Monday, January 3, 2011

What is Fitness?

(Written for

Is fitness the ability to lift up heavy objects and put them back down again?  Some would think so, I suppose.  There are quite a few individuals I see in the weight room who, in between looking at their biceps in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, hoist some weights up and down.
Or is fitness about 30 hours of cardio a week?  Sure, your body fat is way down, but you are about as strong as a 12-year-old video game junky and you need to ask your neighbor to carry your grocery bags from the car to the house for you.
Let’s get literal for a minute.  The New Oxford American Dictionary defines fitness as:  The quality of being able to fulfill a particular role or task.
But what task?  Lifting up heavy objects is a task.  So is running a marathon in 2:08:00.
Obviously the merits of both can be argued.  That is not my point in here.  I’m going to suggest a task that acts as a good criteria for fitness.
Fitness should allow for you to fulfill the role of living.  Fitness should allow you to function and survive.
Now if your life revolves around bench-pressing 400 pounds, then by all means, focus just on that.  And if you are a pro marathoner, well, you know what you should be doing in order to get paid and eat.
But what about the rest of us?
In terms of functional fitness, survival suggests itself as our goal.  We need to be strong and fast in life.  Why not bench press 180lbs for multiple reps and run a 3.15.00 marathon?  Why not keep yourself solidly entrenched in cardio and muscular training?
These are the things that are going to offer the best benefits on all levels of, well, not dying.  Things like blood pressure, body fat, bone density, muscle and tendon strength, mental health, immune function, and heart vitality are proven to depend on both.
And also, in the ‘not die’ category, let’s step back 300 or 500 years. Before then, who would be most likely to pass on their genes to the next generation:  the body builder or the pro marathoner?  Maybe one, maybe both?  Maybe neither?
For sure, my money is on the person who is functionally fit.  He’s able to both run and scramble from wild animals and hostile people as well as wrestle them down and pound them to death.
This the holistic fitness that Spartans needed to have.  This is what they still need to have.  This primitive understanding of fitness is what Spartan Races cultivates.
In times of crisis, you won’t find yourself on a treadmill with a bottle of Fiji water watching Dr. Phil on a TV hanging from the wall.  You also won’t find yourself doing a bench press.
You are going to be on your feet, moving fast, and doing what needs to be done to survive.  You are going to have to be able to dig deep and push your limits of endurance.
So what is fitness?  I really don’t know.  What do you think?
Until a clear answers gets spelled out for me, I’m going to be fast and strong, full of both endurance and explosive power.  I’ll leave the extremes for the specialists.  I’ll take lean, cut, strong, and fast any day.
Anyway, this meets the alternative definition of fitness my dictionary describes:  the condition of being physically fit and healthy.

1 comment:

  1. Jason,

    I am an Eagle Scout. I have recited the Scout Oath a thousand plus times. As I have reached my early 30's, I can understand more of what it means to me. Two aspects of the Scout Oath come to mind after reading this post, "keep my self physically strong and mentally awake."