The most common thing people say to me when looking for my help is they want to be fitter. It’s something that we could all say but how fit should we be? Despite what fitness magazines and websites will have you believe, there isn’t a simple answer to that question.
We are designed to compare ourselves to others, no matter what people and motivational memes say, so we’re always looking to see where we position ourselves in the grand scheme of things. We can look at our position or time in Parkrun or a race, weight lifted doing a certain exercise in the gym, number of workouts per week (displayed on social media of course or it didn’t happen), comparison charts. I’m sure you could name plenty more ways of how you measure your fitness! The trouble is, ‘fit’ is a rather vague term and unless you define it, you can’t say for sure how fit you are.
How Fit Am I?
Type the words ‘how fit’ into Google and the most popular auto-complete answer will be ‘am I’ and you’ll be greeted with thousands of articles on how fit should you be for your age. Type in ‘how fit should I be’ will take you to another lengthy list of articles. I don’t know about Women’s magazines/websites but I have seen lots of articles on sites aimed at men including this one on Men’s Fitness with 6 fitness tests you should be able to pass and this one from Men’s Health which carries the heading “You can’t claim to be fit unless you can pass these 7 tests”. These ‘tests’ can make for a good challenge but the problem with these articles is that they’re written by a trainer, usually with a program to sell, and are based on their opinion rather than any scientific study.
The danger is that many people can read these articles and feel demotivated because they believe they might struggle to pass any of the tests. To put them into context though, Usain Bolt, Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams, Lionel Messi, Mo Farah, Paula Radcliffe and many more would likely fail most of these tests yet, they’re legends in their sport. I would be very surprised if the trainers who wrote the articles were able to pass them all!
‘Fit’ can only be measured by the definition you give it so that could be fit to go up a flight of stairs without feeling breathless, fit to play in your favourite sport without struggling, fit to lift a certain weight or for a number of reps in the gym, fit to do gardening without having back pain afterwards. Running a mile or 10k in a certain time is pointless if you’re a swimmer or bodybuilder. Lifting more than your own bodyweight is pretty useless for a runner and, in fact, it might actually slow them down. Holding the plank for 2 minutes is not going to help anyone get up a flight of stairs without feeling breathless. In any case, most of these tests require you to have the necessary skill to do them in the first place.
Each of us has a different definition of fit and that’s ok. It’s useful to be clear on what that definition is for you, write it down and know how you can measure it as you go along so you know that you’re making progress. It can be healthy to compare yourself to others as long as you use them to help push you on to work harder. After all, nothing is sweeter than beating your rival even though they don’t know that you’re competing against them.
Never judge your own fitness on articles in magazines/websites like the ones I’ve linked. As the saying goes….
Well said, Steve.
I go through times in my life where I don’t feel as physically fit as other times. Like everything else it’s important we concentrate on our own journeys.
For me it’s trying to build up more strength in my legs and stamina so I can climb a few mountains at the end of next month! You’ve given me some tips to help with that. Much appreciated!
It comes down to having clear goals and working towards them in order to get fitter and it’s also common to feel less fit and that’s usually when there’s not a strong goal in your life at that time. Any time you have any questions about your fitness, feel free to ask :-)