What Does It Mean To Be “In Shape?”

Am I In Shape?

Recently I got asked this question by a client that was struggling; they could do so many things in the gym that, a year ago wouldn’t have been possible. However, specific activities like running took a toll on their cardio and leg endurance. They were confused and somewhat discouraged that even after a year in the gym certain things still seemed out of reach.

So, after I calmed them down, I decided to take a look at what the internet had to say on what it means to be in shape. Can’t say I was surprised by how many differing opinions on physical health I found. No wonder it is difficult for a novice fitness user to discern whats right from wrong.

A couple of standards being tossed around are waist size, resting heart rate, total weight lifted, endurance in running, pushups you can perform in a minute and on and on and on…

Here is the problem, many of these are not wrong, but individually they don’t solve the puzzle of fitness.

A while back when I was first training, the head instructor for the gym taught us the five finger method.

1- Cardio

2- Push

3- Pull

4- Level Change

5- Core Stability

You take 60-second rounds, pick an exercise for each area and then test the user. Do as many of each exercise as you can and see how they progress in 6-8 week intervals. Cardio and core are done slightly different by measuring how long you can last at activities pertaining to each area.

And while this is still the base to our system we have since added upon this method.

At a certain point in your fitness journey, you will need to gain a higher goal. Something more substantial than losing weight or being healthy. Some fitness users start at this point while others just want to get to the gym and go from there. For the average fitness user, the above Five Finger Method works great, for others though we need more.

For that, we add what I have dubbed “The Big Three.”

Take my client, for example; this particular young lady has lost over 40 pounds in under eight months. By nearly any average person she is “In Shape,” as she lost weight and more than quadrupled her strength in almost every way during that period. But weight loss isn’t her only goal anymore; neither is fitting into that pair of jeans or wearing sleeveless shirts. She wants to run a marathon, or do a tough mudder.

She therefore now needs to change her identity as a fitness user and her definition of in shape.

Now based on her goal of running a 5k in 12 weeks her methods of measurement are as follows,

Big Three

1- 1 Mile Run (Fast Pace Time) 

2- 70 Yard Dash Time

3- Long Distance Run Time (3.5 Miles)  

Keep in mind although these are the criteria she measures her fitness by as her trainers I’m also keeping track of several other numbers. Like hip and core stability, leg and lower back strength, core rotational strength, etc.

But for her ease of mind and simplicities sake, she has three. Then we set numbers to those based on local and national statistics.

Why do you use these criteria?

But Josh, why are you breaking from the norm and making a system that is different?

Honestly, the system sucks.

There is no cookie cutter in the fitness world! No one size fits all or magical pill that works for everyone. The five finger method is excellent in a general sense, but it lacks customization.

Your goals and mine are going to be completely different and therefore so should not only our training methods but also the areas of measurement we use.

Why is this a big deal?

To the average fitness user, they don’t know what the next step is and in the fitness world that can be very confusing and even dangerous.

Let’s say my client has a bad back but hears you can measure your level of fitness by how much you can Rack Squat, bad, bad things can happen to them. We need to understand that fitness isn’t a one size fits all application; it is something we need to customize to fit into our goals and lifestyle.

What does this all mean?

It means that even though you may not be able to do certain things (Or be good at them) your not wasting your time. Various sports, activities, and lifestyles have different training styles and types of endurance they inspire.

We recommend you find a proper personal training, get the basics down and then branch out, see what intrigues you, then figure out what it takes to participate in that activity. Use that as your measure of “Am I in shape or not.”

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