Fitness, yes but fit for what?

Happy New Year!

For many of us, one of our goals for 2013 is to get more fit. But what do we mean by ‘fit’ exactly?

I’m just home from the Eastern Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association held in Atlanta where I took part in a panel sponsored by the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport.

Defining fitness was one of the topics we discussed. Michael Brady, a philosopher at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale,  gave a great talk called “Crossfit: A Pragmatic Philosophy of Sport” which examined Crossfit’s pluralist account of fitness, of which I’m quite fond.

Writing about Crossfit, here’s what Tony Leyland has to say: “Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.” (Crossfit Journal)

Crossfit has a nice list of the elements which make up fitness:

1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance

2. Stamina

3. Strength

4. Flexibility

5. Power

6. Speed

7. Coordination

8. Agility

9. Balance

10. Accuracy

I’m asked a lot, in the context of this “fittest by fifty” campaign, what it means to be fit. I agree that ‘fit’ and ‘fitness’ have a few different meanings and maybe it’s not the most helpful concept. Some people think there’s only ‘fit’ in the sense of ‘fit for a specific task or event.’ But I like the Crossfit list approach.

The people who think there is only ‘fit for a particular activity’ within sports point to the wide range of abilities that athletes have.

In cycling, hill climbers aren’t sprinters and a really fit hill climber will look different and perform differently than a sprinter. The sprinters in the Tour de France struggle to make it up the mountains. They’re built for explosive speed, not climbing.

When you move between sports, it gets harder still. You can’t train for a marathon and build very much muscle. Body builders limit their cardio. You can’t weight train and build muscle and then compete in events that penalize weight.

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. Marathon runners who can’t lift and weight lifters who can’t run have limited functional fitness.

One of the things that’s appealed to me about Crossfit is the ‘cross’ part, I like the mix of strength and speed workouts.I like the talk of General Physical Preparedness.

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 what my friend Laura terms the middle distances, 5 and 10 km.

You can read more about Crossfit and fitness: and also “What is Fitness? in the Crossfit Journal

So yes, individualized fitness for specific sports but I still think there is a cross-sport account of fitness we can give. And in the new year that’s what I’m aiming for.

How about you?

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