I previously stated that I wanted to be an influential and respected figure in the fitness industry. More specifically, I want to be known as one of the most knowledgeable and skilled coaches in the field. Developing a reputation of this magnitude requires passion, motivation, and devotion to my craft. What does that look like? What do I need to do? I need to continuously expand my knowledge of anatomy and physiology, strength and conditioning, sport performance, CrossFit, and nutrition. I must pursue virtuosity in my coaching abilities: movement demonstration, identification and correction of faults, cueing (verbal, visual, and tactile), leadership and group management skills, scaling and modifications, program design, and recovery strategies. Finally, I must create and distribute valuable content regarding health, fitness, recovery, and nutrition.
The Cornerstones of Fitness
What is fitness? How do we define it? The following are definitions of fitness provided by various sources and governing bodies in the industry:
“The quality or state of being fit.”
– Merriam-Webster Dictionary
“The ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies.”
– Center for Disease Control and Prevention
“A set of attributes or characteristics that people have or achieve that relates to the ability to perform physical activity.”
— American College of Sports Medicine
“Possession of adequate levels of strength, endurance, and mobility to provide for successful participation in occupational effort, recreational pursuits, familial obligations, and that is consistent with a functional phenotypic expression of the human genotype.”
– Lon Kilgore, Ph.D. and Mark Rippetoe, CSCS
“Fitness is defined as work capacity across broad time and modal domains, and health is defined as work capacity across broad time and modal domains throughout life.”
Wow…a few of those definitions are below average at best! Did you notice that I did not list the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) definition? That’s because they have never published one! Seriously, how can one of the most highly respected organizations in the field not provide a definition for physical fitness?! That is an entirely different discussion that I am not going to dive into at the moment. Lets get back on track!
I have been a CrossFit coach for the past four years, so some of you may view my opinion as bias. However, when I read the definitions listed above, CrossFit’s definition seems to be the only one of any merit. In order to justify this claim, we must further investigate how CrossFit defines and evaluates fitness. CrossFit utilizes four models to support its definition of fitness: The 10 General Physical Skills, Performance of Athletic Tasks (The Hopper Model), Energy Systems, and the Sickness-Wellness-Fitness Continuum (click here for an in-depth look at each model). To summarize, the first model evaluates an individual’s capacity in various components of physical fitness (e.g., cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular endurance, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, etc.), the second model focuses on the performance of any and every physical task imaginable, the third model addresses the three metabolic pathways of the body (ATP-PC, Glycolytic, and Oxidative), and the fourth model dictates that every measurable component of health (e.g., blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, body fat percentage, etc.) can be arranged on a continuum that spans from Sickness to Wellness to Fitness. Furthermore, CrossFit has published two and three-dimensional graphics that represent fitness and health. These can be seen below (descriptions and definitions of each graphic found here):
FITNESS (obtained from CF-L1 Training Guide)
HEALTH (obtained from CF-L1 Training Guide)
Greg Glassman, founder and CEO of CrossFit said this regarding the definition of fitness and health: “Valid criticisms of a fitness program need to speak to measurable, observable, repeatable data. If an alternative to CrossFit is worthy of our consideration it ought to be presented in terms of distance, time, load, velocity, work and power related to movements, skills, and drills. Give me performance data. CrossFit can be scientifically and logically evaluated only on these terms.” I agree with Coach. It is well known that if an idea or concept is not measurable, observable, repeatable, and falsifiable, it is not considered to be scientific. Thus, all the other previously mentioned definitions of fitness are dismissible. CrossFit’s definition is the only one that stands up to the rigor of scientific approach. However, this is not to say that the CDC, ACSM, and Kilgore and Rippetoe’s definitions are not applicable to fitness.
I believe fitness is best defined as work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Yet, I also believe that the purpose of increasing and/or maintaining one’s fitness over the course of a lifetime is to apply that fitness to occupational efforts, activities of daily living, recreation, and sport. So CrossFit hit the nail on the head regarding the definition, whereas the others more or less described the purpose of being fit.
Now that we understand what fitness is, we can begin to discuss how we utilize exercise and training to develop, improve, and maintain fitness throughout life.