Can you…


Complete 50 abdominal crunches in one minute?

Squat 2 times your body weight?

Pain Free Athlete :: How Fit Are You


After reading those two sentences, are you feeling unfit right now? Well, I am! These, however, are just a few of the assessments that some people  commonly use to determine fitness level. If you analyze the components of these tests, you’ll notice they are measuring your muscular development and ability to perform a specific movement against resistance or within a limited amount of time. So, how well do these skills actually translate into real life and fitness? Honestly, how is being able to bench press over 100 pounds going to improve my quality of life and wellness? As it tuns out, it depends on your definition of fitness.


Book CoverLet me explain. In her book, Natural Posture For Pain-Free Living Kathleen Porter makes a bold statement about fitness. “The dictionary definition of the popularized word fitness describes it to mean ‘possessing a quality of strength and overall health.’ Nevertheless, for many people today fitness has become more about how one looks than how one feels. This is a cultural standard that has nothing to do with what is natural to our species’ design.” In other words, our idea of “fitness” is probably skewed!


To illustrate, she compares a petite woman to a muscle bound man. When she does this, she makes the case that the woman, who can carry heavy loads on her head all day long, has greater fitness. Comparatively, the man, she explains, has muscular strength. However, he lacks overall integration of his body systems due to his tense muscles and poor alignment.
(Image Source: Natural Posture For Pain-Free Living)



This man has unnatural strength!

Pain Free Athlete :: How Fit Are You

  • First, he has his power in purposely developed muscles.
  • Next, his strength must be continuously worked at to be maintained.
  • Also, he has limited the range of motion of the joints.
  • Because of this, he has restricted elasticity of the diaphragm.
  • Finally, as a result, he has a compressed spine.


The woman, on the other hand, has natural strength.

Pain Free Athlete :: How Fit Are You

  • First, her power is in aligned bones.
  • Also, her strength is innate and reinforced in ordinary activities.
  • Additionally, her strength promotes natural, easy flexibility of joints.
  • As a result, she has an elongated spine.


Usually, our society idolizes athletes as visions of health, strength and ultimate fitness. Unfortunately, such is often not the case. Athletes are tenacious and determined individuals, eager to push past points of pain and discomfort many would not endure. As a result, we adhere to philosophies of “mind over matter” and “no pain, no gain.” And yes, we are often willing to compromise our bodies and make numerous other sacrifices in order to excel in our sport.


Here’s a personal example. At the peak of my mountain biking career, I had endured three left knee surgeries, a torn quad muscle, recurring gastrointestinal (GI) distress, chronic sinus infections, and frequent bouts of severe neck tightness. Additionally, I overtrained to the point of extreme fatigue, which led to a  loss of motivation for cycling, training and living. So, was I fit?


Perhaps new standards are needed for fitness.

Instead of the above idea, think about these questions.

First, can you sit at your desk comfortably for an entire workday?

Second, can you climb up and down the stairs without pain?

Third, can you enjoy leisure physical activities (walking, swimming, etc.) without undo soreness or fatigue?

Fourth, can you rind a comfortable position to sleep in and get enough rest to wake up rejuvenated?

Finally, can you stand in the kitchen and cook a meal or wash the dishes without back discomfort?

For most of us, these activities of daily living are a better gauge of our fitness. And actually, I’m not impressed with someone who can downhill ski the bumps but can’t walk without limping or avoids the stairs because of pain. So, How Fit Are You?

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About the Author


Jessica uses an integrative approach to help you overcome chronic pain. She believes in treating the whole person utilizing the biopsychosocial approach to healing. Her offerings include posture therapy, online exercise classes, pain science education, and individual or group wellness coaching. She is certified by the Postural Restoration Institute® (PRI), Egoscue University®, National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Wellcoaches.