Reaching Your Fitness Goals in 2017: Let’s Get Physical! (Part 2)

Wow!  Part two of a trilogy (here’s part one).  Let’s hope this is more like Lord of the Rings than The Hobbit. Enough chit-chat, let’s get down to business.

The physical aspect of fitness is broken into 3 sub categories: consistency, programming, and execution. This is also the order of importance.

1. Consistency

Consistency (a.k.a. frequency) is the simplest, but the most important part of physical activity. You have to do it.

The consumption of information cannot help you with this. Nobody can force you to work out. There are motivators & barriers, which determine how consistent you will be. Motivators were addressed in part 1 of this blog series.

I choose not even to acknowledge or address barriers. It is not a lack of compassion, but to succeed in fitness there is a hard line stance that must be taken. The more barriers are dwelled on, the more mental energy they will suck from you. They may morph into excuses, which are perceived even more negatively.

Our view on fitness is one of fluidity & flexibility. Any barrier can be overcome. We look towards the future, and stay in the realm of positivity & motivation as much as possible. We are not receptive to negativity or dwell on the past. We are both the coach and the athlete, and therefore have the responsibility to show compassion to each.

This is where the mental skills you have developed are tested. To be successful at any fitness program or activity you must consistently train for that activity.

Tip: If you do not feel up for an activity, convince yourself to at least go to the location of the activity (tell yourself you don’t have to do it – you just have to go there). Once you are there, the chances of doing the activity have skyrocketed.

2. Programming

Programming is the most complicated aspect of fitness because it is constantly changing. Our bodies adapt to the stresses we put on them. In order to progress, we must change parameters to further increase stress, but we must balance this increase by allowing adequate time for recovery.

Parameters of fitness:

  • Total duration or distance – The total time or distance elapsed.
  • Speed (also called tempo) – The time require to perform a specific action.
  • Volume – The amount of the activity performed.
  • Resistance – The difficulty of the activity performed.

These are the simplest parameters that we can modify to increase the stress of an activity. The key to programming is to make small, slow, incremental changes in these parameters to induce a slightly greater stress response. Then allow adequate recovery and repeat the process.

Before we go any further, imagine each of these parameters is a different major in university. It is impossible to reach elite levels in all the parameters, so it is best to focus on one parameter with a possible minor in another. If you just want to take a few classes and see what you like that is fine too.

Focusing on duration or distance is more of an endurance athlete, whereas focusing on speed, volume, and resistance is more of an explosive athlete. The basis of this involves the development of different types of muscle fibers, but let’s not get into the physiology of it all. Don’t really worry about this if you’re beginning, but keep it in the back of your mind as you advance.

Linear progression – Simply, after every workout you increase a parameter, and as long as you allow adequate recovery you will consistently improve. This is programming on a workout-by-workout basis. As you stop improving (after linear progression no longer improves performance) you must increase complexity to allow for programming on a weekly or monthly basis. This is called periodization, which we are not going to get into.

Exercise/activity selection – You can further increase complexity by doing a variety of exercises or activities. For each exercise use linear progression every time you perform it.

Okay, now you are going to do your own programming with as little input as possible. First, choose the activity or activities you want to perform (i.e. running, biking, working out, rock climbing etc.). A good frequency (consistency) to start at is 3x per week. Do your own scheduling, but try to have a flexible model and not a rigid schedule.

A typical beginning program:

  • Run 1x per week – Monday or Tuesday – Outside or at CARSA depending on weather – I want to be able to run 10k, so I will focus on total distance by starting at 1km and increasing distance by 0.5km each week.
  • Rock climb 1x per week – Wednesdays with my friend – Try to attempt a more difficult climbing route or perform a route previously completed in a faster time.
  • Work out 1x per week – Fridays after class – Do 1 hour of resistance training and increase resistance (weight lifted) each session.

The key is to start small, so you have lots of incremental increases to accomplish, but it is dependent on current fitness level. For example, someone who has not run in a while may want to start at running 1 km and then increasing it by .5 km every session.

If you decided to run 3x per week it would only take you 19 sessions to run 10k, which translates to a little over 6 weeks! If things start to get tough you can always decrease the increments to 0.25km. Make sure you start slowly with what you are comfortable with and choose increments you can easily achieve. One stride more than the previous benchmark is still progress!

** Remember any small incremental change in a parameter is a win for any workout.

Now make a reward system based also in a linear progressive fashion. So after your first workout reward yourself, then your first completed week, then your first completed 2 weeks, then your first month, then your second month, and so on.

Programs will get more and more complicated as you start increasing complexity and keeping more statistics on the parameters. Many people find writing everything down in a log helps, so you may want consider documenting your program & progress. For now, writing a simple first program is excellent!

Congratulations on making your first program! Reward yourself!

3. Execution

Execution refers to the lead-up before your physical activity, the performance of it, and the reflection afterwards.

Okay now you have your program, so you know exactly what you want to accomplish that day. It is important to quickly visualize yourself completing the day’s activity (I like to do this on the bus). Positive self-talk may also be incorporated to boost your performance.

During the activity, it is important to get into a flow state of mind. Listening to music, your heartbeat or your breathing usually works for me. If you cannot immerse yourself totally in the activity, you may need to increase the complexity to obtain the flow experience. Focus on the task at hand and listen to your body’s response to it.

It is important to reflect on the exercise to figure out what worked and what didn’t. This is a time to be critical. If the workout did not go the way you thought it would, it is important to evaluate the factors that led to the result.

Were the conditions a factor? The environment? Stress from other situations? Poor programming? Whatever you conclude, it is important not to blame yourself.  There is never a situation where your character or self is the problem. Hell, I even blame my parents for giving me lousy athletic genetics!

Success is for everyone, in fitness and in life. I always imagine myself at the start of a maze. There are all these crazy paths for me to choose. Some look long, others seem short. Whether it is medical school, optimal health & fitness, or mobility and grace as you age, there’s a path that leads there. Take that first step.

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