How Do You Define Fitness for your Clients?

Fitness means different things to different people.

The bodybuilder looks at muscle mass and physique as a measure of fitness, but may ignore cardiovascular endurance.

The grandmother who wants to be strong enough to lift her grandchild may ignore the flexibility required to reach over the crib without hurting her back.

The triathlete looks at the ability to perform endurance sports, but may ignore overall strength.

They all look at their fitness differently because their goals are all different.

Having an idea of what being “fit” means to you will determine what type of program and activities you should do, at what frequency, and at what intensity.

I believe a definition of fitness that encompasses the general population is “the ability to perform the tasks or activities one wants to perform at their discretion.”

Notice that my definition of fitness has nothing to do with body composition or becoming an elite athlete. For a small percentage of folks this may be part of their fitness journey, but for most of us, it’s about improving how we live our lives. As such, the fitness journey never ends, as every one of us can strive to consistently improve our fitness levels to support our daily activities, habits and hobbies. The consequence of constantly striving for improved fitness is we become healthier by having decreased body fat, increased lean mass, improved cardiovascular fitness, and increased work capacity.

Unfortunately if we stop pursuing fitness and become inactive, we quickly lose function.

What Components Make Up Fitness?

According to the CrossFit Journal, there are ten general physical skills widely recognized by exercise physiologists. These are cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. You are as fit as you are competent in each of these ten skills. A good fitness routine develops fitness to the extent that it improves each of these ten skills.

  1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance – The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
  2. Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
  3. Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
  4. Flexibility – The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
  5. Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
  6. Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
  7. Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
  8. Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
  9. Balance – The ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its base of support.
  10. Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

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The key takeaway from this definition is: to improve our overall fitness we must constantly vary our fitness routine. Going into the gym and performing the same movement or activities day in and day out does not lead to improved overall fitness; it creates specificity to those activities.

For example, if I go out and run on the treadmill every day, I may become a great treadmill runner, but does that skill carry over to the next 10k I want to run? Does running on the treadmill aid in my ability to move the couch from one area of the house to another? More than likely, doing one activity over and over will not improve my ability to perform other physical skills needed to perform every day activities.

Are you constantly varying your fitness routine to encompass most if not all of the 10 skills? Most people like to work only on those skills they are good at. Instead, plot a chart and work on those skills you struggle with as much as those you do well. If you need help, hire a personal trainer or strength coach with the heart of a teacher. You should learn from this professional every session, so that when you’re on your own you have a “fitness arsenal of knowledge” you can rely on.

They say variety is the spice of life. I say variety prepares us for the physical and emotional challenges that life likes to throw at us.

Move Well. Live Well. Be Well.

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