There’s a lot of talk about different types of fitness. You can, for instance, be aerobically fit but not particularly strong. Or, vice versa, you can be muscle bound though massive weight training gains but not be able to run around the block. So what, really, does being “fit” even mean?
I’m going to give my completely subjective definition of fitness: you’re fit when you can accomplish whatever physical tasks are put in your path. That doesn’t mean those tasks will be a cakewalk, mind you, but you’ll never look at a physical task and immediately decide you can’t do it.
As I’ve written ad nauseum, I do a fairly wide variety of workouts. I do a lot of spinning for cardio, trapeze for fun, mental endurance and strength, and yoga for flexibility. All of this came into play the other day, when I had to haul six bi-fold seven foot tall closet doors up two flights of the public stairs next to my house.
These Franklin Hills stairs are famous. Seriously, there are walking tours marching up and down these stairs all the time. My daughter even wanted to stand, dressed as Gandalf the Grey, at the top of them with a broomstick and holler “You shall not pass” at one group. They are mostly a short cut to get from one switchback to another, and they are wickedly steep. They’re also the fastest way to carry detritus (like ugly closet bi-fold doors) up from the lowest level of my house to the street above.
These stairs are the fastest route, but they’re vicious. Still, the doors had to be moved. We no longer had space for them, plus the former owner had painted two of them with chalkboard paint and covered them with religiously themed drawings. Fun fact: five year old colored chalk is still vibrant, and will get all over you.
So I sighed, sucked my stomach in, bent my knees, and started hauling. It wasn’t even that the doors were that heavy. Maybe they were 25 pounds each, but they were awkward as hell. Add the length to stomping up two flights to the street, multiply the number of stomp sessions by six, and you have a workout right there.
I got immediately dirty and sweaty. One side of me was covered in pink chalk. It was a crappy job, but I did it. As I marched, I thought of how much my butt was going to hurt the next day. My neighbors across the street watched me in disbelief. Yes, there was a bit of ego involved. I’m only human.
As it turned out, it wasn’t my butt that bore the brunt of the task. It was my calves. They were still like painful softballs three days after. There’s nothing like a practical test of fitness to determine weaknesses. Once I can walk properly again, there’s going to be a lot more calf lifts from now on.
This tale isn’t so that you can applaud my amazing strength and determination. It’s to make the point that fitness should make whatever you want to do in your everyday life possible. If you want to be able to move furniture around with aplomb, train accordingly. Do you want to get down effortlessly onto the floor with future grandkids? Then take yoga and work on your flexibility. Good workouts work your brain, too, so that analyzing problems and sticking with projects might seem easier after working through a difficult routine on an apparatus. Good physical training leads to lots of firing synapses.
So be practical. Exercise a lot, particularly as you age. Keep tailoring them to reach your goals. And be realistic about what you want to achieve.