Believe it or not, there is no singular definition of fitness.
There is no one test to determine whether you’re ‘in shape’. Though it feels like there are plenty of ways to determine you’re out of shape.
Often we can just look at someone and determine to ourselves if they’re fit. Sometimes you just know, right? Maybe they have big muscles, or a lean figure, or a solid combination of both and we think to ourselves “I wish I was as in shape as them…”
In reality, there are many more factors that determine your fitness level. Just because someone is big doesn’t mean they’re strong. Just because they run often doesn’t mean they’re healthy. In exercise science, we generally split fitness into 10 separate areas, or domains. That is, 10 different areas that can each be trained individually. All of which combine to determine your overall fitness. A truly fit person will have some level of mastery in all of the domains.
Some of these areas are obvious, some you may never have considered before. Listed below are the 10 domains of fitness. Read this list and think to yourself: “Is this area a strength of mine? Which areas are my weakness?” Are you a jack of all trades, or a master of one?
10 Domains of Fitness
Cardiovascular Endurance – The ability of your body to absorb, diffuse, transport, and effectively use oxygen and provide energy over a sustained amount of time.
Strength –The muscle’s ability to apply force while shortening, lengthening, or remaining static. For instance, pressing a heavy weight overhead or holding a heavy weight in place.
Stamina – Storing, processing, and utilizing energy to sustain a given workload. This allows your body to keep working while getting tired.
Flexibility – The ability of a muscle to lengthen through (and beyond) it’s normal range of motion.
Power – A muscle’s capacity to provide maximum force in a short amount of time. For example, jumping on a box.
Speed – Minimal transition time in a movement pattern. An example would be a cyclist’s ability to quickly rotate his feet on the pedals.
Coordination –The ability to efficiently combine multiple movements into a singular pattern. For instance, running one direction while catching a ball.
Agility – Minimal transition times from one movement pattern to the other. Think of sprinting one direction, and quickly turning and sprinting the other direction.
Balance –The ability to recognize and control the body’s center of gravity in relation to its base of support.
Accuracy – Controlling a movement pattern in a given direction at a given intensity or speed. For instance, throwing a ball.
More To It
Looking at these 10 domains, it becomes clear that there is much more than just being strong or lean. In fact, you may have noticed that body weight and fat percentage isn’t even on the list. It’s possible to be strong, enduring, and cardiovascularly fit without taking body weight into account. However, this is only up to a certain point. Eventually excess body fat will interfere with certain factors like the ability to jump (power) or the efficiency with which you can change directions (agility).
It’s also possible to be masterful in one domain while completely ignoring the others. Have you ever seen someone who is super strong, but couldn’t climb a flight of stairs? Maybe they could run for miles but couldn’t change directions if their life depended on it.
In my experience with training various populations, I’ve actually come across many people who are masters of one domain, but grossly lacking in others. One prominent example is a long distance runner who could literally run for days. She had a very high cardiovascular endurance and stamina, ran marathons and ultra marathons. Unfortunately, she didn’t have much power or strength. She couldn’t jump on a box that was knee height! Now while many people may not be able to jump on a 16 in box, it’s a bit unusual for someone who runs marathons. True story. Just because you can master one or two domains doesn’t make you fit.
Be a Jack of All Trades
So how do you improve all domains equally? How can you be the best version of yourself? The simple answer is: Know your strengths, understand your weaknesses. Does your training program consist of doing the same exercises for months and years on end? Do you only ever train one exercise or one direction? If your idea of a workout is a barbell bench press for 3 sets of 10, cardio, go home, then you may be lacking in not only other domains, but perhaps posture and health!
My mantra is “Go where it’s dangerous.” This is a quote given to me by my Judo coach, and I find it holds true for every day life. Go where it’s dangerous. Don’t stay in your comfort zone. Try new things, learn new weaknesses, improve your overall fitness. Can you deadlift your bodyweight? Run a sub-8 minute mile? Survive (and succeed) in a class of yoga? Learn your weakness and improve on it. Be more than just fit.
And of course if you need help identifying and improving your weaknesses, having an accountability partner is always useful. An experienced friend or coach can be a valuable asset. Sometimes just having an outside perspective can make a huge difference.
If you need an extra eye on your training program, or want to reach new heights in your personal journey, schedule a free consultation and fitness assessment with me today!
All the best,
Jeremy Bushong, MS, CSCS