Fit for different things.

As I have mentioned previously in my article “An Introduction to Getting Fitter“, there are different types of fitness.  These include, but are not restricted to, being fit for:

  • Running a marathon
  • Sprinting 100m
  • Throwing a javelin
  • Stepping into a ring for a fight

Now you might think “what the hell does this have to do with me…i’m not doing any of them, I just want to get a bit fitter for health/life/performance“.  Well here’s a real world situation…

I was talking to a new client in the gym the other night.  She is self employed in the restaurant business.  She regularly does 11 hour shifts where she is constantly on her feet, dashing from the front to the back of the house dealing with customers.

Now she was saying that she thought this would keep her fit.  But when she goes for a 10 minute burn on the treadmill with her friends, she ends up sweating, panting and more uncomfortable than her friends.

Does that mean she is not fit, she asks?

Hell no!  It just means she is fit in a different way.

Take a look at her training programme and get our heads round a few of training terms.  These are:

  • Duration – quite simply how long something takes.  Something that lasts a few seconds is short duration, while something that lasts a few hours is long duration.
  • Intensity – what fraction of “maximum effort” does an activity require.  eg a flat out sprint or a high jump will require 100% effort (your running very fast) but only for a short duration (therefore is high intensity).  A marathon might only need 50% effort (your running a lot slower) but for a long duration (therefore is low intensity).
  • Training – this is all physical activity done by the body.  It is NOT just the time spent inside a shiny building with the word “Gym” on the front.  Your body adapts to physical stresses.  It does not know or care if it’s stresses in the gym, work or in your leisure time etc.
Low/High Intesnity Workouts

Low/High intensity Workouts

The vast majority of her current training is of fairly low intensity but very long duration (walking quickly for up to 11 hours in a shift).  She has been doing this training for years, so her body has adapted well to it and it comes easier to her now (how many of you can manage 11 hour shifts!).  But when she plays with her friends in the gym, she runs fast for 10 minutes on the treadmill.  This is a much higher intensity and much shorter duration than normal!  No wonder she finds it hard!  But it doesn’t mean she is unfit…far from it.  She is just fit in a different way.

At the moment, she will probably be very good at endurance events, and will almost certainly leave her friends for dust!  But she will find shorter, more intense events more of a challenge.

The moral of this story is that fitness is very specific…

“You get good at what you actually do”

So if your lifestyle/sport/hobby involves fairly fast and furious activities (like Karate etc) then make sure the bulk of your training reflects this.

If your lifestyle/sport/hobby involves less intense things that last longer (like hiking etc) then make sure the bulk of your training reflects this.

If you don’t, you won’t be as good at your lifestyle/sport/hobby and there is a chance you will become less good at them!

And as for getting hot, sweaty and out of breath being a sign of lack of fitness…Bullshit!

Usain Bolt looking hot, sweaty and out of breath.

Usain Bolt looking hot, sweaty and out of breath.

Think back to any Olympic Games and remember how the athletes looked after they had just won their races…they all looked hot, sweaty and out of breath.  This does not mean Olympic Gold Medalists are unfit…it means they had just been working hard!  Which is what we all need to do to improve our fitness for health, life and performance!