by Lucas Ogden-Davis
If I told you that the ability of your kidneys to filter toxins from your blood was the ultimate measure of fitness, and in fact that fitness can be boiled down to the pursuit of improving your kidney function, you’d probably think I’d lost my mind. The same goes for if I told you that the only thing that matters is how much bile your gallbladder can store, or how smoothly lymph flows through your lymphatic system.
These examples are ridiculous because it’s obvious that health and fitness encompasses more than the function of just one organ or system of the body. This is why it’s frustrating, as a fitness professional, to see so many people implicitly or explicitly equate “fitness” with cardiorespiratory capacity, while ignoring so many other aspects of their bodies.
Certainly, cardio is an important part of fitness. But the ability of your lungs and heart to absorb and distribute oxygen is just one of many pieces of the fitness puzzle. Your strength, stamina, flexibility, coordination, accuracy, agility, balance, power, and speed are also essential components of your fitness.
It doesn’t matter how much oxygen you can deliver to your muscles, if those muscles aren’t capable of picking up that 50-pound bag of dog food. By the same token, you’re not “fit” in any well-defined sense of the term if you can run for hours without getting out of breath, but are incapable of touching your toes or jumping on top of a 8-inch box.
At York Street CrossFit, we believe in a fitness that is broad, general, and inclusive. We believe that it’s important to have sufficient “cardio” to support your body’s health and your ability to do the things you want to do. But we also know that the exclusive pursuit of cardiovascular fitness is detrimental to your fitness in other areas, and that a balance must be achieved. We achieve this balance by working on strength, and learning new physical skills, and doing things that are awkward and new and challenging for you in more ways than just being out of breath or sweating up a storm.
Many times, the most valuable workouts are the ones that don’t feel like a workout. If you’re super inflexible, an hour of mobility work is probably more valuable to your fitness than an hour-long run or WOD. Your body is a wonderfully complex system of systems, and we find that an athlete who’s stuck in their gains in strength or endurance can often push through that plateau by improving in a seemingly unrelated area such as coordination or balance.
If all you were was a huge, walking heart, then cardiovascular capacity would be the only important aspect of your fitness. But you’re not: You’re a human being. This is why we train all aspects of fitness, and why it’s essential to your advancement as a functional human being that you put your best effort into every day’s workout, whether it’s a long cardio burner of a workout, a strength-focused day, or an “easy” day focused on mobility or learning a new skill.