When are we Fit enough?

This question, and others like it, are something I am asked on a regular basis. How strong is strong enough? Eventually, won’t we just not be able to lift ANY heavier weight? When does age catch up with us and we actually start getting weaker?

This is an incredibly difficult question to answer. Each person has their own past and future that will relate to further progress or stagnation and decline. Each person has their own internal clock that can be manipulated but not changed outright.

Are we fit if we run 10k in 40 minutes? Are we fit if we lift 600 lbs with our bare hands? Are we fit if we run 10k in 50 minutes AND lift 400 lbs with our bare hands?

CrossFit methodology says the latter statement is true. Our ability to be above average at multiple tasks, but great at nothing determines our fitness. This means the likelihood of succeeding in some random physically demanding task is greater. If we can run 10k in 40 minutes but can only lift 150 pounds, our friend may fall when they’re running with us and we wouldn’t be able to carry them to safety. If we can lift 600 poundsbut move like a snail and our child happens to start crossing the street with oncoming traffic we’ll never save our own child.

There IS a breaking point in training. We eventually get so strong that only a focus on strength and avoidance of conditioning will make us stronger. Eventually we will be able to run so far that only focusing on running further/faster and avoiding strength will allow us to do so. However, avoiding a weakness to build a strength is where I believe physical health suffers. Instead, I think we should look at all directions of the spectrum and look to maximize them. We may find that our strength is a little lacking and work through a period to build it up. We may then find that our strength has risen but our conditioning fallen, so we may then focus on it. Spending life working on weaknesses is an incredible character builder.

I don’t believe numbers can even define our fitness. I believe it is our APPROACH to those numbers, our social relation to those numbers, our mental construct of what those numbers mean to us that truly defines our fitness and determines our health. I see people get 100# deadlifts who walk away ELATED that they’ve come so far!!! They’re proud of their own consistency and progress and fill themselves and others around them with inspiration. I also see people who lift 300# who walk away dejected because they thought they should do 310#. They beat themselves up for not making faster progress and can even make the person who lifted 100# earlier feel bad about only lifting that much.

Fitness has nothing to do with specific numbers. As we age, if we had a high enough number at some point it may begin to fall. Still others will continue to grow in many areas as they are a long way from their genetic potential. Keep in mind that there are a LOT of numbers and a LOT of goals and PLENTY of things to keep yourself motivated.

At some point, there is a perfect balance between enjoying what you do and striving for more. When you find that point and are filled with self-respect and self-love, you will inspire others to find the same balance. I believe this is our social fitness; our fitness for COMMUNITY will be high and that is what matters.

-Post thoughts to comments.

14 thoughts on “When are we Fit enough?

  1. Phil Lingle

    Great post Cory! I think what you have said applies to both the body and the mind. We tend to gravitate towards mental activities that we’re good at rather than work on our weaknesses. Improving our critical thinking skills is like mental crossfit, rather than teaching us how to be good at one thing or how to solve a particular problem, it helps us to develop the tools to create our own effective solutions to a multitude of unfamiliar problems (fitness). And that perfect balance that you described between enjoying what you do and striving for more applies here as well.

  2. miriam

    “I don’t believe numbers can even define our fitness. I believe it is our APPROACH…”

    I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I have stopped for the most part posting my numbers to the white board because honestly they mean nothing to other people, only to me (and my coaches, when they ask). I was finding myself anxiously scanning posted numbers to see “how I did” compared to people 20+ years my junior and who entered CF far more fit than did I after my own 20 years of birthing/mothering 4 kids and a slow, insidious slide into middle aged slothdom. How ridiculous is that? Occasionally I’ll post when I do really well, and that’s kind of silly too because all I’m looking for is someone telling me how amazing I am–why do we so need validation from others?

    The other observation I’d make is that for me, CF has morphed from “exercising 3 times a week” to an integral part of my LIFE, so it’s no longer about the numbers in the gym. It’s about me hoisting a 40 lb bag of dog food on one shoulder at Pet Smart when the staff asks me if I need help carrying it out to my car, it’s about vibrantly engaging in my 4 kids’ active lives without blinking an eye, it’s about handling health issues in our family because I have the mental grit to hang tough, it’s about facing a high stress job with relative calm, it’s about my emotional management and handling the emotions of those around me, it’s about living life to the fullest knowing that death is a natural part of life and being at peace with that (hmmm, some of you whippersnappers have to be a little older to appreciate that). When you feel physically and mentally strong–never mind the numbers–you have the capacity to live a better life and be a better person. My goal — which is a lifetime endeavor — is to look at my life holistically–my relationships, my fitness, my diet, my habits, my sleep, how I spend my time, and many other facets that factor into the Miriam that I am and the person I want to be.

    Thank you for changing my life.

  3. Dale

    Miriam, that is very inspirational. Thanks for posting.

    This has me thinking about the application of fitness. The only way I can answer the questions about my personal fitness level is through reflecting on my daily physical activities and requirements for them. Was there sometime in particular that I found very challenging? Is there something in my training that I am avoiding? Are there physical tasks in my job or life that I have trouble accomplishing?
    I have specific work oriented goals that keep me striving for better conditioning and strength. I am answering the question by saying “I am never fit enough.” There are physical parts of my job that leave me wishing I was much stronger and other times that I wished I could be more efficient and last longer.
    If I am never fit enough, I should be okay working towards better fitness and be happy with the improvement I make.

  4. Corey

    As usual, there are some really great points.

    Phil, there is some interesting debate on the “central governor theory” of physical exertion. The belief that the mind has a “monitor” for physical exertion being too much and begins instituting negative thoughts and emotions in an effort to prevent damage. However, I believe learning to train ignorance of your mind saying “No” or “Stop” in a multitude of situations is VERY powerful.

    Miriam, You support the point above with so many true-to-life scenarios. Thank you for sharing that. It always helps me to see the outside perspective and keep tabs on WHY I do what I do.

    Dale, That time you slipped on some ice and didn’t break your skull? Fit enough. That time a car tried to change lanes right into you but you avoided the collision? Fit enough. The time you were late for a flight and sprinted through the terminal with full baggage in tow and DIDN’T collapse of a heart attack? Fit enough. Lord knows what you had to do while in the military or will encounter as a Firefighter. However, in each scenario you live, you are fit enough. Your goal is to thrive instead of survive. Accomplishing tasks WITH LESS EFFORT allows you to be better prepared for more difficult challenges that may take you out in the future. When are we fit enough? Right now. Can we ensure a better likelihood to be fit in the future? Damn right. My point is to be content with where you are (you made it there) and to make the future yours as well.

  5. miriam

    I won’t post my numbers, but as you can see, I’ll blather on and on in this forum. Oh well.

    Corey: “Be content with where you are and make the future yours as well.” Well put. You are a budding philosopher and wise beyond your years, young grasshopper. I wish I was as well-balanced at 29 as you are. David and Dale, thanks. I’m not trying to be inspirational, really. I am just trying to think through what’s happened to me over the past year beyond the obvious improvement in fitness level and superficial desire to fit into a size 4 again, ha ha.

    In my humble opinion, the thing that makes people “fit” is knowing their weaknesses, having the humility to admit those weaknesses, digging deep to try to get better at them but not knocking themselves (or blaming external factors/other people) if they can’t be best at everything, and surrounding themselves with people who *are* strong in those areas to learn from them. If you are a life long learner, you can never be “fit” enough, and that’s what makes for a good life.

    Also, hanging around with CFAers has made me a FAR better, stronger, “fitter” person than I was a year ago. I have a whole new community in my life and I am a better person for it. The wisdom, strength, diversity, humor, relationships, kindness, guidance, and more have enriched my life exponentially.

  6. Beth

    Wow! I have read all the posts over and over and am totally overwhelmed. Fitness is a lifetime evolution and definately encompasses all aspects of life. When I first came to cross fit a little over a year ago, I was in the prime of “slothdom” to use Miriam’s description. I am much more fit than I was a year ago. Can I be more fit? Yes, but do I feel fantastic about my current fitness level? You bet!! Fitness definately is a mind, body and spirit experience that continually evolves throughout the continum of life. I echo Miriam’s comments about the CFA community, because, it has also enriched my life for all the same reasons. Thanks CFA! You all rock!!

  7. T-Bone

    I believe in finding something you love and doing it well. For me, it is not avoiding things that I don’t enjoy as much as it is choosing to work on my weaknesses within a limited skill set. If I am less fit according to this particular definition, then so be it. So few people in this world have a true passion, and I am grateful every day that I am one of the people who has one and the ability to pursue it.

    I just completed the CrossFit Gymnastics Cert with Jeff Tucker this weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so passionate about his calling and his obligation to serve others. It was truly amazing to work with him and to come home with a new list of skills to work on and new ways to coach those skills.

    Your choices and your passion is yours and no one else’s. Your happiness is also your decision and no one else’s. Just be awesome.

  8. Matt Baldwin

    I am so pleased that (what would become) CrossFit Asheville entered my life nearly two years ago, and that this relationship has completely reshaped all of my habits and made me into a better person, fit at the moment, enough so to accomplish what I do each day, but also, desirous of accomplishing still more.

    This discussion eerily echoes with an email I just sent out to my students this very evening. I feel like it would not be out of place to share it here. But if you don’t like Aristotle, skip to the next comment (I’m sure there will be more).

    This is a passage from Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics:

    “The case is precisely similar in the sphere of the virtues. According to the actions which we perform in our business relations with our fellows we grow to be either just or unjust. By our conduct again in circumstances of danger and by the habit we form of showing terror or courage we grow some of us to be heroes and others cowards. This truth is applicable also to the regulation of the feelings and desires; men become temperate and gentle or intemperate and passionate according to the demeanour which they are in the habit of assuming under provocation or excitement.

    “Consequently it is clear that there is not one of the moral virtues which is formed in us by nature. Had we been good spontaneously by force of nature we could never have been impelled in an opposite direction by force of habit. But as an actual fact we are so impelled and hence it is clear that no single moral excellence is formed within us by nature. Nothing that is impelled in a certain way by a law of nature changes and assumes an opposite tendency under the influence of habit. No one for example will ever accustom a stone to gravitate upwards though he throw it into the air ten thousand times nor could we habituate fire to tend downwards. In fact whenever a thing has a certain tendency from nature it can never be made to change that tendency by force of habit.

    “It is not therefore through a law of nature nor yet in violation of any such law that the virtues grow up within us. What we receive from nature is the capacity for virtue; we are so constituted by nature as to admit of the virtues being impressed upon us though we only acquire those virtues in fact and are made perfect therein by habit.”

    Aristotle, The Nichomachean Ethics, II.1.5

    Text taken from Walter H. Hatch, The Moral Philosophy of Aristotle (1879), page 74.

    See this on google books: http://bit.ly/fJUrLm

  9. Shalene

    Thank you for this post. I started out just reading the bullets, then had to go read the whole thing twice. I could picture you telling me all of that, and me getting one of those blank looks on my face because you just blew my mind. Then I say something like, “I’m not sure what you just said, but I completely understand. You rock, Corey”

  10. Mado

    Great post Cory. I love what you are saying and completely agree with the sentiment. However, I don’t think that there is ever “a perfect balance between enjoying what you do and striving for more”. At least not in a static, “I’ve achieved balance” sort of way. Rather, I think there is a constant dance between the two, a seeking of that balance with the knowledge that the journey is the goal.


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