Puzzle Pieces of Fitness


When someone begins a program to increase fitness we surmise we must move and eat right. That’s only partially true. It’s how we move and what we eat that’s important. I found a 1995 article by B. Tancred, Key Methods of Sports Conditioning where Tancred takes it beyond what we believe to be true. He explains that exercise scientists have identified nine components that comprise the definition of fitness. A glance at the list will confirm it’s really more than diet and exercise.

  • “Strength – the extent to which muscles can exert force by contracting against resistance (e.g. holding or restraining an object or person)
  • Power – the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements. The two components of power are strength and speed. (e.g. jumping or a sprint start)
  • Agility – the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions (e.g. Zig Zag running or cutting movements)
  • Balance – the ability to control the body’s position, either stationary (e.g. a handstand) or while moving (e.g. a gymnastics stunt)
  • Flexibility – the ability to achieve an extended range of motion without being impeded by excess tissue, i.e. fat or muscle (e.g. executing a leg split)
  • Local Muscle Endurance – a single muscle’s ability to perform sustained work (e.g. rowing or cycling)
  • Cardiovascular Endurance – the heart’s ability to deliver blood to working muscles and their ability to use it (e.g. running long distances)
  • Strength Endurance – a muscle’s ability to perform a maximum contraction time after time (e.g. continuous explosive rebounding through an entire basketball game)
  • Co-ordination– the ability to integrate the above listed components so that effective movements are achieved.

Of all the nine elements of fitness cardiac respiratory qualities are the most important to develop as they enhance all the other components of the conditioning equation.” **

The people who come to see me are usually older populations. Adults in their 50s to 90s still need to consider each of these components, but not at the same level of someone decades younger. When you pick up the shoes and set out to get in shape please consider the following things so you can keep training and be injury free.

  1. How long has it been since you worked out?
  2. How old were you before?
  3. Have you had any injuries or surgeries between then and now?
  4. What time commitment are you willing to make for this change?

Let’s follow this example Let’s say the last time Helen worked out was when she was 28. At that time she was training 6 days a week, Cardio work every day along with weight lifting on 4 of those days. She alternated between upper and lower body parts so she had enough time for recovery.

She’s now 62. In between then and now she had two children, sprained her back a few times and had weight fluctuation throughout that time. The last thing Helen should do is block out the time to exercise 6 days a week. It’s been 34 years, a lot of miles and probably more injuries than she realizes. So, let’s be reasonable Helen. Start with 3 days (MWF or TTS) with a walk and some weight lifting. Light weights, full body, and sufficient stretching after. This will allow her body time to recover. Reasonable.

When you formulate your plan monitor how you feel a day or two after a workout. If you are still sore you might wait another day before you lift again. Your body will let you know if it’s too much. The expression no pain-no gain should not be your credo. It’s old school thinking — don’t be old school.

Be Well!

Next Week: Eating!

**TANCRED, B. (1995) Key Methods of Sports Conditioning. Athletics Coach, 29 (2), p. 19