Pain Free Athlete: How Fit Are You?

The Pain Free Athlete
How Fit Are You?

Can you … Bench press 1.5 times your body weight? Complete 50 abdominal crunches in one minute? Squat 2 times your body weight?

Feeling unfit right now, I am! These, however, are a few of the assessments that are commonly used 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. How well do these skills 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…

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.”

She compares a petite woman to a muscle bound man making the case that the woman who can carry heavy loads on her head all day long has greater fitness.

The man, she explains has muscular strength but lacks overall integration of his body systems due to his tense muscles and poor alignment.
(Image Source: Natural Posture For Pain-Free Living)

The man has unnatural strength:

  • has its power in purposely developed muscles,
  • must be continuously worked at to be maintained,
  • limits the range of motion of the joints,
  • restricts elasticity of the diaphragm, and
  • compresses the spine.

The woman on the other hand has natural strength:

  • has the power in aligned bones,
  • is innate and reinforced in ordinary activities,
  • promotes natural, easy flexibility of joints, and
  • elongates the spine.

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. We adhere to philosophies of mind over matter and no pain no gain, willing to compromise our bodies and make numerous other sacrifices to excel in our sport.

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, frequent bouts of severe neck tightness and was overtrained to the point of extreme fatigue which led to a  loss of motivation for cycling, training and living. Was I fit?

Perhaps new standards are needed for fitness.

Can you…

  • Sit at your desk comfortably for an entire workday?
  • Climb up and down the stairs without pain?
  • Enjoy leisure physical activities (walking, swimming, etc.) without undo soreness or fatigue?
  • Find a comfortable position to sleep in and get enough rest to wake up rejuvenated?
  • 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. 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?

Jessica Kisiel is local wellness professional specializing in injury recovery and pain management through posture alignment. She is an Advanced Exercise Therapist certified by Egoscue University®. Stay connected and receive free posture exercises for favorite sports by signing up for her newsletter at

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