A few years back, most likely over a bottle of wine and a plate of cheese and crackers (because, why not?), my sister asked me a question, “How do you know when you’re ‘fit enough?’”
It’s a good question.
No one in my family is exactly a slouch when it comes to fitness, and when you’re in pursuit of the perfect balance of health, strength, endurance and a great physique, it can be hard to discern what’s good, what’s great and when, exactly, you might be pushing yourself too far. Where do you draw the line? What constitutes the “ideal” level of fitness?
As someone who’s obsessed with true crime TV shows, I gave my sister my standard answer – “You should be fit enough to have the stamina and strength to break free from a kidnapper and outrun them to safety, probably while barefoot. Maybe having not eaten for a few days. It can’t hurt to be strong enough to inflict some damage, too – punch through their jugular with a pencil or something.”
I might be a twisted weirdo.
Defining “fit enough” for worst case scenarios
I then went on to offer a more tangible answer – “’Fit enough’ is subjective, it will vary from person to person, but I do think it’s important to think about ‘fit enough’ in relation to worst case scenarios. Are you fit enough to run a few miles at a fast clip if you need to seek help? Are you fit enough to climb out of a second-floor window and jump to safety if your house is burning down? Are you fit enough to carry a child or drag an adult to safety after a serious car wreck?
“These are all functional forms of fitness, and I think it’s incredibly important to think about workouts and goals in relation to how they transfer to everyday worst case scenarios.”
This approach to “fit enough” came alive in my own life two years ago when my dad, a 6’5”, 280-pound monster of a man was stung by a wasp and went into anaphylactic shock. One minute he was sitting in a chair feeling woozy, and the next he was leaning forward, passed out, choking on his own vomit and I was the one there who needed to respond.
I, a 6’0”, 150-pound woman without stellar upper body strength had to get someone twice my weight from the chair to the ground safely, and fast.
I wrapped my arm around his torso, from his waist to his shoulder, squatted low, and with as much control as possible, walked laterally, remaining low, while supporting his body weight until his chair began to tip, helping me lower him to the ground.
At the time, I didn’t think twice about it. Adrenaline was flooding my system, and I’m sure it helped me support his weight, but afterward? I was sore for days. I’d clearly done something my body wasn’t used to, but it was still fit enough to do.
I’m happy to report my dear old dad survived and has yet to be stung by a wasp again. Knock on wood.
Defining “fit enough” for life’s best opportunities
I stand by my original definition of “fit enough,” but something took place recently that gave me a reason to broaden the scope of my point of view – I got to say “yes” to an unexpected opportunity that, happily, I was fit enough to do.
For the last five months, I’ve been working on my first, nationally-published workout book, and my editor and publisher scheduled the five-day photo shoot to take place in late April. They lined up the models, photographer and locations, and all I needed to do was show up and make sure the models and photographer were capturing the book’s exercises correctly.
Or so I thought.
The first day of the shoot, five minutes before I left my house to head to the location, I received a panicked message from my editor, “One of the models can’t show up today. I don’t have any other options. Laura, would you be at all willing to step in? We’ll pay you the model fee, too.”
Uhhhh, yes please. I’m never one to turn down money.
But also, I never imagined I’d be making my fitness modeling “debut” at 34. I stood there for a second thinking to myself, “I certainly didn’t prepare for this… yikes…” while also thinking, “That’s okay, I’m still up for it.”
I said yes.
Apparently they liked me. They hired me for a second day of modeling and I’ll be the first one of their authors to ever appear on the cover of their own book.
Sorry, I’m bragging.
The point is, my everyday preparation for life – my day in, day out workouts and healthy eating regimen put me in the position to say yes to an opportunity I didn’t see coming. An experience I didn’t plan for, but would have regretted missing had I not felt capable or prepared.
Determining your own “fit enough”
As I said at the beginning, determining your own “fit enough” is subjective – it will be different depending on your goals and dreams, your time and commitment, and to a great extent, what your body can handle. I think it’s important to set goals and work toward them – to put time into preparation for life’s planned events, whether that’s your daily workout, an Ironman or a CrossFit competition.
But it’s more than that, too.
“Fit enough” means you’re physically capable of handling life’s unexpected events. It’s being able to fight back when you need to fight, and being able to say “yes” when life hands you a cool opportunity. It’s taking your body and putting it to work for you so you can boldly march forward, confident in your ability to take on life’s challenges and gifts, regardless of when or how they arise.
Granted, this all means an ideal fitness level is nebulous and constantly changing; that it’s different for everyone. But it also means you can ask yourself a few questions to start defining your own “fit enough.” For instance:
- What’s the worst case scenario I want to be physically prepared to take on? How can I train to prepare for such a scenario?
- What’s the most physically challenging “dream” opportunity I’d love to say “yes” to if it arose unexpectedly and needed an immediate response? How would I train for such an opportunity?
Think about these things. Toss them around in your brain when you’re bored at work or when you’re stuck in traffic during your commute. “Fit enough” isn’t about looking a certain way or lifting a certain amount of weight – it’s a combination of survival and adventure – it’s what makes life beautiful and exciting. Take the time to define your own “fit enough,” rather than allowing anyone else to define it for you