The Three Most Important Qualities of Fitness

When it comes to your body, what are the three most important things that indicate it’s working well and able to do what you want it to do? If you were going to train, and not just workout to burn calories, what would you want that training to improve? What would be the important things to focus on? 

Now, being lean and looking good is important to plenty of people. I’m not talking about how your body looks – that’s more a result of your nutrition. I’m talking about how your body functions. In other words, what can it do?

I’ve come to look at this through the lens of aging. One thing we all have in common is we keep adding years at those birthday parties – that number never seems to go in the other direction. So, when it comes to how well our bodies function, what are the three things we are all going to lose as we age? Let me ask you three questions that might bring some clarity. 

As you age. . .

  1. . . . are you going to get stronger or weaker? 
  2. . . . are you going to be able to do more work or less work? 
  3. . . . are you going to get more mobile or become stiffer? 

These three areas, or qualities of fitness, are the foundation of how your body works. If you compare a young person to an old person, these are the qualities that have glaringly diminished. Now don’t get depressed if you think you’re old, because the body will adapt at any age. And don’t laugh if you think you’re young, because you will keep having birthdays (and if you don’t something much worse has happened to you.)

Let’s take a quick look at these three qualities to help us better understand how they relate to improving our fitness. 

Key Qualities of Fitness 

Strength enables movement. If you don’t have strength, you can’t move. Think about a baby who can’t hold its head up yet. It just has to lie there. Picking its head up is essentially a one-rep-max. But after doing it over and over it gets easier and easier, and strength is slowly built into its body. Eventually that baby gets stronger over time, starts running around, playing sports, and sometimes makes it to the NFL. It all started with that one-rep-max head lift years and years ago.

After strength comes what we commonly call conditioning. Think about going up 10 flights of steps; or moving 10 yards of dirt; or running a 10k. Are you breathing heavy and taking breaks, or is it effortless and enjoyable? We call it conditioning but a name that better relates to the real world is work capacity. How much work can you do, for how long, before you have to take a break? This is going to be very different if you’re 20 then it is if you’re 80. We want to be able to maintain our work capacity for as long as possible. 

And finally comes movement quality, range of motion, or flexibility. Whatever you want to call it, it pertains to the health of your tissues, and more specifically orthopedic health—how well do your joints work. If your tissues and joints are stiff and rigid, movement will be painful and annoying. You’re going to get stiffer and less mobile as you age, so we want to work against that and keep our joints and tissues working well and healthy our whole lives.

All three of these areas should be part of your workouts and programming. When you work out, focus on improving these qualities to ensure that your body is getting the proper training it needs to get strong, move well, and have plenty of energy, for as long as possible.

For a healthier future through personal responsibility,

Dennis Fenrich

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