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February 07, 2013

A Few Words on the Definition of Fitness and Fitness to Spare...

Written by Dena Evans

Merriam-Webster defines fitness as a noun with the following two meanings:


  1. The condition of being physically fit and healthy
  2. The quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task


Although running can (and we hope it is) a long-term, healthy lifestyle activity with no end in sight, it also encourages the occasional evaluative exercise – periodic tests  where runners can challenge themselves against their expectations for either or both definitions.


Occasionally, the average runner will succeed in both, and if you train with runcoach, we want to make sure that success is more than occasional.  Sometimes, we as runners succeed in the first by measurements taken in the doctor’s office, while being held back from succeeding in the second due to forces beyond our control, like weather, hills, or water stations that run out.  Likewise, we can be capable of a certain task or distance, but perhaps not the one we need (fast, but no endurance, lots of endurance, but no speed), or with the health required to actually complete the job on the day (blister, turned ankle, flu).


We value being physically fit and our health as important running goals, because they allow for a more vibrant, full, and long live, and provide a broader platform from which to choose our pursuits; race goals included.  Fulfilling purpose in a race allows us to apply the first definition to a specific aim, guided perhaps by workouts geared exactly toward the type of preparation needed. This is where we come in.


Runners often approach a fitness goal with both aims in mind.  Unfortunately, these dual goals can be knocked off track by tangential aims which are temptingly close to these core definitions, but which often can draw us away from the mark.  Weight loss can be good for overall fitness if indicated by a medical professional, but is definitely not always synonym for the achievement of fitness.  Likewise, The ability to accomplish a task is not the same as being properly prepared to do it safely.  How many of us have heard of or know people who have completed marathons off of woefully inadequate training.  They have made it, but the next day, we don’t envy their body’s task as it recovers.


The good thing about both definition of fitness is that the evaluation of whether or not we have met the mark is completely subjective.  Sure, there are generally understood measures of health, but only we know what aspects of overall body fitness are the knobs we need to twist first and most often.  Similarly, the “task” we are trying to be suited for is completely open for our own interpretation and therefore the accomplishment can be legitimate even if celebrated by us alone.


While according to Merriam-Webster, either of these definition are labeled “fitness”, ideally, the goals you choose will incorporate a consideration of both.   If you are able to marry your best interest in the sustainable long-term with a nearer term concrete goal or task, you’ll walk away with not only just fitness, but fitness to spare.