It’s time to get your gear on and bust some fitness training moves!
You’re obviously raring to go but . . . pull in the reins for a moment. Bare with me and I’ll explain what fitness training exactly means.
To understand this we first need to understand the various components of fitness.
The Components of Fitness
Believe if or not, fitness is not about how far you can run before collapsing. It is your ability to cope with the stresses of everyday life.
To cope with these stresses, several components need to be at an optimum if you are to be fighting fit. These components can be subdivided into two groups: health-related and skill-related.
Health-related components refer to your aerobic capacity, strength, flexibility, and body composition. Skill-related components refer to your speed, power, balance, reaction time, coordination, and agility. These skill-related components are far more important to the sports performer, whereby optimal performance will keep them at the top of their game.
I’ll take a closer look at the health-related components, as this is more important to you as far as your general health and wellbeing are concerned.
Health-related Components of Fitness Training
Aerobic capacity or VO2 Max is your ability to take in and use oxygen during physical exertion. By improving your VO2 Max, the longer you’ll be able to participate in activities such as running and swimming at submaximal intensity (that is, not working flat out!).
To improve your aerobic capacity . . . you’ll have to get your gear on and bust some fitness training moves! The specific activity must involve the whole body and last for a minimum of 20 minutes, but build yourself up to 30 or 40 minutes.
The fitter you are, the longer you’ll be able to perform. And depending on your ultimate goal, your fitness training may take on sessions much longer than this. Though you could use the HIIT training principle or the Tabata Protocol to aid your aerobic fitness gains if longer sessions aren’t practical.
To gain any long term physiological changes to your fitness, you’ll have to train at least 2 times per week. If your training starts to get easy, work a little harder – increase your speed, distance, number of circuits, lengths of the pool, whatever suits your activity.
Strength is a very general term. If refers to your ability to apply some force against a resistance. That sounds very scientific and boring! But it’s easy to understand.
If you’re a runner, your body weight is the resistance. If weightlifting is your thing, the actual weights are the resistance. Either way, your muscles are providing the force.
But to be more specific, there are three types of strength: maximum strength, elastic strength, and endurance strength. (You should aim to incorporate some strength training into your fitness routine, but the types and to what degree really depends on your ultimate goal.)
Maximum strength is the greatest force you are able to exert in a single contractions. If you’re a powerlifter, you’ll need immense maximum strength.
Elastic strength is your ability to overcome a resistance with a very high speed contraction. This is much more appropriate to an athlete, so sprinters, throwers, jumpers, and hitters need to work on their elastic strength.
Strength endurance is your ability to withstand fatigue. This is what is interesting to you! Being able to withstand fatigue will allow you to cope with every day stresses far better. Digging the garden, DIY, loading and unloading your shopping. Or participating in team sports that last for a long time.
Flexibility is the range of movement you have around a joint. If your degree of flexibility is poor, it’s because your joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons are too tight.
There are three types of stretching to improve flexibility, and variations of: static, dynamic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).
Static stretching is your ability to move into a position that takes your joint just beyond its point of resistance, which lengthens the soft tissues that support the joint. The stretch is held for around 30 seconds.
Dynamic stretching uses momentum to take a body part through its extreme range of movement, via bouncing and swinging exercises. These types of stretching should be used by athletes who are already flexible. Otherwise, you’re likely to overstretch and damage your soft tissues.
PNF stretching is extremely effective! You perform a static stretch on a specific joint and surrounding soft tissue and perform a contraction of the muscle. The muscle is relax and then contracted a second time. The muscle usually stretches further the second time.
For more discussion on stretching and flexibility, see the stretching exercises article. Body composition is your ratio of lean body mass and body fat. To help with your awareness of your body composition, there are body fat percentage guidelines to help you monitor you fat levels. These can be very useful, especially dieters. Roughly, men should carry anywhere between 10% and 25% body fat depending on age and women between 12% and 25%. Any more than this and you’ll become overweight, and in extreme cases obese. This obviously leads eventually to health problems. Most athletes carry less fat, and the more exercise you do the less fat you will have, providing you follow a sensible diet!
What Does Fitness Training Mean to You?
Basically, to cope effectively with the stresses of everyday life, you will have to consider each of the above components with the goal of improving each.
Aerobic training will improve your cardio vascular function. Some type of resistance training, particularly strength endurance, will improve your resistance to fatigue. Flexibility will protect your joints and muscles from injuries. Improved body composition will decrease your risk of health problems, such as heart disease and even some cancers.
That, basically, is it! Construct a varied exercise and flexibility plan, coupled with an appropriate diet, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier enjoyable lifestyle.
And don’t think that improving your fitness needs to be expensive. Take a look at the article on home fitness without equipment to see the types of exercises you can do effectively without paying for expensive gear.