In order to understand exactly what fitness is, or what it means to be “fit”, we have to define it so that we can have a precise understanding of what, how and why. Right? It almost drove me mad trying to find a definition for fitness and being fit! I searched the internet and writings of leading industry organizations and found very odd, misleading and confusing definitions. It’s no wonder everyone struggles to achieve a state that has no clear definition!
If you took the time to search yourself, you might find definitions for fitness such as:
in good physical condition; in good health or sound physically and mentally; healthy; to conform correctly to the shape or size of <it doesn’t fit me anymore> (1): to insert or adjust until correctly in place <fit the mechanism into the box> (2): to make or adjust to the right shape and size; Capability of the body of distributing inhaled oxygen to muscle tissue during increased physical effort; the genetic contribution of an individual to the next generation’s gene pool relative to the average for the population, usually measured by the number of offspring or close kin that survive to reproductive age. (Huh!!)
Wow! Even the NSCA, the National Strength and Conditioning Association who is one of the most respected authorities on exercise physiology doesn’t even attempt to give a definition of fitness.
How’s that for maddening? Well let me share with you what my definition of fitness is. You see, creating a fitness program without clearly defining what it is that the program must deliver would be ambiguous and leave you unclear about what you had to do to achieve the outcome you want. I believe that defining fitness plays a crucial role in your success. The keys to understanding the methods and achievements of the perfect fitness program are embedded in our view of fitness and in some basic exercise science.
At Ultimate Potential we use five different principles or systems for evaluating and guiding you in achieving your Ultimate level of fitness. These five systems define our view of fitness perfectly. All of these systems combined creates a holistic body (or being) and lifestyle.
Each system is a vital component and each has a distinct importance in understanding your overall fitness level or that of a program’s effectiveness in serving you to achieve a higher level of fitness. Mastering each of these 5 systems combined create what we define as world-class or elite level fitness.
1st System – Train All 10 of Your Basic Physical Skills
The first system identifies and outlines the 10 generally recognized basic physical skills you must train your body for. They are defined as:
– the ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity. – the ability to control the placement of your body’s center of gravity in relation to its base of support. Balance gets harder as you get older unless you train to keep this skill sharp. – the ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another. – the ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement. – the ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement – the ability of your muscles to apply maximum force in minimum time. – the ability to maximize your range of motion at a given joint and not feel 90 when you’re only 40! – the ability of your muscles, or combinations of muscles, to apply force. – the ability of your body systems to process, deliver, store and utilize energy.– the ability of body systems to gather, process and deliver oxygen to your entire body.
The truth is, you’re only as fit as you are developed in each of these 10 basic skills. And like a chain, you are only as strong as your weakest link. Improvements are always made with training and practice. Keep in mind that all of these skills have one common theme: if you don’t use them, you will lose them. All of these skills make a contribution to your quality of life. Identifying where you are weakest in these 10 categories and then choosing the right fitness training program that allows you to develop and achieve balance in all of these skills is YOUR goal in the first system.
2nd System – Functional Training means you train for life
The second system is based upon the fact that your human body is meant to perform in functional, multidirectional movement patterns using multiple joints and muscles at any given time. This is why we train your body with primarily Functional Training using the right intensity and methods in our Fitness Training programs. If you think about your functional movement patterns in a day, they might include: squatting, overhead reaching, twisting, bending, pushing, pulling, lunging, quick multi-directional movements, stepping, climbing, etc. Imagine not being able to do any of those when you needed to the most? Imagine having a better body and quality of life because you’re stronger and capable of handling anything that comes your way!
Life is a consistently unpredictable event!
You never know what will be thrown your way or how you will have to respond at any given moment. Having a higher level of fitness means you must be able to execute physical tasks, especially those that are unusual movements and combined in infinitely varying combinations.
Here’s a big myth that I want to dispel. The myth is that in order to achieve the perfect body you have to work out doing the same consistent exercises, with a specific number of reps and sets on the same days of the week. Let me tell you how wrong that is! It’s extremely important to know that following a routine with a set number of reps, sets, exercises, order of exercises or routines is not an effective way to train your body! Back and shoulders one day…arms and legs another. That’s right! The best way to train your amazing, beautiful human body is to constantly mix up training techniques, use combination movements, keep your workouts varied and challenging and always push yourself to the next level. Routine is the enemy!
You will make progress toward achieving a fitness goal when you are consistent and engaging yourself with fun, challenging and diverse exercises that you enjoy. Mix it up at least five or ideally six days a week for at least an hour at a time at varied intensity levels.
In our Outdoor Fitness Training programs, we never have you do the same workout twice and you never know what you’ll be doing until you get there! You see, no predictability means you keep your body guessing, keep it on the edge and keep making progress toward your goals. This is what you must do as well if you are planning to embark on your own fitness program.
3rd System – Understand how to use your energy systems to your max fat and calorie burning advantage!
The third system is the secret to burning the maximum amount of fat and calories you can while increasing your level of fitness faster.
What the secret, you want to know? The secret lies in the right prescription for magic “metabolic conditioning.”
I have to get a little scientific on you here for a minute but don’t worry this will all make perfect sense to you in a moment. I’ll bet no one has ever taken the time to explain to you how your body’s energy systems work and why it’s important to know and understand how this information is going to benefit you.
There are three distinct metabolic pathways that provide the energy for all of your actions. These metabolic engines are known as the:
The Phosphagen pathway
The Glycolytic pathway
The oxidative pathway
If this all sounds too technical to you, relax, because I’m going to break it down for you…
Your phosphagen and glycolytic pathway supply the majority of energy used in moderate to high-powered activities that last less than several minutes. So, think weightlifting, sprinting, circuit and interval training here. These activities are primarily called anaerobic. Anaerobic activity causes the biggest increase to your cardiovascular fitness level, allows you to develop muscle tone faster and gives you the biggest decreases in body fat, surprisingly more than aerobic activity. Anaerobic conditioning gives you the biggest bang for your buck by creating the body you want faster and more efficiently. Anaerobic activity will also develop your level of aerobic fitness without losing valuable muscle tone that often occurs with long endurance aerobic exercise where your heart rate is kept at a steady, easier rate. Decreased muscle tone means increased body fat. No one wants that!
The third pathway, the oxidative pathway supplies energy for low-powered activities, those that last in excess of several minutes. Think fast walking, jogging, running (whether it’s around the block, long-distance or ultra endurance), biking, swimming etc. there is no argument that aerobic training builds your cardiovascular engine and decreases body fat. But what’s important to know is that if you only train your body aerobically you will never develop a higher level of fitness without training anaerobically. Aerobic exercise is important for reducing body fat and developing your cardiovascular baseline of fitness but without developing muscle you will struggle to increase your metabolism. Without balancing aerobic and anaerobic exercise you simply will not create the results you want to see.
You must tap into all of your body’s energy pathways while doing the most effective combinations of fitness training that gives you the greatest results in the minimum amount of time. The secret to your success lies in higher intensity circuit and interval training techniques and in always mixing things up! Remember, keep your body guessing, and always keep upping the ante!
4th System – The Magic of the Right Nutrition
This system is one of the most critical and often neglected. And it’s the one system that people seem to struggle with the most. But I’m going to make it easy for you.
Your nutrition plays one of the most critical functions in achieving your health and fitness success
. Let’s be honest and straight up here…simply choosing exercise alone in an effort to lose weight or become fit or healthy without eating right will not get you where you want to be. Period! Exercise and nutrition are not mutually exclusive of each other. Also, having the mindset that because you’re working out means you can eat whatever you want will only leave you frustrated and with a lack of results. That doesn’t work either. What does work?
The only thing that works is adopting a complete fitness and eating lifestyle that embraces the right exercise, a winning nutrition plan and consistent action and effort to engage in both every day.
Only this combined effort will bring you to the highest level of fitness success and create the body you dream of having.
What does a winning nutrition plan consist of? One that actually increases your metabolism and helps you burn body fat? Only real whole foods that create a balanced nutrition profile (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, mineral), help you burn fat and increase your metabolism. The bottom line is if it comes in a box, wrapper, can and isn’t living, whole food it doesn’t belong in your body. You want to think live food vs. dead food, more raw foods vs. cooked. Organic versus conventionally grown…you definitely don’t need to ingest more pesticides or be exposed to more toxic substances than you already are. Your body spends a lot of time trying to detox itself as it is. Eating more raw vegetables and fruits will also create the right pH balance in your body.
What should your nutrition plan look like? All vegetables, small portions of fruit, berries, nuts and seeds along with beans and peas, certain whole grains, flax and chia seeds, wild fish, eggs, high quality whey protein powder and the right nutritional supplements.
If you want to see progress and permanent changes to your body, you have to give up dairy, sugar, very little alcohol (even wine!), any and all processed foods, refined grains and starches and eat in a way that supports high energy and even levels of blood sugar stabilization throughout your day. This means eating six small meals spread out throughout the course of your day and not eating after 7pm. The most important focus has to be on eating only enough calories to support your level of physical fitness and not increase body fat by eating in excess of what your body burns in a day.
Know that eating the wrong foods, especially in the wrong proportions, will squash every attempt you will undertake in trying to make progress.
5th System – Fitness Success isn’t necessarily what you do to your body…it’s what you do to your mind!
The fifth and final system is the single most important one of all! It’s all about creating a powerful mind.
Every morning as you begin your day, practice visualizing yourself exactly as you want to be as if you have already achieved your goals.
Start each day by focusing on exactly what you want to create for that day and exactly how you want to be and what you want to achieve. See it happening exactly the way you want it. With practice it becomes reality.
Your mind is the most powerful tool you have. Always know that you are the one who’s in control of all of your thoughts, feelings, emotions and their resulting actions. If you are always telling yourself that you are fat, ugly, unlovable, unsuccessful, unwanted etc… then this is exactly what you will create as your reality. On the other hand, if you start your day telling yourself how much you love yourself, how you admire the way your body is taking on a new shape, noticing all the new small little changes and appreciating your body as it’s developing and loving yourself for who you are, not only will you be magnetizing yourself toward your goals, you will experience a profound level of inner peace and satisfaction. It’s all about changing your vibration and focusing on creating positive results for yourself and your life. Bottom line is…you have to LOVE living in your own skin!
All of these systems combined will lead you successfully toward achieving an elite level of fitness success. Having a coach and a mentor to help you set goals and navigate successfully toward them is invaluable. Studies have proven that Coaching is a powerful and effective tool that has helped more people reach a higher level of success than they could possibly achieve on their own.
If you are still doing the same thing in the gym you will always get the same results, plateau, struggle endlessly to reach goals or eventually burn out or get bored!
Michelle van Otten is an Elite Fitness Trainer, Life Coach and Wellness Coach. She is also the founder of Ultimate-Potential.com, a leader in helping others achieve their peak potential. (408) 379-0500