At Sirens and Titans Fitness (www.sirensandtitansfitness.com) I always tell our clients that I have to get them fit enough to get really fit. The majority of people’s fitness stops at this level because they just exercise and never develop a training strategy. They finally start to see improvement and ease up oftentimes giving up all the hard work. If you can get over the hump and move to the next level then maintenance of this level is actually easier than getting to the level. This is because there is now a base of fitness and as long as you at minimum maintain the base you can slow the regression. Also the workouts become more enjoyable and actually take less time because you are able to elevate the intensity. You become one of those people who are envied by many because you can work out so little and with proper nutrition maintain a fit and healthy physique.
I was recently working with two women who are fit enough to get really fit and their training is reflecting this fact. As a strength and conditioning coach it was enjoyable to train them because we can create workouts and long term strategies that allow them to make great strides in improving their fitness. In addition they can execute 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 fit enough to be fit 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 into the no man’s land of fitness year after year. The main culprit is the marketing of fitness today and a number of myths that harder is better and sweating more is the path to great fitness. Most individuals want a magic coach that will tell them that they do not have to work hard in order to accomplish their 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 coach can do is regulate the progression of the training to ease some of the pain and lower the risk for big injuries and also nagging overuse injury in order to elevate to a base level of fitness to build from.
The evolution that I 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 minimal exercises and reduce the risk of injury. We define minimum as the ability to control the body with body weight only. We utilize a dynamic warm up (Peak Performance Online has a great explanation of a dynamic warm up, http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/warming-up-the-dynamic-alternative-to-static-stretching-1051 ) S&T Fitness 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. Bracing 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 or the exercise is too advanced. Imagine a 100 meter sprint on your bicycle and 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 mass in a movement. The contact points are sometimes different and in some cases we see examples of body control by elite athletes in midair 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 an effort in 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. Most group workout have little measurement of performance, or are always super intense across the board, not allow for overloads in any particular movement.
When we train a professional athlete they typically have an adequate general level of fitness that is very high. 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. We incorporate exercise that will focus on energy systems necessary for a particular sport. We begin to stair step up to higher and higher levels of fitness. Periodization and long term strategy become very important as well as individual workout tactics to produce greater and greater overloads as the client becomes fitter. Just going harder does not always result in greater levels of fitness. Sometimes complimentary exercises must be the focus to aid in the performance of the core movement patterns.
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. You will then be training and not just exercising.
Truth in Fitness
Jacques DeVore, CSCS