Athletes in explosive sports like football, rugby, lacrosse or track and field might define fitness as the ability to exhibit excellence in that sport. Excellence in one does not guarantee the same in another. For example being a success at football doesn’t automatically mean you will be a success at track; the specifics of training, the type of movements, the skills and the body composition required are too different. In the training world we call this a lack of transferability.
That is not to say a football player cannot be a moderately good track athlete, it has and will continue to be done, but it is not as common as one may think. The exception that proves the rule is Bob Hayes, an Olympian sprinter who translated his success on the track to a successful football career with the Dallas Cowboys.
In the modern era of sports, specialization has become key. With the money involved in sports, and the promise of future sports success comes the one-sport athlete. This is not a bad thing at all, but where does it leave those who want to be fit and don’t play sports at that level? The rest of us go to gyms, run on treadmills or in the streets, we compete in triathlons, we run marathons, we play flag football, softball or anything else to satisfy our urge to compete. Does this make us fit?
Fitness is defined by competence in ten physical skills; strength, speed, power, cardio-respiratory endurance, stamina, coordination, accuracy, agility, balance and flexibility. Those skills are honed using compound multi-joint movements that involve the whole body, also known as movements that work along productive lines of force. It means that a good “fit” CrossFit athlete would exhibit competence at a variety of randomly chosen activities, including but not limited to, tests of limit strength like the deadlift; timed runs of lengths from 100 meters to 15K and above, on the flats and on hills; timed combinations of fairly heavy deadlifts and runs of various lengths repeated in rounds at high intensity, etc. Only the imagination of the trainer limits the tasks.
Life punishes the specialist, life isn’t about sports, it is about lifting up that bag of concrete to pour into your wheelbarrow to spread out on the new sidewalk, it is about chasing after your kids or dogs when they break free from your grip, it is about putting a heavy box in the attic, or loft, above your head, it is about feeling your best and being confident in your appearance and in your performance. It is about being prepared for the challenges of life, and developing it in such a way that supports health and moves beyond wellness into fitness.