One of the most common goals in fitness is to become “functional.”
Which is generally defined as being in good enough shape to perform the tasks of daily living.
And I suppose, as a bare minimum, this is OK. But it’s basically the participation trophy of fitness.
Because for 99% of the population, those tasks involve nothing more challenging than opening a sticky pickle jar. Which is a pathetically low standard for any respecting man or woman to settle for.
A much better definition of functional is being in good enough shape to perform almost any physical task.
And whether that’s crushing a charity 5K, moving a heavy couch up a flight of stairs, or surviving a goddamn zombie apocalypse.
This is what sports scientists call GPP: General Physical Preparedness.
You have high enough levels of strength, endurance, speed, and flexibility so that physical capacity isn’t a limiting factor.
It’s not about becoming world-class in any one domain of fitness.
It’s about getting to a solid level at all of them.
And, IMO, this is a much more worthy definition of being functionally fit.
This type of balanced fitness also supports optimal health and longevity.
I’m currently reading Dr. Peter Attia’s new book “Outlive” (full review coming in a future email).
He’s a Dr specializing in longevity and healthy aging and counts Chris Hemsworth and Hugh Jackman among his A-list client roster.
And if Thor and Wolverine put their lives in his hands, you better believe he knows his shit.
In the book, he correlates high physical strength and endurance and staying healthy as you age.
Get your cardiovascular conditioning and total body strength to a high enough level, and you can reduce the risks of heart disease or certain types of cancer by up to 400%!
And developing high levels of GPP will help you stave off the worst ravages of aging.
Think of your fitness like a retirement account. Bank it away now, and you’ll have plenty to use later.
Regarding aesthetics, Daniel Craig in Casino Royale is an excellent example of the type of physique this type of functional fitness can develop.
His trainer Simon Waterstone is a former Commando and trained Daniel to develop the fitness level a real-world James Bond would need to do his job.
The assumption being that the form would follow the function.
He’s not huge like a bodybuilder, nor does he have the super low body fat of a physique model, but by most standards, he looks savage.
Past the age of forty, switching your training towards developing this type of functional fitness is the move.
It takes more of a long-term focus where you’ll emphasize developing different qualities throughout the year while shifting others into maintenance mode.
Sometimes you might focus more on improving maximum strength and just maintaining your flexibility and cardiorespiratory conditioning levels.
And other times, you’ll do more cardio and a little less lifting.
But over the long term, every single attribute will improve.
This is how you develop high levels of GPP and support long-term health while keeping training fresh and fun.
Let me know if you have any questions; I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.