Pear, Apple, Ectomorph, Endomorph, Pratta, Katta, Fire, Water, Morning person and "Don't speak to me until I've had coffee'. What is my body type and how do I fit into my daily routine with what best works for me?
We are all individuals and we all have a sense of our own unique make up and particularities. This transfers to our physical being and even our 'personality' of how we go about our daily lives. There are different types that are geared towards different ways of being active, being productive and being at their best.
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioural rhythms that are governed by the amount of light and particularly melatonin in the body. They determine when we eat, we sleep, hormone secretion, how we activate ourselves during the day, even recovery from a big night out or a heavy work day. These rhythms are consistent for everyone, regardless of age, gender or body type.
What is different are the different inclinations to exercise, eating, foodstuffs, digestion, defecation, exercise and stimulation. These factors are as unique as anyone's fingerprint and the effort to class everyone into a system that is regimented and dictates that you should all be early risers and up doing 50laps of the pool at 6am is not applicable when you take into consideration these very pertinent factors.
The classical Indian system of medicine is perhaps the most apt classification of 'body type'. It determines 3 main categories of 'dosha' (body type) and then goes on to explain how we are all a unique mix of each. Similar to chinese philosophy in it's use of the 'elements' as defining values, your 'dosha' determines what you eat, how you exercise, when we sleep (and for how long) and even where we should live according to climate. We are all unique so it stands to reason that we all have unique needs and systems that define what our daily schedule should be like.
The above table explains this system in a very simple format. Obviously everyone can have a mixture of each category and this makes up their unique balance. This then relates directly to the type of exercise that we are most suited for and the times that we may be at our 'best' for exercise. It also relates to the types of foods that we should focus on to balance our dominant dosha as well as avoiding some foods that will have adverse effects on our system. This is the beauty of more traditional medicine approaches, its not so much focussed on assessing symptoms and managing conditions once they have already occured, but on maintaining balance preventatively and ensuring good health has its best opportunity to thrive without being hindered. Our own resident Ayurvedic Practitioner offers this view...
Looking at body types, you can really maximise and understand what works best for you. For example, being a classic Pitta, I need to make sure I balance my abundant energy and fire with some quiet meditative type activities, without skipping meals, eat plenty of cooling foods, should avoid too much exercise in the sun, beware of being overly competitive (my volleyball buddies may have something to say about that) and my best times to perform are between 10am-2pm. This gives you some insight into perhaps why I find early mornings very difficult to do intense exercise. I've never been a 6am go for a run, gym or swim person. I like my sleep ins! It may also explain that whilst I love spicy food, my 'balance' can be thrown off by too much heat. It also explains why I enjoy winter and cooler climates and always seem to find these months easy to train and push myself physically as Pitta's can handle cold and actually enjoy that climate.
It's not to say that this is definitive in any way and that there are always blends and individual characteristics to incorporate. The Traditional Chinese Medical system has a similar approach but is perhaps more 'seasonal' in it's assessment. Ascertaining whether the body is 'in balance' with the season. For example, my body may be in 'summer' with its fire properties and high heat, however this may be out of balance with the current 'spring' season and thus I need to monitor and adjust my dietary and exercise regime to cool slightly. If in winter my body is still in 'summer' then I am not getting my rejuvenating period and thus must try to balance out this in-equation to maintain health. Balance involves the 5 movements or 5 phases of XING (pronounced shin) which are labelled according to the elements of Fire/Earth/Wind/Water/Air and thus are similar in approach to the Ayurvedic system.
To bring it back to a westernised perspective, the western perspective classifies the three body-types into Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph.
There is a westernized version of the ‘body type’ system that corresponds to the traditional systems. Cited by psychologist William Sheldon in the 1950’s, this system was part of a discredited movement that drove correlations between body type and behaviour. The theory of Somatotype and Constitutional Pscychology was refuted and deemed subjective by the end of the 50’s but the genres identified as ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph in this movement, have endured today as part of the Fitness Industries attempts to classify bodyshape and target appropriate mechanisms for efficient training. These terms are often cited as the 'missing link' in terms of athletic performance in marketing training regimes, but they are perhaps more outdated versions of 'in vogue pop psych of the 1950's' with only subjective and objectional viewpoints.
What I like about the traditional classifications is the adherence and inclusion of dietary and lifestyle factors to help ascertain body type and also to identify areas that contribute to your unique 'personality'. These can be included in the assessment of the most appropriate approaches when it comes to identifying all the contributing factors to a person’s genealogy. The more information you have, the easier it is to define differences and target areas that are necessary. Rather than the generic 'morph' type of exhibit 1,2 or 3.
So if you are battling to try and get your self to work within certain time frames, in certain climates or even with certain performances, it could be time to look at the factors which are contributing to your 'ideal' make up. Identifying the parameters of diet, climate, timing, even resting can really help you identify whether you are pushing yourself up hill, or giving yourself the best chance at performing for your own unique perfection. This can mean that you get that 6am sleep in after all - and can feel good about it!