Monday, September 28, 2015

The Fitness Balance Scale

      One question I get rather often, is, “What does fitness mean to you?”  In a word, I would say:  Adaptability--Move more.  Sit less.  Eat better food. 

This usually leads to a discussion on what specifics I advocate.  I must state this clearly, I am not a medical professional, nor a personal trainer, so all suggestions must be taken with a grain of salt.  All of the following suggestions are based on my personal experience and the results they have yielded for me.  Each person is different.  In kind, our bodies will react differently. 

This is why having a goal is important.  Having a goal will alter your fitness needs.  But to answer more generally…here is how I scale and define fitness.  I call it the “Fitness Balance Scale” and it is comprised of three parts:

1.    Endurance

2.    Strength

3.    Balance

1.     Endurance
For a quick definition endurance training is any lower intensity exercise engaged for a sustained period of time.  

Endurance is a key component to the Fitness Balance Scale because of its long term effects.  The endurance aspect of fitness facilitates mental focus, resilience in the face of tragedies and flexibility during major life changes.  On the mental side of endurance, this type of training has also been linked to calmness in the face of adversity and increased mindfulness in everyday life.  Martin Paulus has begun a landmark study on the subject, you can read about it here   

On the physical side endurance training will:
--melt white fat (the bad fat) off your body
--is one of the quickest ways to detox
--encourage the body to store brown fat (the good fat)
--facilitate quick recovery and muscle repair
--increase bone density and prevent osteoporosis
--regulates/produces consistent energy
--increase sleep quality
--increase insulin sensitivity (reduces the chance you’ll get diabetes)
--increase the production of white blood cells
--makes you a certified badass.

Personally, I would also argue that endurance training also helps develop greater empathy and compassion.  I don’t have any hard science to back this up, but this aspect of endurance training has been one of the most prevalent in my own life. 

2.     Strength
As weird as it may sound, strength training mixed with endurance provides a much needed balance to the body.  Too much training of one specific movement without variation can cause injury.  (I.E. all the data shows if all you do is run, or bike, with no cross training or movement variation, you are more likely to get injured.)  Strength training when mixed with endurance training helps build lean muscle and keeps all areas of your body strong.  Strength training also keeps fast twitch muscle fibers in order, which will help you maintain speed and explosiveness.

For my purpose I incorporate HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) for most of my strength workouts.  HIIT workouts are just what they sound like.  You train in intervals for a set amount of time, or set amount of reps, have little to no rest in between and continue until the time runs out or all your reps are complete.  HIIT training also aids in quick recovery while you are exercising--a term often named "active recovery."  It is my preferred method because I can build strength without adding bulk.  In my book, being too huge exceeds your bodies natural state of balance and puts you into the realm of diminishing returns in terms of overall health.   What's the point in being able to bench press 450 when you can't chase your kid around the park without getting winded? 

I include speed work and tempo runs into the strength category because both provide similar benefits to a strength training workout.  The intensity is turned up and different muscles are utilized when speed or maintaining a certain pace are required. 

3.     Balance
Balance is the glue that holds strength and endurance together.  While strength and endurance form a balance of their own, since you need both to reach optimum performance, balance itself aids in reaching peak performance in both areas.  How does this work?
Coach Monk says, "Add balance drills
to your regimen...NOW!"

In a nutshell, incorporating balance work into a fitness program fine tunes the efficiency and effectiveness of micromuscular movements.  Micro muscles are responsible for numerous processes our bodies undergo.  From adjusting your posture, to adjusting the way you stand up, to changing your gait because of that annoying callous on your left toe…all of these are effected by micromuscles.  Micromuscular movements are also greatly embedded by our muscle memory.  Balance training can reprogram bad muscle memory systems and optimize other good muscle memory systems.  Thus when the micro is more aligned and attuned so is the macro, i.e. strength and endurance.

What are some easy and common examples of balance training? 
--Planks and bridges            --Squats
--Running downhill.            --One-legged squats
--Any type of hold               --Conscious breathing
--Agility drills                      --Wall sits
--Jump roping                      --Handstand pushups

Add a couple of the above (there a tons more a quick google search will yield) into any workout regimen and you will see and feel the results quickly.


Below I’m going to list my general fitness goal, my basic weekly training core and how it incorporates this “Fitness Balance Scale.”

My goal:  To have a weekly core training program that will allow me to run a marathon in under four hours.  To be able to add on extra training in case I want to tackle different events.  To have sustained energy and focus throughout the day.

My Weekly Routine:

Monday- Easy 6 mile run (Endurance)

Tuesday-Crossfit or HIIT Circuit Training + 2 mile Run.  (Strength)

Wednesday-8 mile tempo run or 10 mile easy run  (Endurance + Strength + Balance)

Thursday- Crossfit or HIIT Circuit Training + 2 mile Run or agility stations and jump-rope.  (Strength + Balance)

Friday-10 mile run, hill repeaters, or speed work (Endurance + Strength + Balance)

Saturday-1/2 marathon or HIIT Training with Pool Drills or a rest day.  (Strength + Balance) 

Sunday-Planks, stabilization and balance drills, freestyle hike or run/walk (Balance)

This is a core training plan I have developed for myself over the past two years. I have utilized this plan to maintain a training core that allows me to run a marathon in under four hours with no additional training.  This cycle also allows for room to add more rest time when necessary or add additional training for other goals or events. 

Again, this is what I’ve developed and catered to my fitness goals.  But the “Fitness Balance Scale” applies to whatever goal you may have in mind. 

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

I know you’ll knock it out of the park.

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