Personal Training

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How Fit Are You - Part 1

Okay so today while after training a client the topic came up on ESPN as to whether certain "so called athletes" can actually be called "athletes". That lead to a series of conversations in which ultimately someone asked: then how do you measure what is being fit, even for us the regular guys?

It's an intriguing question. Though I've spoken before on this topic, it got me motivated today and so I did some research and I'm sharing it along with my own thoughts.

If you go to Google and type how fit are you or how to measure a fit person, many things will pop up. Some online dictionaries state it as: the state or condition of being fit (not much help there uh!). Another definition was: good health or physical condition, especially as the results of exercise and proper nutrition. That's a little better, though it kinda opens the door for too many questions. And to be quite frank, most people either under or overestimate their own fitness level; and associate being fit to just having a certain physical appearance.

Protocols are not in place that would define universally what is being fit. And let me explain, the US military for example has its own fitness standards (which thankfully where revised and updated last year), yet other countries have their own military standards as well and they have some strong and physically conditioned soldiers. How would that measure up if you are an athlete that plays basketball, football, soccer, golf or even NASCAR? After all would you call  "fit athlete" to someone who just drives? Don't get me wrong I've seen some of these guys ripped and strong... then again I've seen some (most) with either beer bellies, all skinny and soft with no muscles.
Apple vs Apple would be fair

But by that standard most power-lifters are freaking strong, yet most also have a fat belly (they are strong as hell, and have muscles everywhere... but a belly is still a belly), so then the is an 18 year old surfer with washboard abs who can ride a 20 foot wave and barely make 20 push ups a fitter person?

My point is - the marks of a physically fit person will vary from one person to another as there are different aspects to be considered in physical and mental fitness. Some factors to consider are strength, muscular endurance and stamina, power, speed, coordination, mobility, flexibility, cardiovascular health, age, sex, body fat percentage, appearance, health and lifestyle factors such as if a person smokes, drinks heavy, and the quality of their nutrition, etc.

So as general rule one may say that a fit person could fall into the category of having a healthy lifestyle that allows the body to function efficiently and effectively through their daily activities.

However since no two people are alike and we all vary in circumstances, goals, lifestyle, etc (as mentioned previously). We should then be able to determine how fit a person is, based on specifics of fitness. In other words being specific to a certain task, job role, sports performance, and desire lifestyle.

By doing so, we level the playing field to equals based on the specific task and the way to measure that one in particular. Many athletes, for example are required to excel at their sports and have a level of fitness endurance in order to perform well.  Running backs for example could be measure one vs the other (after going through equal preparation and training programs) to determine who is stronger, faster, quicker, more agile and better for the team.

The President's Council on Fitness, Spots & Nutrition (an American government organization that aims to promote physical fitness to people of  all ages) developed the following chart (in conjunction with leading Wellness, Fitness & Sports Organizations) to better define the many attributes that people either have or need to achieve in relation to their ability to perform physical activity:

Physiological Health-Related Skill-Related Sports
Metabolic Body
Agility Team
Morphological Cardiovascular Fitness Balance Individual
Bone Integrity Flexibility Coordination Lifetime
Other Muscular
Power Other
Muscle Strength Speed
Reaction Time

For a detailed explanation of each component you can do so by going to 

As you can notice not everything is black and white, and it will vary depending on your own goals and current circumstances. That being said, lets say you are 5'8 in height and weigh 300 pounds with a body fat through the roof... YOU ARE NOT FIT!

What if you are a woman who weighs 140 lbs, is 5'7 in height and has 20% body fat? Would that make you a fit person? Based on BMI (body mass index) standards (your height divided by your weight) you are overweight (maybe flirting with being obese). Heck, based on that I've been overweight almost all my life, which is not true. You are better off going by body fat measurements, than anything else.

However having a low body fat is not a sure measure of being fit, there is such a thing called being skinny fat, lazy, weak and useless. On the other hand I've seen guys with huge pecs and biceps who can't run 2 miles to save their ass, even if their life depends on it. I've heard women complain that you would expect a better performance in the bedroom, given all the muscles a man carries and yet its shamefully disappointing.

Less than idea for sure!!

That's not to say then, one can't measure fitness or that having all those muscles is a bad idea. There are many standards and fitness test (some used in many popular fitness programs and in the military) that help determine a level of fitness.

Weight is definitely a factor (though I would put it more down the line) cause even more important is your body fat percentage, health conditioning and your ability to function well in your daily activities and even better excel at them.

The benefits of being a fit person are plenty. It can definitely make your life more enjoyable. When you are fit you feel empowered, you build confidence in your own person, you can live a more healthy and longer life by reducing the risk of getting sick of various diseases, you sleep better and wake up more refreshed and energized every day. Fit people have better and more enjoyable sex; they have better mental focus and feel they can take on the world. Being fit give you a different set of mentality.

With all this being said, my next post "How fit are you - Part 2" I'll cover then some specific exercises, test and scores you can use to compare and see how well you stand up to them. You might be surprised by the results.

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