FAST is Fit

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What does it mean to be “in shape”?

Ask a hundred people that question and you’ll get similar, vague answers from all of them.

“Looking good and feeling good.”

“A chiseled six-pack and firm butt.”

“I’m in shape. Round is a shape.”

Recently, I asked myself to name the defining characteristics of my fittest years.

I played soccer growing up.

I trained for a marathon at one point.

I exercise six days a week now.

I figured out the idea is to be FAST.

Peak performance on in any athletic arena is shaped by four characteristics: flexibility, agility, strength and tone. Though individual sports emphasize different skills, every participant will display some level of competence in each of these four disciplines.

A well-rounded training program will almost automatically develop each one without much thought, but what are they?

Flexibility is the ability of a joint to move through a full range of motion without being hindered. This depends on both the articulating surfaces (where the bones rub against each other) and relevant soft tissue (the muscles creating and restricting movement). Fluid movement is a key to coordination and injury prevention, whether in a professional basketball player or homeowner raking the lawn.

Agility is all about balance and coordination. Tying these two together allows for quick, explosive movements — elegant like a triple lutz or violent like a roundhouse kick.

Strength is easy, right? How much we can lift, of course.


Though it’s impressive to watch an Olympic powerlifter, I would argue for the inclusion of usefulness. The ability to lift must be repeatable, which is why college football players work so hard to bench press 225 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Another way to say this would be “strendurance” — an action can be carried on for an extended period of time. Moving a body over obscene distance takes some muscle power, too. Ask any triathlete.

Tone has lost its true meaning over the years. Though we often associate it with being “cut” or “tight,” those visual cues fall short of the real definition: readiness.

Imagine a jaguar prowling through the jungle. Few could argue the beast’s ability to pounce at a moment’s notice. This is tonicity — the muscles are tuned to work together in explosive synchrony.

Ultimately, great health is about doing several simple things well.

It’s the same stuff we faced in gym class as part of the President’s Physical Fitness Test:

  • Sit-ups
  • Shuttle run
  • Endurance run
  • Pull-ups
  • Sit and reach

The washboard stomach is just a side effect.


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