After nearly 30 years in the fitness profession my philosophy on the true meaning of fitness has changed. What began as the ever elusive pursuit of the perfect body for acceptance among the elite ranks of beautiful people has become simply this; True fitness is the body’s ability to do what you ask it to do.

Keeping this statement in mind not only allows for a wide range and ever changing image of what true fitness looks and feels like, it removes comparison or competition with others. After all, aren’t we really just trying to be fit enough, strong enough and healthy enough to adamantly claim who we are?

If you are not a runner and never desire to be, you shouldn’t compare your body or fitness level to someone who trains to run. This comparison is to the extreme, so let’s bring it back to a level of simply living. How fit are you to run through the demands of your daily life with ease? Are you struggling to simply survive? Does it pain you to rise from a chair or to walk down the stairs? Does it hurt to bend down to feed the cat or pick up your grandchild? These are things you are asking your body to do yet are not fit enough to do with ease. Now let there be no misunderstanding. Attaining a certain level of fitness and improving upon it involves a degree of discomfort as it is a form of change and growth which is always uncomfortable. There is a profound difference between the discomfort accompanying improving performance and the pain that goes along with immobility and dis-ease.

Ascertaining what your level of fitness is comes down to one question: What is it you desire to do? Do you want to play tennis or squash? Do you want to be able to lift heavy things? Do you want to be able to swim across the lake at your cottage, ride your bike to the top of a mountain or maybe even sail the great lakes? In 2013 I decided I wanted to compete in a figure competition. Although I was extremely fit with respect to cardiovascular conditioning and low weight, high repetition strength work, I had little to no personal experience with the kind of weight training required to achieve my goal. By many standards I was fit, but nowhere near fit enough to stand on stage and be judged for my physique. So I changed my focus, changed my workouts, changed my diet and worked on my fitness. Your fitness goals do not need to be extreme but they do need to be celebrated once reached and then reset if you have a strong desire to ask your body to do something different. Change is growth, and if you’re not growing you’re dying, so at the risk of becoming complacent mix it up. Inspire yourself to a new level of fitness by exposing yourself to new activities for the experience they will provide and not necessarily for how they will improve your body. It’s about being able to fully participate in all life has to offer because that is what enhances your experience in this physical body.

I ask that you be kind to your idea of what you believe your optimal level of fitness to be. Celebrate the things you ask your body to do that it performs with ease. Maintain the level of fitness you desire to truly participate in life with gratitude and without the constant pressure of not being fit enough.  But should the day come when you want or need your body to do more, go for it, and improve your fitness accordingly.

In health and happiness,

Sheila xo