So, I spend a lot of time writing about meals and recipes on this blog. I decided to switch it up today and focus more on the physical fitness side of things. I still believe in the saying “abs are made in the kitchen” (which means that up to eighty percent of your results – aesthetically speaking, anyway – are a direct result of what, when and how much you eat) but how, when, where and how often you move your body are also an important part of the health and wellness equation. If you prefer auditory/visual learning, be sure to check out my Instagram video series on this topic, or see my videos on Facebook.
Let’s brush up on muscular capacity, cardiorespiratory capacity, flexibility, body composition and the other, secondary, components of fitness.
Muscular capacity encompasses all elements of muscular function, including: strength, endurance and power. When you do resistance training for your muscles to strengthen them, all activities of your daily life get easier. And when life is easier, you have more energy left over for the fun things. And when life is easy and you have more energy, you have more confidence. And when you have more confidence, you’re crushing it in the gym. A classic positive feedback loop!
How/where to start? Beginners can look at getting 2 strength workouts per week, starting with total body moves using body weight only. You might start with one set of each exercise, with 5-8 exercises in total depending your time availability, and really focus on perfecting the correct form/technique for the exercise. Please consult with a qualified trainer or other professional fitness resource for form tips, coaching and correction – ideally, in person. Spending this extra time in the beginning is well worth it as you are establishing the neuromuscular (mind-muscle) connections that will teach your body the best way to perform an exercise. Like many other habits, if poor habits are established early on, they can be harder to break. Over time, you’ll increase the number of sets and/or exercises, eventually progressing to up to 4-6 resistance training sessions per week (for advanced exercisers/performance athletes). Note that adequate recovery is key to get the most out of your workouts – this can mean up to 48 hours for the body to repair and replenish so that you go into your next workout stronger than you left the last one.
Cardiorespiratory capacity means getting oxygen into our bodies via respiration (our lungs) and circulated in our system (by our heart) to our muscle cells to be turned into energy to do work (muscular contraction) for us.
How do we strengthen and improve the performance of our heart? Like any other muscle, we ask our heart to work harder than its resting state. Any activities that get the heart rate up qualify – running, skipping, walking, swimming, skating, cycling…over time our heart gets more efficient, meaning it can do more for less, resulting in greater ease in all of our activities and reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.
How/where to start? Beginners can look at getting 3 cardio workouts per week, starting at ten minutes and building up to thirty minutes per session. Over time, the goal is 300 minutes of moderate intensity or 150 mins of vigorous intensity per week. A simple walk is a great place to start but if that’s too much for your joints, a recumbent stationary bike offers even more support and less impact for the joints.
Flexibility is the range of motion, or mobility, of our joints. All of our muscles, bones, organs and other structures in our bodies are connected by tissue called fascia. Too tight fascia can restrict the range of motion of our joints. This can be caused by poor hydration, past injury, compromised posture, etc.
We can lengthen our fascia and improve range of motion by stretching. Ideally, look to stretch every day and you can combine moving stretches (dynamic – ideal for pre-workout) and stationary stretches (static). This is one area where beginners can and should incorporate as many sessions as possible. Stretches should result in a sensation of mild tension, but not discomfort. They can be done upon waking, at various points throughout the day and again before bedtime. You can also incorporate controlled breathing techniques as well as stretching equipment such as bands, straps, blocks and other supports.
This is probably where we as a society put too much focus, energy and attention, ignoring or at the detriment of the other components previously discussed. Body composition tells us how much of our body is composed of adipose tissue (fat) and everything else (lean muscle mass, bones, organs, other tissue and water – and let’s not forget the contents of our stomach and intestines – yes indeed, you truly can be full of $^(@!). Yes, too much adipose tissue is associated with higher risk or certain diseases, but once the amount of body fat is in a healthy range (not zero), we don’t need to focus on getting the number ever lower. Having too little adipose tissue carries health risks as well, especially for women as it can negatively impact menstruation and fertility and can lead to early onset osteoporosis. Also, the devices generally available for measurement of body composition can be wildly inaccurate, especially the ones using “bioelectrical impedance” – meaning you stand barefoot on metal plates that send a current through your lower extremities. A slightly more reliable measure is skin fold girth measurements (calipers), when measured by a trained professional in the same location and same manner each time, and ideally at the same time of day, with the same hydration levels – are you seeing how many variables can skew already inaccurate results?
Need to work on getting body fat down to a healthy level? Focus on the other elements of fitness (muscular and cardiorespiratory capacities and flexibility) and combine with healthful eating as per my previous videos and blog posts, and you’re well on your way!
Secondary Components of Fitness
Balance, coordination, agility, reaction time, speed, power and mental capability: we often associate these attributes with athletes, but these are skills that can be learned and improved at any fitness level. You can imagine how improvements in any or all of these areas allow us to go about our daily lives with not only more ease, but also more safety. Our bodies are better prepared to deal with unstable or slippery surfaces, helping us to avoid slips, trips and falls. With improved agility and reaction time, we can more quickly recognize and get out of the way of potential hazards. When we ourselves or others are in danger, we have the power and mental capability to help them. You see, not all heroes wear capes; some wear Dri-Fit and sneakers.
Looking to incorporate these elements into your current training regime? The strength, cardiovascular and flexibility training we’ve discussed already will impact these areas. Contact me to learn more about how to improve in any of these areas.
So there is my discussion on the components of fitness. Please let me know if you’d like to learn more about any area.
Have a fit day!