What does fitness mean to you? This is a question that many people struggle with. It’s a question you need to ask yourself often. The answer to that question will give you a lot of direction when it comes to achieving your goals.
I also pose the question, “What should fitness mean to you?” If you don’t have a different answers for these two very different questions, then you’re on the right track.
Most people have very different answers. Most people are so lost in the first scenario that they limit their chance to correctly answer the second one. And that’s the real one, the ultimate one. The one that matters the most.
Fitness should be a journey to discover who you are and what you’re capable of. It’s a chance you give yourself to become the best version of yourself. It’s an opportunity for self discovery. It’s an opportunity to erase those negative voices and beliefs that have limited you in the past. It can be powerful and magical. It can also be very freeing and enlightening. Through fitness you can make yourself healthier, younger, stronger, leaner, calmer, more energetic, more confident and more capable of doing positive things.
When you are fit, people will see you differently, starting with how you see yourself. They will be more likely to want to emulate you. They will be more likely to follow where you lead them. What will you show them? Where will you take them?
Of all the great things we get from fitness there is one that should remain near the top. Fitness should also add humility. It should make you more humble that you have been allowed to have the things you have attained. Look around you. How many people do you see who are fit and healthy? How many people have been put in position to have the opportunity you do to help and inspire others? No, it wasn’t always easy for you. Yes, you earned much of what you have. But you were also given a great many gifts that others may not have been.
So what will you do when you are fit? Where will you take those who want to follow you? What will they see when they look at you?
Last week a women I coach contacted me about a friend of her’s who’s getting ready to compete in a show. “His coach has him on 5 kinds of drugs and now wants to put him on GH and DNP (a drug linked to some recent deaths in bodybuilding-it just melts your insides away)! He’s super drained already on a really strict diet, doing 5-6 days of cardio and the other day could taste blood in his month coming from his chest! I’m really worried for him!”
That is not fitness! Not for the athlete and certainly not for the drug dealer coach!
Last year, a self-made fitness celebrity came into my gym straight from their booth at the Fit Expo. Although he’s larger than life, he seems like a very nice guy. He’s famous for his straight forward and frank approach to communicating within the fitness industry about the things he sees. But he has an almost cartoonish look to him that undercuts much of his message. By himself, he might be refreshing. But now he has a following and they basically took over the place in an almost self-entitled, “We are the elite 5 percent” type of way. It’s not that they weren’t nice or friendly or didn’t look amazing. It’s simply that the message they delivered while practically shutting down part of the gym to do their selfie-shoot was one of superiority, whether they intended it to be or not, whether they believe it or not. The leader was actually the only one who was a bit apologetic and had a look on his face of “what have I created?”
That is not fitness.
As important as fitness can be, you have to leave a degree of emotional separation between you and your fitness level. You are not more important when you are more fit, or less important when you are less fit. Don’t beat yourself up for not being where you want to be. Don’t feel superior if you are fortunate enough to accomplish things that maybe others are not able to. Being fit won’t make you into a better person. Being a better person will make you into a better person. Being more fit or less fit should not elevate or deflate you. But being more fit or less fit can greatly affect your opportunities to see and bring out the best in yourself and in others. And when you are fit and when you are looked upon to be someone’s leader, where will you take them?
In college I worked in the dorms as a Resident Advisor. Towards the last week of classes one year we planned an athletic event. It would consist of two-person, coed teams put through a series of challenges and obstacles. There would be some cool prizes for the winners and it quickly became a big deal. By far, my friend Jeff was the favorite to win it all. There was a line of athletic young ladies hoping to be partnered with him. He could have easily chosen any one of ten girls and just his superiority alone would have ensured victory. When I actually saw who he chose, he became even greater than we all believed him to be. He chose a girl who in no way would have ever participated in this on her own. Who I knew he had to convince just to come and be a part. A girl who he had absolutely no chance of winning with. A friend he wanted to help become more fit.
As they went through the obstacles together, Jeff was so helpful and encouraging. A smile never left his face as he matched his pace to hers. When they finally finished, well behind the majority of teams, you could see how proud and relieved she was to have done it. And you could see how happy and proud Jeff was for her and of her. He took his fitness gifts and endeavored to help someone see themselves as better and more capable than they ever believed. He changed her life. He led us all by his example.
That is fitness!
Photo: Terry Goodlad Model: Elaine Goodlad