In any given conversation about creating a healthy lifestyle or restoring health and wellness, some variation of this question is going to be asked: “How much do I have to work out?” 

To which I provide some variation of this answer: “Enough to meet your goals.” 

And then I inevitably have to clarify that fitness has multiple definitions. My two favorites are:

  1. “The quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.”
  2. “Work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”

 The first definition is initially the most applicable to the most people. It implies that you are fit if you can do what you want to do, or what you must do. Easy, right? Seems like it means most people are fit. Yeah? Well…. Not really. We start off fit and through the glory of youth we do everything we must do and most things we want to do without a lot of excessive training required. That often lasts through our teens and sometimes twenties. But if we do not engage in some form of physical training, our thirties come along and we start to feel our bodies put on the brakes. Without physical training, by our forties most of us are really slowing down or already stopped. And in our fifties… you get the picture. 

So what is often happening is that people have sailed through their twenties and well into their thirties while being suitable to full their particular role or task. But less-than-active and less-than-nutritious lifestyle choices take their toll and eventually a person reaches the conclusion that their body is not going to get better without active and nutritious lifestyle changes. And now “How much do I have to work out?” becomes, “What will I have to do to get back to decent shape so that I can do what I want to do or need to do?”  The answer to THAT question depends on how far they let themselves go and how badly do they want to fix the problems. (Spoiler: Everyone is unique in their journey and different conditions or goals require different training approaches.) 

The second definition of “fitness” directly applies to fewer folks. However, it is the one I prefer and I think it has more tangible value. The second definition means that you are more fit as you can do more activities across a wider variety of tasks. The person who can run a mile is less fit than somebody who can run the same mile while wearing a 45lb weight vest, who is less fit than somebody does the same mile with the same vest but they also did 200 reps with the jump rope with the vest before starting their mile. Therefore, using this definition, I can measure my conditioning based on my ability to complete the biggest variety of activities as effectively as I possibly can. 

The Post-Normal application of fitness follows along with the second definition. Most people would experience the most benefit from diversifying their fitness training, focusing on the use of proper form, and developing the skills necessary to gradually increase their training intensity. The result would be increased ability to perform more functions across a varied of tasks, which is critical to a healthy, active Post-Normal lifestyle.


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