What is Fit?

There was a time in my life that I was able to bench press a lot more weight than I can now.  There was also a time where I was capable of heavily loading a bar across my shoulders and lowering myself so my thighs were parallel with the ground and standing back up (normally we’d call that a squat exercise, but I now realize I wasn’t performing it correctly).  At this time I was also blasting my biceps and triceps and every individual muscle I could in the pursuit of fitness.  Was it fitness, though, or the appearance of fitness?  This leads me to the question: what is fit?

In the Western world we are very good at changing words with their original meaning and fitting them into our culture’s trends.  Take the word, diet, for example. When I say diet, you may immediately think restricting calories, eating less fat, or cutting some other food group out completely for the sake of losing weight.  However, a diet is actually the kind of foods that a person, animal, or community habitually eats – not a short-term weight loss plan.  When the word fitness is thrown around, immediately visions of 6-pack abs, defined arms, tight butts, spandex, and half-naked models come into play.  Now, when it comes to the definition of fitness, we are looking at the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.  So, the word fitness is relative based on the function at hand.  Are we approaching physical fitness with a mindset to better our lives in all we do physically, so that we have the confidence needed to perform a certain activity without questioning if we are going to get hurt as a result?  Or, are we losing sight of the forest by focusing on the trees?  Meaning, is the fitness training we do inside the four walls of the gym only meant for the individual body parts, or exercises, we are focused on without the thought of a carry-over into our daily life needs?

More often than not, I see people’s fitness being only concerned with spot reduction (and there is no such thing) by doing a multitude of exercises – or people who are concerned with getting stronger in a particular body part or exercise.  This tunnel vision causes us to forget that the body does not move in isolation – so we should not train it in isolation. In my own life, when I was in my teens and twenties, I really thought that I was physically fit based on my ability to lift heavy weights and a physique that reflected the countless hours I invested in order to make such gains. However, the irony is as good as I felt doing the exercises, I always had a nagging low back problem that stemmed from “throwing my back out.” Due to the injury, I would constantly guard my back while exercising to avoid further problems, but this came at a price. The result was a decrease in the quality of my movement patterns that caused me to rely on physical compensations, which ended up seeing me “throw my back out” not once, but two more times.  Certain positions would really anger my sciatica and would leave me with numbness or pain that would make it difficult

I never truly sought the root of the problem, I kept grinding at the exercises that would ultimately cause the annoying physical discomforts in my life. Why? It was because these exercises were effective in my past as a means to look better, not necessarily feel better.  However, as the years and repetitions accumulate, I’ve come to realize that building fitness on top of a dysfunction just does not work.  So as the body moves as a whole, we as fitness professionals, need to work our client’s bodies, and ours, as a whole.  Moving the body through its natural patterns is a sure way to enlist all muscles to work in unison.  With this mode of fitness, you don’t have to worry about assigning different days to different body parts, you don’t have to fret about maintaining balance with muscle groups, and you don’t have to spend countless hours shuffling between machines and barbells and dumbells in order to get your industry-made exercises done.   It’s not just me, my clients that have been introduced to this in the La Crosse, Wisconsin area have seen the benefits of this common-sense approach to physical fitness.  If you are interested in better movement, better fitness – you can contact me at: fitnesslyingdown@gmail.com