What is Fitness?

I will admit that I am a bit of an exercise elitist.  Whatever sport I am engaged in, I will think THAT SPORT IS THE BEST AND ALL OTHER FORMS OF EXERCISE PALE IN COMPARISON.


For example, when I did yoga, I would scoff at all those weightlifters who would complain about not being able to get into pigeon or other stretching postures that I found ridiculously easy.  And then when I only did weightlifting, I’d secretly scoff at the yogis in their sideways splits because I thought there was no functionality in being able to separate my legs that wide when having to snatch or clean and jerk.


But that is just me. When I am fixated on an exercise, I am fully fixated on it.  I assume that it is the best, the only way, to achieving true fitness.  But in reality, what REALLY is fitness?


“Fitness” is defined as either “the condition of being physically fit and healthy” or “the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.”  We often times think of being physically fit as having a six-pack or vascular biceps bulging out of shirt sleeves…or maybe we see being physically fit as being able to run 5-minute miles or swim 1600 meters with ease.  But what about the person who can roll 5 continuous rounds of BJJ without missing a beat?  Or the gymnast who can execute a perfect balance bar routine?   And come on…all of those American Ninja Warriors are GOALS.  So, what REALLY is being physically fit?


It is that question of what defines true fitness that led me to think….and think…and think.  Ultimately, makes the second “fitness” definition—being able to possess the skills and functionality to fulfill a certain task—one that I resonate with.  Sure, the marathon runner will never win a powerlifting meet.  But, he will definitely outlast the world record deadlift holder in a 10km race.  Context is key.  Fitness is fluid, conditional, and changes according to what sport one engages in, a person’s age, and even an individual’s life stage.  I definitely cannot be the soccer player I once was in elementary school, and my young self definitely could never lift the amount of weight I now can when I squat or bench.


So, what is your definition of fitness?  How would YOU judge whether or not YOU are fit?  For me, I used to think if I didn’t lift a certain amount of weight, couldn’t run a mile in a certain time, or couldn’t get into a particular yoga posture, then that meant I wasn’t fit.  Only now, at the ripe old age of thirty-eight, do I finally realize that I am fit when I am whole, when the movement I do enhances my life rather than detracts from it.  Because in all honesty, what good is it to be able to clean and jerk a monstrous amount of weight if I am too tired from training on the platform to play with my children?


To me, true fitness is now moving my body in all planes of motion, so I am more energized and able to step into the calling God has for me.  I want to be able to stoop down and pick up something without fear of throwing out my back. I want to be able to carry a bundle of groceries up the stairs with ease.  I want to be able to stay in an ATG squat position to help my son change his clothes without my legs cramping.

How can I achieve that level of fitness?  As hard as it was to admit, I need to take a break from weightlifting and return to my roots—to bodyweight movements, to playing around with kettlebells, to explore other methods of conditioning, and to have fun doing it all.  Does that mean I will never weightlift again?  No.  It just means that weightlifting will be one component of my movement agenda, not the whole agenda itself.


What is your definition of fitness?  How do you know you are fit?  Comment and share!  I’d love to hear from you.

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