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What Does Fitness For The Real World Mean?

Oftentimes, in many aspects of life, we start doing something for a specific purpose, and we get so caught up in doing it, we lose sight of why we are doing it in the first place. Fitness is a lot like that.

Many of the exercises that are common in gym culture are sports-specific, or derived from bodybuilding, and this is fine if you are a professional athlete with an expert guiding your training process, but when it comes to health, wellbeing, and the capability to help yourself and others, a skill-oriented training approach that touches on the full-spectrum of human movement skills is more appropriate. Competence in this full-spectrum of human movement capabilities is true fitness, and this includes skills like balancing, climbing, carrying, running, getting up and down from the ground, crawling, jumping, vaulting over low obstacles, and more. Essentially these are all the skills that would be required of us on a daily basis if we were living in our natural environment.

When we look at the conventional approach to fitness, at face value it’s all about aesthetics. People are motivated to become fit for the purpose of looking better and feeling more respected, confident, and desirable. Goals are often framed as “burning fat”, losing weight, “getting ripped” or toned, and “muscular hypertrophy”. Much of the desire to build the body this way is driven by our social situation, and the media’s portrayal of what a “fit” person should look like.

True fitness isn’t about what you look like, it’s about what you’re capable of. When I say “what you are capable of”, I’m not talking about how heavy of a weight you can lift, or how long you can run before collapsing, or how hard you can push yourself at high intensity without throwing up. I’m talking about capability in the context of physical competence. How adaptable are you? and how well can you move your body to navigate your environment? How limited are you as to how you can help those around you? How useful would you be in responding to an emergency and how much would you be able to rely on your ability to move?

Etymologically, the word “fit” means suitability, and the suffix “-ness” describes a state of being. Fitness in the truest sense of the word means “a state of being suit