What is Fitness?

When talking to people, I find so many of us say “I want to be fitter” but what do we actually mean by this?

I asked my clients to define what fitness was to them, a few of the responses were…

“Fitness is the external things, keeping active and the progress you make in the gym”

“To me, fitness is more of a state. To have good physical fitness allows me to reach goals, complete activities that I love doing and contributes my mental wellbeing.” 

“Fitness to me is exercising regularly and being in shape.”

So, to me it seems like most people measure fitness by their bodies ability to perform physical tasks well. Which I completely agree with. However, some people that I have talked to over the years have automatically jumped to fitness being predominantly a cardiovascular thing; that running without getting out of breath automatically made you fit… would you agree? Is fitness predominantly based on your ability to run for the bus? Or is there more to it that that? Are there different levels/kinds of fitness?

Now there are a variety of different athletes in the world that all require a different form of fitness to be successful within their fields. So with that in mind, lets first take a look at the 10 general physical skills widely recognized by exercise physiologists.

1. Cardiovascular/respiratory enduranceThe ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
2. Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
3. StrengthThe ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply
4. Flexibility – The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
5. Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply
maximum force in minimum time.
6. Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
7. Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
8. AgilityThe ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to
9. BalanceThe ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in
relation to its support base.
10. Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

(as described by Jim Cawley and Bruce Evans)

So for instance a Ballet Dancer would probably work on their flexibility more than a Rugby Player, or a Tennis Player might work on their accuracy more so than Sprinter would. All of them athletes but all with different focuses when it comes to their fitness.

man on running field

Now I want you to imagine 3 people: A marathon runner, A weightlifter and A CrossFit Athlete.

All of these people are high up in their field; the marathon runner has beat many records when it comes to endurance running, the weightlifter can lift a crazy amount like no one else can and the CrossFit athlete has taken first place many times at The CrossFit Games.

Now I appreciate that everyone will know what a marathon or weightlifting entails but might not be so sure what Crossfit demands are. So just as a quick overview… CrossFit is continuously varied functional movement executed under high intensity… meaning it combines a variety of things from metabolic conditioning (cardio), weightlifting and gymnastics and pushes you to your limits within its workouts, which vary in focus.

Now back to our three athletes.

They have all come together to compete against one another to see who is “The Fittest”.

They will compete in 3 events that are randomly chosen and will be scored 1st 2nd and 3rd to see who can take the crown.

  • The first event chosen is a long distance run. I think its safe to say the marathon runner has 1st place in the bag here, the CrossFit athlete would take second and the weightlifter is most likely to come 3rd.
  • The 2nd event happens to be finding your heaviest back squat. The weightlifter comes in 1st, the CrossFit athlete 2nd and the marathon runner 3rd.
  • The final event ends up being the task of completing as many rounds of 10 pull ups, 5 moderately heavy squats and a 400m run as you can in a 9minute window. The CrossFit athlete takes 1st on this one… and lets just say the marathon runner comes 2nd and the weightlifter 3rd.

Now lets tally up the scores, giving 1st place three points, 2nd two and 3rd one.

Marathon Runner – 1st (3). 3rd (1). 2nd. (2) – 6points

Weightlifter – 3rd (1). 1st (3). 3rd (1). – 5points

CrossFit Athlete – 2nd (2). 2nd (2). 1st (3). – 7points

As we can see the CrossFit Athlete has come out on top as they did the best over all three events and therefor they are awarded the trophy.


All athletes are exceptional in their own speciality but surely the fittest would be the one able to give everything thrown at them a good go? The one that covered most of the 10 general physical skills noted above, even if they weren’t the best at any given one?

I am not saying that a weightlifter isn’t fit because they don’t run marathons, or that a runner isnt fit because they wouldn’t lift weights that were very heavy, and I’m not using this as a way to preach how great Crossfit is to you … I am just pointing out that fitness is more than being able to do a pull up, run for the bus or hold a yoga pose for minutes on end; it is a combination of everything that we do.

That peoples fitness levels vary even when they are specialists in their field and just because they boss one area does not mean they are overall fitter than those in other specialist areas.

For me being fit is about covering as many bases as I can. I am not the fastest, or the strongest, I couldn’t balance on a tightrope for long or score a basket every time I threw a ball; but I could give them all a good go and do a decent job at most. There are areas that I have more ability in and areas that still need a lot of work but for me that is where my fitness will continue to grow.

If you have a specialist area then fantastic! Or if your goals only require you to focus on certain areas then that’s fine. But if you don’t have a speciality then don’t automatically think you are unfit. Being fit doesn’t mean you will take home all the gold medals but that maybe you can be in the running for a variety of them.

So next time you are trying to work on your fitness, if that is your goal, ensure you are varying your workouts to cover all basis. Mix it up and try a variety of things, work on your weaknesses and give yourself a chance to be a jack of all trades. After all, as the full saying goes…

“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”

You’ve got this.

#bettican #bettyoucan # bettwecan 




Published by lauraalicebetts

Hi, I'm Laura; a Personal Trainer with a passion to help people fall in love with themselves!! #BETTYOUCAN

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