Tuesday, July 24, 2007
How Fit Do You Need to Be?
A while back, I got into an online discussion with a well-known fitness coach. We had somewhat differing viewpoints, and while cleaning up the hard drive -- a way to relax after sprinting to make a book deadline -- I came across my last posting on the subject in the exchange. It still seems valid, so I thought I'd share it:
No question, sir, that you know more about building muscle and increasing fitness than do I, I'll stipulate that. But the how is not the same as the why.
Fitness can be a goal in itself, or a means to an end. You can increase your strength because you want to be strong, or because you have some associated need and use for it -- as a adjunct to a sport, or a job, or a hobby.
How strong you need to be is not the same as how strong (or fit) you want to be.
How strong do you need to be to sit at a word processor? Not very.
To buck hay bales? To enter the World's Strongest Man competition? Different needs. Being in shape can increase your quality of life, no question, but the best way to live a long life is still to choose your parents wisely. Nobody has yet proven that working out makes you live longer. Better quality, yes. Longer? No.
So unless it is a necessity, it comes to a choice. How much energy you are willing to spend to attain a certain level of strength and/or fitness? If it is your hobby -- or your profession -- you are apt to have a different attitude than if it isn't either.
Sound mind in a sound body -- mens sana in corpore sano -- but what constitutes "sound" is open to debate. Does everybody need to be able to run a four-minute mile or to bench press a Volvo? No. Not many people can do either, (and there aren't, I suspect, a lot -- if any -- folks who can do both.) I don't need either, I couldn't get there even if I wished, so there is no point in training for such -- the risks in trying, vis a vis physical damage? Too great.
Options are good, but what you have to pay to have them is sometimes more expensive than you can afford, and in some cases, not attainable in any event. Age takes away certain abilities and while you can fight the good fight, you can't beat gravity -- it always wins in the end. At least it always has so far on this planet.
As physical beings, we have limits. The fit ninety-five-year-old who runs is admirable, but he can't beat the fit twenty-year-olds, no matter how hard he trains, nor how much he can improve his baseline skills. It's the nature of the equipment. Fifty might be the new thirty, but ninety-five, as they say, is still eighty ...