Updated: Jul 27, 2021
I'm currently reading a book titled, "Play as if Your Life Depends on it" by Frank Forencich. Actually, I've been reading it off and on for quite a while. I think I bought it before I left the Marines circa 2010, so nine years. This isn't to say that the book isn't interesting, just that I- SQUIRREL!
Excuse me, I was saying that I will start reading something, then move onto another something, and in the course of this process, I will fail to return to the original something and finish reading it. I'm attempting to remedy this by going back and starting books over again that I want to read with the intent of finishing them. I'm still not very far in this one, but I came across a passage that I think is perhaps the best advice for becoming fit that I have ever read.
"So, instead of getting our your body fat calipers or compulsively clocking your time for a 10k, a better beginning is to give some thought to what you actually want to do with your body during your lifetime. If you haven't thought about this, then you are in no position to say whether you're in shape or not. Depending on what your goals are, you might already be in terrific shape or you might have a lot of work ahead of you."
I've been advocating this in my life for years, with the added idea that being stronger and having greater endurance makes things easier overall. The thought being roughly that there is no such thing as "too fit." This may come from my career in the Marines, and the seemingly endless physical preparation that was a part of that life. Whatever the reason, I think for most people, this is what really matters. If Suzy Q wants to have a tight butt and a slim waist, then her workouts will reflect that. If Johnny Marathon wants to run a sub 2:30 marathon, than his workout will reflect that. For each, if they've attained their goals, they are "fit."
Does this mean that all fitness is equal? No. In fact, hell no. If all James wants to do is sit on his butt all day and play video games, then the required fitness level for him is different than Alfred who wants to be an MMA fighter, and the chances of James outliving Alfred are slim. As James turns more and more into a blob, Alfred will be building a baseline of fitness that will allow him to do much more than James ever will. But if James attains the same level of fitness that Alfred does, than his life will last a little longer, things will be easier for him, and he can still spend the majority of his time playing video games. There really isn't a downside for James to build a strong body.
That being said, fitness shouldn't be an end, but a means to an end. Fitness should have a purpose, and act as a supporting system for each individual. A concert violinist will need the requisite strength and dexterity to play their instrument and sit tall in their chair. So long as those prerequisites are met, then they are fit for the job. This doesn't mean that they should just stop when they can sit tall and support their violin. Going beyond that has benefits outside their chosen goals, and can lead to a more well rounded life overall.
Being fit is mission specific, and there is one mission above all that people seem to forget- living comfortably. This may seem counter intuitive, but really think on that. Are you really comfortable if you are a double wide waddler? If you have difficulty walking up a flight of stairs, are you fit for everyday life? If you can't stand for more than a couple of minutes, or are winded when you wash your windows, are you fit for the life you're living? Does being restricted in your life seem comfortable? If you can't get out, and see the world- be a part of the world as an active participant- is that even remotely comfortable? If you said yes to these questions, then you have probably read too far. There are some recipes somewhere for Mariani Fruit Bars you should check out (one of my favorite sugary treats), but if you find any of this unsat, you have a choice to make, and actions to take.
By any civilian standard, I am still fit. By my standard, I'm a disgusting fat body (that's a Marine turn of phrase- don't judge my cultural heritage). Currently I can run two miles in about twenty minutes, I have issues with my lower back that make lifting a challenge, and my right arm is, for all intents and purposes, going to hell on me. These are what I like to call "excuses." Hard excuses to get past, but excuses nonetheless. Right now, for the life I am living, I'm fit enough. Honestly, I don't want to be "fit enough." I want to be more. And I think most people do. And the advice offered in that paragraph in the book above is a great starting point. If you want a good idea for an end state for your fitness- how about being able to run up a flight of stairs, and carry a fifty pound bag of salt for your water softener without difficulty- at 75. It's a doable goal, and even if you fall somewhat short at 75 of that goal, you'll still be pretty well off.
What are your thoughts and lifetime fitness goals? I'd like to hear about them.