Time for a little self evaluation – are you fit? After all, you work out at least three to five times per week and have been doing so for more then a year. Your routine consists of weight training and cardiovascular training and you follow a healthy diet. Considering the obesity epidemic this country is currently dealing with it would seem the short answer is – Yes, you are fit. Before we can accept this answer we must first ask another question – How is fitness defined? Once we answer this question we can better decide who is and who is not fit.
Perhaps you bench press over 400 pounds, squat in excess of 500 pounds and dead lift three times your body weight, are you fit? What if you can run a sub 7 minute mile, do 200 sit ups without pause and can execute 100+ perfect hand release pushups, are you fit? More often then not endurance athletes are crowned the fittest athletes based on their ability to outperform in over distance events such as running, swimming, and cycling, if not all three combined. Unfortunately, there are many metrics across which fitness can and should be measured, but these are often overlooked or outright ignored. Even Webster’s dictionary is lacking for a comprehensive definition.
CrossFit, while considered contrarian in their view points, puts forth an intriguing definition of fitness broken down into three standards that at least warrants consideration in this discussion. The first standard is comprised of one’s competency in ten recognized general physical skills – cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. The second standard implies that an individual be prepared to perform well against the unknown and unknowable. One should no longer be worried about traditional, sets, reps and periodization schemes because life is not that predictable. It is important to be fit for the game of life just as it is important to look and feel good. It is therefore necessary to keep your training stimulus highly intense, constantly varied and full of functional movements. The third standard ensures that an individual is trained across and develops each of the three metabolic pathways (“metabolic engines”) that provide energy for all human action. Strength and power athletes often focus on the phosphagen (<10 seconds) and the glycolytic pathways (up to between 3 and 5 minutes) and endurance athletes tend to focus exclusively on the oxidative pathway (usually 5+ minutes). In reality one should train across all three pathways consistently for optimal fitness.
The objective of this definition is to be broad, general and inclusive and to avoid specializing. Specialization, while appropriate for some athletes, often leaves one unprepared for life. The other objective of this definition is to show that measurements of wellness – blood pressure, body fat, blood lipid profiles, bone density and muscle mass – can be placed on a curve between sickness and fitness. If fitness is approached the right way, then one can often avoid many of the ailments our lifestyles have created.