Moving the Needle From Sickness to Wellness to Fitness

Photo courtesy of CrossFit, Inc.

Photo courtesy of CrossFit, Inc.

Tom Singleton, a good friend of mine and former general contractor, is one of the most proactive individuals I know. He always takes care of problems when he notices them in the early stages, always adamant about avoiding later issues.

When we worked together, we always evaluated the status of whatever we were looking at. After evaluating, we indicated the emergency, maintenance, and improvement needs.

In this case, the boiler under the house was having issues firing when the thermostat indicated a needed increase of temperature. We took the situation and noted the emergency, maintenance, and improvement needs. Bear in mind we are in Buffalo, New York in December.

The emergency needs were immediate: heat to keep the temperature at a safe level in the house. Without the boiler firing, the heated water could not travel through the radiators.

The maintenance needs were less immediate, but logical: weekly checkups on the ignition module to ensure the boiler fired regularly as needed during colder months.

The improvement needs were far less immediate, and a little hard to conceptualize: create a systematic checklist that included off-season maintenance and testing to ensure the boiler worked, even in the summer months.

Once we noted these needs, we adjusted the thermocouple, and did about twenty tests to ensure it operated properly. Over the next few winter months, we checked the boiler once per week to ensure it was working properly. And over the summer, we fired the boiler to ensure it could start at a moment’s notice.

Tom’s approach drastically reduced our maintenance workload. He took problems from emergency, to maintenance, to improvement. He mitigated emergencies by creating pathways to move the needle to the other end of the spectrum.

In terms of health, CrossFit uses a very similar continuum and approach as Tom does to maintenance. CrossFit calls this the “Sickness, Wellness, Fitness Continuum.”

Imagine the illustration with Tom and this picture. His maintenance continuum would read Emergency, Maintenance, and Improvement from left to right.

When it comes to our health, we are trying to move as far to the right on the continuum as possible. We desire to mitigate sickness, which we can understand as emergency health situations. Any health condition or event resulting from chronic reasons will lead to emergency situations. We want to move away from that as soon as possible.

In practical terms, we want to lower blood pressure, lower body fat, increase bone density, increase muscle mass, adjust fat levels, and any other measurable of good health. Any of these markers indicates the present state of the body and should be used to note where we are on the continuum.

As we move closer to Wellness, we begin to improve health markers through nutritional change and regular exercise, with nutrition being the main mover. We have shifted the regular state of the body to one more tolerable to our environment by improving the above-mentioned markers, thus mitigating emergency situations.

Moving from Wellness to Fitness means we have been consistent with the basics of nutrition and exercise, and are now optimizing the controllable variables in our lives. We may now be measuring our sleep, measuring our food, and managing our days to improve stressors beyond the once emergency physical stressors.

Regardless of our individual starting points, nutrition and exercise are necessary to move the needle. Without changing or improving these factors, we are at risk of sliding back towards the left.

What is the real benefit of moving to the right?

The greatest benefit is the buffer we create. As we move to the right, we are creating resistance towards the left. As we improve, we are creating a mechanism for resisting disease and aging. Even better, we are making deposits for future withdrawal.

We do not know what life will bring in the future. What happens when we are overcome with additional workload and life changes? We may miss the gym or eat poorly for some time, but we have created a buffer to utilize. We no longer move further into Sickness, or from Wellness to Sickness. We instead remain in Fitness or move slightly towards Wellness.

Just like building maintenance, health requires ongoing maintenance. Make sure what you are doing is creating a valuable buffer in your life, both for now and the future.