One day about 5 years ago, I watched an elderly woman in a walker trying to make her way up a flight of stairs. I was with my son, who at the time was 5 years old. He waited at the bottom of the stairs watching patiently as I helped the women make her way to the top of the stairs. When I got back down to him, with a confused look on his face, he simply asked. “Dad, when did she stop being able to go up stairs by herself?” The simple answer to my son’s question was “The woman stopped being able to go up the stairs when she stopped practicing going up the stairs.”
But, his question forced me to really think about how important it is to take a long time domain approach to our fitness. Meaning, we have to look at what we are doing now for our movement practice - running, jumping, pushing, swinging, squatting - - and we should strive to be able to have these same things when we are 60, 70, and 80 plus years old.
The movements we do are truly functional, which means they apply to everyday life. They only differ from the elderly women, to the Olympic athlete by a degree. The elderly women needed to squat to the toilet and step up a stair. The Olympic athlete needs to squat with 200lbs on her back and step up to a box while holding 50lb dumbbells.
In looking at fitness in this way, there are certain things that are indicative of what we should hold as gold standards that demonstrate our ability to stay active and move well. These movements are all something that we could all do at some point in our life. When we fall out of practice, we start to no longer express and execute these movements in a way that is functional.
- Push Up – The ability to push your body weight up off the ground.
- Full Air Squat - You should be able to squat down with your hip below your knee.
- Running - I’m not saying you have to run a marathon, but you should be able to run a mile.
- Pull Up – While super challenging, I believe the pull up is a symbol of longevity, fitness, and a diagnosis for a true expression of fitness over a long span of time. Something we should all strive for!
If can’t do all of these, it’s ok! We aren’t saying you need to do 100 pull-ups in a row. Just working towards the expression of a single pull up, push up, full squat, and the occasional short run. I’m encouraging you to keep these skills, which means you have to practice them once in awhile, and continue to chase down getting better at them if they are already in your arsenal.
If you can’t do a pull-up, then let's talk about how we can start to approach this and the other skills to get you in a place that would allow you to have the strength, mobility, and capacities to perform them. Oh, and how convenient… we have two pull-up labs this week! Check them out on Saturday and Wednesday.