Often times, we hear people comment that running or swimming or yoga or some sport is the best exercise and they don’t need to do anything else for fitness. This kind of approach leads to a very one-dimensional development (see pic on the right) for that person and is certainly not the best way to go if you’re just an average girl/guy with a goal of getting a healthy body (and looking good).
Before moving on, an exception can be made for athletes. For them, it may be desirable to concentrate on certain aspects. Examples can be professional marathon runners (often with extremely skinny physiques) or professional strongmen (often crossing 100 Kg weight range) because their end goal is to be a machine which is optimized for their sport. All fitness enthusiasts, please notice the usage of word “professional”. So unless you plan to compete, this article is still quite relevant for you.
Now with the exceptions aside, lets start discussing the factors now:
First up is Endurance which is divided further into two parts: Cardiovascular and muscular endurance. The difference between the two? Remember the first time you helped your mom in cooking a dish, stirring it for several minutes and your arms started paining, that’s muscular endurance i.e. the ability of a muscle to keep working for submaximal (lighter) loads.
On the other hand, cardiovascular endurance is associated with the ability of your heart and lungs to pump blood into muscles while you run/swim/cycle/climb stairs etc. Low cardiovascular endurance will result in breathlessness while low muscular endurance will result in focused pain in the muscle being worked because of lactic acid build-up. Please note that this pain(good) is different from joint pain(bad). Read this article to know more about different types of pain.
Try pushing a car, if you can move it, you are really strong. Strength is pretty straight forward to understand. It is the ability to exert maximum force for various movements. How to train for it? Suppose you’re a beginner and can do only 1-5 pushups, now that’s a strength training exercise for you but if you’ve been training for a while and can do 20+ repetitions, pushups are now training you for more muscular endurance and not strength. In that case, you need to find a harder variation to train for strength.
Think about explosive movements like a boxer’s overhand knockout punch or a shot put athlete throwing the heavy ball or a tennis player’s ace. It may have a correlation with strength but power involves activation of different kind of muscle fibers as compared to endurance and strength activities. Power activities also involves a lot of neural activation and thus great for overall neuromuscular health.
It is important to make goals because that improves your chances of sticking to those fitness activities. So running a kilometer in less than 5 minutes, doing 10 pullups, getting chosen to play central midfield on your local football team are all goals that will push you towards better fitness levels. Now, for pursuing those goals and accomplishing them consistently, you need to learn skills.
Without good technique/skill, a genetically gifted person may be able to do 5 pullups but to go beyond 10 or 15 or 20 pullups, it’s hard to accomplish without learning the right technique/skill. Also, you are far more likely to get injured if you’re just muscling your way whether it be any endurance activity like swimming or strength/power activity like plyometrics.
Last but not the least, movement forms the basis for all the other activities. Movement involves having a decent range of motion and flexibility for the muscles, coordinated joint integrity between all joints and the ability to move pain free, even for high intensity movements. Yoga often comes to mind when we talk about flexibility but this is not the only way to work on your movements. As a matter of fact, you’ll see almost all athletes include some form of movement practice in their routines like stretching techniques and mobility drills. Healthy movement patterns form that stable base for performing any physical activity and thus must be prioritized by everyone, fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike.
We know there may be a lot of confusion as to what fitness activity covers which all factors so we’ll write a Part 2 covering common fitness activities and which factors they are high/low in. Till then, share this article to that friend who told you only doing *that* sports/activity was enough for fitness. Also, let us know which fitness activities would you like us to cover in Part 2.
In Lucem Scientiam