The Death Of Fitness

Can you easily and accurately define the word “fitness”. If you are currently paying for fitness products or services—as in, a member of a health club or gym, getting coaching in groups or privately, fitness video programs, etc.—please realize exactly what you’re buying.

Fitness providers will happily claim to offer whatever you think fitness is (sadly, there are almost as many different versions of it as there are people). In other words, fitness has become a catch-all word for anything that has the ability to convince you and everyone else that you’re not a couch potato. The reality is that fitness is an actual thing, and to be unaware of what that thing is means that you are buying a fantasy instead of a reality.

Because fitness is a real thing and NOT whatever you want it to be, there is actually only so much that can be accomplished in the realm of “fitness”. And the chances that any fitness provider can actually provide you with what you are after is slim to none for most people. For that to be well-known would be the death of an entire industry, but perhaps a death that is long overdue. Fitness will always be a thing, but it isn’t relevant to enough people to support an industry devoted to it.

Here is the actual meaning of the word “fitness”: being suited to perform capably at a specific physical challenge. As in, fit for something.

Here’s what fitness is NOT: fitness is not weight loss, fitness is not health, fitness has nothing to do with how you look—toning, “body sculpting” (whatever the hell that is; it sounds so cheesy I’m sure I don’t want to know)—or anything cosmetic, and fitness is not a social gathering. Yet all of those things and more are being sold under the banner of “fitness” at this very moment. They can only get away with that because almost nobody knows what fitness IS; let’s fix that right now.

Here is the actual meaning of the word “fitness”: being suited to perform capably at a specific physical challenge. As in, “fit for something.”

If “fitness” is what you’re buying, or even if what you’re buying is being called fitness, then it is up to you to have a very clear picture of the activity you want to be “fit for”. Even then, you need to ask yourself why you would want to perform at a high level at any one thing, as opposed to the wide range of activities available to us through the full use of human movement. The only reason I can think of for that is to be competitive at the specific challenge you are training for; but those are typically and accurately called “sports”. So, the bottom line is, unless you’re training to compete in a sport with established rules, there really is no point to this thing called “fitness” for the average person.

I ultimately had to admit that the majority of my clients weren’t getting what they really wanted and needed from my coaching or my facility and, as knowledgeable and well-intentioned as it may have been, it was all more likely just a diversion.

The above insight comes from years of experience as a fitness coach. I ultimately had to admit that the majority of my clients weren’t getting what they really wanted and needed from my coaching or my facility and, as knowledgeable and well-intentioned as it may have been, it was all more likely just a diversion. Because of their misunderstanding about meaning of fitness, what they were getting was actually a diversion from their real goal. Yet, modern attitudes on the subject meant that I was forced to bend to their interpretation of fitness, rather than provide any leadership in the matter, but only IF I wanted to make a lot of money (which I did). So my choices were: make a lot of money by continuing to lie and pretend that fitness was whatever the client wanted it to be, or tell the truth and trust that the money would still be there. In the end, truth won out. I would just caution you not to expect the same from your fitness provider.

Here, then, is the truth: what the majority of my clients really wanted was health, not fitness. There were also plenty of people who would actually admit to just wanting to look better, and those that wanted to be better at a sport, but those were such insignificant and easily accomplished goals that the client didn’t need me for anything but companionship and a little accountability. That made more like a hooker more than a coach.

If you can’t distinguish between fitness and health, and one is easier than the other, of course you’ll choose the process called “fitness” every time.

On the other hand, the remainder of my clients (50%+ by my estimation) who just wanted to be healthy first were the ones that I really wanted to help, and the ones who needed the most guidance. They had only adopted fitness as a substitute for health because they had been allowed to use the words interchangeably for so long that the distinction had been lost; even I was fooled into thinking they were the same thing for a long time. The other big reason that people choose fitness over health, besides not knowing the difference, is that fitness is a much easier process than health. If you can’t distinguish between fitness and health, and one is easier than the other, of course you’ll choose the process called “fitness” every time. It is also true that, while fitness is a very public pursuit—in fact people will specifically try to make their fitness results be as visible as possible—health is a very private matter: only you will know how great you feel, and mostly only you will care. So the more a person cares about what others think of them, the more inclined toward fitness they will be. Thus, an industry is born.

Why is the loftier goal of “health” a more difficult road? Because health requires you to change your mind and your lifestyle, fitness does not. In other words, I discovered that health mostly happened in your minute by minute life, not in a concentrated hour inside a cavernous building called a gym. That didn’t leave me much to sell since a concentrated hour and a cavernous building were what I had. But I also had a couple more things: a lot of knowledge and awareness on the subject, and a passion for the higher calling called Quality Of Life. That’s why I’m here today writing these words.

Likewise, if you just want to lose a little weight or look better, that’s okay too, but you should know that there are far easier ways to achieve both of those goals than anything called fitness.

Achieving a maximum Quality Of Life (of which health is a prime component) will obviously involve some activity, but it will look very different from anything that goes on in a health club or fitness establishment of any kind. That is another distinction that will be important for you to know.

If you’re paying “fitness” dollars to anyone, please ask yourself the following questions: “What sport am I training for?” And, “Why do I want to be an elite performer in that sport?”

I can support anyone who has actual answers to those questions, and hopefully you’ve found a fitness provider that can provide real guidance toward that goal, but the vast majority of people spending fitness dollars have never considered those questions. Likewise, if you just want to lose a little weight or look better, that’s okay too, but you should know that there are far easier ways to achieve both of those goals than anything called fitness. On the other hand, if none of that sounds like you, I would like you to consider an entirely different approach called Quality Of Life.

Where can you find a Quality Of Life coach? Well, here, for one. If there are others, I want to know about them. What I hope we have here is the death of one industry, and the birth of another.

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