Facets of Fitness
Specialized training is a plague in the fitness community; power-lifters who can't run more than a quarter mile without stopping to catch their breath, distance runners who struggle to do a pull-up, even professional athletes who can barely touch their toes. As the world of fitness continues to grow, it is more important than ever to balance all the areas of Fitness.
Some people (I'm hesitant to use the word "experts" because I've done very little investigating into all their credentials) disagree on how many areas of fitness there are, but general consensus is between 5 and 10. I'm going to discuss them in my personal order of importance, what they are, and how you can maximize them (after checking with your doctor, obviously). I expect and welcome disagreement, and if you're feeling particularly passionate, please feel free to reach me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm more than willing to hear your side, and/or give more information on why rankings were the way they are. If you are a specialized athlete, you're probably not going to agree with this, but that's okay, because I’m not writing it for specialized athletes, I'm writing it for non-specialized, general fitness individuals. Let's get into it!
· Muscular Endurance/Stamina
Stamina can be defined as "the ability to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort." Two easy examples of this are being able to get up and down ladders multiple times or make a couple trips with a loaded wheelbarrow. Best practice for increasing stamina is incorporate high-rep bodyweight or low/no weight movements.
· Cardio Endurance
This one's probably the simplest, but the most high-risk, of all these. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how bad heart disease is (especially for guys), but just in case, here's a CDC write-up. The best way to increase your cardio endurance (and stop your heart from attacking you) is to find your preferred exercise that takes your heart rate up to about 60%-80% of your max, and keep it there for 30 minutes. A great transition between cardio endurance and body composition is VO2max; if I had chosen to do a different structure, it would have been great, instead I'm going to shoehorn it in here like an inexperienced high schooler. VO2max is how efficiently the body can use oxygen during physical activity, and it's fantastic way to measure cardio endurance, as well as field tests, like the PACER.
· Body Composition
Body composition is the way we find what we're made of: fat, bone, lean muscle, fat mass, and organs. Keep in mind, BMI charts are, in my opinion, totally garbage. Case and point, check out this "BMI:30 Obese" athlete (WARNING: SHIRTLESS DUDE). Balancing Body Composition is less an action itself, and more a result of balancing all these others. Increase activity, eat well, get tested by the same person (to ensure uniformity), and focus on the other 9 aspects; this will fall into place.
More than just being able to touch your toes, flexibility is one of the best ways to decrease joint injury. Keeping your joints elastic through simple stretching can prevent major damage to your back, legs, knees, and other major problem spots. Increasing Range of Motion for Simple home
stretches work wonders, but Yoga and Pilates are great options also. For people who are already flexible, try integrating a little Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation.
· Muscular Strength
Do you even lift? If so, great, keep doing it, but stay balanced. If not, start. If you're a woman worried about becoming too bulky, stop. If you're a guy worried about the same, also stop. If you have no idea what you're doing, download an app, find a friend, or just ask someone at the gym (96% of the time, they're nicer than they seem). Measuring success is quite simple, but should be performed with others around: The One-Repetition Max.
Not to be confused with Flexibility, Balance is "an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady." In your day to day, this is getting out of a chair while holding a child/grandchild, it's getting a bag of flour down from the top shelf and not feeling wobbly. It's also kettlebell get-ups, clean and snatch, Bosu work, and pistol squats. Increasing your balance is one of the higher quality-of-life improving components of fitness, and it trends up, effecting all other components equally.
Having fast feet, fast hands, and quick weight movement. The real-world applications may only show up in less than savory situations, and you'll be glad you didn't skip out on lateral lunges when you slip on the ice while carrying groceries. The fitness applications, and way to increase your agility, are clear: burpees, ladder work, punching drills, lateral step runs, etc. Anything where you perform a movement to a target area at a reasonably fast speed.
Simply put, it's telling your body what to do and having it do exactly that. While training this sounds easy, it can be one of the more difficult components to actually train, mostly because it mostly comes from doing. A good way to do this is maintaining a solid kinesthetic awareness before, during, and after a lift or motion, and repeating it. They say practice makes perfect, but really, only perfect practice makes perfect.
Top Speed, High Gear, Beast Mode. Call it what you will, speed is a source of a lot of pride for athletes. Speed is more than just sprints, it's hitting your goal during interval training and it's keeping rest time low. The best way to get faster is to get faster [I'd like to use the shoe slogan, but I JUST can't DO IT for legal reasons].
Power is more than just lifting heavy and being fast. Being explosive in all regards, getting those muscles you've developed to all fire at the same time. This is Olympic lifting at its finest. A practical application might be grabbing the low end of the couch and lifting it chest high so it can make it up the stairs. However, I personally think of Power as what you use when you tap into Fight or Flight, you explode toward the problem, or away from it. To train explosion, just like speed, be explosive. Plyometrics, rapid-fire bodyweight movements, and Olympic lifts are all great examples
Putting things where you want them, every time. Real life applications are almost exclusively sports. Throwing a football, baseball, kicking a soccer ball or kickball. Knowing where you want to put something, and actually putting it there are very different. Best way to train this is to use it in every aspect of your other training. When you forward lunge, but your foot exactly where you want it. When you toss a ball against a wall, put it exactly where you want it.
When you swing a kettlebell, executing a hand switch exactly when you want.
Balancing all ten of these components won't make you the perfect athlete, but it will get you closer. The applications for balanced fitness weave through and over each other so intricately, training one will pull the others with it. Likewise, the real-life applications can be used as thermometers for imbalances in your fitness conglomeration. Fitness, however, is just one spoke in the wheel of wellness. More on that later.