Written by Jon Jorgensen
I recently listened to the podcast linked below and a couple parts struck a chord with something I’ve been thinking about for a long time in the CrossFit and greater fitness community.
Before CrossFit came around and created a definition for fitness, no one had a concrete definition for it. To date, Webster’s definition reads, “the quality or state of being fit.” Clearly, that definition doesn’t help us in our quest to understanding fitness. In a nutshell, CrossFit’s definition of fitness is the ability to do work across all time domains and modes. Essentially, we say it is the ability to jump higher, run faster, throw farther, and lift more, all while doing it for longer periods of time.
Most people would assert that health and fitness is, in essence, the same thing. I want to challenge that notion and say that health and fitness can be related, but can also be completely unrelated. Most people would agree that someone who is very unfit is more than likely to be not very healthy, however, we do know that there are many people that are incredibly fit, and also not very healthy at the same time. There are countless stories of athletes who died well before their time for health related reasons, all the while a growing population is living longer while being very unhealthy with today’s medicine. And of course, many athletes have risked their health by using performance-enhancing drugs, all while reaping the fitness benefits of those drugs.
The reason this is important for us in the CrossFit community is that most of us just want to look good and be healthy. And in our quest for health, we chase fitness. We’ve been told for years that if we exercise for a certain amount per week, say 1 hour, 3x-5x per week, we are well on our way to health and longevity. Of course, putting in your time in the gym is well documented to have positive health benefits. I’m certainly not arguing against that, however, are we really moving down the right path by focusing on the 3-5 hours a week of exercise and neglecting to think about how we are spending the other 165?
I think there is a common misconception that if someone puts their time in at the gym each week, that it somehow will make up for poor nutritional habits and/or sedentary behavior outside the gym. I cannot tell you how many people I have worked with that exercised religiously 5x/week, becoming reasonably fit in the process, but were also not able to lose the fat that they wanted to lose. Then there have been others who have maybe not been so religious about going to the gym and could lose weight much more easily. One of the main underlying factors I found was what the clients and athletes were doing when they were NOT in the gym.
It is my assertion that our bodies were meant for movement. I’m not talking exercise, necessarily; I’m talking the opposite of being sedentary. The clients I have that are more physically active outside the gym tend to have a much easier time losing weight and keeping it off. Of course, body fat is only one measure of overall health but you understand the point.
On top of the weight loss benefits of more movement throughout the week, there is also the idea of biomechanics. I know many of you that have desk jobs can attest to having a harder time getting into the correct positions of so many of the lifts and movements we perform. We all know the new saying, ‘’sitting is the new smoking,” and that our bodies to take on the shapes and postures that we spend the most time in. But what if it’s more complicated than that. What if standing at a desk all day long and not moving is just as detrimental? Standing without moving is also being sedentary.
I know many of you are stuck at a desk all day long, whether sitting or standing, and are thinking, “What am I supposed to do.” I would say think about all the elements of your life that you CAN positively affect. For example, do you watch much TV or play video games while sitting? After you sit all day long at work, do you go home and sit even more? When you come to the gym, are there 5-10 extra minutes you can spend taking your joints through a full range of motion? Do you enjoy your days off by sitting around or are you willing to get outside and enjoy nature? Do you have kids, and if so, do you play with them actively? Are you casting parts of your body by wearing certain types of clothing, thereby decreasing your body’s functionality? How much time do you spend looking at your phone, putting your head and neck in compromising positions?
The goal is not to put a guilt trip on you but to stimulate your thoughts on how to improve your life through movement. Modern technology has had a large effect on our ability to do things conveniently, but that convenience has come at a cost to our health. I have found that simply taking some time to get outside and walk can have a profoundly positive effect on our bodies physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I have also found more physical activity outside the gym to improve my own fitness inside the gym. We should start focusing on our health as a whole and not just in regards to our level of fitness. After all, most of us do CrossFit to enjoy life, live longer, and of course, to look better naked!
If this topic interests you, check the podcast below.