What is Fitness?

An Overview of CrossFit

II.                 What is Fitness?

The overall focus of CrossFit programming is developing fitness and consequently health. Before any athlete can start working towards a goal, he or she must understand that goal. This begs us to answer the question; what is fitness? A Google search of a true definition of fitness returns disappointingly little useable information (Google search). Without knowing what fitness is, how can one determine who is the fittest? Is it a power lifter, a marathon athlete, a bodybuilder, a gymnast, or something entirely different? Glassman saw this as a serious issue in the realm of fitness training. In order to address this, in his ground breaking article, “What is Fitness?” he outlines a much more clear, concise and useable three part definition of fitness. It is as follows:

There are ten [as recognized by exercise physiologists] general physical skills. They are cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. [Refer to Endnotes Table 1 for extended definitions] You are as fit as you are competent in each of these ten skills. A regimen develops fitness to the extent that it improves each of these ten skills.

The essence of this [the second] model is the view that fitness is about performing well at any and every task imaginable. Picture a hopper loaded with an infinite number of physical challenges…and being asked to perform tasks randomly drawn from the hopper.  The implication here is that fitness requires an ability to perform well at all tasks, even unfamiliar tasks… In practice this encourages the athlete to disinvest in any established notions of sets, rest periods, reps, exercises, order of exercises, routines, periodization, etc.

There are three metabolic pathways that provide the energy for all human action. These “metabolic engines” are known as the phosphagen pathway, the glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway. The first, the phosphagen, dominates the highest-powered activities, those that last less than about ten seconds. The second pathway, the glycolytic, dominates moderate-powered activities, those that last up to several minutes. The third pathway, the oxidative, dominates low-powered activities, those that last in excess of several minutes. Total fitness…requires competency and training in each of these three pathways or engines. (What is Fitness 2)

With this definition of fitness there is a much clearer goal to strive for. Training to become more capable in a wide range of skills is an attainable goal.  Glassman’s definition of fitness is supported by a number of top kinesiologists, athletic trainers, coaches, chiropractors, psychologists, physical therapists, Olympic weightlifters, professional golfers, and long distance[1] runners associated with CrossFit (Refer to Endnotes Table 3).  The majority of those professionals hold college degrees in their chosen field; have incurred decades of experience in training, and/or use CrossFit as part of their training program in preparation for their professional sports.

[1] “Long distance” refers to any distance greater than one mile.