I want to get ‘Fit’

I want to get fit

It’s probably the most commonly used phrase I hear when I ask clients what their goals are. But what does it mean to be ‘fit’? 

When I first started out in the fitness industry (my very first go at it back in the early 90’s), one of the lecturers posed the following question to the class of around 30 budding fitness instructors, all vying to make their mark in the big wide world of the fitness industry.

“Could someone please define the word ‘fit’ for me?”

The room was silent. Partly for fear of being the first person to speak in case they were wrong. But in reality, I don’t think anyone could quite nail the answer. It sounded simple enough but what did it mean to be fit? The lecturer followed up his question by asking another…

“If I’m a marathon runner and I can run a marathon in under 3 hours, am I fit?”. That was easy. The class answered with a resounding ‘of course’.

“Ok then, if I’m a body builder, and I can squat twice my body weight, am I fit?”. ‘Hell yes’ the class answered.

“So, if the body builder tries to complete a marathon and fails, does that mean he’s not fit?” Silence.

“And the marathon runner, if he struggles to squat his own body weight, never mind double, is he unfit?”

The reality of the definition started to strike some cords within the classroom. It was a lightbulb moment for all of us, as we started to think about the broader use of the term ‘fit’.

Being fit was defined as ‘being physically and mentally capable of performing a chosen activity’.

This ranges from a running event, to a body building comp, to looking after the kids.


One of the jobs of a good personal trainer is to take a conversation and turn it into a quantifiable goal. The only way to do this is to dig deeper into a client’s motivations for ‘getting fit’.

If a client wishes to get ‘fit’ to run a half marathon in 2 hours, I need three pieces of information:

  1. What’s the goal distance? (That’s already taken care of – 21kms.)
  2. When is it? (So I can create a periodisation chart for the client to use as a weekly training guide. Knowing how far away it is also helps me educate the client on the practicality of achieving the goal. Eg, if it’s two weeks away and they haven’t started training, I’d probably recommended and alternate half marathon, with a bigger lead time).
  3. How far can you run right now?

These three pieces of info help me understand the current level of personal fitness the client has, in order for me to help structure their training to improve their ‘fitness’ for this goal. If the client achieves their goal of running a half marathon in under 2 hours, then they have (by definition) increased their fitness. Or to use their own words “They got fit.”

But of course not everyone wishes to run half marathons. I was chatting to another trainer at work recently and we got to talking about how often we hear the phrase, “I’ll just work on my fitness first before I think about getting a personal trainer.” Sounds funny when you say it.

But you’d be surprised how often people think like this – assuming that in order to obtain the services of a personal trainer, one must first know how to use all the gym equipment, as well as run 100mtrs in under 13 seconds, while nailing the perfect deadlift technique. Ok, so I’m exaggerating a touch but some people do feel unsure whether they are ‘fit’ enough to warrant having a trainer.

To put any doubts to rest, the beauty about ‘getting fit’ is that’s its completely and 100% personal to the individual.


Another responsibility of a good personal trainer is to not only identify that personal goal but be able to quantify it so that both the trainer and the client can regularly assess their progress. If weight loss is the goal, the same three pieces of information apply.

  1. How much weight do you want to lose?
  2. Over what length of time do you wish to lose the weight (the answer to this question may be a much larger discussion as there’s usually an education and understanding that’s needed to set the client up for success).
  3. When was the last time you were at your goal weight? (This becomes a leading question as it opens the door to a past life that’s rich in answers that will help the trainer uncover potential pitfalls and hurdles that may exist in the client’s life)


Ultimately, getting fit means different things to different people, but the process to achieving greater fitness remains the same across the board.

  • Set a specific goal
  • Have a way to measure it
  • Set a realistic time line

Put these practices into play, and you’ll ‘get fit’ in no time.


To your continued health and fitness,

John Field

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