What does “fitness” mean? A stab at some goals…

So, I’d like to be the most fit I’ve ever been at 50. Given that I have no high school trophies gathering dust in a box, this seems like a reasonable time to peak. I’m still wondering about how best to measure this though. I had fitness related goals coming up to 40 too but those were all running related. After a couple of stress fractures, I’m not going to be running any long distances. I’m also reluctant, given my history, to use weight as a measure of anything. Losing weight would be great for getting up hills on the bike but I’m more interested in percent bodyfat than just the numbers on a scale. (I’ll talk lots more about that later.) I’d like to focus on weightlifting and Crossfit might be useful there. (They love measuring and recording things.)  I have lots of good data from my 40s–years of resting HR records, lots of 5, 10, and 15 km time trial time on the bike, and even a VO2 max test–but I want this to be fun too.

Here are some of the first thoughts I’ve had about goals:

1.Beginner distance triathlon (I’d like to better my 40 year old time.) I love the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon and this is likely the one I’ll do in 2013 and 2014. Perhaps with my co-blogger. I’m a slow swimmer and a middle of the pack runner but I love the atmosphere at triathlons and it forces me to branch out beyond the bike. Time for some wintertime lane swimming?

2. I’d like to try a new kind of bike racing. Perhaps some cyclocross bike racing. Perhaps Paris-Ancaster?

3. There’s a centurium race series that interests me too.

4. On the track, I have flying lap and standing start 500 m times, I’d like to improve as well. These aren’t mine!

5. For running, I have no aspirations beyond 5 km and I’m thinking, mulling over the idea, that what I’d like to be able to do is run 5 km quickly. My running form improves when I go fast–by build and temperament I’m much more a sprinter than an endurance athlete–and I could train for this, I think, without risking injury. I’ve been doing lots of sprinting at Crossfit. My fastest 5 km time in the past was 25 minutes and change.

6. For Aikido, I’d like to test for my next belt. It’s hard to be too goal oriented in martial arts. It’s all about regular practice and being invited to test. But I will prepare each time as if I’m testing and hope quietly, silently, patiently for the invitation.

7.  I’ve started to use a rowing machine at Crossfit and have a 3 km time to best. (9:13 seconds, slow)

8. And still working on some Crossfit goals. Double unders, unassisted pull ups continue to elude me though I’m getting much better at kettlebell swings, burpees, and box jumps.

Hope to have a list of goals soon! Suggestions welcome.

6 thoughts on “What does “fitness” mean? A stab at some goals…

  1. I notice that whenever I talk to loved ones about my fitness, I really gravitate to talking about what I’d like to be able to do during my next trip, e.g., walk from the British Museum to Hyde Park without getting tired, climb the stairs in the Statue of Liberty with reasonable ease to look out the windows at the top. So I’d measure it by a sort of functionality, and like you, not by a weight on a scale.


  2. What about flexibility? Also, these goals seem to correlate to the sports/ workouts that you already enjoy. Could you add some goals that encourage you to get out of your comfort zone? For instance, you seem drawn to fast-twitch workouts for your legs (and I get this, I am the same), such as sprints, cycling (to a lesser extent) and cross-fit bursts (I know they are not only fast-twitch, but you get my drift). What about a goal that would encourage different ways of working, something like ‘at least once a month, I will try a new class such as Zumba or ballet dancing’ — something that asks your muscles to do something different?


  3. Swimming will take me out of my comfort zone for sure. At my first tri, I was the last person out of the water who wasn’t rescued! I’d love to try some sort of dance classes though…and I like the “try something different” idea as a goal.


  4. Hi Sam B,

    First just want to say that I really appreciate your blog. Second, I am becoming more and more skeptical of the word “fitness”. When we use the word as related to sport, nutrition and exercise, we seem to give it some content beyond being successful in one’s niche. You are fit if you eat paleo and can run a 1/2 marathon or something like that. Different animals are fit for different environments and I like to think that different athletes are fit or unfit to perform different tasks. A 400 lbs sumo is fit for sumo wrestling and a 85 lbs gymnast is fit for gymnastics. It would be wrong headed to say that one is more fit than the other in any regard other than one is more fit for their sport relative to the other’s fitness for their chosen activity. If these two were to switch sports the would instantly become wildly unfit. The upshot of this for non-sport specific individuals I think would a the need to craft a more individualized conception of fitness. This individual would have a set of personal goals against which to measure their performance. If their goals are in conflict, e.g. put on 40lbs of muscle and run an ultra marathon then they may have to revise their conception of fitness. I am interested to hear your thoughts?


  5. I agree that ‘fit’ and ‘fitness’ have a few different meanings and maybe it’s not the most helpful concept. You’re right that there really is ‘fit’ for a specific task. Even within sports, say cycling, hill climbers aren’t sprinters and a really fit hill climber will look different and perform differently than a sprinter, When you move between sports, you’re right that it gets harder still. You can’t train for a marathon and build muscle. You can’t weight train and build muscle and then compete in events that penalize weight. Again, hill climbing is my favourite example but rowers face this same issue. Maybe I’ll say a bit about the sense of the term I’m interested in. What I’d like is to achieve is a kind of base level across activities that allows me to try new things without worrying about a fitness barrier. One of the things that’s appealed to me about Crossfit is the ‘cross’ part, I like the mix of strength and speed workouts. That’s part of the appeal of triathlon too. The extremes don’t interest me. No marathons in my future though I’d like to get good at 5 km.

    I like thinking of general fitness as having elements. Here’s the breakdown I’ve seen in various Crossfit journals, etc:

    1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance

    2. Stamina

    3. Strength

    4. Flexibility

    5. Power

    6. Speed

    7. Coordination

    8. Agility

    9. Balance

    10. Accuracy

    ( and also

    So yes, individualized fitness for specific sports but I still think there is a cross-sport account of fitness we can give.


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