Friday, October 22, 2010

The Evolution of Your Fitness: Getting Fit Enough to Get Really Fit!

At Titan I always tell our clients that I have to get them fit enough to get really fit.  This morning I was working with two women who are fit enough to get really fit and their training is reflecting this fact. As a trainer it was enjoyable to train them because we can create workouts that allow them to make great strides in improving their fitness and the impact can be great on their daily lives.  In addition they can have an hour workout that would bury the average person and then head off to the rest of their day feeling great about what they just accomplished.  So how do I measure this level of fitness?

In all honesty fitness takes some work and a measured amount of suffering. Those of you who are training at a level that never gives you some higher level of stress on the body will walk in the no man’s land of fitness year after year.  The main culprit is the marketing of fitness today.  Most individuals want a magic trainer that will tell you that you do not have to work hard in order to accomplish your goal.  This person can magically transform their client’s body into the body they want without any real work.  It is a bunch of nonsense.  What a great trainer can do is regulate the progression of the training to ease some of the pain; however there will be some measured amount of suffering.  If regulated appropriately this suffering can be very tolerable and overcome. 

The evolution of fitness that we have seen with our athletes and our non athletes is that first we must obtain a general level of fitness.  That means that the body has the ability to stabilize and mobilize.  This takes a minimum level of strength, balance, flexibility, power, and cardiovascular fitness in order to perform certain exercises correctly.  This minimum ability greatly reduces the risk of injury. We define minimum as the ability to control the body with body weight only.  Control does not mean being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.  

At the start of a workout we utilize a dynamic warm up (Peak Performance Online has a great explanation of a dynamic warm up, ) Titan’s dynamic warm up would be considered by some as a workout within a work out to prepare the body for more intense forms of movements.  After we have established that body control is sound then we start to focus on the ability to produce more intensity and volume in the movements.  Intensity can be defined as movements that are more complex or at higher speeds or under greater loads.  These speeds require a minimum level of strength and power production as well as the ability to stabilize the body so that the athlete is not injured.   We want the ability to stabilize effectively engaging the core, adequate balance, strength, and power. There are very few movements of the body that do not employ the core in stabilizing the body.  However, the type of complex multi-joint exercises we utilize are regularly taxing the core and forcing a client’s body to stabilize effectively.  If this cannot be accomplished the exercise would be determined to be too advanced.  To get a better understanding of engaging your core, imagine a 100 meter race on your bicycle but you have to sprint without your hands on the handle bars.  You would be hard pressed to beat your opponent without gripping the bars.  Once you grab the bars you have a kinetic chain that starts from your hands and travels all the way to your feet and back.   If your wrist was injured the kinetic chain would be compromised and your performance would be affected.   This is a good example of core strength.  It does not just come from your torso.  It is the coordination of multiple muscles that all tie to the center of your body.  The contact points are sometimes different and in some cases we see examples of body control by elite athletes in  mid air that are absolutely incredible and leave us jaw dropped with the body control displayed.

Volume is the amount of a particular exercise that is performed.   It can be measured in repetitions, time, foot pounds of power, wattage, miles, feet etc.  I like to define it as total time in the zone.   The zone to me is the training goal of a particular exercise and how much time you spend producing that particular goal.  For example you are doing short intervals on a bicycle of 1 min at a power output of 350 watts.  The volume would be the total time spent at 350 watts.  If you did 10 of these intervals then the time in the zone or total volume would be 10 min at wattage of 350.   So volume must be measured and tied to the intensity in order to have any relevance in your training.  It is for this reason that recording workouts is so important. 
I have talked about the no man’s/woman’s land of training where many spend hours and hours of training time.  This is a training level that is too hard for recovery and not hard enough for an overload.   Without recording volume and intensity most fall into this type of training.  Overloads can come from both volume and/or intensity.

When we train a professional athlete they typically have an adequate general level of fitness that is well developed.  However, even the best athletes of the world have dimensions of their fitness that need to be addressed to lower the risk of injury in the future.  

Once you have obtained this general level of fitness the workouts change and the focus begins to narrow.   Both intensity and volume can now be increased and major changes in fitness can be obtained and we can begin to get someone really fit.  We incorporate exercise that will focus on energy systems necessary for that particular sport.  We begin to stair step to higher and higher levels of fitness.  Periodization and long term strategy become very important as well as tactics to produce greater and greater overloads as the client becomes fitter.  

All of these are wrapped into a dynamic training package that allows a client to become really fit and not just what I call average man fit. When you get to this level of fitness you will know it.  People will call you a fitness nut and you will start looking at yourself as an athlete, not just someone who works out. 
Train smart, have fun, and you will prevail.


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