Several years ago, after a regrettable evening of too much pizza and too much beer, I swore I would get in the best shape of my life … by the time I was 30. Well, as my 30th birthday is fast approaching I wanted to reflect on how close I am to achieving this goal. And then I realized that the “best shape of my life” is a really bad goal. It’s not specific, measurable, or actionable. Basically, it’s a super subjective and hard to define. And not just for me, but for anyone. So I decided to think about what it really meant for me to be in the “best shape of my life”. Below is the result of this brainstorming.
My weight is within a consistent and healthy range.
This is still a little vague, but given my history of disordered eating, I like to keep weight tracking to a bare minimum. Being in the best shape of my life does not include a “goal weight” but it does include staying at a consistent weight that I feel comfortable with. I no longer weigh myself obsessively, but I like to check in once in a while to confirm what I can feel, which is that I am at a weight my body likes to be. I’ve been within the same 5-pound range for over a year, so consider this item on the rubric checked off!
I can lift more weight than ever before.
To me, being in the best shape of my life is definitely tied to strength. I am currently lifting heavier weights than ever before. I used to overlook upper body strength in favor of way too much cardio and core. But since I started strength workouts several times a week, I’ve been able to make noticeable progress in my ability to execute exercises like bicep curls, chest press, squats, deadlifts, etc. with more weight. This might not make it into your criteria for “best shape of your life” but for me it’s important and it’s measurable.
I can easily run a 5k.
I’ve trained for marathons and ultra-marathons. I’ve run 80-mile weeks and flown through speed workouts. But at this point in my life, I’m not as focused on the running-related criteria of fitness because I don't think it necessarily complements being in great shape in other ways. As a result, I decided to take a conservative measurement of running fitness as it relates to overall cardiovascular fitness. As long as I can comfortably run a 5k (about 3 miles) at a conversational pace, that’s good cardiovascular conditioning. I’m not currently in the best running shape of my life, but that’s a very different list of criteria than the one I’m writing now. Part of being in the best shape of my life was to look beyond cardio fitness and how long or fast I could run.
I am injury-free.
Being in the best shape of my life has required a lot of exercise (no surprise there). But in order to truly say this is the best shape I’ve ever been in I also want to be able to say confidently that I’m not battling any injuries (because that’s been an issue in the past). A little soreness from a tough workout is fine, but avoiding physical therapy and doctor’s appointments was the real goal. I have been injury-free for about 6 months, so I am going to give myself a B+ rather than an A in this category. I think it highlights the fact that as I get older (did I mention I’m turning 30, yikes) I need to take better care of my body using stretching, foam rolling, yoga, and rest days.
I feel great about my body and what it can do.
Not many people can say they feel great, or even good, about the current body they have. So, to me, being in the best shape of one’s life also means that you have an appreciation for that body and are present in that appreciation. Many people reflect back to the best shape they’ve ever been in and they realize they didn’t appreciate it while it was happening. Instead, they were still focused on the little things they “needed” to change.
The best shape of your life is hard to maintain year over year. But I think it’s possible to stay in the best shape that can be reasonably expected for your age. I don’t expect to be able to lift heavier and heavier until I’m 90 years old. But I do want to live a long, healthy, mobile life. My goals are sure to change following this birthday but right now, today, weeks away from a milestone birthday, I think I’m in the best shape of my life.
What about you? How far are you from being in the best shape of your life? Or even from being in the type of shape you’d like to be right now? Let’s talk about it.