What is being fit? What makes a person fit? Is an offensive lineman fit? Is a weight lifter fit? My definition of fitness is being able to do anything I want, wherever I want, whenever I want, without having to “get in shape” to do it.
There are obviously different characterizations of what we call “fit,” but I have narrowed it down to three definable things you need to think about in terms of your health and wellness. What I have noticed is people tend to focus on one or two of these and ignore the others. But the reality is you need all three to be perfectly fit, no matter what your goals are.
I’ve used this approach with my own regime and while training others to great success. In fact, the gym I own in Texarkana (The Sportsplex), employs this doctrine with their members and clients. Here are the three things you need to ensure success in fitness:
Cardiovascular Fitness – Strength Training – Flexibility
Cardiovascular Fitness. ensures your heart and lungs are at their best capacity to serve you no matter what you want to do. You know you are not cardiovascularly fit if you get short of breath with exertion.
Here are some activities you can pursue to grow and maintain cardiovascular fitness: running, biking, walking, cardio machines at the gym, swimming, etc.
The idea here, is to find an activity that gets your heart rate up. This can be done two ways and I recommend using both intermittently in your routine. The first way, cardiovascular endurance training, uses a long constant increase of heart rate over time. This comes from doing mild to moderate exercise for a prolonged period, like walking or running a distance.
The second, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), comes from short bursts of high intensity activity followed by periods of less intensity. This technique has become very popular in the fitness industry as it can easily be adapted to a variety of activities like, weightlifting, group exercise classes and functional training.
Strength Training. Strength training is super important for the health of your muscles, bones, and joints. Fit people are strong people, and you need to have a strength training component in your wellness approach. It helps prevent osteoporosis and has many other health benefits. Strength training can be performed with body weight exercises like push-ups and pull ups, by using machines in the gym and by lifting free weights.
Flexibility. If there’s one category that’s the most often overlooked and undervalued, this is probably it. A lack of flexibility can significantly contribute to your likelihood of cumulative stress pain and can also result in acute soft tissue injury. Yet we see it every day as we get older, we become more inflexible, we stay busy and “forget” to stretch or work on our basic mobility. This is probably the most glaring physical contrast we see between the elderly and youth communities. Kids seem mobile and flexible, yet the elderly are not. Behavior patterns and activities change, but that doesn’t mean they all have to.
Flexibility needs to be worked on every day, by everyone. I do a thing called “The Three Minute Stretch” every day. It helps me maintain my flexibility and avoid injuries as I age. You can also get this from Yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates.
Integration. You’ve heard me use this word before, I’ll use it in this context too. All these approaches need to be included in your exercise routine if you want to be truly fit. How you use that, and the time you devote to each piece is up to you. Going back to my definition of fitness from earlier, ask yourself this question:
What are the things you want to do? Where, when, and how do you want to be able to do them? Lastly, perhaps most importantly, what do you need to do in terms of cardiovascular fitness, strength training, and flexibility to get there?
Plan to include those things in your regular routine and make it happen. Then you will be truly fit.
Living Every Minute,
Tim Reynolds MD