I love asking this question of my new clients: What does fitness look like to you?
Take a moment and try and think of an answer. Do you have one? Yes? No?
I love asking this question because it forces us to look at fitness from an individualized perspective. It forces us to recognize that one person’s ideal of fitness can be completely different from the next person’s idea of fitness.
I run a program for seniors in Port Moody called Choose to Move, and part of the process involves answering a couple of questions. Where do they see themselves in one year from now? What do they see themselves doing, or being able to do?
No two answers are ever the same. From wanting to attend a class at the community center, to creating a consistent exercise regime, to simply going for a walk with their daughter in the park. I get a different answer from each person. What’s amazing to me is that, even though everyone’s answers are completely different, their answer is how they define their own fitness.
How we usually define “fitness”
We often create our own definition of fitness based on what we think we should be doing.
It goes like thisA p: “I should be able to get up at 6am and attend bootcamp 3 times per week.”
Other times we base our definition of fitness on some unrealistic standard we see on social media
“My muscles are not as defined as that person’s – so I’m not fit”
Finally, and most damaging to our own confidence and self esteem, we just take someone else’s standard of fitness and make it our own. It goes something like this:
“Well, so and so is able to do XYZ (push-ups, pull-ups, burpees, etc), and that person is fit. Therefore, in order for me to be fit I need to be able to do those things”
Then, since we clearly cannot do XYZ, we conclude that we suck.
A personal story…
When I became a personal trainer, I was super excited about my new role. I took it very seriously (and I still do) which caused me to start to feel like a bit of a public person. That is, I started to feel that because now I had this formal title of “personal trainer” people were watching what I was doing – and I better made sure I lived up to this standard.
(Whether or not this was true is a different matter, but that’s what was in my head).
My definition of a personal trainer was pretty much the same as everyone else’s: someone who worked really hard at their fitness; who was able to maintain a stellar fitness routine; who loved the gym and working out; and who was extremely fit.
So I worked really hard to uphold that standard. My husband and I started in fitness by doing P90X and for a while after I continued doing extreme workouts in the name of feeling like I was meeting my definition of “being fit” and, more importantly, “being a fit personal trainer”
After a while however, a few things happened. I started to feel like what I was doing wasn’t sustainable. It was hard to keep up. I was sore ALL THE TIME – too sore! Which can be fun at the start (yay, changes!) but after a while it really starts to bother you being in pain all the time.
I also started questioning whether the standard I was trying to uphold really made sense. So…if I went to the swimming pool, or went for a long walk….that didn’t count as exercise!? According to my definition – no; no, it didn’t
And that started to feel kind of ridiculous.
Finally I started to dislike going to the gym. The environment felt confining and dull. I craved change, and something different.
Break free of your own biases and preconceptions – but don’t expect it to be easy
I realized that, in order to keep my sanity, and also stay true to my values and beliefs, I needed to create my own definition of “fitness”. To personalize the term and to break away from all of the constraints I had put on myself.
I decided that any activity, as long as it meant moving my body, would count as a workout. A long walk; a bike ride with my kid; splashing around at the swimming pool for a couple of hours; going skating. These things didn’t fit the category of conventional “workouts” but they made me happy and I liked doing them, and that started to become more important.
Letting go of my previous definition of fitness wasn’t an easy task – I had to accept that because my activities would be less challenging for my body, my overall fitness might go down. My muscles may no longer be as defined. I might even *gasp* lose my 6 pack that I had become so in love with. But the alternative meant holding on to an ideal I no longer believed in, and that felt crappy too.
So I took a leap of faith. And I was right – my fitness did go down slightly. My weight has gone up a bit; my abs are no longer as defined. But I discovered joy in my fitness. I’m no longer sore all the time. I discovered spin, and yoga, and I have a much more varied routine now, which involves a combination of formal routines but also incidental fun activities (one week I tried belly dancing!). There are intense days and milder days. I pay more attention to what I eat. I switched my mindset from formal intense workouts to daily movement, and I’m sure my joints will thank me for that in the future.
Embrace what you discover!
Surprisingly (and not something I could have anticipated), because my routine became so varied, I am a much more effective and knowledgeable trainer – my clients can count on me to know about many disciplines. And in fact I bring many aspects of various disciplines to what I teach my clients in our training sessions. Who would have thought!? Instead of being just another trainer who lifts weights, I am the trainer who knows a ton of stuff.
My definition of fitness has changed and evolved. It might change again in the future, and I’m ok with that
And it’s ok for yours to change too! Allow it to change.
Finally, don’t make the mistake I did – don’t just adopt someone else’s definition of fitness. Create your own. There is no right or wrong. Wanting to run a half marathon, or wanting to successfully walk around the block are both perfectly acceptable goals. The most important thing is making fitness your own.
So ask the question: What does fitness look like to YOU?
And then enjoy the journey on which the answer leads you!
Let’s work together
- Are curious about their body and want to learn its inner workings
- Are willing to commit the patience and time it will take to see long-lasting results
- Want to build strength and stamina so they can do whatever life things they want to be doing
Does that sound like you?