The surprising truth about ‘being fit’

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer

As a writer, I enjoy playing with words.  As a fitness professional, I enjoy exercise.  As a scientist, I often ponder what is going on deep within our bodies, at the cellular level.  I like to think that, at least during part of each day, I have an awareness of how those 3 worlds weave themselves together, and how grateful I am for the ability to pursue these endeavors. 

The word “awareness” can be loosely defined as possessing a degree of what is happening around you, employing all of your senses, and acting in accordance with what you discover.   It follows, then, that the word “fitness” might be thought of as possessing or striving to achieve a level of being “fit”.  Therein lies the rub in today’s society: What doe is really mean to be fit? 

Sure, we all like to look our best, because our confidence gets boosted and we can put a smile on our faces.  Many individuals enter a gym, take a look around, and immediately identify a member or trainer whose physique they admire, then set about to achieve their version of “perfection” by being dedicated to their workouts.  Is this “being fit”?

If you are seeking a trainer, on which aspect do you place more emphasis: his overall leanness and well-developed muscularity, or how he seems to interact with his client and the education/experience he possesses?  Ask yourself if your trainer or Group Exercise instructor has to look a certain way in order for you to place your trust in him.  As one who is both an instructor and a trainer, I can tell you that there are members of my profession all over the world who feel pressure from both sides: the demand to look like the muscle magazines while also possessing the drive to acquire and share knowledge to clients.  Society has applied the vice grip, and every recreational athlete out there senses it.  As professionals, we strive to be a role model to those we serve, and exhibit not just a good amount of credible information, but also a shape that reflects a healthy lifestyle.  But is that necessarily what the general population is seeking?  Sadly, not so much.

Does one’s outer skin reflect one’s level of fitness and commitment to a balanced lifestyle?  What does it take to get a physique that the magazines call “beach ready in 4 weeks”?  Some individuals believe that such a goal is laudable, and are willing to starve themselves and over-exercise in an effort to be what they consider “the fittest one on the beach”.   Is it only society who is to blame? Or has the industry itself promoted a somewhat skewed definition of “success”?

Believe it or not, there really is a balance somewhere out there! Professionals in fitness, coaching, and instructing are just beginning to thaw the tip of that oh-so-rigid iceberg, redefining the parameters of wellness.  After you have been working out reasonably for 4 weeks, as yourself these simple questions:

  • Am I pain-free and injury-free?
  • Has my daily energy increased?
  • Have I altered my nutrition significantly and am I now enjoying my new food choices and portion sizes?
  • Is my trainer more invested in my wellness than his paycheck?

Once you are able to answer YES to all of these, you can look in the mirror.  You will be excited to see that the visual changes that you set out to achieve when you joined the gym have, what, magically appeared?  YES, but it isn’t magic.  It’s balance.  It’s a redefining of the sense of “being fit”.  Comparing ourselves to others serves no useful purpose, either.  Genetics, metabolism, and so many other factors play a role in what is one individual’s level of wellness and another’s.

There may come a time when we are not as mobile, agile, or energetic as we are today.  Why wait until then to begin redefining fitness as it applies to your own lifestyle and good health?  Today, start your renewed process of “awareness.”