Since entering the fitness industry in 2010, the one question that I have found to arise time and time again is:
“Am I Fit?”
Not you or I per se, but universally speaking.
What I mean is, I hear people say to each other all the time:
“Oh, but you are so fit compared to me…I couldn’t lift that”
“How do you run that fast?”
“I’d have a heart attack if I ran that far”
So, what’s the problem? There is a total misconception of what it means to be “Fit” and often times it results in the preclusion of someone becoming physically fit for fear of being perceived as inferior to other gym goers.
To deconstruct this misconception, we first need to understand a few definitions.
Bear with me, we’re about to enter science mode for a brief moment.
Physical Activity and Exercise are often used interchangeably, but they are not one and the same.
Physical Activity is defined as “any bodily movement produced by the contraction of skeletal muscle that results in a substantial increase in caloric requirements over resting energy expenditure”.
Exercise, on the other hand, is defined as, “a type of physical activity consisting of planned, structured and repetitive bodily movement done to improve and/or maintain one or more components of physical fitness”.
Finally, Physical Fitness can be defined as “a set of attributes or characteristics individuals have or achieve that relates to their ability to perform physical activity”.
In this blog, I will speak about the Health-Related components of fitness, which consist of:
Cardio-Respiratory Endurance: The ability of the circulatory and respiratory system to supply oxygen during sustained physical activity
Body Composition: The relative amounts of muscle, fat, bone, and other vital parts of the body
Muscular Strength: The ability of a muscle to exert force
Muscular Endurance: The ability of a muscle to continue to perform without fatigue
Flexibility: The range of motion available at a joint
What does all this mean?
As you can see, there are a multitude of components under which we can classify ourselves as “Fit”. If you can run great distances or at incredible speed but can’t lift enormous loads during a weight lifting session, this is simply because either:
You regularly train your cardio-vascular fitness but rarely, if ever, lift weights.
Have a genetic disposition with regards to your muscle fiber type (however, this is a topic for a whole other blog post)
Again, if you have a low body fat percentage, you likely train regularly and watch what you eat, you are thus likely to have moderate to low body fat composition; lending you to be ‘fit’ in regards to the make-up of your body (i.e. fat versus lean tissue). Just as a strongman has relatively high muscular strength or a marathon runner has incredible muscular endurance and a yogi has amazing levels of flexibility.
Now, let me step on to a widely regarded subject which a lot of people consider to be the staple of “Fitness”. The weighing scales. To quote Tim Ferris; “Using a blunt instrument like a scale, people often conclude they’re not making progress when they are making tremendous progress”. The weighing scales is but a tool and like all tools, has the potential to be misused. Do Not rely on the weighing scales as the sole determinant of your progress…why? Here’s why:
Image Source: Facebook
Measuring weight can be useful when assessing progress but as you can see from above, this particular lady ACTUALLY gained weight whilst becoming slimmer; this is because muscle is denser than fat. Getting to a certain weight should not be the primary goal – your health, wellbeing and energy levels are what you should focus on. Focusing on weight as the sole outcome usually leads to the employment of fad diets and promising supplements which, in the end, usually do more harm than good and despite your best efforts, you regain the weight you lost and more.
Okay, so what now?
You are probably wondering is there a simple question to ask yourself to determine if you are fit. Unfortunately, there isn't one.
There is no one question or set of questions to determine if you are physically fit.
Now to contradict myself for a second, there is the PAR-Q (physical activity readiness questionnaire) a set of questions, employed by coaches and trainers worldwide, which determines whether or not you require a doctor’s clearance before becoming more physically active. However, it does not tell you if you are physically fit.
Being active doesn’t mean you are fit either. So, how exactly do you know if you are fit? First of all, your coach or trainer should perform baseline tests to assess your current level of fitness, if they have not done so already, make sure you ask them as to why.
Don’t have a trainer? Fear not, perform some simple tests on yourself:
Can you touch your toes whilst keeping your back straight?
Can you walk a mile without getting of breath?
As a coach, I don’t wish for this to be a shameful plug for the services I offer, however, if your answer is no to the above questions, it may be time to consider partaking in a structured physical exercise regime to improve your health and life quality.
“The future depends on what you do today”
- Mahatma Ghandi
 Pescatello, Linda S. ACSM's Guidelines For Exercise Testing And Prescription. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health, 2014. Print.
 Ferriss, T. (2011). The 4-hour body. London: Vermilion.
Brian is the Head of Membership and Staff Development at Fitter Faster Stronger. A holder of a BSc. in Exercise Management from University College Dublin and NCSA recognised Strength and Conditioning Coach, Brian's philosophy is simple; "The Mind is the Limit".
If you would like to learn more about Brian, You can check out his profile here:
Team FFS - Brian
or follow him on Instagram @brianbren