The Three Levels of Fitness

Staying in shape and healthy is undeniably important. Consistent exercise and adequate physical activity promote bone and muscle strength while improving respiratory, cardiovascular, and overall health. Staying active can also help you maintain a healthy weight, decrease your risk for heart disease, type II diabetes, and decrease your risk for many types of cancer.

Why then do so many of us neglect our fitness? 

I believe that it has to do with the ridiculous expectations we put on ourselves, or rather, the expectations we let society convince us we should adopt.

This is why it is extremely important to understand the three levels of fitness. Once we understand these three basic levels and where we stand in our own fitness journey we can determine where to direct our energy to make a change.

If we do this we can avoid comparing ourselves to others who have drastically different goals and avoid losing the motivation and desire to exercise altogether. 

Level 1: Out-of-Shape

The first stage of the three levels of fitness is pretty straightforward. Those who are generally unhealthy, overweight, or restricted by their body in any way fall into this category. No one wants to be in this category but unfortunately, a lot of us are. 

When we are Out-of-Shape, we feel burdened by everyday activities and we don’t have the vitality that we normally have to do the things that excite us.

However, the good news is that the first step towards changing something is acknowledging the problem. If you’re at this stage, acknowledge it to yourself without any judgment and then you will be ready to make a change.

Level 2: In-Shape

The second stage of the three levels of fitness is also relatively straightforward. However, it is the differentiation that is ultimately important. To be truly in-shape means that one is physically able to live an unrestricted lifestyle and feel comfortable in their body for the majority of the time. This involves feeling comfortable in both your appearance and your body’s capabilities.

This is where most people want to be. After all, what’s the point of having a body if you aren’t able to live a life that you enjoy and do the things that you love? I believe everyone should be able to reach this level of fitness and happily enjoy their life. 

However, a problem emerges when we are forced to constantly compare ourselves to the final stage in the three levels of fitness.

Level 3: Athlete

This final level of fitness is where gyms and countless fitness advertisements make their money. In fact, a large percentage of the fitness industry exists to sell the idea that we all need to reach this third level of fitness to be in shape, which is just simply untrue. 

The definition of an athlete is someone who exercises or practices a sport with a competitive goal and with the aim of improving within the sport itself. While we might think of traditional athletes like Basketball, Baseball, or Football players, there are also many athletes in traditional fitness sports like weight lifting, yoga, or running. 

The problem arises when we compare ourselves to athletes in these sports when we are only practicing them to stay in shape. The truth is that many of us wouldn’t want to be athletes even if we had the drive. While athletes are respectable and end up with an admirable level of physical fitness, they also sacrifice a great deal to stay competitive. Athletes experience many more injuries, devote a lot of time to their sport, and oftentimes endure perpetual discontentment in order to push themselves harder. 

Because we are so often told by the fitness industry that to be in-shape we must achieve an athlete’s level of fitness, we often forget that getting in shape is actually much more achievable than it we are told. 

As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and without joy, there can be no motivation.

We need motivation to get in shape and remain so.

This is why it is crucial to determine what our fitness goals are and be honest with ourselves in regard to which of the three levels of fitness we are aiming for. Once we do this, we can begin to simplify our fitness journey and make clear progress towards a healthier life.

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