In the blog world it seems like everyone is afraid of losing fitness. Not necessarily afraid of taking one rest day (I think/hope), but afraid of “losing” the benefits from training hard. I get that. It can be frustrating when a certain pace used to be easy and now feels challenging. It can be frustrating when a certain weight in the gym used to be a piece of cake and now it’s hard to lift up.
To avoid just preaching….an 8 minute mile is now fast for me, where in high school that was slow. 10 pound dumbbells are my bicep curl weight now, but I could easily use 15 pound dumbbells last summer. Does the fact that I can’t run as fast or lift as heavy now mean I’m out of shape? Should I be upset that I can’t do those things anymore? I think we (myself included) need to start looking at the bigger picture and stop placing such an importance on maintaining a certain level of fitness.
Out of curiosity I Googled what regular ol’ people (aka not bloggers or fitness professionals) thought it meant to be physically “in shape.” The most common answers, other than “there’s no one definition” and a few aesthetic descriptions, were eye-opening. I read forums and comments on posts to make this list…
-“Being able to walk up the steps without being out of breath”
-“Being able to do what I want or need to do without a problem”
-“Having a healthy relationship with my mind and body”
-“Performing daily tasks like walking to work and carrying groceries easily”
-“Keeping bone density and flexibility”
-“Running when I want, practicing yoga when I want”
90% of what I read said nothing about running a certain distance or speed, lifting a certain weight, doing crazy inversions or the like. The definitions weren’t based on a number. They were holistic and definitely refreshing to read.
The blog world can throw a lot of things out of perspective, but it’s not just all online. For example, just last week someone at the gym who recently ran the Boston Marathon told me she felt “out of shape.” This was one week post-race. Luckily I’m in a place where I can
roll my eyes and laugh to myself. I know her standards out of the norm.
I’m sure I’ve written something before about feeling out of shape, but I’m making a conscious effort to put my standards into perspective. No, I can’t run a super speedy mile but I can run. No, I can’t lift super heavy but I (try to) lift. Just because a workout that used to be easy for someone (me) is now hard does not mean that person is out of shape. Maybe out of practice, depending on the exercise, but not out of shape. I think some people get anxious about taking time off from exercise because they don’t want to “start from scratch.” Over the years I’ve distanced myself from that mindset, which I’m not saying is inherently good or bad. It’s just healthier for me, especially since I’m not an elite or getting paid to perform at a certain level.
So while our definitions of in shape and out of shape are very individual, I hope we can all stop exaggerating the terms to mean something they’re not. A week or more off from exercise is not the end-all-be-all. So what if the first few workouts back are more challenging than normal? There are more important things that
we I should be worried about.