What Fitness Really Is

Recently I was walking my dog to our usual park in Bernal Heights, a cute little hilly neighborhood in San Francisco.

We go there almost every day, and to get there, you have to go up a few pretty steep hills—and a long set of fairly long stairs.

On days when I’m sore from the previous day’s workout, or when the wind is blowing hard, I’ll admit that even I find the climb a bit daunting, but I’ve never once stopped to rest and always keep a steady fast pace.

This time, when Rocket and I made our way through the chilly fog up to Bernal hill, a noticeably overweight woman and her little terrier dog were blocking the stairway in the middle.

Bent over and panting from lack of breath, she noticed us approaching and her face turned red from embarrassment.

“We’re just taking our time,” she said between breaths. “Go ahead and pass us.”

We did, and when I looked back after we’d reached the top of the stairs, she was still standing there, a look of misery on her face.


I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the woman as Rocket and I sped past her. What a tough life she must have… never finding clothes that fit right, always thinking about food, barely even able to take her dog on a walk.

Seeing that woman on her fruitless attempt to exercise her dog made me thankful for my own body.

Sure, there are times when I wish I was a little thinner, a little buffer, that my willpower was a little stronger and my sweet tooth didn’t exist.

But that same day as I took my dog up to the hill, I had already taken her on another 25-minute walk, done 15 pull ups and 40 air squats, gone to a brutal hour-long Krav Maga class, and walked all around San Francisco’s Marina neighborhood. Despite all that, I didn’t feel the least bit tired.

And that’s when it really hit me.

Being fit isn’t just about looking good.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly important to feel confident about who you are, and feeling like you look good is a big part of that. But it’s about more than that.

Fitness is about being able to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling like you’re going to die. About having the energy to throw a ball for your dog or play catch with your kid at the end of a long day. It’s about feeling like you can do the things you want to do without feeling like your body is holding you back.

I feel lucky to have a strong, healthy body that can carry me through the activities that I love to do. To not have to worry about diabetes or heart disease or any other terrible disease that’s brought on by excess weight.

I know that I have a chance at living a long life full of fun, happy memories and I owe it all to my body—and to my love of health and fitness.

I hope that woman gets a wake up call before it’s too late. And I hope you do too, if you’re in her shoes. Because it’s time to give yourself a chance.

So embrace fitness. Get healthy. Get motivated.

You owe it to yourself.

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7 thoughts on “What Fitness Really Is”

  1. When I started getting in shape, I noticed a change in the way I perceived the world. I felt more free, more confident, and less afraid. I wonder what are the social and political effects of a society full of people whose poor fitness makes them insecure and afraid.

  2. Fitness is important. And it sounds like that woman probably doesn’t feel like she’s in her best shape. But it’s pretty presumptuous to refer to a stranger as, “never finding clothes that fit right, always thinking about food, barely even able to take her dog on a walk.” You don’t know her story. And judging someone’s perceived lack of health doesn’t help anyone. It’s awesome that you feel strong and capable because of the exercise that you do, but you frankly don’t know her story. Maybe she has an unseen disability, maybe she’s perfectly content with her life, and/or maybe she is striving for better health.

    You are awesome for doing what you do. But you’re not better because someone else doesn’t.

    • First of all: I love the workouts, the nutrition philosophy and I think this site rocks. But I have to say that Sally has a point here. You don’t really know this woman’s story.

      Let me give you an example: She could have been my mother. No, wait, my mother can’t actually walk a dog at all … And it’s not from a sedentary lifestyle. My mother has lead a strong, active life running a sheep farm, climbing steep mountains and raising two kids on her own. Now she’s overweight and can’t walk because she has MS. You see, sometimes bad things happen to good people. Some diseases just happen, regardless of how active you’ve been in your youth. Nobody has a guarantee or a free pass.

      All we can do is do our best. We can greatly reduce the risk of a whole array of diseases – oh, absolutely! But I think it’s important not to judge those who have lost their health or are struggling to change it for the better.

      Building strong, free bodies also brings freedom to our minds. Let’s be grateful for that freedom, and let’s extend it to those who can’t or won’t follow a similar path.


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