course is they can’t do EXACTLY what they’ve seen on a DVD. Or they can’t bend QUITE as far as the person in the book is telling them to.

That isn’t being unable to do exercise. That is attempting the wrong KIND of exercise. Your brain is an incredible thing – don’t switch it off when you try and do an exercise: turn it UP. Engage with the movement you’re doing. Find out what the aim of it is, what the muscles are you’re supposed to be working. Then just do it!

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