A Brief Explanation of Fitness
Fitness, most broadly defined, is the ability to handle the demands of your life. Each of us has both different and unpredictable demands. A firefighter has no idea how big the fire will be on his next call, just as Grandma has no idea how heavy each grocery bag will be the next time she goes to the store. Very different concerns, for certain, but the ability to handle each requires the same basic abilities. As Coach Glassman has said for years, “The needs of our grandparents and soldiers differ in degree, not kind.” These needs are the functional competencies to move our own bodies and external objects through three-dimensional space.
The CrossFit exercises that we use the most are what we have found to be the most effective ways to build a broad, general, and inclusive functional competence. Squatting, picking things up off the ground, putting things overhead, pulling ourselves up, running, jumping, throwing; these are the movements of life, and done with intensity, they prepare us for the demands of life.
Many people wonder why CrossFit workouts are timed. There are several reasons for this, the most important being intensity. Remember that average power is work divided by time. The same work done in less time is more power and more intensity. Your first workouts should be done at a relatively low intensity. This is essential for you to both learn the proper mechanics of the movements and to let your body acclimate to the workload. Every time you repeat a workout, you can compare your performance and see if you are increasing your power (therefore intensity).
For example, if you do exactly the same number of reps at the same loads in less time, your intensity went up. If you increased the loads and kept the same time (or finished even quicker), your intensity went up. These direct comparisons give you a quantifiable gauge to the increase of your fitness. You are measuring the changes in your capacity and scientifically proving that you are getting fitter and more capable.
CrossFit has a concise yet comprehensive definition of fitness that is a bit of a mouthful: Fitness is increased work capacity across broad time, modal, and age domains. What this means is that you have functional capacity in all different types of movements at a variety of durations of effort, throughout your life. If you are increasing this broad work capacity, you will be competent at both short bursts of activity and extended, longer workouts.
The great majority of functional movements are complex and difficult to master. But the advantages of developing proficiency in them far outweigh the inconvenience and effort required to learn them. There are physical and neurological benefits uniquely associated with these movement patterns, benefits that translate broadly into the various movements and skills of life.
For a more in-depth discussion on technique and its affect on fitness, read Greg Glassman’s revolutionary feature CrossFit Journal article, What Is Fitness? http://journal.crossfit.com/2002/10/what-is-fitnessby-greg-glassm.tpl
To be continued…
Coming in Part 3: Start with the Squat
About the Author
Todd Widman is a former Marine, and a CrossFit Level 4 trainer. He spends a significant portion of his time traveling around the country (and world) working the CrossFit Level 1 and Level 2 seminars.
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