This Is What Trainers Mean When They Talk About Toning Their Bodies

Everybody has different goals when it comes to exercise.

Personally, I'm happy to be at a point where my number one reason to get moving is to help myself balance my emotions. When I exercise consistently, I feel good in both my mind and body.

I feel alert, dare I say supple, and on the best days (pause to cue a gentle chorus of cherubs), it brings me a little solace in this wild, wild world.

Because the main message in popular culture (re: the female form) says that women should be fleshless, cleansed white stones, I really try to focus first and foremost on how my body feels, and what it needs from day to day. When I do that, I find I'm much more comfortable in my skin.

But, if I'm being totally honest, I have other, more visually inspired goals, as well.

As much as I try to thwart my desire for a butt that'll make passersby do a double-take, these feelings tend to crop up around the time I have to put on my scuba suit each summer.

I often find myself drifting towards pilates, or light weights classes that promise some “tone-age,” since that's apparently a nice thing for a body to have.

Yes, “toned” is a real buzzword and #lifegoal these days, but I'm not even totally sure what it means.

Like, how does it differ from being strong? Or from being ripped, or muscular? Must you be thin to accomplish this thing? Are you not considered fit in the world of fitness if you aren't toned?

It's all very confusing.

Dictionary definition style, a quick Google search says toned means “having firm or well-defined muscles.”

After further research, it seems there are more than a few indications that being toned also correlates with your weight.

According to Kindal Boyle, a personal trainer behind the lifestyle blog Lifting Revolution, toning means being "firm, solid, and athletic," and often entails lowering your body fat percentage in order to accomplish this.

Similarly, personal trainer William Sukala, MS, CSCS, gave this advice in a Weight Watchers column when asked how to tone muscles:

...The word 'toning' is a bit ambiguous. In this context, it appears that you're looking to achieve muscular definition in specific areas.

He added,

 [No kind of training] is going to yield muscular definition until you lose the stored body fat between the skin and muscle.

In an interview with Elite Daily, personal trainer and long-distance competitive runner Carmen Operetta, lends her insight into what getting toned is really all about:

In my opinion, it's getting down to a low enough body fat percentage that you can see the definition of your muscles. There is no particular structure or fitness routine you have to use, but I'm all about cardio-sculpting for my clients. That means running or cardio circuits, then doing resistance training. But really it's whatever the best route is for you.

She also stresses that a great life means balance. So, along with those workouts, it's important to give yourself time to recover, enjoy a great glass of wine, and savor some delicious food.

So, it appears we've cracked the toning code, folks.

For now, I personally think I'll focus on that whole balance thing.