We could sit here all day and debate which star athlete is more fit. You see the problem with defining true fitness is that there is no single test to find it. You can easily tell who has a stronger deadlift by setting up a bar and seeig who can lift the most weight. In the same way you can see who has the fastest mile time by going to a track and running a mile race. In order to try and answer this question of what is fitness and who is fit CrossFit founder Greg Glassman wrote an article titled “What is Fitness” way back in 2002. Even though it is 15 years old at this point it is still a great article. Since it is very long I am going to break it down in sections and post it here for you over the next several weeks so that you can digest it and think about it.
In this first part of the article Glassman talks about who the public thinks of as fit and why there may be a case both for and against that argument. He goes on to describe his theory of World-Class Fitness and how to achieve it. Enjoy!
Part 1 – What is fitness and who is fit? (By Greg Glassman, CrossFit Journal, OCT 2002)
“In 1997, Outside Magazine crowned triathlete Mark Allen “the fittest man on Earth.” Let us just assume for a moment that this famous six-time winner of the IronMan Triathlon is the fittest of the fit. Then what title do we bestow on the decathlete Simon Poelman, who also possesses incredible endurance and stamina yet crushes Mr. Allen in any comparison that includes strength, power, speed and coordination?
Perhaps the definition of fitness does not include strength, speed, power and coordination, though that seems rather odd. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “fitness” and being “fit” as the ability to transmit genes and being healthy. No help there. Searching the Internet for a workable, reasonable definition of fitness yields disappointingly little. Worse yet, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the most respected publisher in exercise physiology, in its highly authoritative “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning,” does not even attempt a definition.
For CrossFit, the specter of championing a fitness program without clearly defining what it is that the program delivers combines elements of fraud and farce. The vacuum of guiding authority has therefore necessitated that CrossFit provide its own definition of fitness. That is what this article is about: our “fitness.”
Our pondering, studying, debating about and finally defining fitness have played a formative role in CrossFit’s successes. The keys to understanding the methods and achievements of CrossFit are perfectly embedded in our view of fitness and basic exercise science.
It will come as no surprise to most of you that our view of fitness is a contrarian view. The general public both in opinion and in media holds endurance athletes as exemplars of fitness. We do not. Our incredulity on learning of Outside’s awarding a triathlete the title of “fittest man on Earth” becomes apparent in light of CrossFit’s models for assessing and defining fitness.
CrossFit makes use of three different standards or models for evaluating and guiding fitness. Collectively, these three standards define the CrossFit view of fitness. The first is based on the 10 general physical skills widely recognized by exercise physiologists. The second standard, or model, is based on the performance of athletic tasks, while the third is based on the energy systems that drive all human action.
Each model is critical to CrossFit, and each has distinct utility in evaluating an athlete’s overall fitness or a strength-and-conditioning regimen’s efficacy. Before explaining in detail how each of these three perspectives works, it warrants mention that we are not attempting to demonstrate our program’s legitimacy through scientific principles. We are but sharing the methods of a program whose legitimacy has been established through the testimony of athletes, soldiers, cops and others whose lives or livelihoods depend on fitness.”
Glassman, Greg. (2002, OCT). What is Fitness? The CrossFit Journal. Retrieved from: https://journal.crossfit.com/article/what-is-fitness