What Is Fitness?

Defining fitness in one sentence is hard to do! If we look it up, fitness is generalized as ‘the absence of sickness’… If this is true, then, we can very well go a lifetime without working out at all and still be fit, right? WELL I don’t think so, and neither does CrossFit Coach Greg Glassman; He unifies fitness and health through 4 operational models, and here I will break them down.

General Physical Skills: We say someone would be fit if they were well rounded in all these skills. For example, to have a 4 minute mile means you most likely cannot deadlift 500lbs. Below are the skills with explanations – they are used for guidance when finding a balance and weaknesses in athletes.

  • Cardiovascular/Respiratory  Endurance: The ability to gather, process, and deliver oxygen
  • Stamina: The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store and utilize energy
  • Strength: The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force
  • Flexibility: The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint
  • Power: The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time
  • Speed: The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement
  • Coordination: The ability to combine several distance movement patterns into a singular distinct movement
  • Agility: The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another
  • Balance: The ability to control the placement of the bodies centre of gravity in relation to its support base
  • Accuracy: The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity

The Hopper Model: Generalist vs. Specialist.
Say we take a bunch of physical tasks and put them in a bingo hopper, for example, Deadlift 225lbs, Run Long, 100 Pull-ups, Bike Long, 300 Air Squats, Snatch 80kg, Row short…etc. The hopper is just full and we put a well-rounded athlete against Lance Armstrong. Lance Armstrong is a phenomenal athlete but his experience and specialty is biking long distances. When random tasks come out of the hopper the generalist should win most of the tasks except bike long. Let’s expand this hopper and chuck in other tasks like picking up your kids, carrying groceries, carrying a couch, putting up a heavy bag on the top shelf in the garage. These are all life tasks that can come out at any time. We want to be able to deal with them. Therefore, we say someone is fit who can deal with anything physical presented to them and do it well.

Metabolic Pathways:

  • Phosphagen: Lasts just a few seconds and is a all out effort. 
  • Glycolytic: Peaks at 2 minutes and is about 75% effort. 
  • Oxidative: Can go on forever…you are working it right now…sitting down. 

We train all of our metabolic pathways just like the 10 general physical skills. We are not exceptionally good at one…thus, we say you are fit if you are good in all areas. You can lift a large load, you are good in interval training in which movements patterns switch often and you can run, bike, swim etc. long and fast.

We say fitness and health are directly related. You cannot be fit if you are sick (disease) and to get fit first you must slide through the continuum to well. So we say those that are fit are also healthy – these calculations are in the form of blood pressure, heart rate, weight, etc.

Now, knowing alllll that it’s a tad easier to summarize it all in one sentence. The definition of fitness I like, is by CrossFit… Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. So- working on my fitness is something I will be doing for the rest of my life as train the 10 general physical skills, become prepared for what comes out of life’s hopper, develop my metabolic pathways and lead a healthy lifestyle!


Claudia Rozendal


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