“If you do not squat, your knees are not healthy regardless of how free of pain or discomfort you are.” -Greg Glassman
This wonderful quote from Glass Glassman, founder of CrossFit, fits well with a discussion on health. For our purposes it can also read “If you do not eat right and exercise, your body will not be healthy regardless of how free of pain or discomfort it is” and make perfect sense. It’s time to start looking at health and fitness in a different light than is popularly portrayed. For most people, typically two different states come to mind when thinking about health: sickness and wellness. That makes sense, right? Either you feel sick, or you feel fine. If you aren’t sick, then you are well. If you are well, then you are also “healthy”. There is no in between. Not so fast. A closer look into the vitals and health measurements of athletes reveals a very important third state – Fitness.
The Health Continuum
If you take a look at nearly every measurable element of health (ie. blood pressure, bone density, cholesterol levels, etc.) you’ll almost always find that athletes have better numbers across the board. Let’s use blood pressure as an example. A blood pressure of 160/95 is considered bad/sick, 120/70 is normal or healthy, and 105/55 is typical of an athlete’s blood pressure. The same linear progression can be made using body fat percentage and bone density. The list goes on and on.
If an athlete’s health measurements are better than those of the modern concept of a “healthy” (the “wellness” category) person, what then does that make the athlete? It’s simple. The modern concept of health is incorrect. It should actually read:
Sickness => Wellness => Fitness
What does it all mean then? Only athletes achieve true health. You can’t be healthy unless you fall into the “Fitness” category of the continuum. You can start thinking of “Wellness” simply as not sick. It doesn’t mean you are healthy, it just means you aren’t ill. All of the health measurements in that category are based on the average non-sick person. When you go to the doctor and they say your blood pressure is higher than normal, the normal they are talking about belongs to the “Wellness” category, not the “fitness” category. Only Fitness represents true health.
But wait, what if you aren’t an athlete? By “athletes”, I mean anyone regularly engaged in exercise, sport, or skills that require each of the 10 aspects of fitness (cardio, stamina, strength, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, flexibility, accuracy). That means all CrossFitters are athletes! Remember, CrossFit is a world-class strength and conditioning program. We utilize and practice the very same movements and methodologies as college, professional, and olympic athletes. You’re getting the exact same benefits as they are. Go ask your doctor what your blood pressure, bone density, and cholesterol levels are like. You will likely be pleasantly surprised. In fact, being healthy, then, would appear to be a fairly exclusive club reserved only for those willing to work hard enough for it.
All of this, though, begs the question: what about that friend whose body fat percentage is really low despite never exercising and poor eating habits? We all have at least one of those people in our lives. To the common layperson still stuck in the fitness stone age, that friend is “healthy”. In fact, for most people, health is strictly a measure of a person’s body composition/outward appearance. Think about it. How many times have you heard somebody throw out the phrase, all too liberally, “he/she is really healthy” when referring to somebody that simply wasn’t overweight? Too many times to remember, probably. The truth is, that skinny friend of yours could be on the verge of a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes, but you would never know (they may not know either) based on outside appearance. In those situations, great genes often act as a gift and a curse. A gift because their bodies are able to withstand the test of poor exercise and diet. A curse because it leaves them with the false assumption that they have nothing to worry about.
What have we learned so far?
1) You aren’t healthy simply because you aren’t sick
3) Only health measurements can determine the health of an individual
4) Only athletes achieve truly healthy measurements
2) Being skinny doesn’t necessarily make you healthy
5) You are a CrossFitter which means you are healthy or, at the very least, are on your way to true health.
Who needs meds when you have true health? Numerous members, as well as CrossFitters around the world, have been reaping the benefits of true health as a result of CrossFit. When you are truly healthy you don’t need to rely on medication to keep your problems in check. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and body fat issues don’t exist in those who are fit. We are pleased to report that our very own George Gaines is off of his blood pressure medication!
Start thinking of doctors as “reactive” medicine. That is, you get sick and doctors prescribe medicine to make you better. And by “better” I mean “well” (as in the wellness category mentioned previously), not healthy. CrossFit, on the other hand, is “preventative” medicine. It keeps you healthy so that doctors and medicine are no longer required. All of this is not to say that doctors are not necessary. They serve an incredibly wonderful and valuable service to the community. However, they should be a last resort, not your first. Stop being satisfied with hanging out in the “wellness” portion of the continuum. A lifetime of doctors and medicine reside there. Health and happiness do not. Diet and exercise truly is the best medicine.