When you think of true physical fitness, what comes to mind?
There are thousands of views about what it means to be physically fit, and most people believe that a fit body is represented by today’s bodybuilders. Traditionally, Americans associate fitness with the gym, where the “stars” are the individuals with the largest muscles lifting the heaviest weights.
Bodybuilders are big, muscular, lean, and tan. They “look strong,” and they have done lots of hard work to construct their bodies in this way. However, bodybuilders have bodies that don’t allow them to do much of anything efficiently — except lift weights and further sculpt their bodies. Bodybuilders have put themselves into an environment where functionality is not as important as looks.
True physical “functional” fitness will allow you to do anything you want or need to do, within reason, and this is different for everyone, which makes the point that there is always a higher level of fitness that you can achieve.
Some fitness examples may include: being able to do a chin up or a handstand as a measure of strength you need in your job or in your sport. Making it through a full-hour aerobics class or a period of higher intensity interval training might be a measure of your stamina and endurance, which you need to make it through your day, for starters. Or, completing a 5k run may simply be that confidence boosting experience you need to know you can do anything. And playing your favorite sport well requires sport-specific fitness!
True physical fitness is the ability to do any or all of these things and more. It’s the ability to instantaneously run and jump, push and pull, climb, catch, and react. You are truly physically fit when you are connected to your body in such a way that you can do what you want to do.
Take a look at animals and how they’re perfectly suited to their environment in the wild. They can run, jump, climb, push and pull with unmatched efficiency.
There was a time when we were active like that too — when we were kids. We were outdoors doing what felt natural and fun. We just liked playing. Sweating and being out of breath used to be fun.
Then we became adults, and somewhere we forgot what made us healthy in the first place. No more playground games; now it’s just a computer and a desk and a periodic hour at the gym. We no longer run, we jog. We don’t climb anything but the occasional staircase. And the things we push and pull more than anything else are deadlines in the office.
We have forgotten how to use our bodies. I know you know this is not a unique thought; you’ve heard it before, but you can do something about it that really increases your quality of life.
Nothing in the world promotes higher levels of success than looking better, feeling better and being able to perform better. The best ways to accomplish this are to live more successfully and focus some of your attention on getting better fitness results.
Here are a few action steps:
1. Change your story about how things “used to be” and what you “used to be able to do” into the present tense and talk about how things are today and improve them. “I used to think I was just getting older, and then I realized I just wasn’t using my body much. Today I… and my goals are to…”
2. Get the inspiration, knowledge and support you need to succeed and get more active today. Depending on where you are, start with walking, jogging or running more and learn stability-level exercises that fully engage your body. You can progress to more strength and power exercises from there. Just get started now.
Here’s an example: yoga-like “stability” postures which are taught at many gym facilities may seem simple, but they are not easy and they are very challenging! To hold one of those postures, even the simple ones like an incline plane (push-up position) for 60 seconds without collapsing, requires engagement from hundreds of stabilizing muscles, not any one or two isolated muscles.
With a strong core (midsection, lower back, upper back, etc.) which you’ll develop when you’re focused on stability-level exercises like you learn in yoga-like postures, you can then engage in full body resistance movements, using body weight and simple functional fitness devices that enhance your athletic performance — with less risk of injury and more confidence.
3. Last but not least, something you’ll always hear from me, live a lifestyle that promotes your health and fitness.
Streamline and simplify to free up the space and time you need to do what you want
Recuperate and manage your energy wisely
Eat 80-90 percent or more nutrient-rich foods
Take advantage of your overall improved condition and mood to be more active, and develop new fitness levels.
©Copyright 2005. All Rights Reserved. Health Science is the publication of the National Health Association. This article reprinted from the Spring 2005 issue.