I’m hanging out with the fellas for a few post-work beers and planning the weekend to come. They ask why I was late, I tell them I was training, and they laugh. “What exactly is it you’re training for?”
It’s a good question.
See, the stock answer is to say to improve fitness.
But what is fitness? Am I fit?
Well, I’m bigger and more durable than I was, but I’m slower and less capable of moving around. I’m feeling less capable of most things. I’m always sore and injured, and to be honest; I’m not exactly in cover model shape either.
Is this fitness?
The Truth: Fitness is a vague concept, and because of this, the notion of how to workout is even more so. Fitness expert Justing Newman of Shape Sanity states: “Vague inputs lead to uncertain results”
Just look around the gym and see all the out of shape folk working their behinds off. Running, lifting, sweating and straining……and so pissed off!
Since it can mean so many things to so many people, the notion of fitness is often hijacked by those wanting to sell you a solution. Usually, it’s for a goal you don’t have or a dream you never wanted in the first place. We need to get to the bottom of this.
What is fitness?
This is the definition from the dictionary.com:
- The state or condition of being fit; suitability or appropriateness.
- Good health or physical condition, especially as the result of exercise and proper nutrition.
- Biology The extent to which an organism is adapted to or able to produce offspring in a particular environment.
Let’s work backward; the 3rd is funny; we often use the term “fit” to describe an attractive member of the opposite sex.
Number 2 is impressive, it’s that vagueness again. After all, “good health” is another term with no absolutes.
For some people, it’s getting five portions of fruit and veg per day; for others, it’s a devotion to the gym or being an “ideal” body fat percentage; for the sick, it might merely be recovering from illness and getting out of bed again.
So that leaves number 1; suitability. That, for me, is what fitness is all about, and it’s a definition we can work with. Being fit implies being fit for purpose. It is about being able to improve our ability within a specific area.
Can you imagine LeBron James in the Tour De France? Or how about Lance playing in the NBA? No one would deny that these men are supreme athletes with excellent fitness, but fitness is always related to a specific purpose. They train for their sport, focusing on the things that will help them achieve their goals.
I remember reading Olympic Gold winner Linford Christie’s book, and him describing how to run 800m would be gruesome. He’s never done it and wasn’t sure that he could. This was the fastest man in the world, not confident if he could run 800m?! That’s how finely tuned his program was to improve fitness for the task of running the 100m.
The trouble with balance
Ever heard the phrase “Jack of all trades and master of none”? It applies to your fitness too. The way to improve an area is to focus on that area. You have to decide what area matters most to you, what level you wish to reach, then follow a program to achieve that. Granted, nothing exists in a vacuum; improving one area will usually lead to a ripple effect and improvement in others, but it’s not guaranteed, and it needs to be a bonus, not the aim.
An athlete’s routine is designed to prepare them for their sport. Granted, some of them look incredible, like Mr. Christie above, but that is a happy byproduct of his training, not the objective. His achievements came through a specific focus; he doesn’t try to do everything.
How to work out for your real goals
1. Decide what fitness and health means to you
There are no right or wrong answers, so long as they are your own. Personally, my main priority in working out was achieving the look, the visual impact. Why? Because I believe this is the area that has the most significant influence on the specific area of improving body image. This, in turn, just so happens to have a considerable impact on life outside the gym. You know, real life! Until I had that handled, that was a priority.
Naturally, your priorities can and will change as you tick your goals off. That’s fine. Nowadays, I can look at other things, like improving my flexibility, performing circus tricks like one-arm push-ups, and getting better in the pool. It’s fun, but it”s all a lot more fun now that I am happy with my body. For most people, that is the game-changer.
“Matthew McConaughey is a great example of how fitness helps you live to the full.”
2. Decide what the purpose of your workouts is
Are you an athlete? If not, do you need to focus on performance over what you see in the mirror? I’ve known so many guys who are so caught up in how much they can bench or squat that they have neglected the fact that no-one outside the gym cares.
You can be as strong as you like, but people will judge you on what they see. The signals that your body sends will have a significant impact on the outcomes in your life.
3. Be specific
When you are crystal clear on your goals, you can pick a program that matches up with them. It’s not enough to just do anything, choose the right thing to get you where you want to go and keep the blinkers on.
Back in the day, the fuzzy notion of getting fit meant I was left with knowing I wanted to get better but was unclear on what that meant to me. I spent time learning things I didn’t need to know and doing things I didn’t need to do. If only I’d realized that my real goal was to improve the look and shape of my body first, you could have been reading this years ago!
Whatever you decide is right for you; once you are clear, you will be able to focus, and that really is the essential part of the equation when it comes to fitness, how to work out, and probably even the game of life itself.