Fitness guidePublished: 12-10-2011 | Updated: 19-03-2013
This article takes a broad look at fitness, touching on how it fits with modern society and presents core guidelines for people looking to build stronger, leaner and healthier physiques.
We aim to simplify fitness to core components, strip away the unnecessary and clarify this often over-complicated and contradictory topic.
We'll start with the unhelpfully vague text book definition - "Fitness", defined as "Good health or physical condition, especially as the result of exercise and proper nutrition."
For the purposes of this article - how we define a person's fitness is based on well-rounded physical competency across the ten recognised fitness domains, as opposed to a narrow focus in one or two areas, such as strength or speed for example. The Fitstream approach is more akin to CrossFit philosophy with it's broad, non-specliased focus. As they put it - "Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist" (2).
The ten fitness domains are -
- Cardiovascular / respiratory endurance - gathering, processing, and delivering oxygen.
- Stamina - processing, delivering, storing, and utilising energy.
- Strength - application of force by muscle(s).
- Flexibility - maximising the range of motion at a given joint.
- Power - application of maximum force in minimum time by muscles.
- Speed - minimising the time cycle of a repeated movement.
- Coordination - combination of several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
- Agility - minimising transition time from one movement pattern to another.
- Balance - controlling the placement of the bodies centre of gravity in relation to its support base.
- Accuracy - controlling movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.
Aim to build a routine that helps develop skills in all of the core physical competencies above.
The Fitstream fitness philosophy is designed to help everyday people build an effective fitness programme into their lives. We focus efforts on -
- Creating a balanced fitness programme for modern life, that compliments rather than dominates.
- Promoting total fitness across all ten fitness domains.
- Training that supports health and functional ability, improving everyday performance (aesthetics being a secondary by-product of effective training).
- The pursuit and application of informed, efficient nutrition and exercise principles.
- Objective-oriented, results-driven fitness plans.
We believe that fitness should be simplified but shouldn't be misleadingly portrayed as easy. That you must work at it, and keep working at it and not to let clever marketing campaigns tell us otherwise as there are no shortcuts or miracle pills, and no equipment with a plug is going to give you the body of your dreams.
The Fitstream approach to fitness is about embracing and ingraining it as a way of life, and not shoehorning a tired, ineffective routine into an already hectic schedule. A routine that many see as a necessary evil, although much of staying fit and healthy is about mind-set and it's essential that you enjoy your training.
At Fitstream we tell things straight, encourage training methods and equipment that really work and help promote fitness as serious play time but at the same time creating a fitness routine driven by objectives and strategy in order to achieve goals.
The world is facing a health crisis.
Part of changing things for the better is recognising where we are today and understanding how and why this came about...
The health mess
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions across the globe, with more than 1 billion adults overweight and at least 300 million clinically obese (1).
This is having serious social and psychological effects, breeding type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases which are affecting all ages and socioeconomic groups.
In other words - we're fat, lazy, have a poor quality of life and dying earlier than we should. Someone wheel me to the fridge.
How did we get so unfit?
Society is now accustomed to immediacy and convenience. We're the digital generation, with the three second attention span and our cushy lifestyles and expectation of instant gratification is making us lazy.
We've increased our consumption of more energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods with high levels of sugar and saturated fats. Combined with reduced physical activity and it's created a global health crisis.
Before our time, people did things - if you needed to be somewhere, you walked, if you needed shelter, you built it. We worked with our hands and we'd run, crawl, swim and build on a daily basis. Fitness was born out of necessity and everyday living.
This is how our bodies evolved, and now, whilst the game's the same, the playing field has changed. We no longer hunt our food, it's handed to us and that's not a lion at our heels, it's the rent man, and hill-sprints don't pay the bills.
Today - fitness is created out of sheer will and commitment. We must motivate ourselves to get in shape as survival (at least our immediate survival) is usually not dependent on it. For some it can be an inner drive to express themselves physically, to look better, or for the thrill of competition, and for others, more about prolonging life, the quality of life, or growing old with your family and being able to run alongside your grandchildren.
Read our guide on motivation for fitness to help keep you committed.
...aren't working and turn fitness into a mundane, monotonous chore.
Their business models are based on membership volume, people rarely turning up and not cancelling the subscription. Even if you do turn up, the gym's themselves are typically filled with ineffective machines that do half the work and fixed-path movements.
It's good to see that the tide is slowly turning and there's a growth in popularity of the CrossFit style, garage gyms. Gyms that are tearing up the rule book and going back to basics with primitive equipment and good old grit!
Read our article on the perfect gym for more of our musings on the ideal training setup.
Solving the health crisis
People need to take control and responsibility for their lives, acknowledge the need for change and take steps to improve their lifestyles. Effective education on the fundamentals of exercise and nutrition is essential.
The world needs to spend more time on their fitness...
Why keep fit?
Most people know the main benefits of exercising but here's a recap of the fundamentals -
- Better health and quality of life (you just might live longer!)
- To be stronger, faster and more physically capable
- Increased energy levels and vitality
- You'll look better
- Improved self-esteem
- Healthy body, healthy mind - exercise can help reduce stress, anxiety or depression and has many other psychological benefits.
- Sports and exercise can be great for the social life or as a means of meeting new people.
- Delayed ageing
- Other physical benefits that are too numerous to count - from improved posture, to sleeping better..
We could go on...
Essentially, nature is unforgiving and it's a use it or lose it rulebook. With the right training and movements your body responds, improves and strengthens, and with a lack of stimulus it declines. "Adapt and overcome" - it’s the body’s motto.
No matter your age or physical condition there's no better time than the present to start training and it's never too late to build fit.
How to get fit
Whilst the benefits of exercise can be a powerful motivating factor, the best way to get fit is to find the kind of training that you simply enjoy doing. Fitness doesn't have to mean sterile, machine-laden gyms and plates full of broccoli. In fact, it's better if it doesn't...
There are two main components to building and maintaining a good level of health and fitness - Nutrition and Exercise.
Here are our core principles to getting fit, healthy and looking great, targeted at everyday people.
First up, nutrition...
Nutrition has a critical role in your fitness and will either enhance or diminish the results from your physical training. Get it wrong and you're not only limiting the effect of your work but flirting with diabetes, cancer, obesity and other diseases...
Here we present a hard and fast guide to effective nutrition.
Nutrition rules -
- You can't beat genetics. This will determine your body shape and aspects like your ability to gain muscle or fat...
- Whilst genetics sets the scene, body composition essentially comes down to calorie intake and physical activity.
- Around 80% of body composition is determined by diet.
Whether for general health or athletic performance you should build your diet around three core factors -
- Controlling blood glucose (insulin production)
- Ensuring proper macronutrient proportion (levels of protein, carbohydrate, fat...)
- Caloric restriction (appropriate intake of calories for body type and activity level)
Nutrition guidelines -
- Limit processed carbohydrate intake to help support weight loss (and control insulin production)
- 50 - 100 grams / day for accelerated fat loss.
- 100 - 150 grams / day for simple weight maintenance.
- Those with high activity levels can increase carb intake as needed to replace glycogen stores.
- Consume sufficient protein and fat to fuel and rebuild the body.
- 0.7 - 1 gram of protein per pound of lean muscle mass per day (depending on activity levels).
- Eliminate sugary food and drinks, and any refined or processed foods.
If you're just starting out with your training you don't need to worry about supplementation. Get your training started with a clean, wholesome diet, and research supplements when you have the basics nailed down.
Pills and powders are no substitute for a proper diet.
Increasing your physical activity is key to building strength, lean-muscle mass and dropping excess fat.
Fitness routines should always support health and be built around -
Consistent, regular exercise is essential. Aim for varied workouts five or six days per week with different combinations and goals each time.
Intensity of exercise
The intensity of your training is an important factor for challenging the body and provoking a physical change.
Introduce varying intensities to workouts, such as -
- "All out" effort:
- Intense, anaerobic conditioning which is a superior method of burning fat whilst not diminishing power, speed, strength or muscle mass (unlike prolonged cardio).
- e.g. Sprints / Interval training
- 1 workout every 7 - 10 days
- Brief, intense, heavy lifting:
- Develops lean muscle and strength, maximising fat loss.
- e.g. Full body functional weightlifting
- 1 - 3 workouts per week, 10-60 minutes
- Frequent, slow-pace movement:
- Develops a solid base of fitness, and strengthens the cardiovascular / immune systems
- e.g. Waking, cycling, swimming
- 2 - 5 hours per week at 55 - 75% maximum heart rate
Variety of exercise
It's essential that you introduce variety into your fitness regime. The human body is staggeringly efficient and adapts quickly. Not only does variety help challenge your body across the ten fitness skills, but can keep you interested and committed to training.
When pursuing total fitness, as opposed to specialised skills, you should avoid uniformed training. For example, frequent medium-to-high intensity cardio training for sustained durations will develop your capacity to run a marathon, but at the expense of muscle mass, speed and power.
Exercise with creativity, changing workout patterns, mixing up movements and avoiding a stagnant routine at all costs.
Try incorporating exercises across the following, when training for total fitness:
- Cardio / Metabolic Conditioning
- Focus on moderate - high power, lasting less than several minutes (anaerobic exercise). This will decrease body fat whilst improving athletic performance (without compromising muscle mass or strength like high volume cardio training).
- Training: Interval training
- Benefits / Skills: Fat loss, muscle mass, power, speed, strength.
- The physical benefits of practicing gymnastics cannot be understated. Master even the very basics of gymnastics and you will develop superior bodily control, a lithe, coordinated frame, solid upper-body and core, and unparalleled strength.
- Gymnastics training can be frustratingly difficult but is hugely beneficial.
- Training: Calisthenics (pull-ups, push-ups, dips...), climbing, yoga.
- Benefits / Skills: Strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, agility, accuracy.
- Olympic weightlifting develops strength, speed and power as one, like no other form of training.
- Note the distinction of performing Olympic lifts that are mulit-joint movements such as the deadlift or squat which develop skills across a broad spectrum as opposed to non-functional exercises such as bicep curls and leg extensions that are designed for bodybuilding rather than conditioning (bodybuilding is focused on aesthetics / muscle size and not on athletic performance).
- Training: Incorporate major lifts like the deadlift, clean, snatch, squat
- Benefits / Skills: Strength, speed, power, flexibility, coordination, balance, agility, accuracy.
Regularly playing and learning new sports is a great way to put your training to the test and sustain fitness. Whilst training is relatively structured, repetitive and predictable, playing sports is your chance to demonstrate your skills in a relatively random and competitive environment, on the pitch, court, field, pool or arena.
Make sure you warm-up adequately before training and introduce stretching routines to prepare your body for safe, effective range of motion for whatever training you're about to undertake.
Keeping correct, controlled form will help you stay injury free and get better results from your training because it guarantees you're using an appropriate weight with the intended muscles.
Whilst exercise intensity is important it should never be at the sacrifice of good form. Trying to lift as much weight as you can, any which way you can increases the chances of damaging muscles, tendons and ligaments, or losing control of a weight in an undesirable position, such as above your noodle.
Summary of getting fit
Eat high-quality, natural food, train consistently, and get enough water and sleep. Avoid repetitive training schedules and build in spontaneity, varying types of exercise at different frequencies, difficulties and intensities.
Not exactly hard is it? Forget secret formulas, magic pills and short cuts. These are marketing tricks by the unscrupulous. Build your routine around honest hard work and perseverance.
Fitness psychology and getting started
Like much in life, your success in health and fitness can be largely determined by your mindset and attitude.
If you haven't already - the first step is simply starting. Procrastination is the enemy and it's easy to drown in a sea of convoluted fitness articles and conflicting information and never quite make it into the gym. Know the basics and overcome that first hurdle - get out there and start lifting, sprinting and moving your body. You'll learn the rest on the job.
Cultivate a state of mind that there is no other option, that your fitness is as basic a requirement as any other. Your training will have carry over benefits into all other areas of your life and you'll get stronger each day and ultimately become a more capable, not to mention attractive human being. Your body was designed to do this, it's not only character building but intrinsicly fullfilling.
If you weather the difficulties of being unfit and just starting out with training and build that basic layer of fitness, it all gets much easier and more enjoyable. Many people never have it in them to get over this, don't train often enough and skirt around a fitness routine that never really sees them progressing and always battlling through sporadic workouts.
Read our article on motivation for fitness for tips on how to sustain interest and structure your training for maximum effect.
When just starting with fitness training -
- Set yourself realistic and measurable short and long term goals. We perform best when we're working towards something and if you don't know what it is you want to achieve how can you work out what it is you need to do in order to get there?
- Plan how you will achieve your goals. Now that you have your goals in mind, what is it that you will need to do to achieve them? See Fitness Planning.
- Keep a training journal. A training journal is a great motivational aid and helps you track progress and figure out what is working best for you. Read our article on keeping a training journal and download an example log sheet.
- URL: http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/facts/obesity/en/ Date: 20.Mar.2010
- URL: http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ-trial.pdf Date: 09.Sept.2010
Always consult your GP before undertaking any form of weight loss, fitness or exercise