Coaches Corner – Episode 2

Fit – A Personal Definition

If one were to Google the definition of fitness, it would look something like this:

– The condition of being physically fit and healthy

– The quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task

According to the National Federation of Professional Trainers handbook, fitness is, “Having the energy and strength to perform daily activities vigorously and alertly, with energy left over to enjoy leisure activities or to meet emergency demands. The muscles, lungs, and heart should be strong, and weight and body fat should be within a desirable range – 25% body fat or less for women and 18% body fat or less for men.”

If one were to look at CrossFit’s definition of fitness, you would find a more well rounded and encompassing definition. “Work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” While that sounds very technical, it could be broken down into four models: physical skills, varied activities, energy exertion, and health markers.

While each of these definitions is correct and worthwhile in their own right, I don’t believe that fitness has any one size fits all definition. Sure, you can use technical and scientific terminology to provide facts and statistics on why one definition is more correct than another, but I would choose to argue that fitness is really a state of mind. A lot of advertisements and social media try to tell us what “fit” is… unfortunately many of these do more harm than good.

I have faced my own struggle with “fit” -ness, and while I am still (always) working to combat that struggle, I have come to a place where I feel like I am “fit.”  Here is my on personal journey into the world of fitness!

I was never big to the point of being unhealthy. I was husky child; carried a little more weight

than the average kid. I played Little League as a child and then continued with various sports into high school, and intramural recreational sports. When I joined the military, I knew I wasn’t in as good shape as I wanted to be. As you probably know the military has their own guidelines and regulations that one needs to meet in order to be deemed “fit” and continue serving so I trained to that standard and I got “fit.” I was able to score above average on my physical fitness tests. And for a while, I was happy there.

I remember reading an article during one of my deployments, stating that most males reach their physical peak by age 30. Being only a few years shy of that at the time, I made a promise to myself to get to my peak physical condition by the time I turned 30. Thus began MY next chapter of being “fit.” I started seriously lifting weights, started running more, and being more active overall. I learned a little about nutrition and started to pay more attention to what I was putting in my body. As I began to see results, I was my own inspiration.

With my new found “fit-ness” I took the obvious path and I got the bright idea that I would participate in a bodybuilding competition. 😉 Not the Speedo wearing, oily tanned, buff dude category. That wasn’t my style. I was interested in the more figure friendly Men’s Physique category. (Plus board shorts hide skinny legs…). Stepping on stage to show off the hard work I had put in became a bucket list thing for me so I did it! Was I expecting to do well? No, not really. Looking back at it, I took my diet to an extreme, completely cutting out certain things that definitely made me hangry, hindered my performance in the gym, and made me look unhealthily skinny. In spite of all that, I ended up placing third overall so I guess you could say that somebody thought I had achieved a good representation of some level or measure of fitness.

It was a pleasant surprise that sparked another bug in me to want to do it again, with a determination to do better the next time… But then life got in the way. Over the course of my last deployment I started to get bored with my workout routine. I wasn’t challenged in a way that kept my interest. Plus, as anyone who has had to “train” to a military fitness test knows, running just stinks and I was looking for a way to shorten my high-intensity cardio sessions without having to resort to sprints. That’s when I got into CrossFit’s main site workouts. I supplemented my regular bodybuilding with CrossFit, as my cardio, and found myself looking more forward to my “WOD” than an hour strictly working on legs. I also liked the changes going on with my body. I got that hurt-so-good sore feeling  that I had been missing for a while and with that I registered for and earned my CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certification.

While I loved CrossFit, in the back of my mind I was still longing to step on stage again. To compete in Men’s Physique and dominate everyone with a physique that I thought was leaps and bounds ahead of the people I competed against previously. If I could do that while not having to strictly diet and adjust my training…THAT got me excited.

Once again life stepped in, like it does for so many others, and forced me to be ever flexible with training and eating.  Changing jobs, relationship changes, children, illness etc. all creep in seeking to derail our efforts. Success in something like physique competition is truly a test of one’s determination, discipline, and fortitude. In my experience people really suck when you are on any type of cut or diet and you see them stuffing down double cheese burgers while you’re stuck with 6 oz. of boiled chicken, steamed brown rice, and veggies for the third time that day!  I completely understand having a goal, but allow me a minute to say just how much it SUUUUUCKS.

Anyway, the day finally arrived for me to step on stage again. While plenty of friends and family told me how great I looked and how proud they were of the hard work I had put in there was still this nagging feeling that I could have done more or dieted longer.  Maybe I should have done the extra 20 minutes of cardio every day last week. Don’t get me wrong; I was impressed with my results… I mean… when you’ve depleted enough water and been tanned up nicely like I had been anyone would be, but the self-doubt still lingered. Even so, while I was standing backstage next to the nine other competitors; each of whom had put in the same, if not more, amount of work I realized that all the work I had put in up to this point would have to be enough.  It was go time.

After stepping off stage, I felt good. Now I don’t claim to be the world’s best poser… (someone who poses, not the slang Canadian skater insult, duh), but I thought I looked better than over half of my competition. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t see things the same way.  You see, here again there is another standard by which participants in this particular competition are judged in order to determine who places where (who is most “fit” if you will). My personal assessment of how I placed was probably due to me being “too big.” I might have fared better if I had competed in the Classic Physique category… Who knows, maybe another year…

So what’s the point of my long story?! Here it is… I stepped on stage 20 pounds of pure muscle heavier than I did in my first competition, was likely the biggest guy there, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy their definition of fitness. To that I say… WHO CARES!? Most of my lifts have increased by at least 20 pounds over the past year. My cardio and endurance has increased to a place where I’m running faster than when I was taking military fitness tests. I’m more flexible and body aware than ever before and I can handstand walk anytime I want and string together 150 unbroken double-unders.

Equally as important, my mental strength has increased to where I can push past that little voice that tells you to quit. (FORGET that voice!) The success I have achieved is not due to any one specific training regimen.  Not CrossFit, or a dedicated bodybuilding/weightlifting program, not even to long runs or dieting. My personal success is due to a multitude of disciplines and I will continue to explore and push myself to maintain a level of “fit” -ness that matches my mentality, my life, and my body.

I encourage you to look in mirror. Can you see changes? We’re each our own harshest critic. We’ll easily see the flaws, the imperfections, the place where we came from. But the things I want you to  focus on are:

Do you look better?

Do you feel better?

Can you play with your kids more?

Are you able to do everything you want to in a day and still have energy left over?

Your personal definition of “Fit” may not fit into one single box. It is what you make it. Fitness is a state of mind and a state of happiness with yourself. It is ability to say “I can” instead of “I can’t.” And that’s what truly matters… certainly not where you place in a competition or how many people you beat in the daily WOD.  No matter where you are you should be proud of how far you’ve come and how far you can still go.  

-Coach Josh Hallisey