Physical fitness is a state of well-being with low risk of premature health problems and energy to participate in a variety of physical activities. –President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (1997) According to the US Government, the word “fitness” defies concise definition but is best explained by this chart:
Obviously, there are a number of areas you should work on to improve your fitness. Most individual fitness training programs concentrate on one or more of these areas. The ultimate goal(s) of the participant dictate the areas of focus. But no program is complete unless it addresses the six fundamentals of fitness training:
Occasionally called cardiorespiratory fitness, this is the ability of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels to deliver oxygen to your muscles during prolonged physical activity. You can track your progress two ways: perceived level of exertion or percentage of maximum heart rate. General guidelines for cardio in FITT format:
3 to 5 days per week
Intensity50 to 80% of your maximum heart rate
Time20 to 60 minutes per day
TypeVary the exercises to avoid adaptation
This aspect of fitness training relates to the pain-free range of motion of your joints. Football players (like all athletes) need flexibility to avoid injuries. If your day-to-day activity – including your fitness and skill training – is hampered by a lack of flexibility, you risk injury. Flexibility training should include:
•A general-purpose warm-up that takes joints through a controlled range of motion.
•Light dynamic stretching after strength training workouts
•A focus on muscle flexibility and joint integrity rather than dangerous tendon/ligament stretching
Strength training can be approached with two goals in mind: to maintain the musculature you already have, or to create additional muscle mass. In either case, the workouts are similar – in style if not in intensity. The major difference is your diet: if you don’t gain weight while lifting, you won’t add significant muscle mass. Using the FITT paradigm, a generic strength training program might look like this:
This is a measure of your muscles’ ability to perform continuously without fatigue. Boxers may not be overly muscular, but they take muscular endurance to unprecedented heights of achievement For most of us, this aspect of fitness is probably more important than absolute strength. After all, how often during a typical day do you need to exert maximum effort to move something? Unless you’re a refrigerator deliveryman, the answer is: almost never. Train your muscular endurance with sets of 20 repetitions or more.
Complexes with a light barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell are a time-tested method of improving muscular endurance, as are general physical preparedness workouts sans equipment. Mix it up and avoid specificity. If you use the same movements every workout, your general level of fitness will not significantly improve. As your muscular endurance increases, you’ll become better able to buffer the lactic acid buildup in your muscle tissue and delayed onset muscular soreness will be a thing of the past. Your slow-twitch muscle fibers may even increase in number in a phenomenon known as hyperplasia.
Though not directly related to sports performance or quality of life, body composition is nevertheless an important component of fitness. Pro Sumo wrestlers are highly athletic and extremely skilled, but their extreme body composition means that, other than for Sumo, they have less-than-ideal levels of fitness. Being “overfat” comes with consequences; so does being underweight, if you take quality-of-life issues into account.
Being overweight increases your risk of suffering heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, sleeping problems, arthritis, gout, and gall-bladder disease. It pays to pay attention to your body composition.
Finally, we all need skill training of one sort or another. Even if you’re not a basketball player, boxer, softball player, or the like, you still need to maintain skills like agility, balance, and basic physical competence. Unlike the other five fundamentals of fitness training, skill training is specific in nature. Tailor your skill training to your interests.