When it comes to fitness, we all know what’s good for us and what’s not. That early morning yoga class? Pretty good. Going right to the couch after work and curling up with a bag of chips? Not so good.
Research on the topic is abundant as well. It’s irrefutable that weight, level of physical activity, and dietary choices have an impact on our overall health. So with all this knowledge out there, why do so many of us still struggle to actually do anything to change our fitness?
The answer lies in one simple question: “What are you fit for?”
For example, both Person A and Person B might be tired after a long day of work, but go on a walk. Afterwards, Person A thinks, “Well, that was just a short walk but it was a great way to stretch my legs, and it felt good to get moving!” Person B, on the other hand, thinks, “That was such a short walk. That didn’t burn very many calories – I might as well have not gone.”
Person A has answered their “What am I fit for?” They would say, “I’m fit because I love how exercise makes me feel!” Person B does not know what they’re fit for, and considers their activity a chore that only exists to burn a certain amount of calories – and if they can’t meet that goal every single time, why bother?
Which person do you think is more likely to keep working on their fitness long-term? And, more importantly, which one will be happier?
The first step to answering your “What am I fit for?” is seeing fitness activities as things that are fun and rewarding, even if you only do a little, rather than things that have negative consequences if you don’t do enough. Although both are true, they create totally different mindsets.
Here are some “What am I fit for” answers to help spark your own:
“I’m fit for my kids.”
I want to have the energy and ability to keep up with my kids. Before, I had to sit on the park bench and watch them play, because I’d get tired long before they did. I didn’t want to miss out on that experience – they’re only young once, you know. So I started to improve my fitness. Now I can run after them. It’s much better family time this way!
“I’m fit because I like proving people wrong.”
I’ve always been told that I’m “too thin” (my family is all tiny). Plus, I’m pretty short, so I felt like people were always making the assumption that I was weak or fragile. I took up weight training because it seemed like something that no one would expect me to do. When I started, I could barely lift the lightest dumbbells for more than a few repetitions. Now I can lift up to 40 lbs. in some exercises! I don’t look all that different, but I feel great.
“I’m fit for my girlfriend.”
No, not because she’s that superficial. She loves me no matter how I look. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to look good for her. But I also want to be healthy so we can spend a long life together. If we ever have kids, I want to set a good example for them, too.
“I’m fit because I love a challenge.”
I ran track in high school and enjoyed it. I quit running when I went to college, but I always missed it. Life (full-time job, two kids, knee injury) just kept getting in the way. Not long ago, I decided to start jogging again, just around my neighborhood. There’s such a joy in being able to move, even if I’m slower now than when I was running competitively. I just try to do a little more each day, and remember that the only person I’m competing against is myself!
“I’m fit for my sport!”
I started training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu when I was a teenager, and I fell in love with it (for those of you who don’t know, Brazilian jiu-jitsu or BJJ is a martial art/sport involving grappling). After a few years, I started competing in tournaments. Now, obviously you want to be in good shape for any competitive sport, but it’s essential for BJJ. Tournaments are divided by weight for fairness, so you don’t want a lot of “excess luggage.” It’s no fun being the guy who’s 190 lbs. because he’s overweight going against the guy who’s 190 lbs. of all muscle – trust me, I’ve been there.
“I’m fit for my mental health.”
I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in college. I know it's different for everyone, but for me, exercise has been one of the best ways for me to manage my conditions. Some days it’s hard, because the depression makes me tired. But if I push myself through even a short workout, I feel so much better, and proud of myself for accomplishing something.
“I’m fit because I love exploring.”
I’ve always loved the great outdoors: hiking, rock climbing, camping, you name it! I started doing all of these activities simply for fun. Fitness wasn’t a factor. But then I realized that the better cardio, strength and endurance I have, the more I can do the things I love, and the longer I can do them for! So I started working to improve my fitness. I’ll still be up in the mountains when I’m 90!
“I’m fit for my job.”
I’m a personal trainer, so if I don’t practice a healthy lifestyle, why should my clients listen to me? But I’m not perfect. It’s like I tell them: “I have days where I mess up. I skip workouts; I forget to eat breakfast and have fast food instead. But the next day, I get right back on track!” To me, developing your fitness is just like developing any other skill, whether that’s painting, or writing, or chess – practice it every day and you’ll become amazing!
At the end of the day, only you can decide the answer to your “What am I fit for?” Just remember that your reason should be something that’s important enough to you that you’ll want to stick with your fitness goals. Now go forth and have fun on your fitness journey!
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