In biology, fitness has a very specific definition and refers to an individual's ability to survive and reproduce, therefore passing on its genes to the next generation. Genetically speaking, natural selection is the process by which more "fit" alleles (the DNA sequence of a particular gene) become more common in a population due to the increased survival of these "fit" individuals. This is the central and unifying theory in biology, and no matter what field of biology you study, it really all boils down to Darwin's (and Wallace's) concept of "survival of the fittest". However, that is not really the type of fitness we are talking about here, although you can certainly draw links between what we think of in daily life as fitness, and the propagation of our species. But simply put, in every day parlance, fitness merely means suitability.
In that case, the average North American is actually very fit; as the inactive, fast-food eating beings we have become are certainly well suited for our lives of complacently watching tv from our sofa all evening. But again, that's not the kind of fitness I'm really talking about either. I am thinking more specifically about what it means to be "physically fit".
Physical fitness should combine health, well-being, and suitability for a specific task related to an exercise or sport. This is what got me thinking. A mere three weeks ago I finished an Ironman, something I would dare say (with no ego intended) that most people are not fit to do. Yet, I know plenty of people that I would consider much fitter than I am. In taking the P90X fitness test, there were tasks I was really fit for, and others I just squeaked by in terms of their suggested minimum requirements.
What this means, really, is that there is no general state of physical fitness, but is all specific to a certain sport. So while I'm fit enough to do a 4 km swim, 180 km bike ride, and 42 km run, I am not fit enough to do pull-ups. Hmm. The other question is then, when is anybody fit enough? Is there even a "fit enough"? Will I ever be content with a level of fitness, or do we all keep pushing and finding new things to challenge our current state of fitness?
My challenge for the next 90 days is to see how strong I can get on this program, hence increasing my fitness. Although this surely will decrease my fitness in terms of my ability to finish an Ironman, so then am I less fit?
Circular arguments are annoying, sorry about that! Do I have a point to this post? Not really, just some random thoughts. Perhaps my point is that we all need to find something to motivate and challenge us. I'm looking ahead to a new year, and new challenges, and plotting my path there.