This article was written by Drew Price BSc MASc ACSM Cert RNutr & was originally published in The MuscleTalker November 2007 edition
You eat well and do a push/pull/legs routine with some cardio on top, or possibly you compete in bodybuilding, powerlifting, mixed martial arts, triathlon or another sport. Your goal may be to look good, get stronger or faster and you may think you're in pretty good shape too, but are you fit and healthy? Firstly you have to define what these possibly 'fuzzy' terms mean.
If you go to one or more of the on-line dictionaries the definitions are still pretty vague and you get results like 'health, noun, free from illness, or the state of being well' and 'fit, adjective, healthy and strong, especially as a result of exercise'. Text books are a little more useful: Exercise Physiology (McAdle, Katch & Katch) for example, breaking fitness at least down into four definite measurable qualities. However (in my opinion at least), they don't cover the bases and I'm not alone in this opinion.
Let me suggest a couple that I have read in the past, proffered by coaches and health professionals that may be a little more useful for out needs:
- Health: correct integration and functioning of our different physiological systems
- Fitness: is the ability of the body to do physical and mental work
As you can see these two qualities are inextricably linked, flip sides of the same coin, crucially without health you cannot properly develop fitness. So, you may have decent bench or dead lift numbers but are you fit? Tour de France cyclists may have enormous cardiovascular capacity but are they fit, or even healthy?
I'd argue they're not. Fitness, or the ability to do work, is reliant on physical qualities which can be broadly divided into the following;
- Power generation
- Strength endurance
- Range of motion
- Cardiovascular endurance
There are of course others you could include like posture, muscle tone, kinetic control, etc. So if you have a few of these, even at a high level, but are seriously lacking in others then you can argue that you're not fit. In order to achieve a high level of fitness you have to at some point train all of these qualities and, the older you become, the more you have to train. Conversely the more you specialize in your training, including a sport, the more unfit you may become. You may even have health problems as well, even whilst becoming more adept at that pursuit.
Seems counter intuitive, crazy even, but think about it for a while.
Look at high level athletes of all types from bodybuilders and Olympic lifters to marathon runners and rate them against the measures above. Of course it all depends on what type of sport you play, what level you play at and what you training entails, for example mixed martial art is a sport needing many qualities. However for all sports the goal is the same i.e. not to get fit but to get more points that the other guys. This is an important point, to use my earlier example; Tour de France riders are not fit, they are just incredibly good at riding bikes.
So what does this mean for you? Look again at the list of qualities above, note how they are all measurable and how one may have an impact upon some of the others, they are all linked. Goals aside (we have different reasons for training and joining MuscleTalk) have a think about those qualities and how you would rate yourself against each one. Ask yourself where you are lacking and how that might be affecting the other parts of the puzzle. By stepping back looking at your training methodically and working on an area that may be lacking can you help you overall training?
You may not agree with what is written above but chew it over objectively and have a think about what it means for you, your long term health and training goals!2 comments