What does fitness mean?
This is something I’ve been contemplating a lot lately. When I decided to finally start writing a blog (almost two years ago!!!) , I was probably at my “fittest” state ever. Even more so than when I played university soccer. Adam and I went to the gym every morning at 5am for an hour of weights and cardio. After work I would take Macy for a walk or sometimes go for a 5-10k run. I attended hot yoga 1-2 times a week. I coached basketball and played along with the kids. I was on my feet teaching sixth grade all day long. I was partaking in my Can Fit Pro fitness instructor specialist training and running a weekly fitness group with my teacher pals after school. I had time for fitness and I made time for fitness. I was fit.
The funny thing is, at the time I didn’t really feel that way. I mean, I was certainly satisfied with my fitness level, but I always felt like I could do more. Run more. Push it more.
Fast forward 22 months – a move across the planet, a pregnancy, and a year as a first time mother– and things look a little, maybe even a lot, different around here. Sure the baby weight is long gone, I fit into my clothes, I feel content with myself. Yet, over the past few months, there have been many moments when I look at my blog name, ‘Femme Fitale’, and worry that I am not living up to the title. It was actually a play on words of Britney Spears’s Femme Fatale album, which had been topping the chart the previous year. I had been deliberating blog names, and that one just kind of stuck. It wasn’t supposed to be a nickname for me, but fitness and health focused women in general. It kind of embarrasses me when people assume this is a self-proclaimed nickname, as that was not its intended purpose.
Anyway, back to my original question. What does fitness mean? What is it that defines someone who is fit? Where does each of us sit along the fitness continuum?
- I lift weights, but definitely can’t go as heavy as many people in my Body Pump classes.
- I’ve improved a lot in my pushup strength, but I still can’t do that many on my toes.
- I happily run 10k, but after that I feel tired and bored.
- I used to workout 6 days a week. Now, I am content to squeeze in 3 solid workouts. 4, if I’m lucky! Sometimes that number even includes teaching Body Attack.
- I haven’t played a team sport in over 3 years.
- I’m not “ripped”.
- Food and fitness go hand in hand. I enjoy raw, unprocessed foods and eat them daily, but I don’t think I’ll ever give up chocolate, wine, coffee, bread, or cheese.
It’s very easy to fall into a comparison trap when it comes to health and fitness. You think you’re sailing along pretty well, and then take a peek around the gym, Pinterest, the blog world, etc, and start to question yourself. I’m definitely all for taking a good look in the mirror; healthy comparison is a necessary piece to self-improvement. However, it becomes problematic when it actually makes us feel worse about ourselves. I’ll be honest in that sometimes I get caught up in the fact that many people (friends, bloggers, instructors) are fitter than me, and it makes me feel less credible.
I’ve been thinking about this over the past week or two, and I’ve come to somewhat of a conclusion. The thing I’m starting to realize (or maybe just accept) is that fitness is never going to be consistent. It is going to vary from person to person, and most importantly, it’s going to be inconsistent throughout our individual lives as well. What is considered “fit” to one person, is completely different to another. What I consider to be “fit” today is different than it was a few years ago, or last year, and will certainly look different in the future.
To put it into perspective, let’s look at the Oxford dictionary definition of fit: to be in good health, especially because of regular physical exercise. No where in this definition do they mention having buff biceps, following a strict paleo diet, doing 100 pushups, withstanding dozens of hill sprints in 35˚C heat, or working out twice a day. No where do they mention body weight, body size and composition, type of exercise, calories burned, or VO2 max. Now, I’m absolutely not discounting those things. They certainly have their place and I definitely see them as crucial aspects in achieving optimal health and improving your fitness level. Many will disagree, but I just don’t feel that burning a million calories in a workout or squatting an absurd amount of weight should be one’s defining aspect of physical health.
This time last year I could only walk around the block, as I had a 1 week old baby at home. Today, I’m teaching fitness classes, lifting moderate weight, and enjoying cardio sessions a few times a week. Maybe some day I’ll be waking up early to log in training hours for a half marathon. Who knows? Fitness has been a part of my life since I was a child, and it has come with its peaks and valleys, so why should I expect any different now? We really need to face and embrace our current fitness level and of course not be afraid to challenge it. Workout regularly, eat well, sleep enough. Fitness is a journey. It’s not all or nothing. It’s not pass or fail. Fitness will change, as will we, and that is okay.