What is Fitness?

I don’t like the definition of the word “fitness” in the dictionary.  It’s vague and doesn’t define anything that applies to our lives today.  I REALLY don’t like the working definition as defined by our culture, but first let’s have a look at what Merriam-Webster has to say:


1: the quality or state of being fit

2: the capacity of an organism to survive and transmit its genotype to reproductive offspring as compared to competing organisms; also : the contribution of an allele or genotype to the gene pool of subsequent generations as compared to that of other alleles or genotypes


Ok, so more relevantly the state of being fit… but?


1a (1) : adapted to an end or design : suitable by nature or by art (2) : adapted to the environment so as to be capable of surviving.


So now we’re getting closer.  One can conclude from these definitions that “fitness is the state of being adapted to something to allow for survival.”


Let’s look at a few key words in the new working definition then apply it to the real world.  “Adapted to something,” are the words that need to be emphasized.  One can be adapted to anything!

If you are sedentary and sit on the couch watching re-runs of Who’s the Boss all day; you’re probably really good at it.  Your shoulders and head round forward to get you closer to the TV and take the strain off your eyes.  Your core muscles loosen up to allow for better slouching.  Your hip flexors shorten up to prevent discomfort during extended periods of sitting.  Your metabolism is very slow, so not to burn off extra calories and keep you alive longer in this seated position.  Let’s face it, you’re built for watching TV, you’re adapted to it!  You are ready to survive in your environment.  You are fit!


Years of practice boys and girls...

Ok, here’s where I get angry.  Who knows anybody who subscribes to our new definition of fitness?  I sure don’t.  The current “popular” definition of a fit person is “someone who looks good and works out all the time.”  “Fitness” is simply participating in endurance based activities.

The question to ask is why?  Or better yet, what are you trying to get “in shape” for?

Let’s take our average 40 year old guy who wants to “get fit again.”  Fit for what?  “Well nothing in particular, I just want to lose weight and look better.”  Now we’re on to something, this guy just wants to be “fit” for life.  Does this require any running or biking?  No, this guy probably works a normal desk job, spends time with his family on the weekends and would prefer to not have a gut anymore.  Or maybe he has back pain and wants to get rid of that too.  Again, fit for his life doesn’t mean running marathons.  His fitness shouldn’t include any jogging, it’s not what he’s trying to get fit for.

Now let’s look at a professional cyclist.  Here’s a guy who gets paid to ride a bike.  Fit for him better equal being impressive on that bike of his!  Survival for him depends on it!  What about a guy that just loves doing 10k runs and likes to win them?  He better be adapted to running!  That is “fit” for him because it brings him pleasure.  It doesn’t bring him weight loss or fix his bad knees or back, that’s his sport and that’s how he treats it.  Not as some benchmark for general “fitness.”

Finally done, now I'm in-shape!

I’ve heard this discussion before.  What about a powerlifter or bodybuilder?  Here are guys and girls that get their kicks from competing in powerlifting or bodybuilding.  Tell me if you’ve said or overheard someone saying this “Yeah they look great (are really strong), but I’ll bet they can’t even run a mile!”  I sure have.  And my response is… “WHO CARES!”  This person is fit for their life.  Last time I checked the timed mile wasn’t part of a bodybuilding show.

Reebox is now sponsoring the CrossFit Games on ESPN2… sigh…  They are advertising it as the search for the fittest person in the world.  I’m advertising it as a general exercise race.  I refuse to call it a sport, but it is an exercise contest and the participants most likely understand that.  It’s clever marketing to convince Americans that it’s a new standard of fitness as well.  But the point is that the elite Crossfitters on TV are only fit for the CrossFit Games!  They would perform terribly in a bodybuilding show, powerlifting event, marathon, football game or any other highly specialized contest at an elite level.

The overall point is you get good at what you do.  So choose wisely and really know WHY you are doing something.

If your only driving force is to look better than train for it!  Don’t pretend you’re training for some BS ½ marathon or triathlon you could honestly care less about.  Embrace your true motivation and go for it.  That’s the only recipe for true “fitness” success.

** Bonus Point- If you are training to lose weight; stop.  Eat to lose weight, train for strength, movement and posture.

For more information be sure to like Coastal Performance on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @huntermcmillan.



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