What is ‘Fitness’?
Strength? Cardio? Body composition? Endurance? Stamina?
There are numerous measures of fitness and the word means something slightly different to every individual. This makes it difficult to provide an all-encompassing guide to improving your fitness.
If you had your own coach, you would expect a tailored programme to suit your own needs, therefore you should be approaching your own fitness in the same manner. Don’t expect what works for your friend to work just as well for you.
That being said, we’ve comprised a list of 10 things that prove highly important to think about when it comes to increasing your fitness level, whatever your goals.
1. Find Your Motivation
In order to get the most from your fitness journey, you need to figure out what your core motivation is. Whether you want to be able to chase after your kids in the park or compete in a marathon, keeping your ‘end-point’ in mind can help to push you out the door on a cold morning or incentivise those last few reps.
Find something that makes your workout routine worth sticking at, and you’ll be far more successful in improving your fitness in the long run.
2. Set Your Goals
Goals are important.
It’s necessary that you provide yourself with a target to work towards so that you’re making the right choices and undergoing the correct training in order to achieve the sort of fitness improvements that you are looking for.
If your no.1 wish is to squat 100kg, improving your rowing technique isn’t going to do you much good!
3.“Abs are Made in the Kitchen”
Practically a modern-day parable, I’m sure you’ve heard this mantra repeated at one point or another.
The phrase “Abs are made in the kitchen” is however framed in truth. No matter how much extra activity you introduce into your life, you can’t out train a bad diet.
Make sure you’re getting the correct amount of calories and fuelling your body using nutritious, unprocessed foods.
4. Measure Your Progress – and be Honest with Yourself
By keeping track of your progress you’ll learn what works, and what doesn’t.
What you choose to record will greatly depend on your goals. You could track monthly improvements to you 5 mile run time, monitor how big the weights you’re lifting are, or keep track of form and technique. All of these will give you insight into what has been going right and what has been going wrong in your training.
However, self-report is only ever as accurate, and as useful, as you make it. If you decide to ignore a few pounds on the scale or remove a few seconds from this month’s best runtime, you’ll be negating the point of measuring these things in the first place, and ultimately end up slowing your progress and wasting your own time.
5. Adapt Your Workouts to Your Body
As you get fitter, you should make sure to continually re-assess and adjust the difficulty of your workouts to maintain progress.
In strength training, this concept is known best as ‘progressive overload’ and refers to slowly increase the weights you are lifting as your body adapts to lifting them. This makes sure that the dumbbells you are curling are always uncomfortably heavy towards the end of each set, driving an increase in muscle mass and strength.
The same concept can be carried over to endurance and skill-based pursuits.
6. But Equally, Don’t Make Things Too Hard Too Fast
This is a good way of picking up and injury and stalling your fitness improvements – or even putting a halt to them altogether.
7. Include Variety
Even if your intention is to compete in long distances runs, variety is key to improving your fitness in an effective, well rounded and sustainable manner.
Strength, power, flexibility, mobility and coordination are all highly important and transferable skills that you won’t be making the most of if you stick to your treadmill.
Strength training can include free weights, resistance machines, and body weight exercises. Stretching, flexibility, balance and posture exercises are also highly complementary to every fitness routine – adding in a weekly Pilates or yoga session can do far more than you might think.
The recommended amount of aerobic activity for adults each week is 150 minutes. This activity can be as simple as a walk around the park, but if you’re looking to get fit fast, you may want to ramp it up a bit.
HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training, is highly effective when it comes to improving fitness. Research has shown that HIIT can help you to reach your goals far faster than traditional steady-state aerobic exercise. This is due to interval training ability to increase your calorie-burning capacity, even after you’ve finished with your workout.
HIIT will quickly improve your aerobic and aerobic fitness. This will improve your endurance and stamina, while also boosting heart health and levels of ‘feel-good’ hormones in your blood stream.
Additionally, HIIT can assist you in the loss of abdominal fat while retaining lean muscle mass.
9. Remember to Lift
Strength training is often overlooked by people who are looking to improve their fitness. Building muscle through strength training is, however, an essential tool in your fitness repertoire.
By ensuring you round out your fitness routine by working out all your major muscle groups a minimum of twice a week, you’ll be making big contributions to your overall fitness level. Increased muscle mass will mean more calories burned at rest, as well as improved power, stamina and stability – skills that are widely applicable across a range of fitness pursuits.
10. Do Things You’re Bad At
Often, we humans tend to like to stick to things we’re good at. It doesn’t feel good to be bad at something, so why would you opt to do it voluntarily?
But it’s the thing that you are bad at – the weak links – that slow down your fitness progress.
It might take more motivation and far more effort to work on the exercises you struggle with, but in the long run, this hard work will pay off in a far greater way than if you continue to practice what you have already mastered.
Guest Post by Amanda Roberts