Fitness

Published by administrator on Mon, 12/05/2011 - 23:12 in
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To increase your overall fitness level, there are three different techniques:

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  • Cardiovascular Training
  • Strength Training
  • Flexibility Training


This section briefly describes each training area and lists a suggested number of times per week/activity duration based upon your current level of fitness (or your current activity level). If you have never exercised before or if you are changing your current exercise program, make sure you consult your physician prior to beginning a new exercise routine.

Cardiovascular Training

Cardiovascular training requires some type of aerobic activity. Aerobic exercise can include:

  • Aerobic classes
  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Bicycling
  • Fast walking
  • In-Line Skating
  • Cross Country Skiing Etc...
 

With aerobic exercise, the goal is to get your heartrate into the target zone (50-85% of your maximum) and sustain that pace for an extended period of time. In addition to burning calories and aiding in weight reduction, aerobic exercise has many other benefits including:

  • Working the heart and lungs
  • Relieving stress
  • Increasing lean muscle mass and decreasing body fat when done on a long term basis
  • Increasing energy levels

The length of the exercise and the intensity level you choose depend upon your own level of fitness and what your goals are.

Fitness Level 1 Aerobic Activity (10min)

Most experts in the field recommend beginning with 3 times per week, 20-30 minutes per session. If you cannot work for 20 minutes to begin with that's OK just keep at it until you reach the 20 minute mark. (In order for your heart to benefit, you should try to exercise aerobically for a minimum of 20 minutes.)

The key is to begin slowly and gradually work up to more exercise. People who jump right into exercising 5 or 6 times a week will burnout and probably injure themselves in the process.

Fitness Level 2 Aerobic Activity (20min)

Try to increase the length of your workouts to 30 minutes and try to exercise 4 times a week (rather than 3). If you've been doing 20 minutes of exercise, try increasing the duration in small increments (i.e. 22 minutes, then 24 minutes etc... rather than increasing the duration by the full 10 minutes - this will make the transition easier).

Fitness Level 3 Aerobic Activity (30min)

To increase your level of cardiovascular fitness, try to exercise for 30 minutes 4-5 times per week. (If you are currently at 3 times per week, increase to 4. If you are at 4 times per week, increase to 5).

To avoid overuse injuries (such as tendonitis, shin splints etc...) you should cross train (one day try walking, the next day ride a bike, the following day participate in an aerobics class etc...).

Strength Training

Muscular strength is defined as the maximum force that can be exerted by a muscle or muscle group. This is the type of strength Olympic weight lifters display when they lift during competition.

Muscular endurance is the capacity of a muscle to repeatedly exert force or to maintain a fixed contraction for a period of time. Anytime you are lifting the same item over and over again, you are displaying muscular endurance. Muscle tone refers to the firmness of your muscles. Both endurance and strength exercises will improve muscle tone.

There are many different methods available to improve muscular strength, endurance and tone. Below is a list of muscle strengthening methods, choose whatever fits your needs and lifestyle the best. Once you've got your method of training determined, you should then determine your current fitness level. The fitness level you choose will determine the frequency of the training (number of times per week), as well as the recommended number of repetitions and sets.

 

  • Weight machines
  • Free weights/Hand weights
  • Tubing/Bands
  • Calisthenics (such as push-ups,tricep dips, abdominal crunches, etc...)
 

In general, people who want to build muscle will want to strive for fitness level 3. While those who want to firm up/tone should stick with fitness levels 1 or 2.

A few things to note prior to beginning a new program include:

1) Determining the correct resistance level: In general, use enough resistance to fatigue your muscles when you have completed the appropriate number of repetitions within a set. If you cannot complete all the repetitions within a set, decrease the amount of resistance. NEVER sacrifice form to get the last repetition in - if you do this, you will get injured at some point in time. Always make sure the last repetition is as pretty as the first.

2) Always make sure you are using the proper form!. A lot of people lift weights without having their backs properly supported. If you are lifting weights and feel stress on your back, knees etc... chances are you are not using the correct form. If you are in a health club ask for help. If you are at home, purchase a book or video that explains the correct form to use - nothing is worth hurting your back or joints!

3) Always consult a physician prior to beginning or changing an exercise program.


Fitness Level 1 Resistance Training Exercises(Avoided)

Individuals at Fitness Level 1 have not regularly participated in a strength training program and should begin slowly. If you are not familiar with resistance work and have purchased hand weights, tubing, bands etc... purchase a video that shows the proper technique and form to use - NEVER try an exercise without knowing the correct way to perform it. Form is critical.

Most experts in the field recommend beginning with 2 times per week, 20-30 minutes per session. You should try to work all the major muscle groups of the body and rest at least 24 hours between training sessions (this will give your muscles a chance to recover).

Try to complete 1 set of 15-20 repetitions.

Fitness Level 2 Perform 1 Set (2-3) Times

Most experts in the field recommend working 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes a session. Try to complete 1-2 sets of 12-15 repetitions. If you can fit all the major muscle groups in, that's great.

If you can't, try alternating upper body/trunk one day and lower body the next. Never work the same muscle group two days in a row because the muscles need at least 24 hours to recover.

Fitness Level 3 Perform 2 Sets (3-4) Times

Most experts in the field recommend working 4 times a week for 20-30 minutes a session. Try to complete 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. Remember, this is just a guideline.

If your focus is on endurance and toning, rather than increasing your muscular strength, you may want to use less weight with more repetitions than 8-12.

If your focus is on strength, more weight and fewer repetitions makes sense. MAKE sure that you can complete at least 8 reps - if you can't you are using too much weight. If you are doing 3 sets, you may not be able to fit all the major muscle groups into 1 workout.

Try alternating upper body/trunk one day and lower body the next. Never work the same muscle group two days in a row because the muscles need at least 24 hours to recover.

Flexibility Training

Flexibility is defined as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint. Within each joint there is an optimum ROM necessary for peak performance.

Factors that affect flexibility include:

  • Age - As we age, our joints loose some of their flexibility.
  • Inactivity -Causes joints to loose their flexibility because connective tissue shortens.
  • Gender - Women tend to be more flexible than men. (Many experts believe that women are genetically designed with a greater range of flexibility for childbearing purposes.)
  • Body Type and Strength Training - Flexibility is specific to each individual because everyone has a different muscle structure, joint structure and genetic composition.

The good news is that with training (stretching), your degree of flexibility can be increased. Other benefits of stretching include:

  • Reduces muscle soreness
  • Reduces the risk of injury
  • Improves relaxation (both physical and mental)
  • Reduces stress

There are many different methods of stretching. Most experts recommend using the Static Stretching method. To use this method, you slowly position yourself in the stretch until you feel tension in the muscle (not pain).

Once you're in the position, you should hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds without bouncing.

Bouncing (Ballistic Stretching) actually causes the muscle to contract - this is called the Stretch Reflex. The possibility for injury and muscle soreness are increased by using this type of stretching technique.

The amount of time you spend stretching depends upon your current level of fitness. IF YOU HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION (such as a herniated disc, torn muscle, sprained ankle etc...) CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR PRIOR TO BEGINNING A FLEXIBILITY PROGRAM. There are stretching exercises that you should not do.

Fitness Level 1 Rearly Stretch


To increase your level of flexibility, try to stretch 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes. (20 - 30 minutes may sound like a lot of time to spend stretching; however, if you incorporate it into a workout routine where you stretch 10-15 minutes before weight training/cardiovascular work and 10-15 minutes after, it is a reasonable time frame to work with.)

Stretching should always be preceded by a 5-10 minutes warm-up period where you are moving in a rhythmic fashion using all your major muscle groups. (This sends blood to the muscles and readies them for activity.)

Remember to use the Static Stretch method and try to hold each stretch for at least 10-30 seconds.

Fitness Level 2 Stretch Muscle Groups

To increase your level of flexibility, try to stretch 4 times a week for 20-45 minutes. (20 - 45 minutes may sound like a lot of time to spend stretching; however, if you incorporate it into a workout routine where you stretch 10-15 minutes before weight training/cardiovascular work and 15-20 minutes after, it is a reasonable time frame to work with.)

Stretching should always be preceded by a 5-10 minutes warm-up period where you are moving in a rhythmic fashion using all your major muscle groups. (This sends blood to the muscles and readies them for activity.)

Remember to use the Static stretch method (no bouncing) and try to hold the stretches for at least 10-30 seconds.

Many people like to do yoga first thing in the morning - yoga is considered a flexibility exercise, so if you like yoga, buy a tape or take a class (20-45 minutes will go by quickly when you're in a structured routine).

Fitness Level 3 Stretch The Major Muscle


To increase your level of flexibility, try to stretch 5 times a week for 20-60 minutes. Stretching should always be preceded by a 5-10 minute warm-up period where you are moving in a rhythmic fashion using all your major muscle groups. (This sends blood to the muscles and redoes them for activity.)

Remember to use the Static stretch method (no bouncing) and try to hold the stretches for at least 10-30 seconds. Many people like to do yoga first thing in the morning - yoga is considered a flexibility exercise, so if you like yoga, buy a tape or take a class (20-60 minutes will go by quickly when you're in a structured routine).

Conclusion No matter what your fitness level is or what your goals are, you will look and feel better when you regularly participate in an exercise program. To be successful, you must incorporate it into your lifestyle (just like eating and sleeping).

 

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