October 10, 2011

What Does it Mean to Get In Shape?

Alert readers who visit other, better blogs like MizFit or The Great Fitness Experiment may have already become suspicious... is this a real post, or just a pathetic plea for votes in Shape's Best Fitness Blogger Poll?

Well, it is a post about what it means to be "In Shape!"  Sort of.  It's really more of a question than anything else--And I hope some of you will answer it for me.  But, um, yeah--there may also be a mention of the poll thingy at the end.

But first...

What does Being "In Shape" Mean to You?

Pondering this deep philosophical question for a few moments led me to realize it was lunchtime and that there was leftover rotisserie chicken in the fridge! that there are so many kinds of being in shape! And that everyone probably has a different definition.

It also caused me to reflect a bit on how seldom I ever examine and challenge my own ideas of what it means to be in good shape. Some of these notions: useful! Others: totally lame-brained and counterproductive!

So I thought I'd investigate by rooting around in the dark dank mysterious confines of my subconscious mind (Eeek, spiders! And hey, Miss Nancy from Romper Room, what the heck are you doing in there?). And then, while I was visiting, I thought I'd linger for a moment and have a conversation. Because perhaps people don't think I'm quite weird enough.

Crabby:  Hey unconscious, so what do you think are the most important aspects of being in good shape?

Unconscious:  You should be strong, and be able to do cardio at a good pace, have a fair amount of endurance, and good flexibility and balance.

Crabby: Well that sounds reasonable!  And when you cardio should be done at a good pace, you mean that when I get on the elliptical...

Unconscious: Elliptical? Who are you kidding? That doesn't count.  You have to run to be in good shape.  And you have to go at least five miles five times a week, and you should do those miles in under eight minutes.

Crabby:  What!? I never got that fast even when I was young and healthy! And what about my foot and knee injuries that are aggravated by running? What about getting older?  Wouldn't the elliptical or biking or swimming make more sense and be more gentle on my....

Unconscious:  Silence!  It's gotta be running and it's got to be fast or you're wasting your time because you'll never be in shape.  That's what you believed 30 years ago, so it must be true, right? 

Crabby: Seriously?  Hmm... could that be why I keep reinjuring myself over and over by trying to run?

Unconscious:  And hey, shouldn't you be outside right now training for a marathon, like the people who are really in shape are doing? That's what endurance means--you should be able to run 26 miles at a time.

Crabby:  Sheesh you're strict!  So, um, to be "strong," what does that mean?

UnconsciousUnassisted pull-ups.

Crabby:  That's it?

Unconscious:  Well, there are some other things you should do too, but you can go through the motions on most of those. It's how many pull-ups you can do that count.  Remember when you were little and spent hours on the playground and weighed 60 pounds? You could do a ton of them back then, so you should be able to do a bunch now too.

Crabby:  But wait... it made no sense, but I obsessed for years about that, and now I can do an unassisted pull up or two! Or, on a good day, up to 4 chin-ups. Aren't you proud?

Unconscious:  Yeah, good for you.  Now you have to do eight pull-ups.

Crabby:  Wait, how can that be? I'm getting older, not younger and...

Unconscious: Eight.  A full set. You could do at least that many when you were little.

Crabby:  Damn.  What about flexibility and balance?   And, oh dear... how about mental health? Yikes!  I'm kinda superficial and unevolved and sometimes I get stressed about stuff that should be no big deal and...

Unconscious: Eh whatever. As long as you can make your way across a room without falling over, and can touch your toes, you're good on flexibility and balance.  I may say those are important... but notice how often I let you slide? Obviously I don't care very much.  And mental health?  Ha! As long as you're not babbling incoherently and running around whacking people with hatchets, we're good.  My priorities for being "In Shape" are pretty simple.

Crabby:  Wow, Unconscious, I had no idea you were so illogical! So judgmental! So counterproductive!

Unconscious:  Logic? Judgement? Productivity? What do those words mean?  I don't recognize them.  That's your department, Crabby.  I just deal in emotions, random associations, wishful thinking, bad memories, stuff like that.  You're not running around doing everything I tell you without thinking about it, are you? And surely you're not ignoring really important things just because they're not the random ones I decide to guilt-trip you about?

Crabby:  Um...  er... say, I think I hear the phone ringing.  Bye, unconscious!

So what do you guys believe it means to be "in shape?"

Any of you have some good working definitions of "in good shape?" Or some crazy unconscious ones? Would love to hear what pops into your head, and if you consider that you are actually "in shape."

Oh, and on that Shape voting thing:

First off, how can I not urge you to vote for the awesomeness that is MizFit or The Great Fitness Experiment or the Fit Bottom Girls or Workout Mommy or many of the other great blogs on the list?  Sigh.  They're way more inspirational than Cranky Fitness.  It's only my irrational unconscious that gives a sh#t about landing at or near the bottom, and we know how reliable that source of motivation is.

It's rumored you can actually vote once a day until October 28th, which is frankly pretty darn annoying.  Right...  we bloggers should urge readers to quit your day jobs to vote over and over in a  blogging poll?   However, if true, it does mean you could vote for Cranky Fitness, and then vote for your other favorite blogs too. 

But the best thing about this poll? It's reminding me yet again how awesome Cranky Fitness readers are! Moonlight Dancer at Dancing in the Moonlight wrote a nice post helping me out, and those of you following Cranky Fitness on Facebook have been very sweet about checking in and voting and saying hi. Love you guys!

So, any thoughts about what it means to be "in shape?"  Or feelings about be hounded to vote in online polls?


  1. I figure I'm in shape if the body can do whatever I want it to do at the time. Which is not especially reasonable, since what I want is to sit on the couch 90% of the time, yet expect it to sprint for the train like a greyhound dog (in my dreams) rather than a greyhound bus (in my mirror).

  2. Shape! Of course i'm in shape! Round is a shape!

    At least, that's one definition i've heard.

    Good shape to me means keeping bone density and flexibility, and not losing muscle mass as i get older.

  3. In shape is walking without having to stop to catch my breath and being able to get up off the couch without thinking about it first. My needs are simple.

  4. I like your question, Crabby! Really, I'm sure better scientists than me can give you a quantitative answer relating to
    V02 max. and the like, but for me:

    I remember how I felt years ago before I made aerobic and strength exercises a part of my day, and I remember how I felt after I did. The feeling of being ion shape feels so good that I never want to lose it!

  5. Well, my idea of being in shape has changed with age, that's for sure. 20's and 30's I ran and biked and lifted weights till I dropped. Ran triathlons. I must have been in great shape, right? Then the 40's hit, torn ACL, painful hips. I can't run, love to bike, walk, hike,lift a sensible amount, yoga is my friend. I actually feel better now, not so exhausted. I weigh less, and still look good. My mental health is better, and more important to me now. (Ahhhh, meditation) Being in shape means being able to hike on a beautiful day and enjoy it, or move heavy things around and not pay the next day.
    And I will vote again.

  6. You guys are WAY more sensible than I am about the whole "in shape" notion! Love the individual variations on what it means, and wow, none of you are stuck back in 2nd grade like I am!

  7. Hi there. New reader here. I actually found you through the blog contest!

    I think being in shape means something different for everyone. To me, it's being well-rounded in the different aspects physical activity; being strong, having good posture and flexibility and good cardio endurance.

  8. My unconscious sounds a lot like yours. I think it's my competitive nature. However, now that I'm older and supposedly wiser - I tell it to STFU. In shape to me is keeping up with my kids and my dance class. And making sure my clothing stays at least the same size, if not a few lower numbers. A few more days on the 'mill sure wouldn't hurt me.

  9. I'm still struggling with the concept of being "in shape". My logical self says, as long as you can keep up with the Toddler you're good to go. Has anyone ever figured out what Toddlers are made of, because I sure as heck have a hard time keeping up with mine on a day she's being sluggish? I think as long as I'm making an effort to do some sort of hourly exercise at least 3 times per week and eating healthy home cooked meals as the norm then I'm doing okay.

    My unconcious has a more unreasonable idea of being in shape. It's a lot like yours, but add in looking like I did in High School or some image I am bombarded with through television and magazines. Oh and Mental Health...what's that?

  10. So, you did an end run around my laziness and Shape's mobile-device incapacity. I went, I looked, and looked, and looked, and finally found the link to vote, and voted. Man, they don't make it easy.

    My definition of "in shape" is being able to do what I want to, and what I need to. I was thinking, as I did squats while waiting for the water to warm up enough to take a shower, that at 58 I'm beginning to have a lot of annoying aches and pains, but I'm still in ten times better shape than I was at 28, when I not only couldn't work, but sometimes didn't even feel well enough to get to the library!

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  11. When I was younger it certainly meant a number on the scale, but the more I learned about fitness/dieting/exercise the more I realized it wasn't about a number on the scale as everyone has a different shape and muscle mass. So now being in shape for me, is more of how I feel, in my clothes, naked and the satisfaction I have in being strong enough to make it through a workout with minimal amounts of hyperventilating.

    I would vote for you any day Crabby! and since I've been laid off you have my undivided voting finger to push VOTE on the shape website!

  12. Oh and here is a great recipe from noshtopia for your leftover rotisserie chicken


  13. I think my unconscious is so hard on myself that my definition of in shape is to never NOT have muscles & always be fit & always be able to do what I did 10 years ago - which as we know may be hard the older I get! ;-) Seriously, being able to keep going & walk & run & lift my groceries or heavy objects or play with my grandkids close to what I did 7-10 years ago - I say that is good. It is living life in a healthy & fit way so that you can just do & not have to worry!:-)

    BTW, you & so many others I love nominated!!! CONGRATS!

  14. I like your subconscious's original definition of "in shape" - though my own brain tends to twist things almost as much as yours does.

    It NEVER means running. It means being able to take a hike through the hills without thinking I'm dying from asphyxia. Carrying the groceries into the house without panting.

    Every day activities that get better with strength.

  15. I figure if I can do what I want to do and I make an effort to workout regularly I'm in shape :) And...it jsut feels good. I tried to explain that to my brother this weekend. My husband and I went out for a relaxing and enjoyable 5K hike - which he thought was absurd and too long and we'd be exhausted...but we could! :)
    This weekend it was nice to just go hike hike and know we could and relax and enjoy ourselves...I see members of my family on holidays who are not in shape...and I am grateful now I am...and I can do everything I want to.

  16. I think my subconscious has been hanging out with your subconscious because it thinks I should be able to run, even though repeated attempts tell me that my feet don't like it. It also wants me to be thin. We're negotiating. :)

  17. Getting in shape means to be in great mental and spiritual shape which leads you to a perfect body and overall personality.

    Healthy spirit, healthy body.

  18. In shape to me means I can do all the fun things I like to do like surf & windsurf & hike and dance and whatever else I fancy at the moment. So I equate being in shape with fun & freedom.

  19. Is "is shape" a yes or no thing, like being pregnant? Or is it a continuum? Like, I'm kinda in shape now, but I could be in better shape.

    Sadly/luckily for me, my unconscious is not as competitive as yours. It is pretty much satisfied with functional fitness — being able to lug suitcases up stairs when the elevator is broken, being able to enjoy hikes without worrying about slowing the younger folks in the group down too much, getting up and down off the floor without too much difficulty (I have your "vertigo" post open in another tab for reading next). And also maybe a bit of the superficial appearance angle, since after losing a lot of weight, I'm proud of being able to see a bit of muscle definition. I was secretly quite delighted when one of my companions on the last hike pointed to my upper arms and said I seemed to be "quite fit."

    For me the next rung after "in shape" is "athletic", as in "How can I have tendonitis, doctor? That's something that athletic people get."

    I voted for you last week so will be happy to vote again. Although I might throw in one for MizFit even though her athleticism intimidates me a bit.

  20. I think it's my competitive nature. But over the years it increases the desire to exercise and decreases the chance.

  21. Getting in shape to me means having an attractive body that allows you to wear the most glamorous outfits with an elegance.

  22. Man, what a difficult question. I know what I consider "in shape" for me but I also think I'm on the right side of the bell curve in these matters. I mean, most people aren't all "marathons, yeah! triathlons, yeah!" I guess, at the minimum, I'd say being able to perform your daily life's tasks without feeling like you are going to collapse from exertion. Everything else above that is just gravy. :)

  23. In shape, for me, is some combination of the fitness footstool of strength, endurance and flexibility. And being able to carry a case of beer at least a block.


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