Fitness, health, and wellness are fascinating. They take years upon years to really dial in and truly become fit and healthy. It takes years of dedication and hard work of going to the gym and eating the right foods. Some would argue that there is no end, no finish line, no “I-made-it!” moment. Once you back squat 100lbs, you want to squat 110, and then 120, and so on. Or you run your first 5k, then you want to run it faster, or run a 10k. Is fitness the never ending journey?
First, and relatively quickly, what is fitness?
Greg Glassman, the creator of CrossFit, wrote an article about such question back in 2002. I highly recommend the article, its quite amazing what Greg proposed 16 years ago and how much it holds true today.
“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.”
In order to be "fit" we need to be good at all 10 General Physical Skills on the list below:
2. You should be prepared to perform any and every task imaginable. Picture a hopper loaded with an infinite number of physical challenges, where no selective mechanism is operative, and being asked to perform feats randomly drawn from the hopper. This model suggests that your fitness can be measured by your capacity to perform well at these tasks in relation to other individuals.
^ The Hopper from the 2007 CrossFit Games. What will be the workout? 5 mile run? Max deadlift? 100 Air Squats + 100 Calories on a Rower? You need to be prepared for all of it!
3. Proficiency in all 3 metabolic pathways. Total fitness, the fitness that CrossFit promotes and develops, requires competency and training in each of these three pathways or engines.
^ Think about different timed workouts. Are you better at very short workouts and being intense? Or are you better at very long workouts? These are different metabolic pathways and require different training!
It should be fairly clear that the fitness CrossFit advocates and develops is deliberately broad, general and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing.
Second, and relatively quickly, what is health?
For example, a blood pressure of 160/95 is pathological, 120/70 is normal or healthy, and 105/55 is consistent with an athlete’s blood pressure; a body fat of 40 percent is pathological, 20 percent is normal or healthy, and 10 percent is fit.
Done right, fitness provides a great margin of protection against the ravages of time and disease.
Third, what happens if I take a break from working out?
"Within two weeks you'll probably start to show a 7-10 percent loss in strength levels," Dr Boutagy said.
"Most data suggests that you'll lose at least 70 per cent of the adaptation you've built through exercise after about three months."
That's because when you lose cardio-fitness your heart has to work harder to get enough blood and oxygen to your deconditioned muscles, which require extra fuel because they have had a reduction in some of the important proteins in the energy-producing pathways and components of the muscle tissue, Dr Stepto said.
This results in a higher demand for blood to bring oxygen and remove carbon dioxide and other undesirable by-products of energy production while performing the exact same exercising session you did before having the prolonged break.
“Two to eight months of not exercising at all will reduce your fitness level to as if you never exercised before,” Weiss notes. [Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S, a New York-based exercise physiologist and trainer who works with elite athletes.]
“Speed, endurance, and strength can decrease by 25 to 30 percent within two to three weeks,” says Weiss.
Since exercise helps pump oxygen to the brain—one reason why you may feel sharp after a workout—you may feel a little cloudy or not as ‘on’ after weeks removed from your workout regime, notes McCall.
One factor at play: Both aerobic and strength training boost the neurotransmitter brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps promote the growth of new brain cells and enhances connections between existing ones. “This makes exercise an important part of maintaining cognitive function,” he says.
Dopamine levels also drop as your days in the gym become a thing of the past, which may make you more anxious and fatigued, says Weiss. This feeds into motivation—if you’re tired and stressed you may avoid the gym, creating a vicious cycle. “The longer the time off, the more difficult a time people have starting up once again,” says Holland.
Yes, fitness and health are indeed never ending journeys. But boy are they worth it.
Picture yourself 10, 20, 30 years from now … I’m sure we would all encourage our younger selves to stick with our fitness and healthy eating habits. While some are in nursing homes at 70 because they have trouble taking care of themselves like standing up (squats), putting items in cabinets (shoulder press), or landscaping (deadlift), I fully intend on being that grandpa running marathons at 95. I’m naturally on the extreme side of things, but for many, they just want to be able to play with their grandkids and be able to travel safely. So do you future self a favor, and maintain that fitness!
Owner and Head Coach Rob Olson
My goal is to continually increase my general physical conditioning. I like to be strong while still having an endurance capacity.
Newport Marathon 2015 (3:53)
Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2017 (6:40)
Ironman 140.6 Lake Placid 2017 (14:14)
The North Face (MA) 50k 2018 (8:28)
Bench Press 325lb