How Do You Define Fitness?

hotel room workout
hotel room workout

I’ve always found it funny that the fitness industry can’t agree on the definition of fitness.  The only other industry I have ever had serious career time in is sales and it was universally clear to everyone what defined a sale.  In sales we had the benefit of a fail-safe assessment tool we called a bonus check that that cleared up any confusion.  Unfortunately in the fitness industry there is no universal, black-and-white assessment for “fitness.”  On the contrary, the words “fit” and “fitness” have become a catchall, as well as the most common word used in the goals sections of my New Client Questionnaires right after the phrase, “I want to be more…” Specificity is appreciated.

Fitness is simply the ability to do a task

“I want to be more fit.” – Anonymous Masses

My working definition for fitness is the ability to do a task.  A marathon runner must have the ability to run a marathon in a certain amount of time.  A lifter must be able to lift a certain amount of weight.  Even weight loss works with this definition because it is the ability to lose a specified amount of weight in a specified amount of time (and then maintaining it).

When someone tells me they want to be more fit, I reply with, “Fit for what?”  One cannot begin to be more fit until they define what task(s) they are trying to accomplish.  When the goal, or Point B, is clearly defined then you can go to work on improving your abilities to accomplish that task(s).  If all of my clients could get one concept rock solid from the time they spend with me it is that you must have some specific reason to train.  You absolutely MUST have a vision of a fitter you that you are working to fulfill.  Until you define the applicable qualities this fitter version of yourself must have, any training you do falls into the category of aimless fitness, or what I call the danger zone.

Road to the Fitter You or the Highway to the Danger Zone

You are now sitting at a metaphorical fork in the road.  You can put some thought into defining a clear vision of the fitter you, or you can take the onramp leading to the highway to the danger zone.  The choice is yours.

If you choose to define a fitter you, the road less traveled will be illuminated for you. Envisioning a fitter you will give you clarity and purpose.  It will guide your training and force you to get on a consistent schedule to reach your goal.  It will hold you accountable, staring you dead in the eye when you look into the mirror first thing in the morning and last thing at night before you go to bed.  On the days you don’t feel like training that image of your future self will either inspire you like a hero or shame you like a nemesis, but either way it will get your butt into the gym (somehow it always knows which one you need).

If you take the highway to the danger zone you can expect to wind up on an endless cloverleaf onramp that leads to nowhere like the old Looney Toons cartoon. The danger zone is tricky because it doesn’t feel dangerous at all.  You will be totally unburdened by any commitments or accountability, which may feel good for a time.  Consequently you will also be free from the burden of progress and dealing with the better version of yourself.  You may not even realize you are there until one day you go to the gym for squats and deadlifts and instead find yourself doing a 45 minute “workout” on some cockamamie cardio machine because you got hooked on whatever show was playing on the built-in tv screen.  Or, maybe it is the day you realize that solid hour at the gym you used to do is starting to become a half-ass half hour.  You can try to rationalize that you are just trying to maintain, but the fact is that you are either getting better or you are getting worse. There is no middle ground.

Choosing the road less traveled doesn’t need to be overwhelming.  A fitter you should be achievable.  The great thing about taking the road less traveled is that the destination can change as many times as you see fit.  Once you’ve reached that first goal, move on to the next one.  Stop in as many towns as you can.  Just make sure your destination is one that you can get fired up about.