January 2013

Get Fit 2013: Where Do You Rank in the 10 General Skills of Fitness?

Author: Craig Hysell

In a society filling more and more with desk jobs, immediate gratification at the mere click of a mouse, 500 channels on the television, video games and nutritional and obesity concerns that are widely considered to be of epidemic proportions, physical fitness is something more and more people are choosing to pursue every day, not just as a hobby but a necessity. Consider this encouraging statistic: even in the middle of a recession, gym memberships have increased from 36.3 million in 2002 to 43.6 million in 2012.

Perhaps we are not getting lazy after all, as we are so often told. Perhaps we can give ourselves a little credit for continuing to move in a healthy direction. Perhaps we just got a little lost for a while.

So what constitutes physical fitness? Is it a gym membership? Is it running a marathon? Winning a marathon? Playing a sport? Practicing yoga? Lifting weights? Does it amount to an impressive VO2 max or proper blood pressure? Is it defined by a standardized body mass index chart? Does your BMI test take into account your body type? Is it mastering the shake weight or completing the P90X series?

Certainly all these can contribute to being fit (well… maybe not the shake weight…), but is there a way to define overall fitness and how you fit into the big picture? Put another way, would you want the marathon runner or the powerlifter pulling you from a fiery crash? What if they had to run far and fast if they had any chance of helping you? Does it do any good to have a sound BMI and still have back pain because you have flexibility issues? What good does a bodyweight training program do if you have to pick up a heavy object?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with specializing in an area of physical activity you enjoy. But what if we look at fitness from another perspective? What if we look at fitness in terms of well-roundedness? Jim Crawley and Bruce Evans of Dynamax have come up with a template widely used in the fitness industry today to classify our fitness capacity. They have dubbed it, The 10 General Physical Skills of Fitness. They are as follows:

1. Cardiovascular and Respiratory Endurance. The ability of body systems to gather, process and deliver oxygen.
2. Stamina. The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store and utilize energy.
3. Strength. The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units to apply force.
4. Flexibility. The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
5. Power. The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
6. Speed. The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
7. Coordination. The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
8. Accuracy. The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.
9. Agility. The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
10. Balance. The ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base.

What The 10 General Physical Skills suggest is that the definition of being fit is defined simply by general physical preparedness (GPP). Can you do everything well?
Would you sacrifice being great at one thing to be good at everything? Most of us would probably say no. But what if you were great at being good at everything? Think of the real world applications of this. Who would you want running towards that fiery crash you’re stuck in now? Perhaps even more importantly, these 10 parameters suggest that by properly bringing up your deficiencies in certain areas, you would simply make your strengths stronger.

So, rank yourself when you get time. How do you measure up in each area? Are you a bad person if you lack some of these skills? No. That’s ridiculous, but under this template, we can understand that the marathon runner benefits from box jumps and squats as long as he or she also continues to run and recover properly. The Olympic weightlifter benefits from flexibility drills and jump rope as long as he or she continues to lift weights. The yogi can utilize kettlebells, gymnastics and medballs to hold tough poses longer. And the everyday Jane and Joe have a new and exciting way to practice fitness.

Human beings are built for utilitarian purposes. This is not about isolating body parts; this is about using body parts together to achieve a more organic goal. This is a fitness proposal at our most root-based purpose. We are genetically engineered to be active and to adapt. To continuously adapt, we must continuously explore that space just outside our comfort zone. A fitness regimen that has become mundane or closed source will eventually be of little use. It should be fun, exciting and, quite simply, if it challenges you, do it. Just do it in a safe and intelligent manner that allows for growth, not injury… or fiery crashes.

Craig Hysell is the owner and head coach of CrossFit Hilton Head. He has been published in the CrossFit Journal, holds numerous fitness certifications and has been training hundreds of people in general physical preparedness and sport specific training at his gym since March, 2010.

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