‘I need to get fit’
The term fitness has been thrown around a lot lately. You hear it all the time: ‘ I need to get fit’. But what does it mean?
What if I told you it didn’t make much sense at all?
Increasing your fitness takes a little more than going out for a jog now and again or going to a gym.
Here’s a definition of fitness.
1. The state or condition of being fit; suitability or appropriateness.
2. Good health or physical condition, especially as the result of exercise and proper nutrition.
Fitness can therefore be divided into a number of different subcategories. For someone to say they ‘want to increase their fitness’ technically they are saying they want to get stronger, faster, leaner, jump higher, more explosive, increase their endurance… all at once. Now you see where everyone is going wrong when they talk about fitness then go for a ‘run’.
Strength is fitness for that specific task but that same person may not be able to run 5 steps down the road therefore they aren’t fit for running but they are fit for lifting things.
Endurance is a type of fitness but the person who can run 20 miles would lack strength fitness and they would probably blow away in the wind and wouldn’t look like they were fit at all.
So what is ‘Fitness’ when we mention it flippantly in conversation, or make a new years resolution?
So when we say ‘fitness’ we essentially mean we want to look better, lose some fat and gain some muscle. Maybe increase our physical strength and endurance too. So why does everyone who decides they want to get fit take to the streets and jog around Dublin like they are training for a marathon?
Your running/ cardiovascular fitness has little or no correlation between how good you will look, strong you get or how good you look naked.
It will make you better at running and that’s all, it wont increase your over all ‘fitness’ that much.
Your strength ‘fitness’ will most likely decrease. If you take it serious enough (because you want to get really fit, right?) you will look gaunt and unhealthy after a while by choosing jogging as your only mode of increasing your fitness.
You see if you want to look better, feel better and increase a number of different elements of your fitness you need to train your whole body in different ways, not just hit the roads of Dublin and train for endurance.
Endurance/running can be integrated into your training programme if you enjoy doing it but it shouldn’t be you main mode of fitness training, unless you are training for a marathon of course
So how should I increase my fitness you ask?
First things first.
You need to assess where you are now. Bodyfat assessments and measurements are a good place to start.
Too skinny but have a spare tyre? But then you may still need to gain weight. Let me explain…
Most people think cardio is the solution to all of their problems. Even if you have a spare tyre to lose, leave the cardio out and lift weights and get stronger. You’d be surprised how quickly the tyre will disappear and you’ll look better. Cardio or even high intensity training is not for you. You need to slow things down and start a resistance training program possibly even eat more and put on some lean muscle.
Need to lose weight?
First you need to remember that you want to look better, not lose weight. Clothes fitting better and a lean look is what you are after, not a skinny look. Right?
As above, cardio should still not be the mainstay of your fitness regime, believe it or not!? You need to improve your body composition. This means lose fat and gain muscle.
Granted, you may need to lose more fat and some fat loss and conditioning work needs to be included in your fitness plan but not necessarily cardio. Cardiovascular work can be included but to a lesser degree.
Want to get stronger?
I see this all the time… ‘I need to get stronger legs for football so I started jogging’. No.
Jogging is an endurance exercise and has nothing to do with strength. So ditch the jogging and cardio fitness and start lifting. Strength work for the legs includes squats and deadlifts and if you play field sports then a lot of unilateral exercises and sport specific exercises may need to be introduced. Not… I repeat NOT cardio and jogging.
I hope this helps you understand that fitness is a lot more complex than you think and you need to be more specific than just saying ‘I want to get fit’.
Bryan Kavanagh BSc CSCS
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