You’ve done the mandatory 20-minute social media HIIT workout, finished in a pool of sweat all chuffed…but what about the rest of the day?
The “workout” is only a part of the overall Physical Fitness picture. Give or take 8 hours a day for sleeping, that leaves 16 waking hours that require physical activity. I use the word “require” because if we want to stay active for the long game, then it really isn’t an option and it must be a priority. This is where I feel the missing link is for most people, a basic understanding of true Physical Fitness and how to apply it to everyday living without just viewing it as a workout period.
Distinguishing the differences between training for sport or competition and exercising for health and longevity is of prime importance because they are entirely different practices. When an individual trains for competitive success in an arduous sport, they are consistently walking a tightrope of high performance, burnout and injury. If an individual is going to perform to a high standard in ultra-running, the CrossFit Games, or a boxing match, for example, their training will need to replicate the stressors involved in that activity, this being accepted as a necessary risk/reward.
Exercising for health differs dramatically in so much as the desired result is not competitive success in the short term but general physical capability in the long run.
Most of the important information is already out there, and it came long before the internet was made available. I’ve spent hours reading old physical training manuals and have used the protocols in my practice. This has helped me put together a breakdown of, what I believe, Physical Fitness is and how it can be practically applied.
Of course, this is open to interpretation, and anyone with an open mind will have their ideas and form their own opinion. The time spent on each foundation in a given day will be entirely individual and based on personal circumstances, recovery abilities and motivations.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF PHYSICAL FITNESS
Physical activity that is aimed at a desired physiological outcome
i) – Using less complicated or already competent physical skills for a specific aim, e.g. training for maximal strength, improving cardio-respiratory function, work capacity etc.
ii) – Learning or practicing a skill that contains a level of complexity, e.g. balancing at height, jumping with a precision landing, skipping, mobility etc
iii) – General movement that combats sedentary periods and improves the functioning of the body, e.g. walks, posture exercises etc
Physical and mental aptitude that is assessed in a range of environments and conditions could involve a multitude of activities and competent skills, e.g. testing the length of a broad jump, running a set distance for a time, an arduous expedition in the mountains, or a competitive sports match etc
Physical activity that is conducted for pure enjoyment without a physiological outcome aim or a premeditated desire to improve a skill. Play can be spontaneous and undertaken entirely without script, e.g. play fighting or balancing on a log while out for a walk. It can also contain a structured framework that facilitates spontaneity like a pair or group game, e.g. shoulder tag sparring or British bulldog.
Physical activity that is task orientated and not conducted for a desired physiological outcome to learn a new skill or for pure enjoyment, e.g. lifting and carrying at work, gardening, descending a mountain etc.
To improve or maintain the physical qualities: Strength, Mobility, Coordination, Balance and Cardio-respiratory function, there needs to be a daily format and one which focuses on enhancing the body and mind, not intentionally breaking it down further. This focuses on the Exercise foundation, as the others are relevant to personal circumstances and won’t always require structure.
A morning routine doesn’t need to be a lengthy process, much can be achieved in 10-20 minutes, and it’s an excellent way to start on the right footing, preparing body and mind for the day ahead. Aim for slow, nasal breathing throughout and work on focussing the mind on the task in hand. If you decide to conduct the workout period first thing, the morning routine series can be accomplished as a precursor. It serves as an excellent preparation period for any vigorous activity, and with a small amount of specific prep added on, it will enhance any physical activity that follows.
The following are headings and brief descriptions of how I break my morning routine down and I will spend differing periods on each section dependant on how I’m feeling that day or how much time I have available.
1) Checking in Slow and controlled movements aiming to wake up the musculature, recognise and address areas of tension
2) Limbering up Rhythmical movements aiming to promote blood flow, lubricate the joints and explore the range in the joint complexes
3) Posture Reinforcement Specific exercises aiming to reinforce correct alignment and posture, stimulate full-body muscular contraction and integrate a balance dynamic
4) Heart and lungs We’re aiming to raise the heart and respiration rate, maintain bone density and tendon elasticity. A brisk walk outdoors is a great option or non-strenuous, rhythmical callisthenics exercises. This shouldn’t be a “workout” but enough to get the blood moving and elevate the heart rate.
As I sit at the computer writing this article, I become aware of my body getting stiff and misaligned. As the time ticks on, idleness kicks in, and I naturally start to slip into a less than ideal postural position. Other common, compromising positions like the craned neck mobile phone pose, standing for long periods shifting the weight from one hip to another and the “hurry up and wait” sofa slump all take their toll. The longer we stay in a position, the better our body becomes at adapting to it, so it is vital that we take regular movement breaks throughout the day. To counter these positions, a cue can be taken from the morning routine headings. It may mean just standing up, checking in briefly and resetting the posture. If more time is available, go through the sequence and get out for a brisk walk to get the blood moving again, your productivity output will thank you for it.
With the article entitled “Physical Fitness…more than just a workout” the focus is on the other elements of the day.
Another point in the day where we tend to vegetate is in the evenings. Now there’s nothing wrong with chilling out, we all enjoy it, but again it’s the amount of time spent in one position that does the damage. Getting out of the chair and onto the floor is a good start; finding other ways to rest while watching TV and moving between them.
The evening is also a good time to work on mobility (read my article in issue 40 about the differences between Mobility and Flexibility). Flexibility refers to “The ability of soft tissues (muscles) to stretch passively through a range of motion (ROM)”. In contrast, mobility is the “ability of a joint to move actively through a ROM”, a big difference.
Developing a nice flow of mobility exercises is a good start or focussing on specific joints and working through several exercises that challenge and improve the range.
Remote Physical Fitness has always been my main focus, and the recent lockdown period has shown that a shift in mindset is required by the majority with how they approach it.
Fit for Purpose – More than just a workout
By: Ryan Naish
Ryan is a former physical training instructor in the Parachute Regiment and now specialises as a movement and outdoor skills coach. He is active in the security industry and also runs seminars and workshops, where he shares his passion for cultivating an active lifestyle that’s fit for purpose.
Follow him on Instagram, @fitforpurpose.ffp, for practical tips and advice.