CrossFit: What is Fitness (at SBP)?

Fitness is a loaded term. We hear it so often, in so many contexts, that sometimes it seems like it can mean anything… or that it’s lost its meaning altogether. So let’s return to the basics of Crossfit’s definitions of fitness in this post, so we can focus on the core and basics of this sport we love.

In 2002, Crossfit put out an article called, “What is Fitness?” in which they outlined 10 general physical skills that defined this term in their estimation. These ten skills are as follows:

  1. “Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance – The ability of the body’s systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen
  2. Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy
  3. Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force
  4. Flexibility – the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint
  5. Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time
  6. Speed – The ability to minimize the cycle time of a repeated movement
  7. Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement
  8. Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another
  9. Balance – The ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base
  10. Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity

You are as fit as you are competent in each of these 10 skills, and a regimen develops fitness to the extent that it improves each of these 10 skills.” (

The key to take away, though, is that all these areas can be improved through training and practice, which in turn improve the overall measures of power and speed. CrossFit emphasizes measurable characteristics of fitness in all areas of its philosophy. The “Ten Physical Skills” measure is just one of these areas.

Another area is called “The Hopper.” This is the idea that no matter the physical task, fitness is about performing well at it with little to no preparation beforehand. The most fit person isn’t the person who deadlifts the most above all else, or runs the fastest mile above all else– the fittest person is the one who does measurably well at both these tasks and others, and generally generates high-level scores no matter what task is pulled out of an imaginary “hopper” of tasks. Their average is higher than the average person’s, and while they aren’t the top of the line in any one task, they are in the top percentages in all tasks.“[A person] is fittest that statistically performs the best on [any of] these things.” (

Third we have the theory of metabolic pathways, in which “the pathways are just your body’s metabolic engines; they’re the things that drive or fuel the activities that we may be doing” (Hunter-Marshall, on These pathways are called:

  • The phosphagen (or phosphocreatine) pathway – dominates short bursts of activity (lasting 10 seconds or less) and is about power
  • The glycolytic (or lactate) pathway – dominates moderate lengths and levels of activity (several minutes worth); and
  • The oxidative (or aerobic) pathway – dominates activities longer than several minutes worth

In CrossFit, we seek balance between the pathways, by training them equally instead of emphasizing one over others. 

Lastly, we have the “sickness-wellness-fitness continuum” theory. In this theory, chronic diseases (as opposed to accidents, etc.) live on the sickness end, while the previous measures of fitness live on the fitness end. The continuum or spectrum shows us that fitness is really just a state of health, and when we work on it through the wellness center of the spectrum, we improve our chances of a healthy, long life. Whether measured through cardiovascular health, body-fat percentage, psychological coping strategies, or capacity for rehabilitation after injury (to name just a few) this continuum shows us that working on the areas of fitness previously outlined here help us improve all these measurable things, when done smartly, safely, and with the proper nutrition and rest. (

Regardless of the definition about fitness, it is apparent that hedging on the side of health and wellness over a lifetime is the goal here – and that CrossFit really IS for anyone and everyone who wants to work on their overall health and wellness. From stories of individuals who’ve gotten off type II diabetes medications, to improvements in previous injury rehabilitation, to weight loss, to improved relationships with food – fitness is not just about the heavy weights or the fast times we often think about. It’s about a lifestyle that allows for increased independence as we age, and increased quality of life throughout our lives.

  • by Megan Nolde, staff communications manager for SBP