Designing an exercise program – balance is key

Women-Sport-SoccerWhat is fitness? It’s a question many of us ask. If you watch a lot of sport, you’ll notice that different athletes not only look different, but their fitness is often very specific. For example, you’d not see a marathon runner win a powerlifting competition or a swimmer take gold at the velodrome.

But even professional athletes need to balance a number of factors in order to be successful.

fitness-balanceA recent article at Live Science suggests your exercise program needs to incorporate four types of activity.

  • Aerobic fitness
  • Flexibility
  • Strength
  • Balance

When we prepare for a specific event, we launch into a program that prepares us for that by focussing on particular activities. For example, I recently completed a marathon. For 12 weeks or so, my entire exercise program was built around running.

As a result, when I recommenced weight training last week, I noticed a huge drop in strength. The weight I used to easily bench press for eight reps was now a struggle by the fourth rep. And my normal warmup, which consists of a couple of sets of 25-30 pushups was far more fatiguing.

Recently retired marathoner Ryan Hall posted a couple of photos recently highlighting this.


An article at Outside quotes Hall, who says

“To be an elite marathoner with a body that’s light and lean: while you’re running, you feel amazing. You’re fluid and economical, floating along without having to carry a lot of muscle mass. But the rest of the day, to be honest, is not a lot of fun. My energy was super low [throughout most of my career]. I took naps every day and felt pretty much useless when I wasn’t running.”

In other words, the high degree of specificity in his marathon training came at the cost of his overall health and wellness.

Preparing for specific events does require training specificity. But it is still possible to incorporate balance into the routine.

At the recent running seminar I attended, former AFL footballer and current AFL umpire Leigh Fisher showed us an excerpt form his training plan.

In a typical match, an AFL umpire will run around 12-15km. So, his program included quite a bit of running. However, there were also strength training sessions, swimming and other activities. Those “non-core” exercises weren’t long sessions. Short, intense 20-30 minute sessions were used to complement the endurance work.

When you’re planning your training schedule, it’s right to focus on your main activity. But plan some short sessions that cover the other elements of overall fitness.

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