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The Coach's Corner

By Steve Edwards - October 4th, 2001

What is fitness? Are you fit? What is the best way to become fit?

These days it seems the definition of fitness is as elusive as Clinton's definition of sex. Sure, fitness has a scientific definition but that is not what motivates most of us to get off the couch and do something. The majority of us exercise for one of three things:

  • to improve our health
  • to improve how we look
  • to improve at a sport
No matter what sport you play, or how you want to sculpt your physique, there are certain principles of training that everyone benefits from knowing. The next several articles will cover these basic principles - ideally providing an insight into how the body works, what happens when you exercise, and most importantly, how to tailor your own personal workouts to achieve your own goals and dreams.

Along the way I may be guilty of poking holes into a few myths. It has been my experience that in many fields (nutrition and fitness being two prime cases), there are many people out there who are trying to make a living off of telling people how to exercise. This doesn't necessarily mean they know what they are talking about. Often, when pressed for Éoh, say, something like moneyÉ some famous figures have been known to attempt and sell almost anything. Just because an aging actress tells you that a specific machine keeps her looking like she's 20, doesn't mean that she's spent more time in the gym than in her plastic surgeon's office, or even more certain, that she's used the device she is pitching in lieu of a $1,000-an-hour personal trainer. More often than not these devices work one or two muscles or a single body part, and most of us would be better off walking around the block a few times. Beware of gimmicks. There's a reason it's called working out.

My point is that it doesn't matter if you run ultra-marathons or do the World's Strongest Man competition, there are basic fitness rules that will help you get in shape. Certainly a distance runner trains differently than a power lifter or downhill skier, but their basic body physiology is similar. Knowledge of this physiology helps you choose the right exercise regime based on your own body and not myths. So the next time you see a chiseled guy playing with a BowflexTM you'll be wise enough to know that his physique wasn't the work of a magic wand purchased during an attack of insomnia. There are no tricks, no gimmicks, just exercise, diet, and rest. It's like the Barbarian Brothers said,

"There is no such thing as overtraining. There is only undereating, undersleeping, and failure of will."

And while this statement borders on the absurd - then again so do the Barbarian Brothers but they are also very fit - it is also very simple in its fundamentals. Fitness takes work, but if you arm yourself with the proper knowledge, you can learn how to get in shape in a safe and time-efficient manner.

So what is fitness? It may be defined as your ability to meet your own life challenges with ease, along with a little extra to spare for emergencies. From this definition we can see that fitness is a very individual thing: Coaches needn't be as fit as their players; accountants, not as fit as construction workers; and bowlers, not as fit as triathletes. What we all have in common is the need (or desire) to go about the life we've chosen unencumbered by lack of physical condition, so that we may participate fully in it. And if you can do this, no matter what lifestyle you've chosen, then you will have achieved fitness.


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