Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mix it up! (Part II)

Doing different sports is extremely fun, and it helps you to improve your fitness levels rapidly without the risk of injuring yourself. But it can be complicated and not very practical, if you have a very busy agenda.
So, how can you add the needed variety to your training without making it so complex?
Quick answer: Focus each workout you do on a different and specific physical ability.
Yes, you are right! Quick answers are not always clear answers. So bear with me while I try to explain this into greater detail.
The following is key information for those of you who really want to optimize your recovery times, so you can train constantly to improve your fitness very rapidly.

The basic physical abilities
Your body is a Perfect Machine, full of organs and complex systems that work all in synchrony to keep you enjoying Life.
Muscles, glands, arteries, lungs, brain, tendons, heart, senses, hormones, and million other precious parts working together as a perfect team. From the macro body parts to the infinitely small cells and intracellular parts, all work together and have different responses according to what you do (and also to what you think and how you feel).
You knew that already?
Well, what you might have not considered before is that these DIFFERENT RESPONSES can be used to your advantage.
You can optimize your recovery by consciously stimulating your body just in a certain way each time, so while some body systems work fully, the others are resting a bit.
Now you want to know how you incorporate this into your training program, right?
The best way is by dividing your training to develop the basic physical abilities:

1. Endurance
Represents your ability to repeat a movement for long periods of time. When you train your endurance, you are working at a low intensity level, so your breathing is under control and your muscles are moving constantly but without much force.
This is the main ability needed in sports lasting more than 2 - 3 hours (i.e. marathon, long distance triathlon, hiking, etc).

2. Speed
Represents your ability to move fast. When you train your speed, you are working your muscles at a high intensity level, but not against heavy resistance. What you are focusing is on developing the ability of your muscle fibers to contract and relax sequentially really fast, and at your command.
This is the main ability needed in sprinting, like running or swimming 100 meters.

3. Force
Represents your ability to lift or push great weights or resistance for short periods of time. When you train your force, you are working your muscles at a high intensity level, but in such short periods of time that you have time to catch your breath.
This is the main ability needed in sports like Olympic weightlifting.

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If you train all three basic abilities, you not only become a more rounded athlete, you also allow your body to recover more properly.
Although it is much better if you ask the help of an experienced Coach to prepare a training program for you, you can plan a very simple program for yourself by alternating the following in your training:
Endurance: train very easily and continuosly for at least 45 minutes (much more if you want to and have the time). Examples are walking, jogging, elliptical machine, biking or swimming easily. Never gasping for air or with burning muscles!
Speed: do quick and short intervals of 10 seconds to 1 minute of cycling, swimming, running or any other movement you want to become fast at. Recover your breath in between intervals and keep repeating them until you are able to move with good form and agility.
Force: either work with weights or body weight exercises, or use heavy resistance in your sports. For example, you can run uphill, or use paddles for swimming or heavy gears in cycling. Don’t do it for too long and concentrate on pushing hard with your muscles. If you are completely out of breath, stop and start again only when you are fully recovered. Your muscles must do most of the work, not your lungs!

Play with these different kinds of challenges.
Test yourself in various ways.
Learn how you react under different circumstances.
Have fun with the different sensations.
The variety of the experiences will keep you motivated and injury-free. Both conditions are needed to train consistenly. And as you already know, it is only through consistent training that you become Superfit.

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