#1: What does it mean to be "In Good Shape?"
Updated: Jan 4, 2022
The obvious answer is that being fit is different for each person, especially considering age and gender. Some people consider being “fit” to be looking a certain way, while others think of it as having the ability complete advanced exercises.
I’ve been a regular at the gym for 2.5 years and played 12 years of competitive tennis before that, but I didn’t consider myself “in good shape” until recently. I have three pillars of fitness: 1. Cardiovascular endurance—How fast and how far can I run? 2. Flexibility and balance- Can I touch my toes or do the splits? 3. Strength- How much can I bench, squat and deadlift consistently?
I've had various levels of fitness in each of these pillars at various points in my "fitness journey." (I hate this phrase but there's no better one.) I can't always to the splits (okay, I've never been able to do the splits) or run a sub 10-minute mile. When one of these pillars is lacking, I decide in frustration that I’m completely out of shape. My definition of in shape for myself is binary: I'm either consistently setting personal records and in the best shape of my life or I'm out of shape. I'm a competitive, progress-oriented person, so for better or worse I always want to beat my previous self.
Recently, I realized how this mindset will set myself up for failure as life gets busier. As a a college student on winter break mid-pandemic, it's reasonable to spend countless hours working on each of these pillars. There is quite literally nothing else to do. As an adult with a career, I will either get so frustrated that I give up when I don't see improvement or not have time for other activities I enjoy.
My initial idea to shift my mindset is to select one pillar to focus on while I maintain the other two. As long as two pillars are steady, improvement on one pillar will be a net increase. The problem is that a higher level of fitness requires a similar level of rigor and activity to maintain. For example, to continue running a 9 minute mile, I would need to run 2-3 miles at this pace each week, which takes up part of the workout time that I need to improve strength. It's not enough to run a 9-minute mile once a week if my baseline mile time is 10 minutes.
I thought about increasing the intensity of my workouts instead (or CrossFit). The majority of my workouts would be circuits including strength, cardio and flexibility. If I was serious about being in the best shape possible, this would be a great solution. However, these types of workouts are so intense that I would dread going to the gym everyday, and might give up altogether. I'm not responsible for reaching military or bodybuilding standards, I select workouts that I enjoy while trying to improve, rather than killing myself for progress. I'm motivated, but not THAT motivated.
This "lack" of motivation leaves me with the ongoing struggle of figuring out how and where I want to improve. To be continued...
This picture is Jennifer and I using a self timer the first time I was able to hold the crow pose.