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  • Jonny

The Five Areas of Fitness and How to Train Them - Exercise Series




During my Personal Trainer training, they cover the five areas of fitness. I’d imagine most of you think about either cardio or strength, but there are other areas of fitness to consider too. Some of them may help you achieve your goals and worth thinking about regardless just for your own well-being.


Cardiovascular


Cardio? Earg. I know right! You either love it or hate it. Well whether it’s something you drag your arse out of bed for, or indeed spring out of bed eager to run 300 miles, it’s got great benefits.


The cardiovascular system is that of your heart and lungs. With heart disease being one of the biggest causes of death in modern society, cardio training is now more important than ever!


Cardio training is anything that makes your lungs and heart work in unison, essentially aerobic training. This is when you’re utilising oxygen to create energy for the muscles. This happens at around 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. If you get a stitch, you’ve gone too hard. Some examples of cardio training are: jogging, swimming, cycling, fast walking and light weights for volume.


Benefits:

- Increases your heart stroke volume (your heart can pump more blood around your body in one pump!) This is because you’ve made your heart stronger – and sometimes even bigger!

- Resting HR down – as your heart isn’t having to work as hard to get the blood around your body. My HR is usually between 50 and 55, elite athletes can get it down to around 40 bpm- compare this to yours and see where you sit!

- Reduce blood pressure – another big cause of death is high blood pressure, so getting this down is quite a good benefit.

- Your lung capacity increases – you can take in more oxygen when breathing, and your lungs cant utilise that oxygen and dispel the carbon dioxide.


Muscle Strength


If you’ve read my blog posts before, you’ll know this is my favourite. I just love the feeling of being (relatively) strong. It makes everything in life seem easier, from opening doors to lifting boxes and opening jars. These may sound small wins, but they are great.


For muscular strength training, you want to be working at close to your maximum strength. This means you’ll be lifting around 90% of your one rep max for 3 – 5 reps at your working sets (you’ll do lighter sets on the warm up to this!). You can of course increase your strength in a higher rep range, but the 3 – 5 rep range at 90% of your max has been shown to be the best for strength gains. Muscular strength involves any kind of resistance training, so lifting weights against gravity is the main one you’ll come across. Body-weight training, resistance bands and sprints are also great. Anything which uses high power and explosive movements will go some way to increasing strength.


Benefits:

- Being able to move easier

- Being able to lift things

- Increase your basal metabolic rate (burn more calories by doing nothing!)

- Hypertrophy of muscles (if you want you can start to look like the rock – ** disclaimer: you’ll look nothing like the rock without years and years of hard training**)


Muscular Endurance


In line with muscle strength, muscular endurance is also key. The idea of muscular endurance is that you can sustain working out for a longer time period. You’ll see some extremely strong people have limited muscular endurance – look at world’s strongest man/woman competitions. However, if you’re wanting to improve your overall fitness, improving muscular endurance is key.


Some ways to improve muscular endurance are by doing higher rep work, longer workouts, and be consistent with your workouts. You may find your muscles are sore and take a while to heal when you first start working out, but over time, this rest and repair period gets shorter and shorter. Some of the pro bodybuilders spend hours everyday in the gym. They’re able to do this because their muscular endurance has improved.


Outside of weight training though, you see people who have consistently trained certain sports and exercises, become to have amazing muscular endurance. As you likely have seen recently in the news, Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon in under 2 hours. This is extremely impressive and shows an insane amount of muscular endurance. Maybe even more so, and closer to vegan home, is Scott Jurek, who you’ll have seen featured in the game changers documentary. He’s a vegan ultramarathon runner who, in 2015, managed to set a world record for running the Appalachian Trail (2,200 miles) in 46 days. Averaging around two marathons a day… if that’s not endurance, I don’t know what is.


Benefits:

- May be able to run a marathon in under 2 hours one day 😉

- Improves type 1 muscle fibres, including increased hypertrophy

- Makes everyday activities like walking and climbing stairs easy as!

- Improves bone density

- Makes you feel healthier and stronger, as well as actually being healthier and stronger


Motor Skills


No, as you well know, I’m not talking about driving a car (although this does involve motor skills). I’m talking about your ability to react quickly, synchronise movements and perform skilled tasks correctly. These are all key to any sports.


If you think about badminton for example, you’ve got to react quickly to the shuttlecock being blasted towards you (unless your playing against someone of my skill level, then you don’t really need to react at all as I keep smashing it into the net…). Also, in sprinting, you need to react quickly to the starting pistol and coordinate your muscle power with your body movements into one extremely quick movement. An uncoordinated start can easily loose sprinters the race.


It’s also essential in weight lifting. You’ll constantly hear people talking about technique being key, well part of this is coordinating what part of the body to move when. After practice and practice, it becomes second nature.


Some key ways to improve your motor skills is to practice the specific skill you’re trying to do over and over again. As I said, this then becomes habit and natural, turning into one smooth motion. If you are struggling at first, slow it down, use a low weight and break it into sections. Then over time you’ll be able to put it all together to make one lean mean lifting machine.


Benefits:

- You can improve your sport, regardless of whether it’s weight lifting, sprinting or badminton, they all require good motor skills

- You can increase your power once you’ve got the technique as second nature

- Improved balance will make standing on one leg easy – so you don’t look a fool when trying to do a quad stretch – you know the one I mean!


Flexibility


Most of you, unless you’re a gymnast or martial artist, will think flexibility isn’t important. For the majority of sports though, being more flexible is going to improve your ability. Being able to quickly bend down low to return a volley, or reach high to dunk a ball might be the thing that separates you from your opponent.


Great ways to improve flexibility include stretching, yoga, physiotherapy (OK, this is someone else improving your flexibility for you, but still counts), warming up and warming down.


Benefits:

- Less chance of injury

- Increased strength

- Increased balance and posture

- Increase core strength