Outside Magazine once named Mark Allen, six-time Ironman Triathlon champion world’s fittest athlete.  Now, while Mr. Allen’s accomplishment is admirable, I would hardly consider him the fittest athlete on earth.  Triathlon, while grueling especially at the Ironman level  (and just the slightest bit insane, as I continually tell one of my clients about to do his 2nd), is hardly the true test of an all-around “athlete” , in my humble estimation.  Now before you get the pitch forks and nastiness, hear me out.  I have nothing against triathlon or triathletes in that sense.  I do consider them good athletes.   However, even though triathlon is a combination of 3 different sports, they are all basically testing the same elements of fitness over and over again.  Swimming, cycling and running are all tests of 2 basic elements of what I consider  fitness.  Cardiovascular function (The ability of the body to deliver and utilize Oxygen) and stamina (the ability of the body to continually produce energy over an extended period of time).  Unfortunately, they all test the same things.  They leave out vital characteristics of an overall athlete such as strength, mobility, power, coordination, balance and accuracy.  So let’s look at some of these and see what’s missing.  Their bodies typically lack the ability to apply large amounts of force (strength), lack explosive capabilities (power), and are not optimally capable of putting many complex movements together into fluid movement patterns (coordination and mobility) or controlling force production (accuracy).

So, are triathletes good athletes?  Yes, absolutely.  Are they the fittest all around athletes on earth?  No way.  What about the decathlete?  They have to perform tasks that include all 8 of these facets of fitness, not just 2.  And while the triathlete may out do them in a couple of these to be sure, in the long run the decathlete would prevail.  So, to the editors of Outside Magazine, you may consider re-evaluating your standards.  Just a thought.  And another thought to summarize:

World-Class Fitness in 100 Words:

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.

~Greg Glassman

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