Perceptions of fitness

I find this really interesting – everyone has an idea of where they sit on the fitness scale, and yet this perception is often vastly out of line with reality.

If we define the scale as running from sedentary lifestyle (drive to work, sit at a desk, drive home, sit on the sofa) as a 1, through to 10 being professional athlete, where would you put yourself? I often hear different versions of similar statements: “I’ve got the dogs to walk so I know I’m a lot fitter than many of my counterparts” (maybe placing themselves higher on the scale than they are?); “I can only run 10k, so I’m really unfit” (perhaps underplaying what they can do?); “I literally do no exercise” (only for me to discover they horseride/ dog walk/ do an active job).

I’m as guilty of it – I know I’m a slow runner, so I perceive myself to be less fit than those who run more quickly. Is that a fair assessment? Probably not. I can still run long distances, I can still swim and cycle further than many, but not as far as others. I’d position myself at a 5-6 on the scale. Where’d you put yourself? And where do you perceive me to be?


“I don’t have time to get to the gym”, “I’m too busy to go for a run”, “How on earth do you find the time to fit your training in?”. These are all things I’ve heard (and sometimes said) a million times. I get it, I hear you, we’re busy, we all have so many things competing for our time (and yes, Holby City is as valid a thief of time as work, kids, family) that exercise can fall by the wayside.

Not everyone considers 5am to be a sensible time for a run – although if you can get out there at that time you’ll be amazed at the birdsong you get serenaded by – so how do I encourage clients to fit exercise into their busy lifestyle? By breaking it down and adapting it. By making it so simple that you can’t not do it. By fitting it in to their life, not mine.

An example: one client commutes to London, so leaves the house before 6am and doesn’t get home until 8pm. What sort of fool would I be to expect her to get up even earlier to exercise or have any energy left when she gets home? I’d be a very unrealistic PT! So we adapt the exercises – rather than walk up the stairs at work can she run 3 steps in each flight, when sitting down to her desk can she slow the movement down so her quads really work, when waiting for the kettle to boil can she do some bicep curls with the bottle of milk, when brushing her teeth can she do some lunges in the bathroom. All suddenly very doable, very manageable. Suddenly time is available everywhere.

Next excuse…